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Donations sought for COVID-19 efforts as supplies are distributed to those in need

April 29, 2020 - by Kim Delker

photo of engineers delivering PPE to Gallup, New Mexico

For the last few weeks, groups led by The University of New Mexico School of Engineering have been responding to the call to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals and to the broader community amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Those who are interested in supporting the work of various researchers in the School on these projects can do so in a couple of different ways.

The dean of engineering has designated that the School of Engineering’s Fund for Academic Excellence prioritize projects related to the pandemic. All donations made to this fund from March 15, 2020, until the end of the pandemic will be prioritized to support students, faculty and research that is deemed crucial in combating this crisis and helping our students thrive.

And a fund has been set up for the extensive 3D printing operation being conducted at UNM’s COSMIAC facility. Engineers at COSMIAC, an aerospace-related School of Engineering research center, were granted a special exception to use their laboratory facilities near the Albuquerque Sunport during the period of limited operations for this effort. Since April 10, the group has been producing around 500 masks a week in a 24/7 production environment. They are also producing face shields for healthcare providers, as well as ventilator parts.

A fund to support these activities can be found here.

Although the COSMIAC received a startup grant, thanks to the efforts of faculty at COSMIAC, which allowed the group to acquire a dozen 3D printers, HEPA filter material that has a similar filtering capability as N95 masks, and other needed supplies, the funding for the supplies used to make the supplies was depleted quickly because of the constant production, said COSMIAC Director Craig Kief.

Additional ways to help UNM weather the coronavirus pandemic can be found at

Other efforts being done in the School can be found here.

Meanwhile, the first batch of masks and face shields produced by the groups in the School of Engineering have now started hitting the field.

On Tuesday, face masks and shields, along with donations of food and other materials, were distributed to McKinley County, including the Miyamura facility in Gallup, an area that has been hit disproportionately hard in this pandemic.

Materials were also distributed to assisted living facilities Avamere at Roswell, Avamere at Rio Rancho and New Mexico PACE InnovAge.

Christina Salas, an assistant professor of the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation at UNM and special assistant to the dean of the School of Engineering for Health Sciences Center relations, who is leading the PPE efforts, said the situation in McKinley County was brought to UNM’s attention by a flight nurse, who happens to be the daughter of Craig Kief. She was nearly exposed to the virus due to lack of PPE, and when she shared this experience with her father and others at UNM, the 3D printing effort was fast-tracked.

In a warehouse adjacent to the COSMIAC space, there are four canopies with UV hoods that have been turned into a cleanroom-like space where 200 to 300 nurses have volunteered their time and 50 to 100 are volunteering in the facility to sterilize each mask or shield after it is produced, insert the filters, and vacuum seal them for distribution.

Recently, the School of Engineering finalized a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that gives it the green light to distribute the masks produced at the facility to medical professionals in need. The MOA, which must be signed by the recipients of the masks, acknowledges that the masks are for general protection only, not for surgical use, and not FDA approved.

In order to streamline the process, larger orders for the 3D manufactured face masks and face shields will be distributed by the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security.

Salas said that in addition to the masks and shields, the group is also 3D printing acrylic swabs for TriCore Reference Labs for COVID-19 testing, as well as parts for a pneumatic ventilator design that uses electrical components that was developed by a local company, Acme Worldwide Enterprises.

Those with questions or who are interested in making a donation of 3D printing supplies can contact Christina Salas at