While N95 masks are in short supply throughout the U.S., staffers over at USC’s Keck Medical Center are trying to build a reserve—with a little help from 3D printing.
Darryl Hwang, director of Keck’s 4D Quantitative Imaging Lab and an assistant professor in the radiology and bioengineering departments, created an N95-equivalent mask by modifying a design that was already in the 3D maker space. When we spoke by phone, he’d already spent four days on the project, and the prototype had passed a fit test.
“The fact that it passed the test gives it a better shot at protecting our health care professionals,” he says.
Keck is hoping to accumulate a stockpile of 6,000 as it prepares for a surge of COVID-19 patients in coming weeks. But the main challenge is producing the gear quickly—3D printing can take a long time. Hwang says his printer requires about six hours to finish the job.
That’s why he’s put out a call for help.
“We don’t need people to assemble these,” he says. “We just need them to print them out. We’re going to bring them in, sanitize them, and then assemble them for reserve use.”
The innovators at Keck are also working on 3D printing other supplies like face shields and are collaborating and coordinating with other departments at USC and outside companies.
“If there’s anyone with expertise in manufacturing plastic goods that would like to help, this is a great time to reach out, and we would be happy to coordinate,” says Hwang, who notes that Keck—like “all hospitals”—is also in need of powered air purifying respirators.
Hwang says that if you want to help any hospital with 3D printing, make sure to call the facility first—different facilities have different requirements and protocols. You can email the Keck Medical Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.