Hospitals and medical facilities around the United States are reporting critical shortages of the protective equipment they need to keep their workers and patients safe, so some DIYers are coming up with homemade solutions to help fill the void.
In Billings, Montana, some healthcare professionals are using 3D printers to make reusable plastic face masks. The masks are then fitted with pieces of surgical masks which can be swapped out as needed.
The surgical masks are cut into smaller squares that can be clipped into the plastic mask to serve as a filter, Dusty Richardson, a neurosurgeon at the Billings Clinic told CNN.
“The filter can be used for a day and you can change it out the next day, but I do wash my mask out frequently,” Richardson said.
The plastic can be cleaned with soap and water, bleach and other disinfecting products. Richardson estimates healthcare workers can get six to 10 uses out of a single surgical mask.
Richardson came up with a sketch of the mask last week and worked with dentist Spencer Zaugg and Zaugg’s son Colton to come up with the design. They’re all really into 3D printing and Colton Zaugg has design experience and was able to adapt a pattern he found online.
“We’re trying to get masks of all different sizes so that everyone has a mask that fits as comfortably as it can,” Richardson said.
The Zauggs have four 3D printers, Richardson said, and have cranked out at least 15 masks so far. Billings Public Schools are closed because of the coronavirus, but some teachers went back into their classrooms on Monday to start printing out masks on their schools’ machines.
It takes a few hours to print each mask.
Libraries across the state will also print the masks along with Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College.
“I got a text from someone who printed one out in Scotland and is working on it overseas even,” Richardson said.
They’ve already had one huge improvement to their design, Richardson said. A company called HiTech Filters heard about the project and said that they can mass-produce inserts from hospital grade HEPA filtration material quickly and without sacrificing precious surgical masks.
“We’re just trying to help people here,” Richardson said. “We want healthcare providers, especially, and patients to be safe.”
Couple makes hundreds of face shields
The owners of an upstate New York company that makes 3D printers say they have stopped taking orders so they can focus on making face shields for medical workers and first responders.
Stephanie Keef and Isaac Budmen of Budmen Industries designed a visor they could print on the 16 3D printers that are running non-stop in the basement of their Liverpool, New York, home.
They bought elastic and clear plastic to make at least 400 completed face shields that they’ve delivered to the Emergency Managment Department in Onondaga County.
They’ve also made the files available to other users and created a database to connect printers with hospitals that need supplies.
The design has been downloaded almost 2,000 times and they’ve gotten 40,000 requests for masks, according to the company.
The Budmen Industries website has crashed several times because of the high demand, so they’re asking people to email requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CNN’s Evan McMorris-Santoro contributed to this story.