Face it, these mask-making efforts during the COVID-19 crisis reveal who we really are

Ongoing coverage of the novel coronavirus, and its impact on Seattle and the technology industry. See all special coverage.

It’s impossible to mask our appreciation for the stories of people and companies across Seattle and the Pacific Northwest going out of their way to help in any way possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve reported on a variety of efforts when it comes to the grassroots production of personal protective equipment over the past several weeks. Face masks in particular have been a popular item to produce at varying degrees of scale both for front-line workers and personal use. Whether it’s startups pivoting, big tech companies chipping in, or home hobbyists firing up 3D printers and sewing machines, the ingenuity and the intent are worthy of applause.

The CDC recommends wearing a face mask in settings where staying six feet away from others is difficult, such as grocery stores or public transportation. “It does make sense to be able to wear a mask, even a cloth mask, if you can’t maintain social distancing right now,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday.

As we learn more about what’s required, this running list will capture just some of the work being done, and we’ll update it as projects are shared.

If you know of a COVID-19 mask project originating in the Pacific Northwest and don’t see it listed here, please share and we’ll update. Send us a link to a website or news item along with two or three lines describing the project and who is involved. Add an image if possible, and email with “mask” in the subject line: [email protected].

Maker Mask printing respirator-style masks: Tech veteran Jonathan Roberts and 3D-printing “savant” Rory Larson have teamed with other members of industry, health care and government to launch Maker Mask, a Seattle nonprofit creating medically endorsed, reusable protective masks using everyday 3D printers. Read the story on GeekWire.

School equipment put to work at home: Ayan Gupta, a 17-year-old student at Tesla STEM High School in Redmond, Wash., teamed with classmates to use his school’s 3D printers in his own home to make clips for cotton face masks. The operation has been churning out masks for Seattle-area hospital workers. A GoFundMe campaign to support the effort has raised almost $10,000. Read the story on GeekWire.

She helped ‘Find the Masks’: Rachel Popkin, a product manager for Google Chrome, based in Seattle, helped spread awareness for the mask shortage hospitals everywhere were experiencing by helping to develop a simple website, FindTheMasks.com. The goal is to connect supplies that already exist to points close by where they are needed. Read the story on GeekWire.

Company to produce 45 face shields daily: Seattle-based Product Creation Studio is leveraging 3D printers at its South Lake Union headquarters as well as printers in the homes of four staff members to make face shields. The team cranked out face shields for Harborview Medical Center last week, and delivered another batch to University of Washington Medicine on Monday. Check out the design being manufactured by a team led by PCS mechanical engineer Adam Smith, and a video of their efforts.

Whidbey Island kids chip in: Atlantis STEAM, a South Whidbey community robotics group, has mobilized resources and diverted team money to make masks and face shields. The school kids got a mention in this story by the Whidbey News-Times. The FIRST Washington Oak Harbor team on Whidbey is also printing and delivering needed equipment.

Comfort is key: Dan Shapiro, CEO of 3D printing startup Glowforge, said in a video (above) and blog post that the company is mobilizing printers to get a million “ear savers” made and distributed to essential workers on the front lines of the crisis. Ear savers are adapters that make the wearing of a mask more comfortable by allowing for better fit. Shapiro asked for printing help and help getting the word out: share glowforge.com/earsavers and #Save2MillionEars on social media.

Artistic masks: Seattle artist Veronica Lynn Harper’s designs are being used on masks and her fundraiser is intended for donation to “high-risk professionals” across the country. Harper has more than 70 designs of washable masks with replaceable filters on her Mother Earth Fine Art website.

‘Pivoting with purpose’ at Tokki: Jane Park, the Seattle entrepreneur who founded cosmetics company Julep and most recently the eco-friendly gift wrap startup Tokki, has turned her company’s attention to making masks with material she already had on hand. Tokki’s revenue was erased by the pandemic and she hopes to both keep her employees working and help people get the PPE that they need. Read the story on GeekWire.

‘Uncover your style while staying masked up’: High-tech apparel maker Komposite, founded by Pablos Holman, shifted all of its work to focus on masks under the name Uncognito and has been shipping since the beginning of April. The stylish masks are manufactured in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle and for every one sold, the buyer gets a free non-medical KN95 mask to wear underneath. And one KN95 is given to a local charity giving masks to people in need.

Farm to fabric to masks: South Seattle company Clothworks is touting its American Made Brand line for mask makers. The 100-percent U.S. sourced and produced cotton fabrics are traditionally popular with quilting, crafting and home sewing. President Ted Hoffman said they’ve been shipping to lots of people in the Pacific Northwest who are making PPE ranging from masks to gowns and caps — with thousands of prints to make it all “less boring.”

Masks and face shields in Bellingham: North of Seattle in Bellingham, Wash., teachers and students are putting 3D printers to use at several schools to make masks. By April 7, staff and students had fully assembled more than 80 masks, which were donated to Whatcom Unified Command, according to a Bellingham Public Schools story. Two sisters from Sehome High School turned their attention to face shields, creating 500 units for front-line health care workers with plans for 500 more.

Cross-university effort at UW: Tim Prestero of the Redmond, Wash., nonprofit Design That Matters brought his design for a face shield to the University of Washington and set in motion a 3D printing effort whose impact was felt almost immediately by UW Medicine staff. Wherever 3D printers exist on campus — be it UW Tacoma, UW Bothell, the Global Innovation Exchange, and more — the machines all have been printing the face shield design, UW News reported this week.

Device design at PATH: In a Seattle product development shop, global health organization PATH is putting its expertise in medical device design to good use, using the the shop’s capacity to 3D print to make its own face shields. PATH is 3D printing the headband from designs available online, and sourcing the shield material from what can be found at an office supply store: clear acetate transparency sheets (commonly sold for overhead projectors) or clear plastic folders.

Tom Bihn: The Seattle-based company known for making bags and backpacks has turned its focus to mask-making at its 16,000 square-foot factory in South Seattle. The company has made more than 45,000 masks and donates a mask for every sale. Tom Bihn himself is self-isolating at home and shared a video (above) to share tips about making masks faster at home.

Tacoma talent: Zeva, a Tacoma, Wash.-based startup that is building a personal air vehicle, is working with local makerspace FabLab and two surgeons to make reusable masks for medical workers. The team has made more than 400 masks and is also 3D printing face shields. Also in Tacoma: Kade & Vos, an online women’s clothing shop, has shifted all production to $7 cloth face masks. It is also making masks for local hospitals — you can donate here.

Wrapping his head around an idea: Leave it to Roy Leban to put his mind to work on the design puzzle that goes into making PPE. The founder of the puzzle platform Puzzazz applied his design and UX skills to the problem and examined concerns, complaints and compliments about what was already being produced. He came up with designs for laser-cut clips to help address mask fatigue. His two designs — Gecko and Eagle — allow health care professionals wearing masks with elastic loops around the ears to adjust that tension, and the two clips meet the needs of people with long hair and short hair. A free design package is downloadable on a website he created.

From socks to masks: Seattle sock maker Strideline is another local company that shifted its production to masks. The company, founded by two University of Washington grads, is known for its sports-centric and company-logo designs. It is donating 5% of all mask sales to Direct Relief.

‘Once a nurse, always a nurse’: Lynette Damir, a registered nursed before she started Seattle-based baby products maker Swaddle Designs, wanted to make cloth masks to support her brothers and sisters in health care. She switched her baby blanket production in Seattle to making non-medical 2-layer cotton masks. As a small business, Damir has donated all that she can afford at this point, but with materials and personnel to make more, she’s selling masks on her website.

Small army springs into action: Seattle Mask Brigade is a small group of volunteers helping get PPE into the right hands at Seattle-area hospitals and nursing homes. The group has collected and distributed more than 7,500 masks in less than two weeks from over 400 donors. They’re constantly on the lookout for anyone able to donate N95 and surgical masks, and they’re in need of sewers to help construct reusable masks and gowns.

More innovation at UW: Doctors in the Department of Urology at University of Washington Medicine are helping to lead the charge on creating as well as cleaning masks. Dr. Thomas Lendvay received an Amazon Catalyst Award for research that tests the effectiveness of imbedding illumination of Methylene Blue in PPE and N95 masks as a way to disinfect the gear for reuse. Dr. Robert Sweet is leading the university’s collaborative task force on COVID-19 to engineer masks, face shields gowns and more.

Seamstresses Unite!: Trish Moylan Davis of Kingston, Wash., founded this group a month ago and it has attracted more than 200 seamstresses who are sewing masks nationwide. With 170 volunteers in the Puget Sound area, the group focuses on simple cotton masks with a filter pocket. They rely on donations to purchase materials, and handle shipping costs and have so far delivered more than 5,500 masks.

Crafters Against COVID-19 Seattle: More sewing machines are humming thanks to the efforts of this group, with more than 2,300 members, started by costume maker Candace Frank and Gwynedh Van Allan. The group is dedicated to making masks for medical centers, hospice organizations, homelessness workers and more in the Seattle Metro area and have delivered more than 15,000 so far. They were mentioned in a March 24 story by Crosscut.

Costume shops turn to masks: Seattle-area costume shops closed by COVID-19 are making masks as part of the 100 Million Mask Challenge, originated by Providence St. Joseph. The masks are made from kits cut at KAAS Tailored from hospital-grade materials, sewn by IATSE 887 members (Theatrical Wardrobe Union). These workers are usually crafting at the Seattle Opera, Seattle Repertory Theatre, A Contemporary Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre. Seattle Opera‘s costumer shop, under the direction of Susan Davis, has delivered 4,600 masks, averaging 600 per day since the end of March.

Buy To Give Masks: Seattle startups Fastbar Technologies, FenSens, and Teracube are pooling together their supply chain expertise to produce masks that people can purchase “at cost” and send to an in-need health organization.

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Post time: Apr-17-2020