St. Luke's using its 3D printers to address mask supply shortage during COVID-19 outbreak

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (WPVI) -- Creativity and invention have become a must for hospitals facing shortages of protective gear during the coronavirus outbreak.

St. Luke's University Health Network in Bethlehem has teamed up with local tech experts to help fill its gap.

3D printers at the hospital's simulation center are normally used to make models, to practice procedures.

These days, they're printing N-95 masks and face shields.

When news of mask shortages appeared, the center looked into ways to make their own.

And local 3D printers were glad to help.

The masks can be reused, by changing out the filters.

But the final design didn't happen overnight.

"The trial and error - what's fitting and what's not fitting? And then, or course, the testing of the masks," says Megan Augustine, M.Ed., Director of St. Luke's Simulation Center.

"It's not a one-size-fits-all. they do come in different sizes, from extra small to extra large. And they can also be fitted to a person's face," she says.

That custom fit maximizes protection for the individual worker.

Tests are underway on the best way to sterilize the masks, should they be needed in the weeks ahead.

The 3D printers are happy to help solve this challenge.

"How do we get our goods here? How do we rethink the manufacturing of those items? And that's kind of where 3D printing comes into play. So we might not be able to mass-produce millions of these, but we can get hundreds to a thousand done fairly easily," says Michael Gorski, Ph.D., M.B.A., the owner of Filament Innovations, a Lehigh Valley 3-D printer maker.

"We're doing our part to be as prepared as possible. And if that means having additional masks on hand, then we're doing our part," says Augustine.
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