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3D printing business in Waunakee changes focus from violins to face shields

Making Face Shields

WAUNAKEE (WKOW) -- A Waunakee business has been using its unique tools to address local needs for personal protective gear.

For April Weir and her husband David Hauptman, 3D printing started as a hobby, but when they learned how to print full-sized violins, it became a business.

"Our goal with Partita when we started was to make violins more accessible to those who can't afford them," Weir said.

After last week, however, their priorities changed.

"We wanted to contribute more to the community to take a break from our violins," Weir said.

On Sunday, the pair began 3D printing face shields to donate to first responders and medical personnel.

"We knew that personal protective equipment were in short supply so we started with a design that was open source," she said.

Weir approached Group Health Cooperative about her idea. It approved the design and her printers took off.

Weir's three printers make roughly four headbands each every seven hours. Then Weir and Hauptman attach transparency sheets and elastic to form the full shield.

"We'll have several hundred shields ready in a week or two," Weir said.

Though she said they couldn't do that on their own.

"I put out a call for volunteers," she said, "We currently have 23 printers along with us."

Jay Kang said that call inspired him. He started printing the masks himself, but he said producing six a day wasn't enough.

Now he's raising funds to buy more printers and increase his output.

"If there's something little that I can do, stay at home abide by Governor Evers' Safer at Home order and crank out 3D printed goods, I will do whatever I can," he said.

Kang said he's already raised enough for a second printer and is currently trying to get other printers involved as well. He said the Waunakee School District has agreed to use its printer for the project. The printer hasn't been used since classes were canceled.

Weir said she's grateful to see her idea strike such a chord, but at the end of the day, it's the least she can do to help in a crisis.

"I can't believe we're in such short supply of things we take for granted," she said.

Weir said she's already delivered enough masks for the Waunakee Police and EMS and is currently working on an order of more than a thousand masks for Group Health Cooperative.

She's asking anyone with a 3D printer available to contact them to see if they can help. Those without printers can help them find more supplies like transparency sheets and elastic.