Md. couple uses 3D printer to make equipment for hospital workers

Hobie and Alicia Cohen, of Gaithersburg, make facial masks using a 3D printer. (Courtesy Alicia Cohen)

Not content with just otherwise sitting around, a Montgomery County, Maryland, couple with time on their hands decided to put their 3D printer to use and try to help their community by making face shield parts for hospitals.

“We have a home 3D printer. I’ve been printing for fun for a little bit less than two years,” Hobie Cohen, a system-software engineer with Lockheed Martin, said.

Printing 3D custom Legos and decorative letters for wall art that Cohen had been doing previously is not that much different than making a fundamental part of hospital face shields, it seems.

“You just download the file, and load it into your software, and slice it and then put it into your printer, you have to have plastic and then — you print,” Hobie Cohen said.

Alicia Cohen said the goal is to begin by supplying face shields to the Holy Cross hospitals in Silver Spring and Germantown. And from there, they’ll work to supply all Montgomery County hospitals and beyond, to Howard County, for example, as long as they can continue to get funding.

The Cohens have set up a GoFundMe page.

“They have been given the specs that we require for them to be safely used by our staff,” Steven Fowler, Holy Cross Health’s Chief Mission Officer said. “We haven’t received them yet, but we’re really hoping that they’ll be usable items for us.”

Fowler said donors should consult with hospitals and health systems they want to support before making donations.

“It would be fantastic if folks like (the Cohens) continue to reach out to us and coordinate their efforts,” Fowler said.

The 3D-printed part of the equipment is the head piece. Other components include custom-cut plastic sheets for the shield, foam padded tape for comfort and elastic bands.

Alicia Cohen said there has been a delay getting some of those other supplies delivered because so many people are ordering so many things at the same time.

Cohen family
Hobie and Alicia Cohen pose with their 4-month-old son and 2 1/2 year-old daughter. The letters on the “Art Gallery Wall” of their daughter’s creations were made using a 3D printer. (Courtesy Alicia Cohen)

After just a few days of production, the Cohens’ project had already created 62 sets of forehead pieces.

Hobie Cohen said he’s doing his part to help because he knows he is incredibly blessed and wants to help others who might not be as fortunate.

“I do feel terrible for other people who are in a much harder situation. I know it’s really hard out there,” Hobie Cohen said.

He believes that what he needs to do in life is to love God and others, and helping create these shields for the masks is one way to do that.

“My prayer every morning is to be able to do something to live for God,” Hobie Cohen said.

The couple’s 2 1/2-year-old daughter has been curious about what is going on and asking what face shields are.

“I think it’ll just show her, ‘Hey, we do things to help other people;’ and it’s important to help out and take care of other people,” Alicia Cohen said. “And, when there’s a need to try to be there, even if it’s just in a small way to do our part to spread goodness in the world and kindness.”

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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