COVID-19: Sunnyvale company designing 3D protective masks to meet demand

As the cases and the death toll from COVID-19 continue to climb, a nonprofit in the South Bay is working to provide protection for those on the frontlines of the epidemic. And their efforts have inspired others to help.

In a nondescript business park in Sunnyvale sits, Maker Nexus. It’s the kind of place where protective gear such as gloves and masks are needed to prevent contamination on the inside. 
“If you want to make something, this is a really good place for it,” said Eric Hess who supervisors a workforce of 3D printers. 
A half-dozen of high-tech machines were hard at work on Tuesday making various parts for face splatter shields. The equipment is desperately needed by healthcare providers to help prevent infection of the coronavirus.
“It’s kind of like taking a tube of toothpaste and squeezing it out onto a plate and then building a structure out of it. But it’s a very small tube of toothpaste. The past that it’s squeezing out is a plastic that’s melted, and then solidifies in place,” Hess explained. 
That plastic, called PETG, is molded into parts such as the headband for masks and the clear face shield.

 A total of 80 masks can be made each day at Maker Nexus. Hess says his supplier, San Leandro’s Piedmont Plastics, sold him nearly 200 sheets of material at a deep discount.
“We did it because it’s the right thing to do for the Bay Area. For the situation that we’re in and for the health of the community," said Steve Pirylis, branch manager for Piedmont Plastics.
While multiple companies are stepping up with materials and machines, so are some school children, who are home with little to do, but who possess a desire to help.
“I got onto our robotics discord server, and roped in 70 teams and individuals so far,” said Monte Vista High School senior Audrey Cui.
She says the South Bay group is donating their idle 3D printers to help produce more splatter shields. It’s also giving 3D production a shot in the mechanical arm, as Silicon Valley turns to tech, and tech smarts to combat a threat that poses a grave danger.