Couple puts 3D printer to work making masks for front lines
Tuesday, April 7, 2020 | 4:45 PM
Joe Dornetta never imagined the 3D printer he bought months ago would be anything more than a cool piece of technology to explore in his spare time.
But a call from a friend who is a physician turned the 31-year-old construction worker’s plans for a new hobby into a supplier of critical equipment needed by people fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
“A urologist who knows my wife, Kaitlin, found out that we had a 3D printer and asked if we could use it to make respirators masks,” said Dornetta of Verona. “He sent me a link to an open source website with plans for the frame and I started printing them.”
Dornetta said he used the plans to make masks out of medical-grade resin.
But when he learned there is also a growing need for face shields needed to protect first responders and frontline medical workers, Dornetta turned his focus to making those devices.
“I figured if one doctor is reaching out to me because he anticipates a growing need for these devices, there must be many more medical professionals who need them.”
Dornetta said his wife works in the medical field and was able to set up space in their home to print the shield frames under similar conditions used in a lab.
Once the frame is printed, clear plastic sheets are cut and attached to to complete the shield.
Social media posts and word of mouth about their work resulted in calls from doctors, nurses, firefighters and others medical professionals who needed the shields, said Dornetta, who is providing them at no cost.
“We really wanted to help them, so we began to expand by adding additional printers to handle the demand,” he said.
To help cover the cost of supplying the free shields, a donation page has been set up.
The couple recently was able to expand the operation, dubbed Infinite Labs, when a friend offered to let them use space at no cost in the Bethel Industrial Park.
“We’re up to 11 printers now and are able produce about 100 shields a day,” Dornetta said. “We plan to keep making them as long as there is a demand.”
Jim Cassandro, who teaches at North Hills High School, learned about Dornetta’s operation and offered to help create frames with the 3D printer used in the engineering class he teaches.
“One of the assignments in our Art of Making engineering class was to come up with some type of device to help with the pandemic,” said Cassandro, who was allowed to take home a 3D printer from the school for the project.
While the students have not been able to directly participate in making the shield frames because of the stay-at-home order, Cassandro has used it as an example of how engineering can be applied “in the real world.”
Cassandro said he will be able to print as many as a dozen shield frames a day once he adds a second printer.
Dornetta said he appreciates any help he can get to fill the critical need for protective devices.
“It’s amazing to see the daily sacrifice of first responders and the medical profession,” he said. “We’re committed to doing whatever we can to help protect them.”