Local efforts underway to create PPE amid lack of supplies: 'We're worried about it'

Daniel Sem

MEQUON -- As doctors, nurses, and first responders struggle with a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), community members in southeast Wisconsin are stepping up to the plate. Concordia University's School of Business dean has been working with doctors and researchers at Children's Wisconsin to produce a much-needed piece of equipment -- respirators.

"It's like a huge tidal wave coming our way, and we're worried about it," said Daniel Sem, Batterman School of Business dean at Concordia University.

To help with the desperate need for PPE, a team at Concordia University is switching gears.

"I did all kinds of research and found out there's this national effort to 3D print masks," Sem said.

A tailored fit, as Concordia houses the largest 3D printing capacity of any nonprofit in Wisconsin.

"We can do about 70 in a day, and 500 in a week with these 30 printers," Sem said.

3D printed mask

The masks are reusable, and meant to work like N95 respirators.

"So you would wash down the mask, replace the filter, and use them each day," Sem said.

The 3D printers will be going day and night -- until the need is met.

Mask by Miranda Levy

Meanwhile, Milwaukee fashion designer Miranda Levy is also putting her responsibilities aside to help.

"I'm being told that doctors and nurses are without anything," Levy said. "What I learned was they need to be 100% cotton so they can be washable."

When medical-grade face masks are not available, the CDC encourages the use of homemade masks as a last resort.

Thomas D'Amico

Local businesses like American Flags Express in Butler are also altering their efforts.

"It was an easy transition," said Thomas D'Amico, president of American Flags Express. "It's also a great way to keep our seamstresses employed."

D'Amico says some of their production will be donated to the Milwaukee Police Department. Others will be sold to the public.

Back to Concordia University, Dean Sem told FOX6 News his goal is to lock in a design by the end of the week -- and begin distributing masks to local hospitals and first responders sometime next week.

"One small positive thing is it's really bringing a lot of people together, that normally don’t work together, towards a common goal," said Sem.

If you would like to donate to Concordia's effort, CLICK HERE.