In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACT 3D Equipment and Services (ACT 3D) partnered with Shawn London, MD, FACEP, Program Director at the University of Connecticut Integrated Residency in Emergency Medicine in the effort to create hundreds of 3D printed face masks. These masks helped to ensure that healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic had plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE). UCONN works closely with Hartford Healthcare to provide exceptional medical treatment and care. ACT 3D collaborated with Dr. London on research and development to create masks that would be durable, comfortable, and cost-effective.
ACT 3D discovered that UCONN had an internal effort to print re-usable plastic face masks because they were not able to receive enough N95 masks. Kevin Williams, Director of Engineering Solutions at ACT 3D, reached out to Dr. London when he heard about the effort on a local TV broadcast. Nick Gondek, Director of Additive Manufacturing, created build files for the various sizes of masks. ACT 3D began printing masks for the effort on the RIZE, Inc. printers they had in-house.
The masks were printed using the RIZE, Inc. XRize Color Printer and Rize One Monochrome printer using Rizium One, which is a USP Class VI certified medical-grade thermoplastic. The Rizium material is stronger than acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic, which ensures that the masks will be able to withstand long-term use. Emitting zero VOCs during the printing process, RIZE, Inc. manufactures the only 3D printer to be certified for health and environmental safety under the UL 2940 standard. These parts can be handled immediately after being printed, and while these masks were printed in white, can include a full color logo or design. The material is safe for contact with skin and has a smooth finish that does not require sanding. No post-processing was required, the supports break off easily after printing requiring no chemicals or clean-up before use.
When asked how the process works in an interview with Eyewitness News Channel 3, Dr. London said, “If you imagine the way a conventional inkjet printer works, it lays down the layer of ink. The same thing happens in the 3D printer, but instead of laying down just one layer of ink, it lays down a layer of plastic over itself. As you print hundreds of layers you can build up larger items. We’ve been responding to the need to use 3D printers to build things like face shields and mask protectors to help with the coronavirus response.”
RIZE, Inc. provided ACT 3D with filament to use for the masks at no charge. Print times for the mask sets were 12-15 hours per set of two. Over several weeks ACT 3D sent approximately 50 mask sets to UCONN to use at no charge. These mask parts were able to be cleaned and sterilized for re-use, so this solution provided ongoing protection whereas paper masks are intended for only one use.