ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – University of New Mexico engineering students are stepping up to make sure healthcare providers in our state have enough masks during the pandemic.

The UNM engineering school just received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Air Force to develop a 3-D printing hub where they will be able to make personal protective equipment (PPE), that includes masks and face shields.

There are 25 UNM engineering students involved working at the COSMIAC Research Center near the airport.  Organizers said students and faculty plan on working around the clock to produce as many masks as possible for UNM healthcare providers. They said they are practicing social distancing during production and only have up to three students and two faculty members working at a time in the large warehouse.

As of Sunday, they are able to produce 500 to 700 masks a week and hope to do more once they are tested by the Air Force and Sandia National Labs.

“As soon as we confirm that the printing methods that we’re using and material type that we’re using is adequate for this purchase, we intend to purchase double or triple the number of printers that we have now in order to increase production beyond what we can do now,” said Christina Salas with UNM.   

She said after that testing they hope to deliver the masks to UNM health care providers by next week. Then they plan on supplying masks to first responders and other health care workers in the state.  

Organizers said they plan on producing these masks until they are no longer needed.

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