COVID-19

There are many opportunities for the 3D printing community to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are resources to help you get started!

What’s the problem?

The primary protection healthcare workers have against the COVID-19 virus is respirator masks rated N95. These masks fit tightly against the skin, protect against fluids, and have been shown to filter particles down to the size of the virus. However, this type of mask is in short supply. 3D printing can step in to help supplement N95 respirators with other equipment that can be used in certain situations.

What to print?

There are three primary needs for 3D-printed parts right now: face shields, masks, and supplementary aids

Face shields

In hospital settings, healthcare workers wearing N95 respirators would ideally replace their mask between each encounter with a potentially infected patient. Given all of the back-and-forth between patients all day, this adds up to a lot of respirators! If the healthcare worker wears a clear plastic face shield over an N95 respirator or another type of mask, then the respirator can be worn for an extended time, with only the face shield needing to be replaced. These face shields can be disposed of after a single use, or they can be sterilized for repeated use (typically easier than a respirator mask can). Face shields are also helpful for non-hospital settings like assisted living centers and doctor’s offices.

Face shields typically include a plastic sheet (often laser cut or hand cut), a visor (often 3D printed or made from foam), and a flexible band to go around the back of the head (fabric, non-latex elastic, etc.). Several designs have been widely used around the world, including several that are specifically approved by NIH for use in US hospitals:

Restero-Prusa Hybrid Face Shield

  • Approved by NIH for use in clinical settings
  • 3D print visor out of PLA, PETG, ABS, or Nylon
  • Shield is letter-sized transparency sheet or similar plastic
  • Includes top shield to protect against droplets from above

https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-013359

Stratasys Face Shield

  • Approved by NIH for use in clinical settings
  • 3D print visor out of PLA, PETG, ABS, or Nylon
  • Shield is letter-sized transparency sheet or similar plastic
  • Includes top shield to protect against droplets from above

https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-013421

3DVerkstan Face Shield

  • Approved by NIH for use in clinical settings
  • 3D print visor out of PLA, PETG, ABS, or Nylon
  • Shield is letter-sized transparency sheet or similar plastic
  • Less robust top shield – droplets may leak down
  • Low profile – may not be compatible with all goggles
  • MUCH faster to print!

https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-013306

Thunder Face Shield (BYU’s PML)

  • Not currently approved by NIH, but under review
  • 3D print visor out of PLA, PETG, ABS, or Nylon
  • Shield is letter-sized transparency sheet or similar plastic
  • Based off of 3DVerkstan design, but with larger visor to accommodate goggles
  • Prints in two pieces for greater print bed flexibility and more compact storage
  • Designed by BYU’s PML for use by Utah’s firefighters!

https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3DPX-014175

Reusable Face Masks

Another solution to preserve the supply of N95 respirators is to use non-N95 masks whenever feasible and appropriate. Because these masks have not been approved by the FDA or NIH, they are not appropriate for high-risk environments. However, both 3D-printed masks and hand-made cloth masks provide limited protection against spread of the virus when worn properly. The virus by itself or in small droplets may be able to penetrate these lower-grade masks, but larger water droplets resulting from coughs and sneezes are still likely to be blocked. The CDC recommends wearing cloth masks whenever in public. It is not known whether 3D-printed masks provide any additional protection beyond homemade cloth masks, but they do provide another option to choose from. Some mask designs allow the plastic to be molded to the user’s face profile, which may provide a tighter seal than homemade cloth masks.

3D-printed masks require a small piece of filter material, in addition to the plastic mask. Many different materials are being tried, from cut-up portions of N95 masks, HEPA filters from vacuums or air conditioners, and even automotive shop towels. It is currently unknown which materials provide sufficient levels of filtration.

There is currently only one 3D-printed mask design approved by NIH for use in clinical settings, and this mask is designed to be printed out of Nylon in a Powder Bed Fusion/Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) system. No designs manufactured on typical desktop 3D printers (FDM) have yet been approved. However, several other designs have been approved by individual hospitals and other institutions for limited use:

Stopgap Face Mask

  • Approved by NIH for use in clinical settings
  • Requires SLS or Multijet printer for NIH approval
  • Design can be printed on desktop printers for other uses
  • Recommends cut-up surgical mask as filter material

https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-013429

Montana Mask

  • Not currently approved by NIH, but under review
  • Easy to print on desktop machine (about 2 hours)
  • Print out of PLA, then mold to face profile by softening plastic in hot water
  • Recommends surgical mask material as filter

https://www.makethemasks.com

COVID-19 Mask (LaFactoria/Lowell)

  • Not currently approved by NIH
  • Available in two versions – thin wall (takes 1 hour to print) and thick wall (takes 3 hours to print)
  • Includes secondary grate that may protect filter from contamination by touch
  • But increases complexity, which increases surface area where virus could attach
  • Recommends surgical mask material as filter

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4225667

Thunder Rescue Filter (BYU’s PML)

  • Not currently approved by NIH, but under review
  • 3D print visor out of PLA, PETG, ABS, or Nylon
  • Designed by BYU’s PML for use by Utah’s firefighters!
  • Fits onto existing fire mask to provide viral filter protection
  • Recommends surgical mask or N95 material as filter

Directions for assembling masks, including the ones listed above, can be found here.

Supplementary Aids

There are many other objects that can be 3D printed to help out our COVID-19 efforts. Most of these are not safety-critical, so there is a lot more flexibility in how and when they can be used. Below are some of the more popular items:

Mask Comfort Straps

Surgical masks are typically held in place with two elastic loops that are placed around the ears. For normal use, this is fine, but under extended situations like the current crisis, it can really put pressure on the ears! Many hospitals have approved the use of disposable straps that can hook onto the loops instead. NIH has approved two designs, and many more are available online.

https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-013410

https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-013440

https://creality.com/download/model_c0003

Hands-Off Devices

There are many ideas for add-on handles or grips to allow people to open doors, steer grocery carts, etc, without touching.

https://www.materialise.com/en/hands-free-3d-printed-shopping-cart-handles

https://www.materialise.com/en/hands-free-door-opener

What about ventilators?

There has been quite a bit of media coverage of people printing valves, tube splitters, and and other parts for ventilators. Many people are even try to design and print entire ventilator systems. Unfortunately, ventilators must be very reliable both in providing a consistent and safe level of air to the patient, and in not venting contaminated air to the surroundings. A badly manufactured ventilator could easily kill a patient and spray the virus into the room in an even more dangerous aerosolized form. Additive manufacturing companies are working with specific hospitals to fulfill immediate needs, but there is not much that the average person can do to safely manufacture these systems.

Sewn cloth masks

Despite the buzz about 3D printing, in many cases, the best “bang for the buck” in service hours and cost is in making conventional sewn cloth masks. These masks are made out of ordinary fabric and are not appropriate for clinical use, but have been recommended by the CDC and many state governments, including Utah, for use in public settings whenever possible. The State of Utah recently announced that it would send a face mask, free of charge, to any Utahn who does not already have one. You can request one at https://coronavirus.utah.gov/mask/.

If you would like to help make cloth masks to donate, there are many resources and designs available. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced Project Protect, a partnership with Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah. They will send you free supplies and instructions, and then accept completed masks at several locations throughout the state.

MasksNow.org and The 100 Million Mask Challenge are two additional organizations widely recommended.

Remember: as communities begin to open up, it is vital for everyone – employees, customers, and especially you! – to wear a face mask of some sort whenever in public and closer than 6 feet to anyone not in your immediate household! If we as the public make good use of non-medical masks, that means less patients going to the hospital and more N95/surgical masks and face shields available for healthcare providers.

Where to start?

  1. First of all, find out what is currently being done in your area and what people need. Look on Facebook or other social media for groups already coordinating this effort. For example:
  2. Next, reach out to organizations in your community and find out if they are already being served, and if not, what needs they have. IMPORTANT – Talk to them before you just show up with a bunch of printed parts! Every organization will have its own needs and its own rules for how to approve and source equipment. Some possible places to reach out to include:
    • Doctor’s and Dentist’s Offices
    • Assisted Living Centers & Nursing Homes
    • Police, Firefighters, and EMTs
    • Urgent Care Clinics
    • Hospitals
    • Child Care
    • Cleaning Services
    • Friends and Neighbors!
  3. Figure out what is needed, and help however you can! Make sure that you:
    • Make clear that 3D printed equipment is NOT approved by NIH, FDA, or CDC as equivalent to N95 protection, and discuss whether they would be appropriate for a given application. The FDA has an excellent summary of the proper use of 3D printed equipment and possible dangers here.
    • Determine what materials and designs are compatible with the organization’s sterilization processes (heat, UV light, gas or liquid agents, etc.).
    • Work together to get the parts you need – some people can print, others can find off-the-shelf parts like plastic sheeting or elastic, others can assemble.
    • Use best practices to lower the risk of contamination and deliver reliable, safe equipment. Using faulty equipment can be more dangerous than no equipment at all! Directions for manufacturing and using all equipment can be found at the links above and should be followed closely, including material type, infill levels, and perimeter thickness.

Thanks for making a difference! Stay safe!

For more information on 3D printing activities at BYU, or to suggest additions to this resource list, please contact 3dprinting@byu.edu.