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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Idaho Libraries' 3D Printers Pump Out COVID-19 Face Shields

Courtesy of Meridian Library District
A Meridian Library District staffer created this face shield-making printer farm in his garage using the district's 3D printers that would otherwise be sitting idle.

Libraries across the Mountain West may be closed, but that doesn't mean librarians are idle. 

Many libraries these days have 3D printers. And that means anyone with a blueprint and the right ingredients can become mini manufacturers of, say, plastic face shields. 

Take the libraries in Meridian, Idaho. As part of a collaboration coordinated by Boise State University, library staffers are cranking out face shields to help protect health care workers from COVID-19.

"In a time like this when our traditional services are turned upside down...we just think differently about how we can deliver those services to meet a changing community need," said Gretchen Casserotti, director of Meridian Library District. 

Casserotti explained that one of her staffers took the libraries' printers home and "he's kind of made a little 3D printer farm in his garage." The printer prints out the forehead bands, while a laser cuts the clear plastic that covers the face. 

DIY maker labs, universities and libraries across the region are working together to share blueprints and produce face masks and shields. 

In Montana, two Billings doctors developed a 3D mask design – the "Montana Mask," they call it – and posted the design file on the web so anyone can print them. 

"People have been downloading the masks across six continents," said Amberly Pahut with the Billings Clinic Foundation. "The reach of this project is so far and wide, and it's an incredible example of people coming together for the health and safety of our health care workers and our community."

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Do you have questions about COVID-19? How has this crisis affected you? Our reporters would love to hear from you. You can submit your question or share your story here.

Amanda Peacher works for the Mountain West News Bureau out of Boise State Public Radio. She's an Idaho native who returned home after a decade of living and reporting in Oregon. She's an award-winning reporter with a background in community engagement and investigative journalism.