FIU faculty, students creating 3D printed masks for use at Baptist Health

Group hoping others with equipment will step up and help

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The good news for hospitals right now is that Miami-Dade County is not lacking ventilators or beds, but they do need personal protective gear, including masks, and Florida International University is trying to help with the shortage a unique way.

And they will be needed. A stern warning to Floridians on Sunday from one of President Trump’s former Homeland Security advisors reminded everyone that the fight with COVID-19 is not nearly over.

"Places in Florida right now are very worrying, when you look at the numbers of deaths, which are indicative of a lot of spread against the size of the population in some of those counties," said Tom Bossert, Former Homeland Security Advisor under President Trump.

Just hours later, Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez reiterated his message to isolate and stop the spread.

“You are safer at home," Mayor Gimenez said. "Stay at home, as much as you can."

The number of cases in Miami-Dade broke 1,100 over the weekend and continues to grow.

But Gimenez says so far, hospitals have been able to keep up

"Even though we went up another 70-something cases overnight, only one more hospitalization," Gimenez said. "We have 92 (hospitalized), and by the way, that's cumulative, it doesn’t count all those people who have left the hospital.

"In terms of ICU beds, there was 308 yesterday, 306 today. Ventilators, there were 747 yesterday, there are 735 (today), so that’s only a drop of 12."

The one area where healthcare providers are struggling is not having enough protective masks. A group of professors, staff and students at FIU, have found a way to try and help fill that need.

FIU Assistant Director of Emergency Management, Bridge Pelaez, took her idea to FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture and the Arts, where she teamed up with John Stuart, the Associate Dean of Cultural and Community Engagement.

"Face shields, for me, was something that came to mind as a nurse," said Pelaez. "It’s a frontline defense for of PPE and it’s the one thing that helps elongate the life of the mask and I thought that we would be able to do that within our university."

Together, the two, along with several students and other faculty and staff members, found, tweaked and created plans to 3D print face shields.

Pelaez took the prototype to Baptist Health, and the hospital group asked them to make a thousand just like it.

"We expect to be doing batches of 100 from here on in," said Stuart. "We hope to get the order for 1,000 out as soon as possible, but the interesting thing has been changing the lab from a research and innovation lab to a factory."

So far FIU has delivered 250 masks and they are working on the rest of that order from Baptist Health.

They say they’ve gotten messages from other hospitals as well, and are working as quickly as they can, but they also are willing to share their files, material lists and instruction manuals with anyone else who wants to 3D print the masks in their community.

About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.