Billings Clinic 3-D Printed Mask Test
Friday, March 27, 2020

By Julie Van Esler

With the surge of COVID-19 hospital cases, health-care professionals are struggling with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) - vital to save the lives of others, as well as their own. Makers who who want to help can find plenty of designs online, especially 3-D printing masks, face shields and ventilator parts. The number of designs online can be overwhelming, and it's hard to tell which are feasible to make.

Billings Clinic in Montana has provided a free design of a 3-D printed surgical mask on their website. These printed plastic masks can be fitted with pieces of medical-grade masks as a replaceable filter (one mask makes six filters). The plastic can be disinfected and reused about 6 to 10 times, according to the company.

We printed a test mask from the Billings Clinic design and found that because of the rigidity of the plastic, the mask may need to be scaled for a good fit and fitted with something to create a seal so the edges are tight around the face. My colleague Crystal Valentine explains the mask and fit issues in this video clip:

Other Wisconsin libraries have begun producing this mask for their communities. McMillan Public Library in Wisconsin Rapids is producing masks for their local health department. Cedarburg Public Library is printing masks at the request of their fire department. 

A design for 3-D printed face shields can be found through Those who are interested in making this face shield can register through their website.

COVID-19 medical face shield designs that do not require 3-D printing are available on UW Makerspace’s website with an intake form to fill out and specifics on materials needed and costs.

Makers who are interested in producing PPE to alleviate the national shortage may want to start by finding a local need. Those looking for donation sites can check out #GetUsPPE, which provides a list of hospitals accepting donations, as well as a useful guideline and list of specific items each location is accepting.

More information about how the maker movement is responding to COVID-19 can be read in Makezine’s article about providing alternative DIY solutions with “Plan C” and 3D Printing Industry’s article, which will be updated daily. A direct conversation between maker hobbyists, professional engineers, medical personnel and others is happening at the Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies Facebook group

See also:
DIY personal protective equipment, Part 1, with an updated list of local organizations accepting hand-sewn face masks.

Julie Van Esler works in the Fond du Lac Public Library’s Idea Studio.