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3D Printed Mask Component Goes Viral
Andrew Wheeler posted on May 29, 2000彩 |
Simple mask holding component adopted by U.S. Navy and others.


Mark Fuller wearing his 3D printed mask frame design. (Image courtesy of Mark Fuller.)
Mark Fuller wearing his 3D printed mask frame design. (Image courtesy of Mark Fuller.)
GE Additive designer Mark Fuller went shopping for a respirator mask in March for a personal woodworking project and noticed that there was a shortage of them. Not only was there a shortage, but when he checked online, the masks were extraordinarily expensive.

He surveyed popular 3D printing community websites to print out a mask at 2000彩 but was dissatisfied with the available designs. In his opinion, they either took too long or demanded the use of HEPA filters or other gear, like scuba masks.

He decided to create a simple design that would get the job done and print much faster than other posted 3D designs. He came up with a thin rim of malleable plastic with cleats for wearers to attach strings or rubber bands, which would hold the rim in place. The wearer can use any available fabric underneath the rim for an instant sealed filter mask.

Fuller designed the geometry of the face rim component in such a way that it could be manufactured by 3D printing, injection molding or laser cutting. He then posted the prototype design to a Facebook group dedicated to developing open source medical equipment to stem the spread of COVID-19. The group responded enthusiastically and suggested minor improvements like added flexibility and a smaller nose area.

After iterating his first design, he brought a second version to the attention of the GE Additive COVID-19 Task Force, and they started distributing them to local hospitals. This happened only five days after Fuller conceived the design.

Fuller’s design, shown here, only costs about 9 cents of material and takes 15 minutes to print. (Image courtesy of Mark Fuller.)
Fuller’s design, shown here, only costs about 9 cents of material and takes 15 minutes to print. (Image courtesy of Mark Fuller.)
The U.S. Navy had been petitioning GE for more solutions to their internal mask shortage, wanting to comply with the CDC’s recommendation that everyone wear masks as often and as long as possible while working in close quarters. GE presented Fuller’s design to additive manufacturing personnel at the U.S. Navy’s Air Systems Command. After the National Institute of Health got to inspect Fuller’s design and gave it their approval (though not as a replacement for N95 masks), the U.S. Navy began printing GE’s mask by the tens of thousands.

Marines stationed in Okinawa got in on the action, printing out 800 mask designs per day, assembling them with fabric and elastic bands. At a U.S. Navy base in Florida, the mask designs were assembled with cotton fabric and coffee filters.

Developments and modifications continued within the 3D printing community after Fuller uploaded the designs to Thingiverse and GrabCAD. Fuller’s design continued to spread around the world. A Pakistani volunteer corps adopted the design and began production. An Indiana-based garden supply began selling Fuller’s mask frames for USD 8.54 on its website. Researchers at the University of Delaware Design Studio modified the design and posted it to online 3D printing communities for reactions and feedback.

Bottom Line

Fuller is excited to see his creation take on a life of its own through the 3D printing community, the U.S. Navy, and around the world. He was even ready to don his frames when his wife recently went into labor, but no protective gear was required.

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