Grand Rapids tool and die shop adapts to make masks

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made another plea for more medical masks on Monday. A West Michigan business is trying to fill that need. 

2K Tool co-owner Kevin Smith says his Grand Rapids business was hit hard by the COVID-19 social distancing measures that have shut down many businesses. The tool and die and shop makes mainly automotive and furniture parts. Those sales have dropped off, forcing him to lay off half of his staff.

Worried about his staff and the business, Smith got an idea while watching the news. 

“They (the news) kept talking about shortages of masks, so we figured we had some material laying around and had the capability to turn it around real quick, so we just went ahead and did it,” Smith said.

He found a design file for the mask mold made public by a guy in Montana and some HEPA filters from a Grandville vacuum business. With a little tinkering, he was able to start producing parts Friday.

So far, 2K Tool has produced a couple dozen masks. Smith said the business will be able to make 5,000 per day once in full production. 

“If we can get masks reasonably priced, keep our guys working, everybody gets a mask, it’s a win-win,” Smith said. “(It) helps out our small business and helps out people that need stuff.”

He’s still looking for material to fasten the masks since elastic is hard to come by, but says he’ll find an alternative.

Smith is unsure where the masks will go. He’s hoping to keep some close to home. 

“I figured if we make it, they will come,” he said. 

Smith told News 8 that he wants to donate a portion for the masks to local medical professionals. However, to keep production going, he will have to make some sales. The cost to make the masks is in the tens of thousands of dollars per day when producing at full capacity. 

TRACKING CORONAVIRUS: