Have you been wondering how to get involved in the effort to make face masks? The surge in demand for face masks has transformed the Lacey MakerSpace into a hub for the production and distribution of cloth masks and plastic face shields. According to the Center for Disease Control, medical professionals, front line workers and any individual who needs to be out in public should wear a mask at all times.

Three 3D printers at the MakerSpace operate day and night printing the headbands for plastic face shields. 25 other printers in homes around the county are ramping up production. Photo courtesy: Lacey MakerSpace

“At the MakerSpace, we have 3D printers, sewing machines, and laser cutters so we were in an amazing position to make a difference,” explains Joseph Anderson, director at the MakerSpace. Joseph and a team of volunteers started organizing the effort around March 20. Anderson sent an email to all MakerSpace members calling for volunteers after an article about community mask making efforts surfaced in the Lacey MakerSpace Group on Facebook.

The MakerSpace has pivoted from being a community hub for innovation, creativity, and hands-on learning to a robust volunteer and supply-chain-management operation. Over 130 volunteers have stepped forward to do their part, from 3D printing at home, to sewing masks, to cutting and assembling kits. Anderson and his team are coordinating their work with groups such as South Salish Mighty Masks and have even forged a partnership with Arbutus Folk School to help manage the effort.

Stacey Waterman-Hoey, the Folk School’s founder and director, is working closely with Anderson to coordinate existing orders for 400 face shields. They are also in contact with Thurston County Emergency Management and the Thurston Economic Development Council for guidance on where the greatest need is. So far, they’ve received mask requests from Providence St. Peter’s Hospital, the shelter at Saint Michael’s Parish, the City of Lacey Police Department, the Thurston County Food Bank, Saint Martin’s University Public Safety and many more.

Boxes of finished face shields await delivery. Over 100 plastic face shields have already been constructed and delivered thanks to the MakerSpace initiative. Photo courtesy: Lacey MakerSpace

Anderson reiterated several times that the demand is overwhelming the supply. “The more volunteers willing to pitch in, the greater difference we can make. There is a real urgency to this situation,” he says. So far, the MakerSpace has coordinated the fabrication of about 100 plastic face shields and about 150 cloth masks. Providence St. Peter’s received the first 100 face shields on Monday April 6. “We’re just getting started,” says Anderson.

The Lacey MakerSpace has three 3D printers running night and day to make the headbands for plastic face shields. Roughly 25 individuals with 3D printers at home have volunteered their equipment and resources to produce headbands using patterns approved by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Any kind of flexible plastic sheet completes the mask in compliance with NIH guidelines. If you can source this material, please email volunteer@makerspace.org.

Don’t have 3D printer or a sewing machine? No problem. You can help on the front end of cloth mask production by using a simple pair of scissors to trim pieces of cloth to the right size and assemble a kit with all the necessary materials. A person with a sewing machine will complete the construction.

The storage unit outside the Lacey MakerSpace is monitored to be sure it stays clean. Only one person at a time is allowed to access the unit and minimal contact is strongly encouraged. Photo courtesy: Lacey MakerSpace

Where can you get the materials? The MakerSpace is actively receiving and organizing material donations. They manage the flow of supplies and partial and completed masks with a storage unit outside their facility on the Saint Martin’s campus. They keep the unit clean and monitor it closely to be sure two people aren’t near it at the same time.

Once you’ve assembled a batch of kits at home, you bring them back to the storage unit. Several hundred  kits have already been produced and picked up by individuals with sewing machines. They are at work as you read this.

The MakerSpace is seeking help from anyone who can offer sewing or cutting skills, 3D printing, materials, or funds to purchase materials. Every donation matters. Whether it’s your time, your physical effort, or your resources, you are contributing to the long- and short-term well-being of our community.

Please contact volunteer@laceymakerspace.org if you want to join the groundswell of volunteers protecting our health care workers, first responders and vulnerable populations. You can keep track of developments on their main Facebook page.

A Providence St Peter’s doctor models her face shield at home. Photo courtesy: Lacey MakerSpace

If you have or can source any of the following materials, please contact the MakerSpace via email:

  • Button-hole elastic
  • Clear flexible plastic
  • MERV 13 filters
  • Filament for 3D printers
  • 100% cotton tight weave fabric

The Lacey MakerSpace opened in 2018. It is a nonprofit organization and the product of a partnership between the City of Lacey, Saint Martin’s University and the Thurston EDC. It is the backbone of an initiative to spur innovation, collaboration and the sustainable economic development that comes with cooperative entrepreneurship and hands-on community learning. Lacey is fortunate to have both the physical infrastructure and the human ingenuity ready to harness in such challenging times.

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