First Responders, School Team Up to Build Protective Masks


Shane Copps, Broadus EMT, shows off one of the 3D printed protected masks, which was built using the school's 3D printer, shown in the background. (Photo courtesy Broadus First Responders)

A recent trend with the spread of coronavirus and subsequent shortage of protective masks for emergency personnel is the 3D printed mask.

Broadus First Responder Shane Copps has started building 3D printed masks with the use of the school's 3D printer. The idea blossomed after a story came out in which a Billings neurosurgeon, Dr. Dusty Richardson, started building masks with the help of Billings Dentist Spencer Zaugg. The duo were able to use Zaugg's 3D printers to build masks in about two hours. The design for the masks was then put out as an open source on the internet, which allowed Copps to contact Marshall Williams, teacher at Broadus Schools, to see if the school's printer could be used. Williams jumped at the idea, and the 3D printer went to work, kicking out a mask every nine hours or so. As of Tuesday, 15 adult masks had been made, along with 10 smaller masks for kids or smaller adults.

The masks, which cost around a dollar in materials, are plastic, and reusable after proper cleaning. Commercial masks have become virtually unavailable due to the pandemic, and when they do come up for sale they are now going for around $17 a piece.

The filters used in the masks are made from cut down HEPA heater filters, which means one filter can supply a large number of masks.

The masks will be used by personnel responding to medical incidents, especially if the supply of N95 masks runs low. Currently, the supply of personnel protective equipment, or PPE, is doing well, but that could change very quickly if we see an outbreak in the community.

Copps said that hospitals are requiring all emergency personnel coming into the hospital to wear masks, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Once a supply of masks is built up, they will be distributed to other emergency personnel around the community, such as Public Health, the Sheriff's Office, and elsewhere.

Copps wanted to thank Broadus Schools, Mr. Williams, and the FFA for their use of the 3D printer – without their printer, none of this could happen.

Additionally, if anyone in the community has access to a 3D printer, Copps hoped it could be used to print more masks. Donations of money for the plastic and filters, or donations of other protective medical supplies would also be greatly appreciated.

A 3D printed mask, ready to help protect a First Responder. (Photo courtesy Kesa Copps)


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