Campus rallies to 3-D print protective medical gear

Posted by
On March 23, 2020

Eric Schneider, a senior aerospace engineering student at Missouri S&T, tests the fit of a prototype 3-D printed surgical mask on the head of a mannequin in the Kummer Student Design Center at S&T. In the background is Stephen Williams, an S&T mechanical engineering student. The university is helping Phelps Health prepare for coronavirus patients by 3-D printing masks and face shield brackets. Photo by Tom Wagner/Missouri S&T.

Eric Schneider, a senior aerospace engineering student at Missouri S&T, tests the fit of a prototype 3-D printed surgical mask on the head of a mannequin in the Kummer Student Design Center at S&T. In the background is Stephen Williams, an S&T mechanical engineering student. The university is helping Phelps Health prepare for coronavirus patients by 3-D printing masks and face shield brackets. Photo by Tom Wagner/Missouri S&T.

Due to the overwhelming number of requests for assistance — and requests for help — we ask anyone interested in further information about this project to complete this form. Health care facilities in Missouri should request PPE from the state of Missouri by completing this request form. Makers wishing to print their own PPE may now access the files for face masks and face shield brackets.

When representatives from Phelps Health, anticipating a shortage of protective masks due to the coronavirus outbreak, needed help, students, faculty and staff at Missouri S&T answered by harnessing the power of technology and ingenuity.

Campus was abnormally quiet Saturday and Sunday, March 21-22, not only because it was the weekend before spring break but also because, due to the coronavirus outbreak, most students had moved out for the semester and a majority of faculty and staff prepared to work remotely. But 3-D printers in a couple of buildings on campus were humming away, fabricating prototype masks and face shield brackets.

Inside the Kummer Student Design Center, where S&T students usually work on rockets, solar cars, Mars rovers and other projects, a few students, faculty and staff outfitted one room Saturday with a dozen 3-D printers to produce prototypes for Phelps Health’s physicians, nurses and other medical workers.

Across campus, students at Missouri S&T’s Makerspace were using their 3-D printers to fabricate prototypes of the face shield brackets. The university enlisted more printers for the cause Sunday.

‘Phenomenal’ prototypes

A prototype medical mask being fabricated on one of a dozen 3-D printers in Missouri S&T’s Kummer Student Design Center. Photo by Tom Wagner/Missouri S&T.

The S&T prototypes “are phenomenal,” says Dr. Casey Burton, director of medical research at Phelps Health.

Although there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rolla, Burton and Shawn Hodges, Phelps Health’s director of ancillary and surgical services, foresaw the need to obtain more protective gear for the Rolla-based regional health system.

“Shawn had already been experimenting with 3-D printed masks with Rolla High School but realized he needed to drastically scale up production capacity to meet the needs of our community,” Burton says. “He reached out to me to rally the university and beyond for their support and to help organize those operations with him on our end.”

Burton asked Missouri S&T Chancellor Mohammad Dehghani if it was possible to harness the university’s 3-D printing capabilities to aid in the effort. Dehghani directed others across campus to do what they could to assist.

The Kummer Student Design Center staff and students were among the first to respond. Dr. Chris Ramsay, assistant vice provost for student design and director of the center, marshalled the few remaining student members of the center’s 19 design teams to set up a 3-D printer farm to run 24 hours a day in the center at 10th Street and Bishop Avenue.

“We started out with five” 3-D printers at the design center, Ramsay says. “I sent a note out to all the design teams, and the students who were still in town brought their printers in and now we’re up to 12.

Students re-energized

“This has re-energized our design team students,” Ramsay says. Hundreds of S&T students had worked since the fall on projects for design competitions that are now canceled due to the coronavirus. “This community need fulfills a hunger that they have to do something positive and meaningful in this crisis.”

While the design center produced prototype surgical masks, S&T’s Makerspace chief executive officer Daustin Hoelscher, a senior computer engineering major from Mascoutah, Illinois, was printing a prototype bracket for the face shields.

Phelps Health medical staff evaluated both product prototypes on Sunday and were continuing evaluations Monday.

Testing prototype medical masks are Missouri S&T student Eric Schneider (left), Phelps Health’s Dr. Casey Burton, director of medical research (center), and Shawn Hodges, administrative director of ancillary and surgical services at Phelps Health. Photo by Tom Wagner/Missouri S&T.

“This could certainly be a game changer for us and even the rest of the world, so we appreciate Missouri S&T’s efforts,” says Dr. Brian Kriete, otolaryngologist and medical director of surgical services at Phelps Health.

“I’m so pleased with how our university community has come together to help in this time of need,” says Dehghani. “The rapid response and support for one of our important community partners typifies the true S&T spirit of innovation, ingenuity and community engagement. I am very proud of the way our university has responded to this critical need.”

A community effort

The Rolla Public School System is also involved in the effort, with instructors at Rolla High School, Rolla Junior High School and Rolla Technical Institute (RTI) putting their 3-D printers to use. Some students in robotics classes and teams are also helping, says Dr. Amy Hermann, RTI director.

“RTI instructors Meghan Bilbrough and Leigh Ann Carpenter also sent out an ‘all call’ to all our robotics kids, saying if they had 3-D printers, we could help the community. Several robotics kids are now printing too,” she says.

NOTE: Due to the overwhelming number of requests for assistance — and requests for help — we ask anyone interested in further information about this project to complete this form.

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14 thoughts on “Campus rallies to 3-D print protective medical gear”

  • Bob Stevens says:

    Bravo! This should be spread to news media nationally. Inspire others at other universities with 3D printers. Also, excellent news for the reputation of the campus.

  • PENNY ROBERTS says:

    Keep up the great work! Thank you for sharing you skills and knowledge with our community, nation and the world.

  • Kim says:

    Seeing what our students and staff are doing to help in this time of need is so heartwarming. It makes me proud to be a part of this university! Thank you and God bless you all for putting in your time to do this for our community!

  • Mandi Adams says:

    My company, The Beck Group, is interested in using our spare 3D printers for this same cause. We found an approved design from https://copper3d.com/hackthepandemic/ but are wondering if simply printing these, heating them, and molding them makes them usable by hospitals? Surely there must be some kind of antimicrobial filter inserted somewhere? Please advise. Thank you!

  • David G. Sizemore says:

    MO S&T once again a Regional resource with possible implications on a much wider scale.
    I salute all the participants!

  • Dan Scott says:

    Great example of the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the Missouri S&T students to go along with the good education which still includes critical thinking, open mindedness and sense of helping others. MET Eng. ’70

  • Jeffrey Strahm says:

    Is there any way these files could be made public? I have access to my own 3D printers and I would like to produce some masks for medical workers

  • terry holliday says:

    Keep up the good work; the nurses and doctors need all the help they can get! A nurse from Barnes-Jewish Hospital and nurses all over the world appreciate your valiant efforts to save mankind. Sincerely Terry Holliday, Labor and Delivery WAC( Women’s Assessment Center) triage for Labor and Delivery. I am very excited.

  • Patti says:

    Andrew, are the RTI instructors still looking for 3D printers to help with mask production?

  • I’m a project manager for a large automotive multi national.
    We’re looking at ways to supply large numbers of shields and masks.
    Are you sharing your design. We intend to hard tool a good design and supply many thousands of these where needed.
    Please let me know ASAP if you can share

  • Elaine Briggs says:

    Great news! Is there any chance there would be masks available for local nursing home staff ? Our community has not had contact with the virus however keeping them safe Is a number one priority. Please contact me if anyone has a lead on protective masks for long term care communities

  • Diane says:

    This is fantastic!
    Are they able to help in Illinois. We are in desperate need right now.

  • Rebecca says:

    Would I be able to trial one of these masks? My son will be a freshman there this fall so I am always watching for updates with all that’s changing and came across this. This is a wonderful idea! I work in Stl. and would love to help give feedback on design. I am a respiratory therapist dealing with very sick people on ventilators in the ICU and in the ER. Please reach out if possible, thank you for your hard work!!!

  • Christine Ruiz says:

    Would like to no how to make face mask for my city and residents of my town of Brunswick ga