Manhattan Beach Studios LLC normally uses 3D printers to produce tools that can't be bought and laser cutters to create effects such as stop motion-like frames for clients' music videos.

The sound stage production company switched gears amid the public health crisis, its owner Mark Nicholas said by phone Monday, to make protective gear for those on the frontlines fighting the novel coronavirus. 

"I figure if they can risk their lives, we can get them some type of face protection," Nicholas said. "It's hard to imagine a situation where you have this kind of crisis and sit back and do nothing." 

The machines are now printing face masks and laser cutting face shields and ear connectors to hold them on. 

Nicholas can laser cut hundreds of shields and nearly 1,000 ear connectors per day, he said. 

There's still more demand than supply of N95 masks in the entire medical industry, Nicholas said, so the studio came up with something similar to fill the gap. 

He's been buying furnace filters, which he said have the same filtering capabilities as N95 filters, and turning them into square inserts to be placed in the 3D printed masks. 

"I'm not saying to the world that this is as good as an N95, but as long as the air can move through it's got to be real close," Nicholas said. 

Nicholas' studio has given away about 100 masks so far, he said, produced a few hundred and about 1,000 ear protectors. 

"We've given them to a lot of individual providers," Nicholas said.

Once more people found out what he's doing, he added, the company got requests we got requests from local physicians' offices and small clinics.

However, part of the problem is that their gear is not medically vetted, he said, and hospitals have regulations about what they can accept and use.

The good thing is Manhattan Beach Studios is allowing those hospitals more access to what they can use, he added, since less care facilities that are not considered medical hopefully won't have to pull as many from the limited supply of approved gear.

"These elder care facilities aren't technically medical facilities," Nicholas said. "They needed shields, they didn't care where they were going to get them and did't have whatever oversight it is to tell them no." 

He's also donated to Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance. 

Shane Foley was working full-time at a custom manufacturing firm just shy of a month ago. Now, he's also stepped up to provide what the community needs most amid the coronavirus crisis.

Now, the Manhattan Beach native is using his 3D printing skills and the four machines he bought to produce face shields and ear connectors for them.

Foley cranked out 400 face shield connector bands as of last week, he said, adding that he can print five in 45 minutes.

He found the designs in forums with fellow 3D printers, he said, and waited to start producing until minds met to develop the most usable version. There was a lot of trial and error among the groups, he said, with navigating medical standards and universal sizes. 

He handed off 180 of the bands to the Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood over the weekend, Foley wrote by email Monday, and has a batch of 250 ready for the next facilities that he hears need them.

Foley dropped off 25 face shields and comfort straps to MBFD on Tuesday, he said, adding that Fire Marshal and Captain Lou Petroni told him they'll likely need many more once those are exhausted.

The devices are desired most, Foley said, because the material can be wiped down. Face shield connectors go clasp behind the head instead of resting on the ears, he added.

Nicholas' circle of hobbyists and others in production are doing similar deeds, he said, like a friend who makes model trains and converted his system to make face shields.

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