MFG Spotlight: The Mask Initiative

by | Nov 23, 2020 | Spotlight

The Mask Initiative was a part of the STREAM Global Innovations Manufacturing Day (MFG).
COVID -19 has brought a series of challenges that has reshaped our world. To navigate these challenges people have been on high alert to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them implementing sanitation precautions to include hand-washing, social distancing and mask. This is especially true for essential works who must put themselves at risk on a daily basis to serve the community. During the initial shutdown the Santa Clarita Valley went into offense and began creating unique ways to support our valley. Local residents A.J. Apone and his father Allan have used their expertise in 3-D printing to provide the brave men and women who are out on the front lines, risking their own health to flatten the curve.
After having to temporarily stop production of their special effects make-up product line due to the pandemic, Aj Apone and his father Allen started an operation that has provided many resources for local first responders and medical staff. After seeing time and time again, news outlets reporting that there are not enough resources this dynamic duo took the call to serve, creating The Mask Initiative. It started with just the father and son team working on two 3D printers out of their garage. Now with the help of the community they set up a workstation of 20 printers, where they print several face masks daily which are then donated to first responders and medical professionals. “When the shut-down happened, I had only been working with 3-D printing for about a month but when I realized a way that I could contribute, that’s when I got really motivated,” said A.J. “These are the people who are out to protect us. So, we felt like it was our duty to step up and help protect them.”
Each mask is made with medical grade plastic, sealed, washed and then vacuum-sealed to ensure no microbes will infect the recipients. When they started the mask was designed where it could be constructed into two simple parts. “After I got the program, I printed my first mask and it fit really well, my next step was to figure out the filter to use for it,” Aj commented. Working through many types of filters he decided on hepa grade air filters that are used in home filtration systems that are graded for viruses and bacteria…I created small filters and it worked this graduated to medical sterilization wrap, which is used to sterilize tools before surgery these are antimicrobial, virus and bacteria free and was able to source this from local hospitals and people in the medical field that wanted to help.” From here the project soared and the Apones’ began getting help from all over. “Whether it was people who had their own printers to people who wanted to help cut the plastic, it became quite the collaborative effort,” stated Aj.
Starting out there were a lot of challenges but through furthering his knowledge he was able to over come them. “ The 3D printing process relies on the code you put in and for certain things you might have to reset the printer because something has gone wrong, It was a lot of trial and error but after figuring it out I was able to do as many as 90 masks in one day,” Aj stated. Recently, Aj was a guest panelist for STREAM Global Innovation’s Manufacturing Day. Here he and other panelist discussed how their industry has shifted in the wake of COVID-19.
If want to learn more about the Mask Initiative or to donate to their cause, please visit their website: www.themaskinitiative.com

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