Have a 3D Printer? One Community is Making Masks for Healthcare Workers And You Can Too

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It’s hard to even remember a time when the word “coronavirus” was not dominating the headlines of every media outlet across the world. We’re inundated with grim reports about the death tolls, the shelter-in-place orders, & the scramble to find a vaccine.

It leaves most of us feeling helpless, and vulnerable.

But while we do our part by remaining at home, our country’s first responders are heroically working in the trenches every single day, literally risking their lives to save others.

They’re also doing it without proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). There aren’t enough face masks & protective shields to go around. Nurses, doctors, & EMS workers are expected to reuse the same medical face mask indefinitely… if they are fortunate enough to even have a legitimate mask in the first place.

It’s painful to remain home as we watch this crisis unfold, feeling as though we can’t do anything to help.

But it turns out that some of us CAN make a difference for our brave first responders, using technology that some may already have at their disposal.

A North Dakota community has come together to manufacture medical face shields using home 3D printers & self-purchased material, & they’ve publicly shared their efforts in the hopes of inspiring communities everywhere to do the same.

Photo Credit: ND 3D Printed Medical Masks (Facebook)

Like any other example of American ingenuity, it all started with a need.

Erica Erck, a nurse at Trinity Hospital in Minot, North Dakota, was tasked with the seemingly impossible job of acquiring any available PPE options. 

Upon researching, Erck discovered that Dr. Dusty Richardson, dentist Spenser Zaugg & Zaugg’s son Colton from Billings, MT. had collaborated to create medical face masks using a 3D printer.

The trio posted blueprints online for the manufacturing of the masks on Sunday, March 22. 

Hours later, Erck turned to her friends Zach & Amanda Keller with the blueprints; the couple own their own 3D printer. Zach got in touch with his co-worker & fellow 3D printing buddy Jeremy Almond. 

They printed their first test print on Monday, March 23- the very next day. When Erica brought the prototype into the hospital, it was carefully inspected and approved by medical staff.

That was the start of Minot’s amazing grassroots efforts to provide PPE for the hospital personnel in their community.

Once the hospital officially approved the 3D printed design, Jeremy & Amanda created a public Facebook group in order to reach out to fellow locals who might own a 3D printer.

The group, known as, “ND 3D Printed Medical Masks” includes the blueprint files, discussion about where to donate materials, and suggestions to troubleshoot printing issues/errors.

Since the creation of the Facebook group, the members of the community have freely offered their 3D printer expertise, their time, and their own financial resources in order to create the face shields. 

Co-creator Jeremy Almond’s wife, Crystal Safran Almond has served as one of the spokespersons for the Facebook group; she kindly shared their some perspective on their work:

Our Facebook group was created for local level support.  We’ve had people from all over the country reaching out to see if we can help supply their community as well. 

The group has received requests from across the country for shield shipments; unfortunately they are not equipped to provide the volume of material that would be required for such an effort.

These are individuals -motivated members of a community- that are now working around the clock to help save the lives of those trying to save lives. They are using the simple resources they have, & combining them with their own time & money to make a difference.

We CAN make a difference.

That’s exactly why the Minot group has freely shared their operations publicly- they hope to inspire other locals to see that they too can help their community hospitals.

Photo Credit: ND 3D Printed Medical Masks (Facebook)

Crystal hopes that other towns across America will follow their group’s example:

what we can do, is give other communities the idea and tools to do the same for their communities.  We would love to see this same community effort be spread throughout the country and world! 

If we can do it here in Minot, North Dakota, we know other communities can do it, too!

And they are doing it; as of April 5, 2020, they have already received 243 masks and 15 shields that are ready to be delivered to Trinity Hospital. More are being processed, and more 3D printer owners are volunteering daily to be a part of this noble effort.

Our medical community deserves protection as its members selflessly devote their days to saving others during this pandemic. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed & paralyzed by the obstacles, here’s a way that many people CAN help.

If you have 3D printer skills or know those that do, you have the potential to protect the lives of the doctors & nurses in your own community. 

On behalf of Minot’s 3D printing Facebook group, Crystal Almond shared some of the guidelines that the Minor community has found helpful in their 3D PPE production.

  • Contact your local hospital first, to establish precisely what materials are needed.

There are proper channels to follow; it’s not beneficial to make a huge quantity of masks, only to find out that they’re not acceptable. Ideally, one individual should serve as a liaison in order to avoid a large volume of people calling with offers.

  • It’s critical to obtain hospital prototype approval & shipment procedure.

Each hospital handles their sanitation process differently; Crystal explains that in the case of their own group:

an epidemiologist vetted the design and are they are creating proper usage, handling and sanitations protocols.

  • Once you obtain approval, reach out to your local community for resources.

You don’t have to have 3D printer expertise in order to help. You can provide your most valuable resources -your time & your money- to aid those that DO have that knowledge.

  • The Billing clinic website provides the blueprints that have currently proven to be the most effective design.

Thanks to the efforts of Dusty Richardson, Spenser Zaugg & Colton Zaugg, 3D printed PPE material can be found HERE.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and even paralyzed by the sheer volume of bad news & desperation that seem to surround the Covid-19 pandemic.

But in the midst of those feelings, our country’s medical professionals are on the front lines, protecting all of us.

Crystal Almond’s explanation of Minot’s motivation is both humble and empowering:

We are, by no means, experts in any of this. We are simply people stuck at home willing to help out our community in need.

Let the efforts of one small North Dakota community be an example to ALL of us that every small effort can make a difference. 

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