Your questions answered on 3D-printed PPE for healthcare workers

I’ve heard from quite a few of you interested in my work 3D printing masks and face shields for healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic, so I wanted to write this blog post to cover some of the most frequently asked questions I am getting.

Also, I am very grateful to Governor Phil Murphy for his recognition of my work during his April 13th, 2020 press briefing. I have heard from many of you across the state and out of state since then and am truly humbled at the outpouring of support I have received!

What 3D printers are you using?

I started out using a QIDI x-one 2 3D printer. It was a decent machine for starting out with 3D printing, but as I started this project I quickly felt the limitations of the smaller build plate. Some of the larger designs, like the NIH face shields wouldn’t print at all on this printer. But this model was great for someone just getting started with 3D printing, as the bed came leveled out of the box and it was fully assembled.

To ramp up production, I recently purchased an Anycubic Mega-X 3D printer. I ordered this directly from the manufacturer rather than from Amazon and received it in a few days. My experience with this printer has been largely favorable. It required a bit more setup than the QIDI, but has performed very well.

I am also working with a K40 laser cutter. The K40 is a great platform for laser cutting because it’s easily moddable. For example, you can 3D print an air assist and other components to enhance the machine.

What types of filament are you printing with?

I first worked with PLA filament, which is fairly common. After that I tried PETG, which also worked well, and was a bit more flexible. I later tried more flexible materials, starting with some generic flexible filament made by 3D Solutech and then I tried printing in TPU, which is the most flexible and that was a mess. I’ve had trouble with getting TPU to play nice with my printer.

I also recently acquired some spools of nylon filament. The NIH-approved designs for face masks call for using nylon, so I am interested in trying to use it to print this particular mask, so I’ll be trying it out later in the week.

For the laser cutter, I am using clear sheets of PETG that I have purchased off of eBay. These will be used for cutting face shields.

What are the files you are printing and where can they be downloaded?

I am printing the following designs (subject to change):

I recommend checking the NIH 3D Print Exchange’s special collection of printable COVID-19 supplies for other designs you may find of interest.

What are you using for filter material?

I am using filters from vacuum cleaner bags cut into a small square. I chose vacuum cleaner bags because they are widely available and have been shown to be effective. They’re not perfect, and I don’t claim to be a medical expert, but I figured they would be “good enough” when the alternative is nothing at all.

Are the masks sterilized?

Using the resources available to me, I aim to be as sterile as possible under the unusual circumstances we are all facing. I have a UV-C wand that is used for disinfecting. I run this over the masks and other items that I make to try and destroy any virus material that may be on the masks or filament. I also follow social distancing guidelines when delivering the masks. No personal contact takes place during pick-ups.

How can masks and shields be requested?

Please use this form to request a mask. It’s important that you use that form as I can’t effectively track informal requests that come through via various channels. Also, please do not request equipment if you are located outside of New Jersey at this time. Right now I have enough demand within the state of New Jersey and need to prioritize that for now, but if things calm down here and the funds allow it I am open to shipping equipment to other states.

Who are you donating the masks to?

Primarily, I am donating the masks to essential healthcare workers that are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 and lack the required personal protective equipment. I have provided masks to doctors, nurses, testing site employees, support staff and home healthcare workers and others that are likely to come into contact with those who are infected.

How can I support this work?

We always need more filament and supplies, so if you’d like to make a donation you can use this link, or if you have specific supplies such as plastic or elastic you can use the contact form on my website to get in touch.

I am not a healthcare worker, can I buy a mask?

Not at this time. Due to the overwhelming demand, my efforts are concentrated on getting masks and equipment to front line healthcare workers that are most likely to be exposed to the novel coronavirus. Once I am able to fulfill these requests I am going to release a wait list for members of the general public to register their interest. There will be a small fee for masks for those who are not healthcare workers in order to cover materials.

I have a 3D printer and also want to help, how can I get involved?

My efforts are primarily concentrated on South Jersey, so I have formed a Facebook group to coordinate. Feel free to join the group and ask any questions there. A good way to get started would be to try printing some of the designs listed above and we can help put you in touch with the folks that need it.

Our group is affiliated with the national Open Source COVID-19 Medical Supplies group, so if you are closer to another chapter in your area you may wish to consider coordinating with them to ensure that your efforts are making an impact.

This is a great idea, are you going to patent it?

No way! The entire point of sharing these designs on the internet is that anyone can print them in response to the pandemic. Open source designs can be freely printed by anyone with a 3D printer, and they can be improved by others.

Copyrights and patents are contrary to this vision, and in this case, would only serve to stifle future innovation and chill people from participating. The point of this is to save lives, not generate profits or patents.

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Gavin Rozzi
Gavin Rozzi
Pushing the boundaries of data, technology & public policy

Gavin Rozzi is a data scientist from New Jersey with expertise in leveraging public sector datasets, spatial data & mapping and emerging technologies to inform public policy development.

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