LINCOLN SQUARE — Chicagoans with 3D printers are joining forces from isolation to create face shields for health care workers, an effort being spearheaded by a Lincoln Square family printing masks for Swedish Hospital.
The Facebook group 3D Printed Face Shields for Swedish is being organized by the Beien family, which is stepping up to help amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
They’re asking anyone with a 3D printer, 3D printing filament, plastic sheets or elastic to contact their Facebook group to help in their efforts to supply the hospital at 5140 N. California Ave.
“We’re at home safe and quarantined with the people we love. But we wanted to do anything we could to help the people out there on the front lines of this pandemic,” Richie Beien said.
He’s an engineer and owner of Limitless Studios LLC, which specializes in 3D printer-based manufacturing. He has three 3D printers at his home, where he runs the business.
His mother, Deborah Beien, learned about a community mask drive that was organized for Massachusetts General Hospital when watching the news Friday.
“I really want to help those on the front lines, they need it, we can help, and the medical staff at Swedish deserve to feel protected,” Deborah Beien said.
After watching the news report she called her son and asked if he could do something similar with his equipment and skills.
“I went online to see what designs for masks were already available. I printed every single one I could find to see what kind of a solution we could provide for Swedish,” Richie Beien said.
On Saturday morning, the family contacted their neighbor Jennifer Blitz, director of development at Swedish Foundation, to ask if the hospital would be OK with the family making face shields for the staff.
Blitz then reached out to the hospital’s chief medical officer and brought over Richie Beien’s prototype for inspection. By Sunday morning the medical team at Swedish gave the thumbs-up to the prototype and asked the Beien family for as many as possible.
Later that day they already had 10 face shields ready to go and delivered them directly to the hospital’s emergency room.
“It turns out there are a lot of people in the city who have 3D printers. We essentially have a decentralized manufacturing system happening right now. I’m really passionate about 3D printers and I think it’s the future of manufacturing,” Richie Beien said.
Since Monday the family has enlisted the help of Chicagoans across the city who have 3D printers and can help manufacture the needed face shields.
“I took it as an opportunity to help out since I’m laid off right now,” said Matt Lenz, one of the people helping print the shields.
Lenz owns a 3D printer and a friend put him in contact with the Beien family over the weekend. Since then Deborah Beien set up the Facebook group where the Beien family and everyone who is participating in the face shield-making endeavor has been coordinating efforts.
“My printer has been running nonstop since yesterday printing them. Right now I’ve made 25 shields but I have enough filament to make at least 160 masks,” he said.
Lenz has been at home since losing his job and is glad the project is allowing him to focus on something productive that will help the city fight the spread of the infection.
“I’m a chef by trade and I was laid off March 15. Hopefully after the dust settles I’ll be back at it cooking,” Lenz said. “But until then it’s been great to see the community come together. And it’s great for me to have something to do with a purpose throughout the day.”
Peter Pekarek, general manager of the Staples at 4610 N Clark St, told Block Club he donated over 5,500 sheets of plastic needed to assemble the shields.
While Swedish Hospital has supplies in the near term, they are asking for anyone with a surplus of needed medical equipment to donate what they have in anticipation of a increase in the number of people infected with the virus in the coming weeks.
“We are extremely grateful for the outpour of community support,” said Swedish Hospital spokesman Bill Ligas.
The hospital is currently in contact with over 100 people who are printing face shields based off of Richie Beien’s design files, Ligas said.
The Beien family is also providing the design files of the masks they’re making for Swedish Hospital online for free so that people in other neighborhoods can assemble them for their respective medical facilities.
“Everyone seems ready to jump at the opportunity to help us because that’s a way for people to help hospitals as well,” Richie Beien said.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
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