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This Montana doctor is using 3D printers to supplement medical mask supplies

A 3D-printed mask? It looks to be that way

A woman wearing a face mask bicycles on a road in Beijing Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013.
A woman wearing a face mask bicycles on a road in Beijing Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013.
Andy Wong, Associated Press

Dr. Dusty Richardson, a neurosurgeon at Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, came up new way to provide masks to local hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic — using a 3D printer.

What’s going on:

  • Doctors in Billings have been asked to use one mask per day to save on medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, KTVQ reports.
  • Richardson came up with the idea of using a 3D printer while driving home.
  • He went to Spencer Zaugg, a local dentist, and his son, Colton, to use his 3D printer. Richard and the Zauggs created a plastic mask using the 3D printer.
  • It took two hours to print. But the mask can fit different faces. It only costs about $1 to make.
  • “Because they are made of plastic, the mask can be wiped down and sanitized so it is able to be used over and over again,” according to KTVQ.
  • And then HiTech Filters in Billings, Montana, improved on that idea: Instead of cutting down individual surgical masks, a machine could cut dozens of inserts in a matter of seconds.
  • A New York couple has created 300 face masks using 3D printers, too, according to the New York Post.

Bigger picture:

  • Hospitals and health care workers are turning to 3D printers to help them develop equipment sooner rather than later, according to NBC News.
  • “With medical supplies strained by the coronavirus outbreak, health care professionals and technologists are coming together online to crowdsource repairs and supplies of critical hospital equipment,” NBC News reports.
  • Doctors and hospital workers are using Google Docs, WhatsApp and online software to trade tips on how to build the products too.
  • “We have millions of health care workers around this country who are prepared to do battle against this virus, but I am concerned there are a couple of areas of supplies they need to fight that virus as effectively as possible,” Dr. Peter Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told NBC News in March.