Wake Forest man printing 3D solution for mask shortage to help fight COVID-19 pandemic

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WTVD) -- Hospitals across the country are experiencing a mask shortage. With a push of a button, one Wake Forest man is printing a solution that will stretch the supply.

"I enjoy printing things," Mike Lairson chuckled.

But what started as a hobby is now Mike Lairson's new full-time job as he practices social distancing away from his day job as a Data Scientist.

RELATED | Coronavirus news: Volunteers sew face masks for health workers facing shortages

"I posted an alert on the Nextdoor app. And I have been inundated with requests since then," said Lairson.

Lairson is making 3D printed mask shields. Inspired by another fellow 3D printer's efforts, He got the prototype online.

"The printer itself uses a filament. The plastic filament looks like a big roll of fishing line. But it runs that through an extruder, heats it up, lays down this bead of plastic thousands of times," Lairson explained.

After about an hour and a half, out comes a plastic protective mask cover. It's breathable and can be used over and over with proper sanitation.

RELATED | Homemade face masks can be donated to UNC Rex Hospital

"It would be great if no one ever had to reuse a mask but the fact is they are. There just aren't enough masks and they're being forced to reuse and ration and share," said Lairson.

So far, Lairson has made about 20 of them. He still has about 40 more to go. In one day he can make about ten per day and they're all free to those who request.

"I'm not discriminating on who I'm giving them out to. I've had people contact me who are on the front lines testing people. Elderly people who are scared to death. Cancer patients." said Lairson.

While printing has always been a hobby, now that there's a medical crisis; it's all about help.

"This has been fun for me as well and helps me feel like I'm making a difference someway. We're all locked in our homes powerless unless we're out there fighting this on the front lines, risking our lives," said Lairson.

Lairson can only make about 10 per day and is swamped with orders. Now he's calling on other people with 3D printers to get involved. You can also donate to the GoFundMe. The funds pay for shipping and supply costs.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.