At least two universities in the Mountain State are using 3D printing technology to make much-needed personal protective gear for first responders and healthcare professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Labs at both Shepherd University in the Eastern Panhandle and Marshall University located in Huntington are printing N95 masks and shields that are then being distributed by the West Virginia National Guard, according to press releases from both institutions.
Shepherd University’s Fine Arts, Science, Technology, Engineering, Educational Resource lab, or FASTEnER, is producing N95 masks with the help from more than 30 3D printers. The printers were loaned by Jefferson and Berkeley County Schools and various departments on Shepherd’s campus.
An N95 mask is a type of respirator that removes particulates from the air through a filter.
The masks will be distributed statewide by the West Virginia National Guard to first responders and medical professionals. Shepherd’s lab is working with the Guard to develop a prototype reusable N95 mask that can be made on 3D printers.
Last month, the lab began 3D printing face shields that have been distributed locally to fire and police departments, emergency management agencies, and medical professionals in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan Counties.
As of April 1, more than 250 face shields have been distributed locally.
Kay Dartt, the lab’s 3D fabrication manager, has been organizing the project. She said in a news release they’ll continue to make face shields and N95 masks as long as there’s a need and they have the materials to make them.
Additionally, Marshall University’s Robert C. Byrd Institute has been 3D printing face shields and N95 masks and shipping the devices to the West Virginia National Guard in Charleston.
Technicians in Charleston and Huntington are manufacturing the devices using RCBI’s 3D printers and laser cutting technology, including one of the largest 3D printers in the state, according to a press release from Marshall.
The release said N95 masks filter at least 95 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns in size.