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Minot 3D printing community makes masks for Trinity Health

3D printing community helps supply hospital

Submitted Photo A face shield and mask are among those being supplied to Trinity Health by the 3D printing community in Minot.

Minot’s 3D printing hobbyists are being asked to unite behind the community’s healthcare workers.

Jeremy and Crystal Almond and Zac and Amanda Keller of Minot have personal 3D printers running day and night, and they have invited other hobbyists to join them in making medical masks for Trinity Health workers. They are coordinating the project through a Facebook page at ND 3D Printed Medical Masks.

Amanda Keller came across a 3D pattern for the “Montana mask,” developed and made available to the public by a Billings Clinic doctor. The Kellers shared the information with the Almonds, and through a friend, Erica Erck, cardiac coordinator at Trinity, they provided a prototype later tweaked to Trinity’s specifications.

“Our first concern was making sure we didn’t print anything that would be a false sense of security and not actually provide any protection for the healthcare workers,” Jeremy Almond said. Once they discovered the masks were useful, they started the Facebook group to enlist other 3D printer owners in creating the masks.

In just over two weeks, ND 3D Printed Medical Masks had gained 377 members, although not all are printing masks. About a dozen people have donated masks to the cause so far.

Submitted Photo A 3D printer creates a medical mask.

Minot Public Library has made masks. Paul Stroklund has employed printers from Minot Public School to contribute to the effort, and Minot State University has been allowing use of its printers.

As of Wednesday, the group had delivered 347 3D masks to Trinity Health, which would like as many as 3,000.

The masks are printed from common PLA plastic. They can be cleaned and sanitized and the filter material replaced after use. It is held in place by an elastic band that fits around the wearer’s head.

Trinity has been sourcing the elastic, foam seals and filters for the masks.

Erck said the hospital is pursuing various options for sourcing materials. The first masks were to be distributed to a pilot group at the hospital, possibly yet this week.

The masks would not be used during direct contact with coronavirus patients but would be available to other front-line workers, ensuring there is an alternative should the pandemic accelerate and more traditional masks fall short, Erck said.

“They are amazing quality,” she said. “I feel like it’s a light in a dark time. We have an option. We have something that can be cleaned. It’s something we know is effective. I think this could be a game changer.”

Jeremy Almond said it takes his printer about three hours to print a mask. However, the printer can be set up to automatically print three, which enables masks to be churned out day and night.

Because people in other areas of the state have been donating 3D masks to Minot, the Almonds and Kellers want to organize subgroups to allow residents to collaborate within communities to supply the masks to other hospitals around the state. They also have heard from people in other states who want to contribute so they have been sharing information to help others form groups to support their local hospitals.

In addition to masks, people are printing headbands and using them in the assembly of face shields. Lydia Streccius has been working on the project to cut clear plastic, locally sourced, for use in the face shields, which provide healthcare workers another layer of protection. Production of the face shields is just ramping up.

People who don’t own printers still can help. An Amazon wishlist has been created that enables people to place orders and have the supplies shipped as a donation directly for use by members of the Facebook group. The Amazon link, as well as pattern links for the mask manufacturing, can be in the announcements section of ND 3D Printed Medical Masks on Facebook.

The Almonds serve as the collection point, where masks are catalogued and undergo quality control before being picked up by Trinity.

“My oldest daughter has kind of become the secretary so when I bring things in the door, she’s writing down the name, and the number brought,” Crystal Almond said. “I can just go wash my hands and I don’t have to touch a pen or pad of paper. So it’s been kind of a nice team effort here in our house.”

The Kellers have kept their printer going nearly 24 hours a day since March 24, producing six masks a day.

“This is a way that we can let healthcare workers know that they are not alone in this and there’s people that care,” Amanda Keller said. “It’s important that everybody realizes they need to do their part. This is a worldwide pandemic and I hope people are taking this seriously and staying at home and doing their part.”

3D printers have many applications, and the group is looking at at least one other possible medical item that might be suitable to add to its production line if there is a need at Trinity.

The project also has brought together residents with a common interest who now are talking about throwing a barbecue get-together once the pandemic subsides.

“This has actually been a really great thing for the 3D printing community as well,” Crystal Almond said. “It’s kind of neat that it’s molded into a secondary local community for 3D printing buddies.”

Sanford Health accepting mask and disinfecting wipe donations

Sanford Health is accepting disinfecting wipes and homemade cloth face masks, in addition to N95 masks, following a recent change in recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Donations can be dropped off at Sanford Health Highway 2 Clinic, 801 21st Ave. SE, Minot.

Acceptable cloth face masks must be made from quilting cotton, t-shirts, denim, duck cloth, canvas or twill. Alternative (cloth, homemade, improvised) facemasks can serve as source control. They can help limit the transmission of the virus from asymptomatic carriers, helping protect those around them.

For information on how to make face masks, visit Sanford Health News at news.sanfordhealth.org and search for the article titled, ‘How to make face masks for health care workers.’

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