• Alex Johnatakis

Personal Protective Equipment: Using 3D Printers and Sewing Machines to manufacture on our own

Updated: Apr 14


Here in my home library, it feels eerily like being in the actual library. The hum of 3D Printers is the background music, I've got laptops of various functionality crowding my desk and a pegboard with all of my tools. For most of my library career I've spent more time working with maker tools and technology than I have with books. For a while, I was able to say that I'd checked out more bikes than books, so it shouldn't be surprising that my home "library" is more of a makerspace and less of a quiet reading area. (There are books too, but I mostly read eBooks these days).


Here at home, I've been following the news maybe too obsessively, and looking for ways to still serve our community remotely. So when Boise State's Maker Lab reached out to see how many 3D printers we had, and if we could help make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the answer was a resounding "yes!". The maker community here in Idaho is amazing, and within a few days, almost every library in the area with a 3D printer was creating PPE. We've also been able to use our laser cutter to cut the clear plastic for face shields.


Then, when the recommendations from the CDC changed about face covering my home manufacturing catalog expanded to include sewing face masks. Something is better than nothing, and all of us should try to wear at least something while out and about. The good news is, most of the patterns for sewing face masks are relatively simple. This is my new office mate's second ever sewing project, and she's been able to sew masks with only a little additional help. So if you have access to a sewing machine, you can quickly make masks for yourself or others. There are also patterns for no-sew ones.


For those of you who want to get involved but don’t know where to start, we’ve got some ideas! There are lots of organizations in the area who are coordinating efforts, providing patterns, and getting donations to those who need them most. If you just want to make yourself some face coverings to wear while you're out and about, we've collected patterns for that as well.


We all want to be extra careful while helping that we aren’t unintentionally making things worse. With this in mind, it’s important to not make PPE for others if you are feeling sick, to follow any safety protocols that have been put in place by organizations accepting donations, and avoid donating directly to the hospitals.


Because recommendations are changing constantly, always use common sense, error on the side of caution, and check reliable news sources to see if anything has changed.


Here's a list of patterns and files for those interested in making PPE. Have one you'd like to add to the list? Submit it here.



And here is a list of local organizations accepting donations and the donation process for them. Suggest additions here.



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