By Andy Leer, Merchandise Manager @ Micro Center.
With all of the recent events in the world, PPE (Personal
Protective Equipment) has become more and more essential to our everyday lives.
Obtaining PPE can be quite difficult for the average person and even extremely
difficult for our essential workers.
Makers have recently turned their making skills to help with
the production of PPE at home. Utilizing 3D printers, makers and DIYers have
been 3D printing face shields and masks for hospitals, as well as creating
other useful items such as ear savers and pocket sized tools that assist in
contactless interactions with items such as doors, locks and buttons.
We are seeing many people using this as an opportunity to
jump into 3D printing or expand their existing printer farm. It is important to
understand that there are a few types of 3D printing so that you make the right
choice if you are looking to get into 3D printing. The most common type uses
Fused Filament Fabrication of FFF for short. This form essentially acts as a
smart glue gun that builds items up layer by layer using a material called
filament. Growing in popularity, another form of 3D printing is SLA or LCD Resin printing. These lower cost
SLA printers use an LCD screen vs a laser to cure liquid resin. This type of
printing can produce very fine results, but is often not a good use for larger
functional pieces such as masks and shields.
The Creality 3D printers have continually impressed us
here at Micro Center and the popularity of the Ender 3 Pro has been
outstanding. This printer, because of its straightforward nature, allows the
user to easily modify and improve with simple prints. If you need a bed larger
than the 220mm x 220mm x 230mm you can check out the larger CR-10s. The CR-10s
boasts a 300mm x 300 mm x 400mm build volume which will allow you to produce
more in the same run than it’s slightly smaller predecessor. Overall, the
benefit to Creality printers is their community. There are so many forums,
upgrades, and YouTube videos that you will be able to find any information you
need should you run into an issue.
Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified or PETG for short
has become increasing popular during the pandemic as it has a higher melting
temperature which is suggested to be able to withstand a sterilization within a
medical autoclave. For a more common and great starter material a lot of people
turn to Poly-Lactic Acid, or PLA. This has been a popular material for a while now and
is probably the most commonly printed with. This material, while having a lower
melting point, would be best utilized for items around the house and not
necessarily major mechanical parts. Printing shields and face masks with PLA is
possible just as it is with PETG. Your results may vary based on the quality of
the print and material.
Don’t forget, if you don’t have a 3D printer, there are a
number of other resources out there for making quick cloth masks as well! If
you are using a 3D printer, here is an example of a design that we came across.
Skill Level: Medium
Amount of Filament: 6.45m / ~ 51g
Time Required: Roughly 5 Hours @ .2mm layer height
Other Materials Needed: Elastic or other Strap material, and
filter material, please see site for recommended materials.
Tips/Advice: Its worth noting that 3D printed masks aren’t
perfect and your mileage may very. Comfort may also be a consideration.
Shields have by far been the most printed PPE during this
epidemic. Makers and maker communitys and individuals from all around have
stepped up to print this protective gear. Shields are typically composed of 3
parts. A 3d printed band to go around the forehead, a pieces of transparent
plastic, often PETG, and a strap to go around the back of the head. Sometimes a
secondary piece of plastic is made to go on the bottom of the transparent piece
to help retain its shape. It can be difficult to obtain some of the secondary
pieces so people have utilized overhead transparency sheets as well as rubber
bands to make up the remaining 2 pieces. Small hooks have also been designed to
clip onto a ball cap and then hold the transparent plastic in place.
Skill Level: Easy
Amount of Filament: 10.18m / ~ 30g
Time Required: Roughly 3 hours at .2mm layer height
Other Materials Needed: Transparent Plastic Sheet, Elastic
or Large Rubber band for strap
Tips/Advice: Make sure to check with local groups to see
what preferred model they are accepting as some groups have an approved model
for their use case.
Some additional items you may want to check out include:
These would all be considered easier prints and use less
filament per piece than the two above.
Ear Savers: https://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/ear-saver
CoVid Door/Button Tools: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4255283
Cloth Mask Strap Clips: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4294763
You may also want to sign up with Masksfordocs who can pair you up with local healthcare groups to make sure the right equipment goes to the right people.
If you've 3D printed and/or donated any PPE, please share your donations and info about your printer and model files used.
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