Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility
Close Alert

3D printed personal protective equipment could help fight against COVID-19

3D printed personal protective equipment could help the fight against COVID-19. (WJAR)
3D printed personal protective equipment could help the fight against COVID-19. (WJAR)
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon

At New England Institute of Technology, professor Andrea Unger has been using a 3D printer to create a mock-up of an N95 face mask, the type that healthcare workers and those in emergency services are in dire need of during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My mother is a healthcare professional and she's been talking about where she works, they're already seeing masks are becoming scarce," Unger told NBC 10 in an interview Thursday. "So, I think this is really something we should all be part of and we should all be volunteering our services in any way we can."

Although the material in Unger's prototype is not suitable to protect someone against coronavirus, the mechanical engineering professor said some companies are rapidly making high-quality 3D printed masks that are being tested to use on the front lines.

"They come along with a disclaimer that they haven't had the time to validate or research and say, 'yes, these are 100 perfect efficient.' We're acting in a time of crisis, so I think we're kind of looking at this as it's the best we can get," Unger said.

Unger used a 3D printed file downloaded from a Lowell, Massachusetts company called Lowell Makes.

On its website, Lowell Makes is offering 3D print files and videos to make personal protective equipment such as N95 masks and face shields.

"The beauty of a design like this is that you can replace the filter and often wash the mask," Unger said, adding that they could be reused.

But 3D printed PPE isn't the only thing that can help protect people against the virus.

Unger said 3D printers, even some that people have at home, can be useful in printing tools to help people avoid touching common surfaces.

"There are some pretty amazing engineers and designers out there that I'm sure, individually, are really stepping up and making things that we can use in the future.," she said.

Prior to her interview with NBC 10 News, Unger printed and tested a design she found for a handsfree door opener.

She found the 3D print files shared publicly on a website called Materialise.

The goal, she said, will be to use the device to open a door with your arm instead of directly touching the handle with your hand.

While things like 3D printed ventilators, masks, and face shields may prove to be key on the front lines, Unger said everyday tools to avoid common surfaces can help in preventing the spread of the virus.

"There is somewhat of a duty for companies to act and be as responsive as they can be," she said.

Loading ...