While some have taken to the traditional thread and needle to contribute to the Million Masks challenge, Santa Clarita resident A.J. Apone and his father, Allan, have decided to make technology work for them.
Working out of his Newhall home and using two 3D printers, Apone has been able to quite literally create from scratch his own, hospital-grade masks that he is then turning around and donating to first responders.
“I want to help,” said Apone, who owns a special effects make-up company. “What sent me forward was when I figured out how to create a filter — the filter was really what made the difference.”
Apone said that when he figured out how to 3D print the HEPA-grade filter, or a hospital-grade filter, he figured he could make a couple with some donations helping him out. After a social media post, a few thousand dollars rolled into his fund, and he began to run his two 3D printers 24/7.
Apone said at $2 each, the masks currently take a few hours for his two printers to make, and, as of Tuesday, he can complete 11 a day.
“The printers are running literally all through the night,” said Apone. “It takes three-and-a-half hours to print one, so I wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning to reset the machine.”
But because of donations and people recognizing his project, The Mask Initiative, online, he hopes to get 12 machines running at the same time, creating 70-80 masks a day.
“I’ve been talking to people in New York and I’ve been talking to people in Pennsylvania,” said Apone. “(Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s) office told me that they would help me with materials and they would send me another 3D printer.”
Apone said his plan has been, and he continues to keep moving forward with it, to give the masks to first responders.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support from friends in the community, whether it be friends that have access to the machines … or do outreach to the hospitals and nurses like that,” said Apone. “It’s pretty remarkable how much it’s really gained traction in the last four or five days.”
On Tuesday, Apone drove a number of masks over from his home/workshop in Newhall to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
He also said that first responders who are looking to receive the masks can reach out to him and he would be willing to meet up with them or leave the masks on the front porch so as to maintain social distancing.
“What I want to do is now that I’m starting to really get ready to start dropping them, I wanted to really get the word out there and kind of just get some sort of attention to make sure people know that we’re here, it’s available and we’re doing our best to accommodate everybody as best we can,” said Apone.
To contact Apone and inquire about either receiving a mask based on your need, or on how to help donate to his project, visit https://www.themaskinitiative.com/ or direct message him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/themaskinitiative_/.