To help local healthcare providers overcome a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is 3D printing masks for Monument Health and others.
The project began following a meeting between Mines alumnus Brad Haupt, Vice President of Supply Chain and Contract Management at Monument Health, Mines President Jim Rankin and others on Saturday, March 21. Haupt expressed concern over the long-term shortage of masks at Monument Health, especially in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, and President Rankin offered Mines resources’ to help.
The effort, which quickly ramped up this week, currently includes faculty and students in the South Dakota Mines departments of industrial, mechanical, chemical, biological, and biomedical engineering as well as chemistry, biology, and health sciences. The departments are printing about 50 masks per day using up to 15 printers running nonstop. “We hope to print as many as we can,” says Jeffery Woldstad, PhD, 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 3D-printed masks can be used by surgeons, nurses, and other staff. In some hospitals around the world, medical staff are being forced to reuse masks rather than dispose of them after each use. Doing so exposes healthcare workers and patients to increased risks. These 3D-printed masks have insertable filters that can be changed as often as needed. The masks are printed with approved material that is safe for use in medical facilities.
These masks were first developed in Montana last week, and that design was shared with the public though the Billings Clinic Foundation. The foundation credits the design of the masks to neurosurgeon Dusty Richardson, in collaboration with Billings-area dentist Spencer Zaugg, and his son Colton.
Mines faculty took the design and worked with officials at Monument Health to print protypes earlier this week. They have since ramped up as many printers on campus as can be made available for this endeavor.
“Because of our project-based learning approach to engineering education, we have the facilities and experience needed to put engineering into practice,” says Pierre Larochelle, PhD, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Mines. “In just a couple of days we have brought together multiple departments on campus, faculty, staff, and student workers to address a dire need in our community.”
The 3D printers are running nonstop. The printers are being monitored by two students and a faculty member who are coming in on shifts and leaving before the next person arrives to maintain social distancing. “When I reached out to students, Zac Hogan and Jake Steffen volunteered immediately,” says Aaron Lalley, PhD, a lecturer of mechanical engineering. The printers can run for a time on their own, but they need some monitoring. Lalley, takes the night shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. while his students cover the day shifts. “We’re very happy to help,” he says.
Monument Health is also seeking PPE from any other members of the local community who may have extra on hand.
South Dakota Mines