From D&D to PPE: 3D Printing Face Masks for Reno Hospitals
Andy Muth, one of the web developers here, and his wife, Katie, own and operate GriffonCo, a 3D printing company specializing in tabletop gaming. GriffonCo was created from a love for Dungeons and Dragons, but now this couple are spreading love to the community by printing face shields for local hospitals to use while treating COVID-19 patients.
As the novel coronavirus spreads, hospitals are using more personal protective equipment (PPE) than ever before. There’s been a global shortage of proper face masks and shields with many hospitals unable to keep up with patient demand. Small, family-owned companies like GriffonCo make a big difference in the fight to stop the spread.
We spoke with Andy to find out more about GriffonCo’s face shields and how others can help create and deliver masks to hospitals.
What kind of face shields are you producing?
We're making the face shields provided by 3DVerkstan, a Swedish 3D printing company. We started printing the Prusa shields that were made by an industry leader, but they took too long and required a very specific plastic shield that we couldn't obtain locally. The ones we're making use a transparency sheet or binding sheets. They can even be sanitized and, in dire situations, reused.
How many masks have you produced so far?
We made over 300 full shields in our first weekend of production, and we're still making them. We're able to make about 100 of the printed pieces per day. Right now, we're laser cutting the transparency sheets, but we're looking to streamline that process. Setting the printers to print the piece is a lot easier than having to sit at the laser to cut the shields.
So far, we delivered 100 masks to the VA hospital and 200 to Northern Nevada Medical Center on March 30. We’ve also delivered small batches to individual practices.
How long does it take to produce a mask on your end?
Depending on the printer, it takes about 67 minutes to print one visor piece. Some of our printers can do it in as little as 37 minutes because they have larger nozzles and release more plastic. We're working on getting more large nozzles, but with Amazon prioritizing shipping household goods, we’ve seen a delay.
Our business currently has 19 3D printers, so we've reached out to our customers asking for more time on our deliveries so that we can dedicate 75 percent of our printers to printing these visors for the shields.
The shield piece takes about 16 seconds to cut in the laser cutter, but with the time it takes to swap out the pieces and clean off the cutter bed, the process actually takes about 30 seconds. And it requires someone to be at the laser consistently. This is where our biggest bottleneck is at the moment, along with the cost and lack of transparency film in town.
What inspired you to tackle this endeavor and extend so much support to our community?
We’ve been watching the news and seeing online that people are using their 3D printers to help local healthcare workers, so we decided to reach out and see if we could help locally. We spent a few days printing prototypes and deciding which model (there are several online) would be the most efficient and reliable. We went around all over town buying up transparency film that teachers use on overhead projectors and got to work. We delivered samples to hospital administration and—once we knew they not only would accept them, but they were very much in need of them—we got started.
We got in touch with the right people, and now we're doing everything we can to get as many shields as possible into the hands of those in need. Once we realized we were unable to keep up the demand, we reached out to other local makers and have approximately 20 different groups of people printing visors for us to donate to the hospitals. We're currently receiving requests from various practices all over town and are hoping to be able to extend our help to Renown shortly.
What other community partners are you working with?
Chris Church from the University of Nevada, Reno got us some larger nozzles over the weekend for two of our printers, which helped output quite a bit. We're now working with a "Reno COVID-19 Assistance" group that encompasses people from all over the region, including the UNR Innevation Center, Reno Collective, College of Engineering, UNR De La Mare Library makerspace, and locals that have other skills and want to help out. We're blown away at the maker community readiness and involvement in helping us provide as many face shields as possible. Without all of this amazing support, we wouldn’t even be able to come close to fulfilling the needs of our area.
We just received word today that Reno Type has agreed to help us put the necessary holes into the plastic shield pieces, so we can now finish them much faster once we are able to get a bigger supply of the transparency film or pvc sheets.
How can people help produce more shields?
If you want to help, we're now printing the 6 peg North America version of the 3DVerkstan face shield. Please reach out to [email protected] if you would like to join up to help us print visors. We're picking up in batches of 20-30, and we will deliver them directly to our contacts at the hospitals.
Check out our main storefront at GriffonCo.com. We have a D&D sticker pack for sale, and we're dedicating those funds to purchasing more materials to make face shields. We will also accept donations to [email protected], which will go directly toward material cost. As of right now we have eight kilograms of filament and 1,000 more plastic sheets on the way.
Our customers have been awesome through this, too. When we notified them to let them know there may be a delay in their orders, many of them told us not to hurry and to hold off on printing their order until we weren't in emergency mode.
We’re thankful for the overwhelming community support we’ve received, and we hope to continue providing masks to hospitals and medical centers in this time of need.