Mines students using 3-D printers to make protective medical gear

One student has produced more than 200 face masks

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/29/20

Just days after returning home to Loveland from Colorado School of Mines last month, Paul Slayback came across an article in his hometown newspaper about an organization that was attempting to enlist …

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Mines students using 3-D printers to make protective medical gear

One student has produced more than 200 face masks

Posted

Just days after returning home to Loveland from Colorado School of Mines last month, Paul Slayback came across an article in his hometown newspaper about an organization that was attempting to enlist Coloradoans to use 3-D printers to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals who are battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I saw that and I said `well, I have a 3-D printer and I am able to help out so I might as well do what I can,’” Slayback said.

The Mines freshman said he initially had some trouble getting going after issues with his 3-D printer forced him to replace some parts. However, he is now up and running and said he has printed about 35 plastic headbands that will be used in medical shields in the last week.

Those headbands will go to Make4Covid, the organization Slayback read about that is distributing the PPE equipment to frontline healthcare workers and first responders around the state.

Slayback said it takes his printer about two hours to make each mask. To do so, the printer pushes the plastic filament through a small piece of metal called the extruder to make the plastic mask.

“Basically just layer by layer it makes the design from top of bottom just running over the same points back and forth pushing out more plastic,” Slayback said.

While Slayback is producing headbands, Mines senior Chance Reeves of Westminster has been using the seven 3-D printers he owns to produce masks and ear savers.

Reeves said he originally began printing the masks for SCL Health, the operator of Lutheran Hospital in Wheat Ridge and several other medical facilities in the metro area.

However, after SCL Health indicated it had stocked a sufficient amount of PPE, Reeves also began producing masks for the hospital his mom works at in Lander, Wyoming, and family and friends who work in the medical field.

Reeves said he originally was printing Montana masks, a 3-D filtration mask that is intended to extend the supply of N-95 medical masks. However, he has switched to producing BolivAir masks, which are similar to the Montana mask but considered more comfortable to wear for long periods.

Using his printer to help fill the need for PPE was a natural step for Reeves, who said he has been 3-D printing for the past 10 years and said he works at Mines maintaining 3-D printers during the school year.

“Being that my mom is a nurse and my dad is in at risk category, too, I just wanted to try and protect people,” Reeves said.

Reeves said that he is currently able to produce about 35 masks a day and has produced more than 200 total. He originally used his own filament but is now using filament donated by others.

Reeves said that while he is glad to be donating his time and resources to the cause of donating masks, he hopes that manufacturers are able to soon develop the ability to mass produce PPE using a mold as that is much faster, more efficient and environmentally friendly than 3-D printing items needed in such a large quantity.

Reeves said he is also part of an effort that is gearing up at Mines to produce face shields and earsavers for Make4Covid using the 3-D printers the school has on campus.

While both Reeves and Slayback plan to continue their efforts for as long as PPE is needed, Slayback said he is amazed by all Make4Covid and other efforts have been able to pull off.

“One of the updates on the Make4Covid website said they’ve already delivered 18,000 pieces of PPE around Colorado,” Slayback said.

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