Helping Our Healthcare Heroes

Adam and Tara with 3D mask and face shield.

April 21, 2020

Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are truly on the front lines in the ongoing COVID-19 battle – and protective medical equipment is key to them treating patients.

FirstEnergy employee Adam Matheny is helping to support the battle in a unique way: by producing medical face shields and masks on his 3D printer at home. It all came about when Adam’s wife, Tara, a registered nurse at a southeastern Ohio healthcare facility, told him how quickly they use up this much-needed personal protective equipment.

“After hearing this, I began exploring the 3D printing community for ideas and resources to see if I could potentially print these items,” said Adam, staff outage management specialist, ADMS/GIS, West Akron Campus.

Adam, a self-taught 3D printing enthusiast, has always been fascinated by the technology.

“It started off as a hobby a few years ago and has grown. I’ve created hundreds if not thousands of items,” said Adam. “Also, the great thing about the 3D printing community is the willingness to share resources. This comes in the form of ideas, modeling techniques, hardware, software configuration and other information.”

So, he started researching the possibilities. “While I lack skills in producing sewn masks, I felt I could certainly help through my 3D capabilities. I eventually discovered a number of articles about producing 3D models for both masks and face shields,” he said.

Adam found the best models from universities and medical professionals within the healthcare industry. He then created sample prints to determine the complexity, time and real-life application of each design. After several prints, he found a 3D model that offered the desired protection and comfort to assist Tara and her coworkers in their daily duties.

Medical masks and face shields made on Adam’s 3D printer.​

“Tara took her new mask to work and several coworkers requested their own. And, as word spread, we began making and supplying masks and face shields for individuals throughout northeast, central and southern Ohio, as well as Kentucky and North Carolina,” he said.

All masks and face shields are produced on a 3D printer in a secured area in Adam’s home and are made and disinfected per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Masks average anywhere from one and a half to three hours to print, and face shields less than an hour.

“The impact COVID-19 has had within healthcare facilities, our communities and across the country has been both overwhelming and heart wrenching. Without a doubt, our healthcare workers are the true heroes who will carry us through this pandemic. I’m extremely grateful for my wife’s contribution each day,” said Adam.