Mpix, a division of Pittsburg-based Miller’s Professional Imaging, will donate 7,000 custom-made masks to Pittsburg State University to be used by students, the university announced Wednesday.


The masks will be branded with two PSU designs — 3,500 of each — but more importantly, the company says, they’re designed with safety in mind: The masks are enhanced micron filtration face masks made of a non-woven, 100 percent polyurethane material with a polyurethane-coated surface, which allows for greater protection than cotton or poly woven fabrics.


Advanced micron filtration is comparable to air filters used in industrial workspaces and hospital labs, according to lab results by Blue Haven Technologies in Louisville, Kentucky. Mask straps will be white braided spandex with an over-the-ear design.


Miller’s began in 1939 as a small photography studio in downtown Pittsburg and has since grown to provide prints and press products for professional photographers in all 50 states and Canada. In 2003, Miller's launched Mpix, a fully web-based digital imaging lab to service both emerging professionals and photo enthusiasts. Both have been a partner of PSU, and providing masks to students made sense, company leaders said.


"Pittsburg State University has a special place in our hearts here at Miller’s. Many of our staff are PSU alumni, including my father, and my oldest daughter is a current student," said Todd Coleman, president and chief operating officer. "I applaud President Scott and PSU’s leadership for prioritizing the safety of our students and community. We’re happy to lend a helping hand to make sure the university can open as safely as possible."


John Rank, director of business development at Miller’s, said he finds it fascinating how quickly things can be repurposed for the greater good at the company.


"Once everything hit and took a pause, our team didn’t sit still. We immediately started dreaming of ways to help our community," he said. "Printing equipment that produces thousands of custom blankets per week was converted overnight to making masks."


At first, the goal was to make a few hundred masks for everyone on staff when the company re-opened after shelter-in-place orders were lifted. Mpix partnered with nearby Pittsburg business U.S. Awards and quickly realized there was an opportunity to do more.


Now, after many production revisions, Mpix has the ability to produce thousands of masks. To date, they've been able to make more than 5,000 to assist local businesses and will add to that number in coming weeks the 7,000 needed for PSU students.


"It’s been truly inspiring to see so many individuals come together with a common goal of keeping our community safe," Rank said.