Courtesy of Jenny Sabin

AAP associate dean Jenny Sabin's own labs are producing 3D-printed masks to use in the fight against COVID-19.

April 9, 2020

Cornell Community Rallies to Make Masks to Address PPE Shortages

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With nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment for COVID-19, members of the Cornell community are working at the front lines of the crisis.

Faculty, students and staff in the College of Art, Architecture and Planning joined the College of Engineering to assist an urgent request by Weill Cornell Medicine to rapidly 3D-print visors to protect doctors at the forefront of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Jenny Sabin, the associate dean of AAP, told The Sun that Prof. Kirstin Hagelskjaer Petersen, electrical and computer engineering, contacted her to help Weill Cornell Medicine. They estimated that they needed 20,000 to 50,000 visors daily and needed them from anyone who could help.

Sabin immediately set to work. With the help of Frank Parish, AAP director of facilities, Tyler Williams, lead shop technician, and Kurt Brosnan, shop manager, they readied AAP’s 3D printers and printers in Sabin’s own lab within a single day.

AAP associate dean Jenny Sabin donning one of the medical visors her lab is producing.

Courtesy of Jenny Sabin

AAP associate dean Jenny Sabin donning one of the medical visors her lab is producing.

The AAP associate dean then mobilized as many students, faculty and staff in the college as possible — each using their personal printers in the efforts. Even alumni in New York City contributed their offices to print visors as well.

“This is a big concerted effort by a number of departments, labs and colleges across the Cornell community, who have all come together to print as many visors as possible,” Sabin said.

According to Brosnan, those who are contributing have joined a Slack group and a Google sheet with information about the volunteers started by Petersen. As of Thursday, the sheet had 122 contributors.

A laptop shows the design for a visor to be 3D printed.

Courtesy of Jenny Sabin

A laptop shows the design for a visor to be 3D printed.

“We’re using a 3D print file that came from an open-source maker who developed the file. Everyone’s been using the same file so that they’ll make the same final visor,” Brosnan said. He said that the team plans to make deliveries to Weill Cornell every Friday.

Students have also organized their own efforts to contribute aid in the pandemic.

Karina Popovich ’23 started an online coalition, Makers For COVID-19, to organize people around the world interested in 3D printing masks at home.

“I realized how many nuances there were to 3D printing this equipment correctly and how many ordinary people there were who just had a 3D printer for the heck of it,” Popovich said. “Knowing that, I wanted to start a channel where we could support each other, give each other advice, and make sure that the equipment was distributed.”

A look inside a 3D printer producing a medical visor.

Courtesy of Jenny Sabin

A look inside a 3D printer producing a medical visor.

She also started a GoFundMe, which has raised $1,700 as of Thursday, to help reimburse the makers who print using their own materials.

The coalition has grown fast, boasting 190 members as of Wednesday. Members communicate through Slack and print mostly visors, face shields and masks that are then distributed to hospitals and medical centers that need them most.

“We’re seeing a weekly capacity of 20,000 plus units produced,” Popovich said. “And that’s just so far. I definitely see that number getting a lot bigger.”

Anisha Duvvi ’21, president of Knit With Care, has also sought ways for her club to help with the shortages. The organization focuses on sewing and yarn-based crafts and community service, often making projects for animal and homeless shelters. Having many family members who work in health care, Duvvi looked at how her organization could help in the current crisis.

“The lack of PPE has been pretty apparent so I thought ‘How can we address that?’” Duvvi said.

The group is now sewing masks for personal use, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended wearing “cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

But Knit With Care has also expanded their work, teaching others how to sew masks. In addition, the group set up a database to figure out which medical centers need masks the most and communicate to makers how masks can be dropped off.

“We’re trying to help and figure out how we can mediate this and organize these efforts,” Duvvi said. “A lot of people are interested in this, so trying to standardize it and make it efficient is very important.”

Right now, Knit With Care is working with local organizations as well as Cornell’s pre-health honor society, Alpha Epsilon Delta. As the project expands, Duvvi explained that they are looking to collaborate with more Cornell organizations and departments and connect them with any resources that they need to help the effort as well.