South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is 3D printing masks for Monument Health and other local health care providers in an effort to help them overcome global shortages of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students and faculty can print approximately 50 masks each day using 15 printers, which run nonstop.
Printers are monitored by two students and a faculty member, Aaron Lalley, a lecturer of mechanical engineering, who work in 8-hour shifts around the clock to maintain social distancing.
The masks can be used by surgeons, nurses and other medical staff. In hospitals around the world, many medical staff must reuse masks rather than dispose of them after each use, which can increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19 among other illnesses.
These masks have insertable filters, which can be changed as often as needed. The masks are printed with approved material, safe for use in medical facilities.
"We hope to print as many as we can," said Jeffery Woldstad, head of the department of industrial engineering. "Right now, we believe that we have the material on campus for about 1,000 masks. However, we are ordering more materials and will keep going."
The effort, which ramped up this week, includes faculty and students in the departments of industrial, mechanical, chemical, biological and biomedical engineering as well as chemistry, biology and health sciences.
The masks were first developed in Montana last week when the design was shared with the public through the Billings Clinic Foundation. Mines faculty took the design and worked with officials at Monument Health to print prototypes earlier in the week. They are running as many printers on campus as they can for this endeavor.
However, the masks may not be the ultimate solution. The prototype design is untested in the real world.
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