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Local startup donating 3-D printers to make face masks for frontline workers, families in need

Posted at 5:00 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 17:27:37-04

CINCINNATI — Before the coronavirus pandemic swept the region, Over-the-Rhine's Union Hall served as a co-working space for local professionals. Now, it's a makeshift mask factory.

"We've delivered to multiple fire departments, several health care systems, a variety of assisted living and senior care facilities," said John Steiger, director of startup services for the local nonprofit, Cintrifuse.

The 38,000-square-foot space on Vine Street is now the temporary home to 100 3-D printers capable of churning out 2,000 masks per week, as part of local efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus still spreading across the planet. It's all part of a multi-organizational effort to produce personal protective equipment for those most at risk of contracting the virus.

Greg LaLonde heads up Polar 3D, a Cincinnati-based 3-D printing firm that -- in conjunction with Cintrifuse and local digital analytics firm, InfoTrust -- is assisting in the manufacture of the reusable masks.

"We're all happy to be trying to get engaged and do something to alleviate some of the pain in our community, and also beyond our community," LaLonde said.

Freestore Foodbank President and CEO Kurt Reiber said the donations aren't just invaluable, but also expand the service his organization can provide its clients.

"We just survive on the benevolence and the philanthropy of this great community," he said. "We're seeing just that influx of people that have not been in the system that don't know how to navigate it. Then, you know, to try to put on top of this to say, 'OK, now you got to find masks for you and your family."

With the mask donations, Reiber's organization is able to provide masks to families in need as well as much needed food for the pantry.

"It's just gonna be a terrific godsend to us as far as we know to help the families that we're serving," Reiber said.