Illustrative image of masks similar to the ones made by JK Automotive Designs.
Illustrative image of masks similar to the ones made by JK Automotive Designs.
Photo: AP

While large automakers are only just getting started building protective equipment and ventilators to meet the demand required to defeat the novel coronavirus pandemic, custom shops are already on task.

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According to a CNN report from yesterday, shops like JK Automotive Designs in Stoneham, Massachusetts have pressed themselves into action to make personal protective equipment (or PPE) for hospital workers still in need of adequate protection against infection by the notoriously contagious covid-19 virus.

Custom car shops are uniquely positioned to produce this kind of equipment quickly and locally. Because custom car projects require mechanical work, fabrication, and upholstery, these shops have the equipment and the know-how necessary to build something to meet a specific use on short notice and are located all around the country, close to where the PPE is needed.

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CNN reports that the shop experimented with 3D printing before settling on a more conventional approach. While the 3D printing method took hours and hours to make just two face shields, they can now churn out 45 shields every ten minutes, though the straps take somewhat longer.

After mastering the design themselves, Jeremy Katz, the shop’s owner, made the design available to other shops to replicated. Speaking to CNN, Katz said that more than 20,000 masks have already been produced and donated and that more are to come.

Since Katz went public with his design, shops in California, Nebraska, and Alaska are already pitching in to help as well and Katz predicts that other products including a plexiglass intubation box will join the facemasks soon.

Though these shops are happy to be able to help, social distancing measures and the need for the PPE the shops are currently turning out has sapped away most of their business. Katz has started a GoFundMe to support his business through the effort to supply hospital workers with what they need. To keep going, they’ll need more support, but they’re dedicated to the task and are hoping to build as many more masks as they can.

Max Finkel is a Weekend Contributor at Jalopnik.

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