CET Oversees Printing of 3D Masks for First Responders Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Utah Valley University is part of a widespread initiative to produce face masks for first responders. UVU is volunteering its resources, time, and expertise to 3D-printed masks that can be worn by medical professionals and those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Makers of 3D printers, such as Stratasys and HP, are encouraging anyone with access to a 3D printer to begin producing critical medical gear. According to Stratasys, a leading maker of 3D printers in the U.S and provider of UVU’s 3D printing equipment, this initiative is an “essential part of the pandemic response.”

The masks are designed and printed in a set of two interlocking pieces. Once both pieces are printed, a filter and elastic strap are added to complete the mask. The mask is designed to fit comfortably and seal to the face. The air filter and two plastic pieces of the mask are held together by pressure when worn.

Sid Smith, associate professor of architecture and engineering design, oversees the prototyping lab at UVU and is working on producing the masks. Currently, the printing process takes about 16 hours to produce up to six masks. Although time-consuming, it’s a relatively easy process, according to Smith.

He downloads a file with the design for the masks. The file then processes using software in the lab. Smith arranges the needed materials on a pallet and sends it to the 3D printer. He leaves the printer overnight and returns the next day to six freshly printed sets of masks, repeating the process each day.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve offered our prototyping resources to help the community,” Smith said. “But this is the first project of its kind, where we’re being asked to help on a large scale.”

While many of the masks will stay within the local community, some may eventually be distributed nationally, or even internationally, to supplement the shortage of traditional masks.

“We’ve had contributions from the College of Engineering and Technology and the community to help us with this effort,” Smith said. “Everyone is coming together to help our first responders in any way we can.”

Makers of 3D printers are encouraging anyone with the resources to produce critical medical gear. UVU may consider making other personal protective equipment, such as face shields, ventilators, and nasal swabs, according to Smith.

The UVU prototyping lab is usually home to students and faculty working on projects in architecture and engineering design. In the past, the lab equipment has been used to assist the community by printing mouth pieces for dental hygienists, modelling for legal proceedings, and 3D derbies for local special needs high school students. To learn more about the UVU prototyping lab, visit uvu.edu/aed

UVU is dedicated to the health and safety of its students, employees, and community. For the most up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19, please visit uvu.info.