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3D Printing to Improve Function and Features of Masks

"I was in the middle of my trauma fellowship when COVID hit. As in many institutions, one of the first signs of organizational response was the rationing of our PPE. One day the surgical masks were all missing from the usual stacks on top of the scrub sinks.  We had to get a mask from the control desk, and we could only wear one mask per day unless it was visibly soiled. We were also required to wear N95 masks at all times, and were given only one. This was the case in many institutions and the timeline was indefinite.

I have a home 3D printer I like to tinker with, and as a former engineer I have some basic computer 3D modeling skills. I saw an online ad for an antimicrobial copper filament for 3D printing, which seemed like a good starting point for a 3D printed mask to replace N95s. When I mentioned my idea to the CEO of The Orthopaedic Implant Company, we sat down with two of their top engineers and started creating one. The mask went through several iterations as well as extensive field-testing by me at each stage of the design process. While other designs went for simplicity, ours was more about function and features.  It had to have a reliable, comfortable face seal, be safe to handle without contamination, and have excellent filtration.  We chose surgical tray wrap as the filter, and it functions more as a respirator than a mask. The final result can print in less than 24 hours.  The masks have been distributed to surgeons in Nevada and Utah.  The design has also been submitted to the FDA for emergency stop-gap approval and it is in the NIH’s 3D print registry, and we open-sourced the design files and instructions so anyone with even the most basic 3D printer could make them for safe personal use."

–Ryan Eggers, MD