Somerville artisan coalition working to make gear for hospitals amid shortage

SOMERVILLE — A coalition of artisans in Somerville is working to make personal protective equipment that hospitals are running out of during the global coronavirus outbreak.

The professionals in fabrication, engineering, electronics and robotics, among other fields, are working on prototypes for the gear at Artisan's Asylum, a 40,000-square-foot work space shared by a coalition of creators.

Sarah Miller, a fabricator who makes prototypes for a living, told Boston 25 News Monday she and her peers have developed a prototype for a face shield. It is a 10-by-14-inch piece of laser-cut, clear plastic attached to a one-inch foam band, secured around the head with elastic.

But as Miller speaks with representatives from local hospitals about their needs and safety requirements, she expects they will need to tweak their model before sending the prototype to the production line and cranking out their goal of 1,000 face shields at a time.

MORE: With so many people working from home, will your company’s data be safe?

"If you want to make a few hundred of something, you can start immediately," Miller said. "If you want to make 10,000 of something, then it takes that first initial 10 days to set up, and once production is set up, then you can just go, go, go."

In the machine shop, they are modifying equipment to make the proper tooling to be able to make paper face masks. The goal is to make 10,000 at a time.

The group has also begun creating doctor's gowns.

But before maximum production can begin, Miller says they need to receive the funding from hospitals, and - the biggest obstacle - to be able to find all the materials they need.

"We think that there will be a problem sourcing material, and that might put a stop in all of this," Miller said. "If we can’t get the material that is accepted by hospitals, we can’t do anything."

MORE: Brookline fire station closed after firefighter tested for coronavirus

While the artisans work, they are taking precautions to keep themselves and one another safe, only working in small teams and keeping distance between them.

"We feel a real call from the medical community," Miller said. "It’s the people that are in the hospitals that are doing most of the work. We’re doing what we do here every day."

If her peers secure the materials, along with the funding and guidance from the medical community, Miller says they can begin creating gear in masses in a matter of days.

Download the free Boston 25 News app for up-to-the-minute push alerts