BARNEGAT, NJ – To say that Barnegat resident Gary Reitmann knows a lot about technology would be an understatement. Reitmann works as a civilian doing cybersecurity for the United States Navy. However, in this case, it’s the 3-D printer he bought four years ago that helps make Reitmann a bit of a hometown hero. Reitmann is now up to running six printers and making protective masks for some who desperately need them.

Reitmann and his sons Alexander,16 and Zachary,14 might not have anticipated how they would one day use the printer.  Both teens attend Barnegat High School.

“When I bought the 3-D printer, it was to make fishing gear,” shared Reitmann. “As I listened to the stories about the mask shortages, I realized I could help.”

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Reitmann did a lot of research before he started the project. He came across designs from a couple of places and played with them. In the beginning, he started with open source masks. Reitmann first focused on one of the designs but didn’t like that it called for him to glue and heat the mask to form it.

As he continued experimenting with designs, Reitmann recognized the masks needed a good filter. It just made sense that someone involved in the HVAC business would know about air filters. And, that’s where William Fei of Comfort Zone became involved in the mask project.

Fei already had firsthand knowledge of the mask shortage issue. In addition to the mask project, Fei came up with the idea to build a decontamination chamber to sanitize the masks. Fei reached out to companies he worked with as part of his business. Johnstone Supply in Tinton Falls in conjunction with April Air Filters have contributed to the mask production.

The filament fed into the 3D printer comes in a skinny tube and is made of polylactic acid (PLA). Cotton make up rounds act as a prefilter. The latest batch of masks includes a MERV 13 filter.  Experts say that the filter’s high efficiency rating makes it best for keeping out dust and other airborne contaminants. 

As the idea took off, so did the number of people who wanted to help Reitmann. John Sparacino, an engineer friend, came up with designing the gaskets for the masks. Originally, they used closed cell window seal. However, Sparacino suggested using plastic and it proved to work better.

Reitmann’s ingenuity caught the attention of Jamie Gross, a realtor who works for Weichert on LBI. She reached out to Reitmann to see how she could help and became involved in the mask assembly.

“We sat together at a social distance and used trial and error in the beginning to put them together,” said Gross. “We are now on our fifth generation of masks.”

Another friend signed on to help take orders. Cathleen Braddock, who is one of the co-owners of Gold Hawk Martial Arts took on the administrative functions. The coast guard has already asked for 40 masks. The group has also distributed masks to local police officers and healthcare workers.

While Reitmann doesn’t charge for the masks he makes, they are expensive to produce. The Lakehurst Naval Federal Credit Union donated two printers. Reitmann set up a GoFundme page to raise additional money for supplies. One of his goals is to print children’s masks. More information about the project is available by emailing masksforhopenj@gmail.com.