COVID-19 Response: 3D-Printing Masks to Help Homeless New Yorkers
May 13, 2020

CUCS has a long track record for finding creative solutions to help people across NYC. As the COVID-19 crisis created a great need for masks and protective equipment, we set out to meet the challenge of how to ensure the safety of our staff and the people we serve. We launched a campaign to raise 2,000 fabric mask donations—and we are proud to say that as of now we’ve received over 4,000 masks. But we also took it one step further, all the way outside the box, and began 3D-printing our own respirator masks.

For this project, CUCS collaborated with The Factory NYC, a fabrication company in Brooklyn.  We want to give a huge shout-out to General Manager Jonathan Epstein and his team, as well as Joseph Halon, Greg Hopkins, and Woody Poulard.

Creation of the masks began with a design by Hack the Pandemic, a global coalition of makers, designers, and volunteers that have come together in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The team at The Factory NYC started piloting the masks before receiving the special antibacterial filament, then made tweaks to the design based on pain points from those—for example, they reinforced the strap area. They sent over feedback to their colleagues at Hack the Pandemic so that other makers could learn from their work and improve the design.

N95 masks are the highest standard of protection for medical professionals, but have been hard to acquire recently. These 3D-printed masks came to the rescue, and go above and beyond. Thanks to the antibacterial properties in the filament used to print them and the special compartment where a user can insert a small filter, they are essentially reusable forever. This means that not only will they be a reliable source of protection for our staff, but they also generate less waste than other masks.  Plus, the masks are custom-fitted for each of our providers, helping them stay comfortable while they work.

CUCS has received 50 of these 3D-printed masks, with another 50 on the way. We have distributed them to our healthcare providers at Janian Medical Care and other essential workers among our staff. We are endlessly proud of the work our team is doing in this crisis to help vulnerable New Yorkers stay healthy, housed, and safe. These masks are just one of the many ways that we are supporting our staff’s safety as they continue this critical frontline work.

To support projects like this and help homeless New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic, please donate to the CUCS COVID Relief Fund.