Behind the Scenes: 3D-Printed Masks and Face Shields

By Lois Lee

Wondering how to help healthcare workers during COVID-19? Like many architects and volunteers eager to alleviate shortages caused by the pandemic, CO is creating 3D-printed mask and face shield materials for the healthcare providers tirelessly serving Los Angeles County.

Caption: 3D-printed material for personal protective equipment. Photo by: Lois Lee

CO joined Operation PPE, an initiative to provide 3D-printed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) material to healthcare providers. The initiative started at Cornell and has since expanded to USC School of Architecture in effort to supply / donate these face masks and shields to the Keck Hospital of USC. It has grown rapidly to more than 10 schools in the county, 40 architectural firms and a few non-profit organizations. The new aim is to be able to further distribution to other hospitals in need.

Since its inception in Los Angeles, Operation PPE has helped produced over 3,450 ‘pseudo N95 masks’ and more than 7000 face shields, as of April 28. The masks are printed and dropped off at one of five locations in the greater Los Angeles region. The pieces are then delivered to Keck Hospital, where they will go through a process of tests, assembly and sanitization.

Left: 3D-printed pseudo N95 mask. Right: 3D-printed visor bands for face shields. Photo by: Instagram via @texas_stranger

What goes into 3D-printed masks / shields?

The following parts are individually 3D printed to create the filtration mask – ‘pseudo N95’:

  • Nose Cap
  • Rear Hatch
  • Large / Medium Masks

What are the current protocols for the USC / Sunweaver Filtrated Masks? It is important that each version of these masks would be backwards compatible so each part made would not go to waste.

  • All versions and sizes of USC / SW must be interchangeable.
  • Easy to sterilize with hydrogen peroxide wipes and UV sterilization following hospital protocol.
  • Easy to make molded and 3D-printed parts for a localized environment.
  • Easy to replace HEPA filter & strappings for minimal waste and fast repurposing.
  • Create an easy multipurpose flange for a diverse amount of gasket seal options.
  • Designed to be quickly assembled on site / sterilized tested for local environments.
  • All components are supportless.
  • Comfortable for all day wear. Rigid for additional filter protection.
  • Universal filtration chamber for wide assortment of high efficiency air filters.

The following parts are printed / sourced to create the face shield:

  • 3D-printed headband
  • The plastic, clear shield cover is being die cut in large quantities, then assembled at Keck Hospital upon delivery.

Photo by: Lois Lee

The hospital has set their goal for 6000 masks – two medium sizes for every one large – and 6000 face shields. Note that these are reserve masks and will not be used unless hospitals run out of medical-grade N95 masks.

Individuals, schools, architect’s children, offices, different professions, industries and family members are all working to support the cause in their own, respective ways and capacities. Individuals are solving problems, together, remotely. CO is proud to be part of Operation PPE.

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