Joe Rotondi recalls closing the doors to Forge Greensboro on a Friday evening, in-step with recent stay-at-home orders handed down by local authorities. But things didn’t stay dormant for long.
“We started prototyping designs we saw on the Internet essentially the day after, that Saturday,” said Rotondi (BS Entrepreneurship ’16), who serves as the Forge’s executive director.
Rotondi — and what he describes as an army of local residents with 3D printers at home — is now working toward a goal of creating 1,000 face-shield visors to be used by Cone Health medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been keeping our eye on it as a maker community here at the Forge as we saw makers and Italy and other countries start creating designs and producing things for their communities and working with local authorities to get things clinically approved,” he said. “We kept an eye on that process to see if we could step in if it made sense for us to do so.”
After testing initial versions of the face shield with healthcare workers, Forge Greensboro teamed up with the Alamance Makers Guild and Elon Maker Hub. Rotondi says the Forge and Elon are printing visors, which are made to fit around the head with the help of an elastic band. In Alamance, clear plastic is cut and fastened to those visors, creating the final product.
Both simple and elegant in design, the fasteners on the visor are spaced so that in a pinch, someone could use a three-hole punch on any slice of clear plastic to replace the part. Rotondi says he’s working with close to 20 individual makers locally, some of whom may only own one 3D printer at home, but are running it 24/7 to produce the visors.
“Collaboration is sort of a key tenant of the Forge and the maker movement at-large,” Rotondi says. “A lot of the language around it is coming together and sharing knowledge and resources.”
Originally from Florida, Rotondi says that collaboration is one of the things that he grew to like about Greensboro.
“There seemed to be, across the board, a level of pride in this community and an attitude that people would rather not wait around to find solutions, but they’d rather solve problems,” he said.
Rotondi admits it’s difficult having the Forge officially closed, as a lot of its members run businesses that rely on it to support part of or all of their income.
“It’s not the ideal situation,” he said. “However, you know, I’m very thankful we have something we can do … the right thing, in many cases, is to not do anything, to stay at home and not gather. Which, our normal reaction during a crisis is to give someone a hug or go volunteer somewhere. That’s the opposite of what we’re being asked to do. So it’s nice to have something and somewhere to put this energy that can make an impact to combat this contagion.”