After reading and watching recent news reports about healthcare workers and others on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, who are struggling with shortages of personal protective equipment, Stephen Phillips knew he had to do something to help.
"I just got to thinking … `How can I make these?’" recalled the Prosper High School sophomore and engineering student.
The teen decided to fire up the 3D printer he got last summer and went to work producing medical-grade protective equipment at home, including face masks and shields.
Stephen has so far crafted and delivered about three dozen pieces of the reusable, washable, solid-plastic equipment using designs he found online that were created by universities and medical schools.
He currently has orders pending to produce another 20 pieces.
"They’re really sturdy," he said. "They will not break easily and they (allow wearers to) reuse the limited supplies that we have."
With the equipment he has on hand, he figures he’ll probably be able to make at least 100 pieces of equipment.
He has also produced a video detailing specifics about the equipment that can be viewed at https://youtu.be/ll7CGSfs3s0.
Stephen is producing adjustable face masks in three sizes for adults.
He is also making plastic clips that allow the elastic bands of the masks to be secured behind the neck rather than behind the ears for better comfort, especially when worn by doctors and nurses during lengthy hospital shifts.
The clip "actually holds the mask snug to their face without having to put stress on their ears," Stephen explained.
The mask clips and face shields are his most-requested items, he said.
Stephen is donating the pieces, which cost him between $5-$10 to produce, to area medical personnel and first responders as well as individuals who serve as caretakers for the elderly and those with special needs.
For people who request the equipment for personal use, Stephen asks that they make a donation to cover the costs of his supplies, namely the plastic filament required for the printer.
News of Stephen’s equipment making has spread rapidly, mostly by word of mouth. In recent weeks, he has received requests from as far away as Houston and Kentucky.
He was recently contacted by a pair of nurses from separate medical facilities who wanted to order more than two dozen of his mask clips.
Also, the spouse of a physician at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center -Centennial in Frisco reached out to inquire about getting face shields for doctors there.
"Hopefully, with the attention we’re getting from the community, (people will) be able to donate and help get us the supplies we need so we can keep this going," Stephen said.
The teen, who has been interested in engineering since elementary school, aspires to one day become a biomedical engineer.
For now, he’s happy to assist however he can as the pandemic continues.
"We’re all in this together," he said. "We might as well work together in order to help solve this problem."