Laurel Ridge engineering student uses his 3D printer to help medical community

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The first protective face mask Laurel Ridge engineering student Erich Artis made was to protect his mother. Now, he’s created dozens to help the medical community.

Artis graduated in 2018 from Sherando High School, where he was on the football team, and enrolled that fall at Laurel Ridge. This past fall, his mom, Myra Diaz, joined him at Laurel Ridge. She is studying computer science.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Artis created a plastic N95-style mask using a 3M filtrete filter, in late March.

“The first one he originally made, he made it for me because I was so terrified about going to the supermarket,” Diaz said. “I’m a GBS (autoimmune disease Guillain-Barré Syndrome) survivor. Coronavirus can definitely cause a relapse of it, and I can’t take an anti-viral.”

Artis had seen designs online and saw that many people were trying to hand make masks.

“She asked me the question, ‘How can we help?’” he said of his mother.

Artis received his 3D printer – it’s his second one – as a Christmas present in 2018 because his print projects kept getting bigger. He has printed animals, a full-scale lightsaber, a Disney castle for his mom and more.

He has now printed several dozen masks, in two different sizes, and will distribute them to doctors and nurses in the Winchester and Front Royal region.

After learning that healthcare workers’ ears were getting very sore from the traditional mask loops, Artis began 3D printing plastic straps to attach the loops to.

Soon, Artis hopes to up his mask and strap production.

“Erich’s birthday is in May,” his mom explained. “As his gift, his grandparents, his father and myself actually got him another 3D printer. That should be coming here shortly. We will double the amount we’re making so he can continue helping.”

She is excited about the work her son is doing and is also excited to be attending Laurel Ridge with him – although the rest of the semester will remain online.

“I’m happy that I’m there and I’m happy that we both can get an education,” Diaz said. “As a mom, I’m happy that I’m close and not far away from my child.”

Artis hopes to one day work as an engineer or architect and has long been fascinated by buildings, roads and bridges. Laurel Ridge’s Middletown Campus couldn’t be more convenient to his Stephens City home, and it saves him plenty of money.

To help her son buy more materials to keep printing the masks and straps, Diaz set up the following fundraising Facebook page: