The Be Safe Project

Supply Health Care Professionals with Face Masks

Three weeks ago, I 3D-printed a face mask for myself, to use when at the grocery store. I did this as the world began to shut down; my friends studying abroad were abruptly sent home; my girlfriend lost her job; people got sick; I experienced all of the same departures from any semblance of normalcy you have. I felt insignificant, frightened, overwhelmed and powerless in the face of a events so enormous and so beyond my control.

The next day, my parents both requested a mask for themselves. As did my girlfriend’s family. That night, I posted an Instagram story with a picture of the mask, and two friends (both nurses) reached out to show interest. And suddenly I was asking myself "Am I powerless? Can I, some random guy, be useful to my local community during the COVID-19 crisis by 3D-printing face masks?" And so began the Be Safe Project.

Using a design by Rowan University, which I've modified a bit for use on my printers, I am now working to supply local hospitals with 3D-printed personal protective equipment. Today, I showed a sample mask to a representative of a hospital in the Washington DC area, who asked me if I could provide more --  as many of them as I can print, as fast possible.

My masks are made from a flexible thermoplastic, which is comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and allows the mask to conform to the wearer's face better than a hard plastic (meaning, it makes a better seal). The filter assembly is made from a rigid plastic compound called polyethylene terephthalate with a glycol additive, and houses a replaceable filter material. Both plastics are heat and alcohol safe, facilitating various sanitization methods without damage to the mask.

 My goal with these masks is to turn a single-use resource — the basic surgical mask that most health care facilities already have — into a reusable resource that serves more than one person. A single disposable surgical mask can be cut into pieces and used as a filter in four of these masks. Alternatively, they can be equipped with N95 filters, or with HEPA filters.

For the past two weeks, I have been developing the production process for these masks, with three goals in mind:

1) Making them as functional as possible. I want them to be able to be used both with regular filter materials and with N95 filters. I want them to form as good a seal against the face as possible. I want them to be comfortable enough to wear for an entire shift.

2) Optimizing the manufacturing process to produce them as fast as possible. Less time per mask means more masks in the hands of health care professionals. And it means getting them to hospitals and other healthcare providers faster.

3) Cutting down production costs as much as possible. The less each mask costs to make, the more I can make.

That third goal, dear reader, is where you come in. I am doing this as a public service; these masks are donations, and they always will be. Each mask costs about five dollars to produce. This covers both kinds of plastic, the elastic straps, and the rubber lining. (This figure does not include the cost of the 3D printers I am using to make the masks. The more printers I can put to  work on this, the more masks I can make.)

So for every five dollars you give, I can make a reusable mask for a healthcare worker.

In the interest of serving our community’s healthcare providers, my family and I have spent $4,000 on two CraftUnique 3D printers, one smaller printer for drafting, along with some initial materials. The entire CraftUnique team are amazing people, and have already given me their invaluable time, expertise, and discounts on the printers. This has upped my production capacity from two masks per day, to 32 masks per day. 

Beginning tomorrow, we will be producing as many masks as we can as quickly as we can, and I need your support to make sure we have enough materials.

If you believe in what I am doing and you are able, please consider donating to support and help me grow this effort. If you are not able, I STILL APPRECIATE YOU. You can help, too, by sharing a link to this page.

Any money raised beyond our $7,500 goal will go towards buying more printers and expanding the effort. This would allow us to supply more hospitals and other organizations in need.

There was a great amount of personal powerlessness I felt, as I watched the world go into panic mode around me. This is a way in which I am well qualified to contribute to a solution. If you are feeling some of that same powerlessness, I would invite you to consider this as a way in which you too are qualified to contribute to that same solution.

With love,

Gabe Wittes

Donations ()

  • Laurie Strongin 
    • $50 
    • 12 d
  • Linda Vogel 
    • $25 
    • 12 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 12 d
  • Marta Calderon 
    • $50 
    • 15 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
    • 23 d
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Gabriel Wittes 
Washington, DC
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