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3D printers making masks for those in need

College staffers experiment with different designs

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Not all heroes wear capes.

These heroes are making masks to protect those in need, one three-dimensional object at a time. 

Illinois Valley Community College has started a project to help the world during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a start,” said Dorene Data, program coordinator for computer-aided design at IVCC. “Who knows how long this will go on?” she said about the coronavirus pandemic.

Data and Shane Lange, dean of workforce development, are using 3-D printers at IVCC to create masks and donate them to those in need. 

“We’re looking to find people who could use them,” Data said, such as nursing homes and Illinois Veterans Home in LaSalle, who they’ve been in contact with.

The duo provided the Veterans Home with some prototype masks they printed so they could be tested.

Data and Lange have been experimenting making different masks since they started on the project this week.

They’ve printed masks that can be washed and used to protect N95 masks so the N95 masks can last longer. 

They’ve also printed a headband piece that connects to transparency film (commonly used for overhead projectors) that works as a face shield, as well as masks that can include an ordinary hepa filter. 

There are challenges. They have three printers available to use at IVCC, but the materials take hours to print. Scheduling is difficult, too, as someone has to be there to switch out the materials.

They’re optimistic about the work they’re doing.

“At least we might help somebody,” Data said. 

The duo has been in contact with JBH Technologies, which manufactures the 3D printers they're using; JBH told the team they're developing new things every day and gave them some more designs for masks. 

"We're working with the manufacturers to make sure we comply with all the regulations," Data said. 

Want to help?

Materials for the masks are needed, including elastic and transparency film (commonly used for overhead projectors). Call Shane Lange at 815-224-0219.

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