Information Services Team Members Assist Medical Facilities

Published On: April 2, 2020

It is hard to know exactly how to take action and help those in need, while also keeping a safe social distance. Division of Residential and Hospitality Services (RHS) team members Dan Marlatt and Eric Samson have found a way to do exactly that by using their hobby and extra time at home to create 3D-printed masks for medical facilities. 

Using the Microsoft Teams messaging app, Marlatt and Samson are able to communicate with an MSU Health Team group working on the project to exchange plans and source materials. Each section of the mask can take several hours to print, only needing a few minutes from the operator to change out materials, which makes it an ideal project to work on while social distancing.

When the MSU group started this project, they were having a hard time finding the supplies needed to construct the masks. Members of the group, including Marlatt, had run out of filament (the material that is fed into the printer to be melted down and shaped). Marlatt knew of a company in Grand Rapids that manufactured filament, so he gave them a call. Now, this is where things get interesting.

When Marlatt called the company, a representative said they would love to help him out, but they were low on stock because someone had just purchased 1,000 kg of filament — and it was being sent to Lansing. 

“Well, I went, ‘Wow, that’s crazy,’” said Marlatt. “I asked if there was any way I could get in touch with them, and the guy said, ‘Yeah, absolutely,’ and gave me their contact information. It turns out it was a group that was doing the exact same thing [the MSU group] was doing.”

That group just happened to be TinkrLAB, a Lansing business created in 2014 with the intent to teach kids about invention, building and making. Now, TinkrLAB is using its business to connect those who want to help with the resources they need to make the masks.

TinkrLAB had created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the materials, as well as to spread the word to the community. Because donations were funding the project, they got a discounted rate on filament. For them, each spool of filament costs $35 and can create up to 20 masks. The original fundraising goal was $3,500, but donations have exceeded$16,000, or enough to make around 9,142 masks. The masks will be donated to Sparrow Hospital and distributed to medical professionals.

Since both groups were working toward the same goal, Marlatt reached out to the owner of TinkrLAB, who responded right away and shared that she planned on giving away the filament to anyone who wanted to help. Marlatt immediately shared this with the MSU group, and the information spread.

“It’s actually catching fire right now, so much so that local supply stores that would supply the materials needed to make face shields or the actual face masks are running out,” Marlatt said.

Currently, the MSU group is still using Teams to send updates to one another. Marlatt said there are new members joining every day.

“It’s actually really, really interesting, the group of people who are currently involved,” Marlatt said. “We are from all over. Seriously, every department — departments you wouldn’t normally expect would be involved. Everyone is just pulling together to try to participate and do what we can.”

Marlatt said their efforts have caught the attention of local news outlets who are covering the story, so the movement will only continue to grow.

“I just want people to know that if anyone feels like they want to be involved at all, there should still be some opportunities to help,” Marlatt said.

MSU Professor Nathan Tykocki is one of the individuals who started reaching out to people on campus to form the group. If you are interested in more information about the group or process, you can contact him at tykockin@msu.edu or read this article from MSU Today.