woman with mask cuts plexiglass boxes on CNC machine

Apr 15, 2020

If you build it, they will use it. That’s what CNM’s FUSE Makerspace quickly found out as the COVID-19 pandemic started.

While the space is currently unable to offer its regular in-person classes, FUSE has transitioned all of its equipment and resources over to building, cleaning, and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) that’s being shipped to COVID-19 healthcare works in every corner of the state.

Currently, FUSE Director Dena Thomas-Aouassou is partnering with Alice Shriver of 505 Access and Tanda Headrick of VanGuard Technology to create a pipeline that will provide hundreds of plastic face shields to healthcare workers at Prebyterian Healthcare Services each week. Alice and Tanda set up the partnership with Presbyterian and then worked with Salteydogg Metal Fab here in Albuquerque to cut the shields. Dena then turned the entire FUSE computer lab into a space where the shields can be cleaned and packaged.

Dena was also contacted by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), which has partnered with New Mexico Tech to run the nmcovid19.org website where designers and manufacturers can reach out to donate their services or medical supplies. Via that partnership and website, Dena and the FUSE Makerspace will be holding a curbside donation event this Friday where anyone in Albuquerque or the surrounding area is encouraged to drop off their own 3D-printed face shields or the materials needed to make them.

The list goes on. Sheri Crider, who runs the Sanitary Tortilla Factory art space, has been hard at work producing something called an intubation box. The square boxes, which were first developed by a doctor in Taiwan, are made of plexiglass and fit over a patient’s head with holes for a doctor’s arms to reach through. They’re used as another layer of protection for doctors who are intubating a patient, or in other terms, inserting a plastic tube into a patient’s trachea to help keep their airways open—a process that’s done when someone needs to be put on a ventilator.

Sheri took her first box to Lovelace Health System here in Albuquerque where doctors used it and immediately ordered 12 more. Since the first batch, she and a crew of volunteers from a group called New Mexico Craft Responders have made more that have gone everywhere from Roswell to Zuni.

“It’s been amazing,” Sheri says. “I was painting pictures and making furniture when this all started and now I feel great being able to help. It’s really meaningful to be able to make an object that has tangible benefits to workers who need it most.”

Finally, Justin Spane with Albuquerque Fire Rescue recently dropped off a roll of polyurethane plastic along with CNC router files that Dena and others at  FUSE  will use to produce protective plastic gowns for healthcare workers. Once the process is streamlined, Dena hopes to produce more than 500 gowns each week.

“We’ve been very, very busy,” Dena says. “But we’re excited to help because this is a community health need that affects all of us.”

This article was originally published on cnm.edu.