3D Printers vs. Coronavirus

Hello all! I know we are all struggling with the season ending so soon. But I am so proud of our community for immediately offering up their resources to help with this pandemic. Many people are using the processing power of their computers to advance scientific research. Our team plans on helping our community by 3D printing masks for healthcare workers.

We found this project and would like to share it with the community. No point in letting your printers collect dust. Put them to work!


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This sums it up quite well.

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This from OSHA might interest people thinking about making mask parts. OSHA is still requiring NIOSH certified regulators.

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Here is the doctor (in our area) who designed these asking for schools and individuals to help manufacture these masks. And I agree that sterility is an issue, but we aren’t manufacturing the valves in ventilators. Instead, we are trying to help relieve the strain on the supply of masks. Doctors can only use one mask per day, or nurses not being given any until they have a confirmed case. And yes, they use clinical masks.

I agree that this isn’t a replacement for clinical masks, but is better than having no mask on at all.

So there’s a lot of these suggestions and projects going around.

The think I think everyone needs to keep in mind:

Improperly made medical equipment will KILL innocent people.

Before attempting to manufacture anything for usage in a medical feild, ask yourself: Are you OK with the fact that your work may lead to someone’s death?

It’s possible to answer “yes” to this question, but isn’t something that should be taken lightly. The reason regulations and redundancies in professional medical products exist is because the manufacturers don’t take it lightly.

Again, and I have to ensure I say this: all of these posts about creating medical equipment are really well intentioned. Yes, there’s some potential to help save lives. But don’t let that fact stop the introspection about the very serious implication of such projects.

To anyone looking to get involved: The best advice I heard is to be contact with a specific & local medical institution, with an actual set of doctors with actual, concrete, current needs, who are asking for specific forms of help, and who are aware of the manufacturing (particularly sterility and regulatory) limitations. Don’t just assume manufacturing capability is needed, make whatever you feel like, and dump them at a facility without context. They won’t (and shouldn’t) get used.

I really really really don’t want to discourage people from getting involved. If you insist on manufacturing, be spooled up and ready to help at a moment’s notice. But don’t go rogue and solve the problem your own way. Work with the community as a team to solve the problem, and reduce the risk of increasing the chaos.

OP - it does sound like you’ve got something specific, fairly local, and needed. That’s good, and keep it up!

EDIT: Finally spent some time reading through the other threads (which I’d been somewhat avoiding due to them getting nasty). Apologies for the redundancies here.


A Copy of my reply to another similar thread:

I really appreciate where your hearts are at for this project. It’s certainly an issue and we need to look for better ways to solve this crisis.
That said, I work in medical manufacturing for a living. I would like to encourage that this project stays in only a prototype form. Making devices such as ventilators is a much more complex chain of events, people, and factories than most people understand. These machines are usually VERY expensive and heavy, but most if not all these parts are very specialized, high precision, and take time to manufacture. Tooling up facilities to accommodate this increased demand is not a process that can happen instantly or overnight. It takes some time and careful consideration, as do many other aspects of combatting the COVID-19 crisis. Please consider this and know that many people are working as hard as we can to produce necessary equipment to treat people affected by COVID-19 and to stop it from spreading in the future.

Knowing firsthand through experience in medical manufacturing, it’s very important to remember what is needed to do this properly. ISO, FDA, and other standards do exist for good reason, and I would be shocked to find out that somebody is running a certified operation to make medical equipment in their garage. The company I work for manufactures components for COVID-19 testing among other critical medical components, and I beg of everybody to at least do more research before you start printing a million face masks and bringing them to hospitals. Medical manufacturing companies are running at or close to full capacity, but none of the companies I am aware of are sacrificing the quality of the product because the risks are too high if something is just slightly incorrect or out of spec.


Hi Tinnittin, I love that your team is leaping into action to help your community! I actually have family a bit north of you in Whitefish (my aunt and uncle up there are doctors), so I’ve been through Missoula a few times over the years, and understand that MT’s medical situation isn’t always the same as a larger state’s.

If you want “help from the FRC community” to fulfill local need - I recommend you ask the FRC community ship the masks to your team, so that your team can do quality control on the way in.

I’m glad you have a doctor near you that will accept using these masks as replacements for surgical masks.

I have a lot of concerns about his choice, that mostly don't matter if hes considering these surgical masks rather than respirators

But if he wants hobbyist prints, make hobbyist prints. Don’t expect anyone else to accept them. I wouldn’t consider them replacements for NIOSH N95 respirators.

The existing directions don’t include wall thickness, layer height, scaling, etc - all of which will impact final print quality and how well the ‘snap in’ filter cover actually snaps in.

The existing directions don’t include anything about safe handoffs (assume that simultaneously everyone is contagious and everyone needs protecting).

The existing directions for printing do not include any kind of smoothing & sealing step. Finding a way to do that will make it safer (help prevent air flowing through the print) and easier to wash & reuse safely with fewer cracks and crevices.

The existing design is sized for one particular man’s face. It’s not clear that the same design will pass fit testing on other people’s faces (“mask” rather than “respirator”). If you’re printing for local need, maybe tweak the design to fit local faces; if you’re intending on printing for the Billings Clinic - talk to them about multiple sizes?

PLA, more for other communities

Billings Clinic is asking for PLA masks, which are pretty much only washable in soap & water - they won’t survive common industrial-scale cleaning & sterilizing techniques used at other facilities. If you want to help your local hospitals, be in touch with them (ideally, through a single point of contact in the community) to understand requirements before you start printing.

Given the engagement of a local filter supplier, I hope that the filters do not have loose fibers after diecutting.

Other parts of the country are reporting shortages of face shields and cloth masks for patients / cloth masks for covering N95’s.

Do you know if the hospitals & clinics have face shields that the doctors & nurses can wear for secondary droplet protection (change between patients instead of respirators, let the N95 last longer, the shield gets wiped down and reused the following day)?
Can you talk to your local clinics and see if they have anyone working on that yet?


Sample design:

Remember to verify your materials/acceptability with your local clinic’s point of contact!

All you need is one piece of clear plastic, one piece of closed cell foam across the top, and a tie system around the back of the head. There are 3D printed variants, but a single piece of thicker foam is faster to execute. If all you have in closed-cell is thin weatherstripping, you might want a 3dprinted holder to make the weatherstripping go farther. Additional designs are at the OSCMS link in my previous posts.

Do you know if the hospitals & clinics have cloth masks they can give their coughing patients, so that they don’t coat the waiting rooms in viruses? Or that clinicians can wear over N95’s between patients, so that one N95 can last all day?
Can you talk to your local clinics and see if they have someone working with them on this yet?


The robotics team probably has quite a few contacts in the community (parents, cousins…) that you could use to do the “piecework” for maskmaking, aggregate and launder a bunch of masks, and then get them in place at clinics. The key is to make sure you understand what designs the local facilities can use.

Nationally, I’m seeing a lot of requests for 100% cotton or 50/50 cotton/poly blend overmasks with ties that go around the head (rather than ear elastics) and no nosepiece for easier laundering.

For personal use, the www.project-cloth-masks.com design integrates nonwoven polypropylene layers and a nose piece; the construction is similar to a surgical mask or the Cambridge Mask, but with no vent. This is a benefit in the current situation, as a mask without a vent does a better job of protecting other people from you (ie, always assume that you are an asymptomatic carrier).

Here is a guide to being a Crafting Organizer

And I linked a few crafting organizations in my post in another thread.

Bottom line - can you talk to your community clinics about what else they need help with?

For what it’s worth, masks/face shields aren’t anywhere near the same category as ventilators/breathing bags


Indeed, there are a number of different categories of regulation for medical-usage devices.

Until regulations are lifted, the above are part of the “rules” any manufacturer must abide by. It’s absolutely worth at least a glance for anyone looking to get into this part or full time.

Above and beyond any regulations, good engineering judgement is still needed. The core of this is communication. Hence my advice above.

PS: above link and some details were furnished by my sister, and engineer at a large biomedical device manufacturing firm. If people have questions, let me know, I’ll see what I can funnel through her.

FWIW hospital staff in my area are having to purchase whatever masks they can find to make up for the PPE shortage. I’ve heard first hand of people working COVID-19 units with only a bandanna for protection - sure it’s not effective, but what do you do when that’s all you’ve got?

I don’t think there are too many OSHA inspectors policing hospital units at the moment.

This sounds like a genuine case where a 3d-printed, non-regulated substitute could prove helpful. Can you provide additional contact information so that teams can reach out with supplies?

I’d be careful how far this line of thought gets taken. Using lack of enforcement as a reason for violating regulations is a very dangerous line to walk.

I absolutely am not proposing lack of enforcement as justification for violating regulations. I meant to emphasize the futility of regulation when compliance simply isn’t an option. People will use whatever they can in times like these.

Any metro New Orleans hospital is in need of droplet precaution PPE. If you can get your hands on face shields or masks, I’m sure they’d use them.

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I’m a critical care RN. As explained to me by our infectious disease doc, the rationale behind using a bandana, cloth mask… any less than ideal protection, is to keep you from touching your face (mucous membrane areas) with “dirty” hands. Yes, you can still rub your eyes…

The cloth material will not physically stop something as small as a virus, or bacteria for that matter. Heck, it might not even stop smoke particles which you can see! Having said that, the virus is held in, and travels via the droplets of saliva/sputum when a patients cough/sneeze, etc. The cloth material will stop and trap the droplets.

Ideally, at this junction of rationing PPE, the bandana/cloth is a stop gap measure until production ramps up for proper PPE. You all know this. The bandana should be worn OVER the N95 to help preserve it’s life span.


Sweet, thanks. Apologies for misinterpretation. My various ISO compliance flags were going off in my head.

For reference, for folks looking to get into the manufacturing, here’s a link to the foundation that’s making the request.

(406) 435-MASK (435-6275)

Call them, email them, talk to them. Figure out what it is they need, when they need it, and how best to help.

I’m assuming they’ve already done some of their homework on what the advantages and limitations of this alternate PPE will be (especially in light of Skuke’s comments). But be ready to help them find answers, using the language that they’re familiar with.

Then, make the rational decision with your team: Can you provide what they’re looking for? Will you accept the risks incurred?

Then, plan, print, deliver.

Within a very short time frame, certain manufacturers will be ramping up mask production by over a million a week. Inside two weeks (production+distribution time), I expect masks to no longer be the primary problem in the US. Ventilators, however, are a different story. The manufacturers do have slightly more time for the ventilators, since there isn’t a shortage yet.

Ok. Thank you for the input.

I’ve said what I wanted to say, I’m calling it quits for this thread.

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