3D Printing Helps Fill A Need For More Protective Masks

The coronavirus has strained resources for health care workers. But 3D printing may be one way to help close the gap.
Posted at 1:51 PM, Mar 27, 2020

Leaders like New York Gov. Anderew Cuomo are concerned. They say our health care system is overwhelmed. There are not enough supplies to treat patients and protect health care workers. And now some are getting creative looking for solutions, like 3D printers. 

"We have been trying to come up with a way of extending the limited supplies of masks we have suppliers have not been able to get us the masks suppliers have not been able to get us masks and we have only a limited number on hand, so we had to figure out how do we make those masks go further," Dusty Richardson said. 

In Billings, Montana, a surgeon teamed up with a dentist and a local filter company to figure out a way to create 3D-printed reusable masks.  

"We can take a patch from a common surgical mask, insert it into the mask, plug the hole, thereby allowing for a filtration cartridge using only a portion of each mask," Richardson said. 

They've gotten help from local businesses and schools who have 3D printers. But what about the person sitting at home with a 3D printer, isolated from others because of the coronavirus shutdown? Is there a way they can help in this crisis?  

"Face masks and face shields, I can make most of the parts for those. That's what a 3D printer is good for: small parts you can connect together to make a bigger thing," Jacob Krusey said. 

Jacob Krusey has been 3D printing as a hobby for five years. Now that he is home 24/7, he sees his extra time as an opportunity to help — an opportunity he found online. 

"The Open Source Ventilator Project on Facebook. There are a lot of people on that group with individual projects on that group that your printer is not a high enough volume printer — you can make smaller things in high volume, that's one way you can help out," Krusey said. "So with the 3D printer, what's really neat is I can make a lot of small parts really rapidly, and that's what's needed in a hospital situation."

The other part of 3D printing that makes it feasible for individuals to help is the cost.  

"When you begin creating products, you are talking cents on the dollar," Krusey said. 

A low cost with a potentially big impact. 3D printing: perhaps a good fit in our new world of social isolation.