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LIVERPOOL, N.Y., — As healthcare workers across the country confront a shortage of personal protective equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one central New York couple has found a solution: print them.
Liverpool-based Budmen Industries is currently 3D printing about 1,400 face shields a day and giving them to New York healthcare workers for free.
Co-owners Isaac Budmen and wife Stephanie Keefe originally used their printers to make furniture. But when the COVID-19 crisis hit, they converted their operation to print face shields for workers at their county’s new coronavirus testing site.
“You have these, these health care workers on the frontline. And when you’re talking to them, their urgency becomes your urgency,” explained Budmen. “And so we feel we’re definitely feeling the time crunch. We’re feeling like we need to act even faster than we are to help as many folks as we can.”
The visor is made out of 3D printed plastic. The shield is made from either PETG or acetate. There is an elastic band around the back so workers can adjust to the size of their head and a piece of foam tape along the inside providing some level of comfort for long wear.
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Once other 3D printers owners in the area caught wind of what the small business was doing, they offered to help. Just as quickly, 40 volunteers signed up to manage the printers and the Greater Syracuse Soundstage donated a 50,000 sq ft space so people could work while following the 6 ft social distancing guidelines.
Now, there are 60 printers running 24/7. Each printer can produce one face shield per hour.
The company’s goFundme page helps pay for the cost of materials so Budmen and Keefe can continue to provide the shields at no cost.
“I think for us, it’s, it’s sort of a no brainer,” said Budmen. “We’re both deeply patriotic. We’re very proud to be American. We’re very proud that we make 70 percent of our machine here. We’re also very happy to work with our suppliers overseas. They do great work. But we’re very proud to be American. And this is an American crisis. It’s a global crisis. And we just felt the call to action and we went for it.”
The couple has been swamped with requests coming in from across the country, but as of now, they are only servicing New York. However, other 3D printing companies around the world have also offered to help and Budmen Industries is trying to connect them with the growing demand.
“It’s definitely a roller coaster. We get a lot of messages from hospitals and healthcare organizations that say that say that they’re in dire need,” said Keefe. “We had a phone call that a nurse who was crying on the phone because, you know, she just wanted to help.”