Creative collaborations to create PPE for frontline heroes are underway in Middlesex County

Wayne Deak, director of facilities maintenance at Middlesex County College (left) and Tom Mayoros, lead person in the MCC Warehouse, packs the 3D printers.

Middlesex County College’s (MCC) 3D printers usually used by students in the college’s Media Arts and Design programs are being used to create face shields for frontline heroes.

Linda Scherr, vice president for academic affairs, said MCC is proud to partner with the county in efforts to assist with fighting the novel coronavirus and helping healthcare workers.

County employees will use the 3D printers – one MakerBot and four FlashForge Dreamers – to create face shields and donate them to area hospitals and first responders. The initiative of creating face shields and other personal protective equipment (PPE) with 3D printers is a collaboration between Middlesex County’s Office of Marketing led by Shannon Tambini, Middlesex County’s print team, and New Jersey resident Eric Mewengkang.

“The county reached out to us on a [April 16] and by the following Monday, we had our four 3D printers and filament ready for them,” she said. “Scott D’Elia, a media lab coordinator who assists students in using the 3D printers as part of their coursework, has also been helping with the county’s printing initiative. Three of the 3D printers are normally used by students in our Media Arts [and Design] programs and one came from the college library’s Creative Suite. Since the equipment was not in use for classes, the college was very happy to be able to put them to use for the essential task of supporting medical personnel.”

Within the first week, Middlesex County’s print team, with guidance from MCC’s staff, produced 200 face shields and 200 surgical mask extenders for frontline workers. All PPE produced will be donated to local hospitals and first responders.

The collaboration with MCC is one way Middlesex County officials are thinking creatively to help combat the shortage of PPE using their own ingenuity and any materials at hand to help protect its local heroes in the face of COVID-19.

“It’s always inspiring to see our county staff and our residents working together for the benefit of others, but it’s especially important now during this worldwide crisis,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios. “Witnessing the selfless efforts of these individuals, and the efforts of so many others around the county, I am proud to lead the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders alongside my fellow freeholder colleagues, but more importantly, proud to call this county home.”

With performances postponed until the fall, the talent at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick is moving from the stage to fashioning face shields and gowns with the use of a 3D printer. Individuals have been working around-the-clock, creatively reusing scrap and household materials, old costumes and other items.

Shannon White, the theater’s prop master, with the help of her associate Sam Ghali, use acetate and rubber bands (no fabric and foam) to make the face shields, which allows the shields to be completely reusable and easily disinfected.

The gowns are made of Tyvek material, or paint suit material, and when that runs out, White will use polyester scrap fabrics left over from past theater projects.

Playhouse costume shop manager Joleen Addleman Loyd and her assistant Suzann Cornelison are sewing masks using scrap and materials from their own homes. The masks and gowns will be donated to RWJBarnabas Health upon completion.

The county collaborated with healthcare systems to create video appeals calling for PPE donations. Participants include Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, Hackensack Meridian Health and Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health. Each video, shared online and broadcasted on local television, features a member of each respective hospital and highlights the needs of those healthcare workers fighting on the front lines.

“This call to action is a collaboration between the county and its hospital partners, reinforcing the working relationship between the county and local hospitals that dates back long before the pandemic, and will continue to grow following this state of emergency,” said Rios, who is featured in the videos.

Middlesex County’s Fire Academy in Sayreville has been and continues to collect PPE at several locations. The county made a call to residents and business owners to donate PPE at the beginning stages of the pandemic. The county has collected 500 pairs of goggles; 120 face shields; 7,875 surgical masks; 5,000 N95 masks; 700 boxes of gloves; 190 gallons of hand sanitizer; and a new wheelchair and walker. The supplies have made a tremendous impact for first responders, the county’s Office of Health Services and by those administering tests at the county’s two drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in Edison and South Brunswick.

Donations for PPE are still being collected at the Middlesex County Fire Academy, 1001 Fire Academy Dr., Sayreville, and at the First Bilingual Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Middlesex Borough, 111 Howard Ave., Middlesex.

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