MEQUON — Concordia University's 3D Printing Lab is focusing its efforts on fixing the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage facing first responders and healthcare workers.
"My friend at Children's reached out last week and said hey, do you have the ability to 3D print respirator masks?" Daniel Sem, Dean of Business at Concordia University said. "I said yeah. We have one of the biggest, in term of volume 3D printing facilities around."
Sem says the University has 30 machines working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at printing PPE masks. He met with staff at Children's Tuesday to see what they need to fix to make sure they're put to good use.
"Just to see if it is wearable, functional and we got a lot of really good feedback from them," Sem said.
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They're able to print about 70 masks a day and 500 per week. Sem says it's a small step towards helping first responders and healthcare professionals, but says if more people with 3D printers register their machine, they can start printing these on a large scale to really make an impact.
"That's a direction we might go after this week if 500 per week isn't enough," Sem said. "A lot of people have 3D printers so we can share the files and maybe work with law enforcement to bring people supplies and we can collect them."
The benefit with these masks will be durability. They are capable of being reused daily as long as they're sterilized and filters are changed out.
"They seem to believe that approach is viable," Sem said. "Other N95 masks they get now, many are disposable. If they're made of cloth, there is no way to sterilize."
Sem says at some point, they'll have to figure out how to fund the project but will do everything they can to continue making and the masks to donate to essential employees like medical workers and first responders.
"If you talk to anyone in healthcare, they're just so grateful because they're worried there is no protection," Sem said.