Saving Lives, One 3D Printer at a Time

Saving Lives, One 3D Printer at a Time

by Avery Closser

Han Santos has deep ties with the local technology community. Thursday afternoon, we received an email from the Microsoft makers community about a new opportunity to volunteer to help communities facing medical supply shortages. As many of you know, health care providers are struggling to obtain personal protection equipment (PPE) for treating coronavirus (COVID-19). The Microsoft maker community forwarded to us a link with instructions on how to 3D print N95 grade personal protection equipment (PPE) masks, which many healthcare clinics have begun to run out of. Although Washington has been placed on a stay-at-home order, working from home afforded us the opportunity to print masks in an effort to help alleviate the resource shortages we are facing nation-wide.

Dr. Dusty Richardson, a Billings Clinic neurosurgeon in Billings, Montana, first came up with the ingenious idea to 3D print PPE masks, as the Billings Clinic is one of many running dangerously low on medical supplies. Along with his son Colton and a local dentist Spencer Zaugg, the three innovators produced print file specifying a finalized design for a 3D printed mask. Billings Clinic then asked for volunteers to print and mail in Dr. Richardson’s PPE masks. With these donated parts, the Billings Clinic Foundation hopes to have the capacity to complete hundreds of masks in the next couple of weeks.

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(Original masks printed by Dr. Richardson)
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(PPE masks printed from home by Pat Santos)

Gloria Steinberg, an attorney in our Seattle office, was the first of our team to experiment with printing PPE masks from her home 3D printer. Diving right in, she had her first mask printed by the end of the day, with a promise to make ten more. Gloria and her husband also successfully created a configuration for printing two masks at a time, giving them the capacity to increase their PPE mask output. Our Seattle partners, Pat Santos and Elliott Chen have also begun the process of printing masks. Dan Stanger, a partner based out of our Washington D.C. office, has volunteered to supply printer materials, such as PLA plastic, for our Seattle team volunteers with access to 3D printers. Through the innovative collaboration of these attorneys, they will continue to produce masks which can be mailed to the Billings Clinic, and perhaps in the future to local healthcare centers in need.

In our current situation, many of us long to find a way to give back to our communities, to our healthcare workers, delivery drivers, and so on, but, from within the confines of our own homes, we may feel helpless. If you have the time and resources, please consider donating supplies or resources if possible. In general, here is a link with an exchange for makers to provide PPE getusppe.org.

If you wish to print out 3D masks, please see below instructions on how to print the PPE masks, (Thanks to Kris Iverson and the Microsoft 3D printing team):

If you have a 3D printer at your location, here is how you can help:

  1. Download the 3D models from the Billings Clinic Foundation website
  2. Load the 3D models into 3D Builder or your manufacturer’s software
  3. Scale units: millimeters (mm)
  4. We are printing adult masks - do not resize
  5. Repair the model
  6. Rotate the mask 90 degrees so the vent is on the print bed and ensure it is “settled”
  7. A mask and a filter should fit on the same print bed. If you have a 3D printer with a build area comparable to the Prusa MK3 then you can fit three of each.
  8. 3D Print using these options:
    • Material: PLA (color doesn’t matter)
    • The parts should be printed without supports
    • Layer height 200-250 microns
    • Depending on your printer, the parts take 3-5 hours per mask
    • You do not need to sand or finish the parts. They will clean and disinfect the parts before assembling masks. You just need to 3D print them.

After you have printed a number of complete masks, mail them to the Billings Clinic:

2800 10th Ave N
Attn: Terry Niver (MSFT 3DPrint)
Billings, MT 59101

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(Original PPE mask design by Dr. Richardson)

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