How To 3D Print Masks: Best Coronavirus Mask 3D Printing Quick Start Guide

*** Disclaimer: while it is possible to 3D print masks, none of the items in this guide have been approved by regulatory authorities. Use at your own risk. Use only as a last resort, if you do not have any other protection. Please visit the CDC website for more information. Also see the FDA guidance here. ***
Update 4/11/2020: The design of mask option number 1 below has been updated and is gaining wider acceptance in the medical community. Check out this recent paper for testing of several mask design options: https://www.preprints.org/manuscript/202003.0444/v1
The updated design of mask option number 1 was selected for testing after 3 other options were discarded for various reasons. The link above also contains requisite STL files for producing the updated mask. Select "supplementary files" to download the STL files.

The Coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed healthcare systems around the world. Hospitals are experiencing shortages of live-saving personal protective equipment (PPE). Masks, face shields, gloves, hair nets, shoe covers, and other critically necessary gear are suddenly in short supply, and time is of the essence.

As a result, many treatment facilities are turning to local communities to find the supplies they need. In this rapidly evolving situation, anyone with a 3D printer can potentially save many lives by making masks and face shields for healthcare workers. Importantly, the CDC has released guidance stating that, because of the current emergency situation, homemade PPE can be used by healthcare workers as a last resort. That’s where we come in – makers can help protect our healthcare workers, who are the last defense against the virus.

Confusion at the beginning…

However, until recently, there has not been much information available for makers looking to get involved. It has taken a few weeks for medical 3D printing experts to develop designs suitable for production in home studios. Just a month ago, it wasn’t even clear that 3D printers could be of much use in this fight. But as the world has learned more about the virus over the past few weeks and the urgent need for PPE and other life-saving equipment has grown, makers reacted by speeding up their R&D cycles. Now we are finally in a position to help.

Thankfully, makers across the world are now catching up to the demand and sharing open-sourced CAD files with complete instructions so that anyone can get involved. All you need to do to help out is acquire a 3D printer, a few spools of 3D printer filament, and a few extra materials that are available at your local hardware store.

What we know now…

In this guide, we will go through the best information that is currently available so you can see what it would take to get involved. We will focus on masks and face shields for the moment since those are the most intuitively applicable projects for 3D printers. But as more information about other equipment becomes accessible, we will add to this guide.

The goal of this guide is to make it as easy as possible for anyone to help no matter your skill level. Healthcare workers need our help fast! So there is no time to get into the nitty-gritty details. As a result, all of these solutions are quick, simple, and scalable. Let’s get going!

*** Disclaimer: none of the items in this guide have been approved by regulatory authorities. Use at your own risk. Use only as a last resort, if you do not have any other protection. Please visit the CDC website for more information. Also see the FDA guidance here. ***

How To Print Clips For Cloth Masks To Make Them Easier To Wear

Recently, Providence St. Joseph Health in Washington launched the 100 Million Mask Challenge. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is currently accepting donations of masks from the community.

Over the next few days, experiencedpatriots.com will begin using 3D printers to produce two types of clips for cloth masks:

  1. Clips that allow you to make a cloth mask without any sewing needed.
  2. Buckles that go around the back of the head to make cloth masks adjustable and more comfortable to wear.

To get mask clips, email our partners from experiencedpatriots.com at: experiencedpatriots@gmail.com

How To Sterilize 3D Printed Masks

One of the first questions on everyone’s minds is about sterility. Can these masks be sterilized so they can be used multiple times? The answer is yes, they can be sterilized, but not completely. That is why the CDC recommends using 3D printed equipment only as a last resort.

Here’s the problem: regular FDM printers (the kind of 3D printer we will talk about in this guide) make objects by building up layers of plastic. As those layers cool and harden, microscopic nooks and crannies form where germs like the coronavirus can hide. And because these little hiding spots are so small, the surface tension of cleaning agents like bleach and soap prevents them from getting into the nooks and crannies and cleaning out the germs. That is why the FDA has so far discouraged the use of many 3D printed forks/spoons/bowls/kitchen utensils etc. They are not technically food safe.

To solve this problem filament manufacturers have developed anti-microbial, medical-grade filaments that clean themselves. For instance, several filaments have used copper as an ingredient, since copper has natural disinfectant properties. Others make use of other anti-microbial additives. The problem is that these are specialized materials, and currently they are very hard to source.

Check out our guide to the best anti-microbial filaments here.

Given the current shortage of PPE, healthcare workers will use whatever they can get their hands on. This is an emergency situation, after all. And even though we can’t completely sterilize printed masks, we can get rid of most of the germs on them by washing them with soap or bleach. In emergencies like this one, that is good enough as a last resort when all other options fail (please visit the CDC website for complete information. Also see the FDA guidance here).

Best 3D Printers To 3D Print Masks Quickly And Easily

Let’s start with 3D printers. If you have never used a 3D printer before, then your best bet is to go with a plug and play option like the Monoprice Select Mini. This printer will give you enough build volume to print small and medium-sized masks, and it is extremely easy to use. All you have to do is take it out of the box, plug it in, turn it on, load your design, and press print.

But if you really want to help healthcare workers, your best bet is to go with something a bit larger. The Monoprice Maker Select V2 and it’s sibling the Ender 3 are the best bang for your buck. These are high-quality machines. They do require a little more setup time and some assembly, but you can easily go from unboxing to printing within 30 – 45 minutes. And they both have larger build volumes so that you can produce larger masks.

All three of these printers have extensive online communities, tons of documentation and addons, excellent customer service, and solid designs that will last years. And the best part: they are all budget-friendly. Here are more details.

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2 - Black With Heated...
Monoprice Maker Select 3D Printer v2 With Large Heated...
Comgrow Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer with Removable...
Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2 - Black With Heated...
Monoprice Maker Select 3D Printer v2 With Large Heated...
Comgrow Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer with Removable...
$220.00
$329.99
Price not available
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2,308 Reviews
715 Reviews
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Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2 - Black With Heated...
Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2 - Black With Heated...
$220.00
2,308 Reviews
Monoprice Maker Select 3D Printer v2 With Large Heated...
Monoprice Maker Select 3D Printer v2 With Large Heated...
$329.99
715 Reviews
Comgrow Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer with Removable...
Comgrow Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer with Removable...
Price not available
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(Note: we will receive comissions when you click on our links to buy these products. Thank you in advance!)
*** Disclaimer: none of the items in this guide have been approved by regulatory authorities. Use at your own risk. Use only as a last resort, if you do not have any other protection. Please visit the CDC website for more information. Also see the FDA guidance here.  ***

Best 3D Printed Masks To Protect Against The Coronavirus

The masks on this list should only be used as a last resort, but they will get the job done in a pinch. After proper sterilization, they will provide protection when out in public or in the company of someone diagnosed with Covid-19.

Covid-19 Mask Filters

These masks do require filters. Specifically, they make use of MERV-13 filters for HVAC systems. The current best available information we have seen online from medical professionals indicates that these filters will do a good job of removing dust and droplets that could carry the coronavirus from the air and are safe to use. (Please do not take our word for this, and make sure to verify all info yourself. Use these products at your own risk. For more info, visit the CDC website.)

Be careful not to use filters rated higher than MERV-13, such as MERV-16, as they may contain micro-glass that could damage your lungs when inhaled. When in doubt, stick to MERV-13 and below.

Also, MERV is a rating system developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. But there are two other rating systems out there: MPR and FPR. They are all basically the same, but different companies have tried to distinguish their brands from each other by inventing their own rating systems. That makes life a little more confusing, but if you follow this conversion table, you will be able to find the right filter whether you are buying filters from 3M, Home Depot, or any other company.

Some designs include the use of an added carbon filter later. This is optional and mostly useful for cutting down on smells from cleaning agents that could become bothersome over time. If you choose to include a Carbon filter layer in your mask, check these out.

*** Disclaimer: none of the items in this guide have been approved by regulatory authorities. Use at your own risk. Use only as a last resort, if you do not have any other protection. Please visit the CDC website for more information. Also see the FDA guidance here.  ***

1. COVID-19 MASK By lafactoria3d

Update 4/11/2020: The design of mask option number 1 below has been updated and is gaining wider acceptance in the medical community. Check out this recent paper for testing of several mask design options: https://www.preprints.org/manuscript/202003.0444/v1
The updated design of mask option number 1 was selected for testing after 3 other options were discarded for various reasons. The link above also contains requisite STL files for producing the updated mask. Select "supplementary files" to download the STL files.

The first mask is available from lafactoria3d on thingiverse. It is being validated and is currently in use at several major hospitals in the Boston area: St. Vincent hospital, Lahey Hospital, Tufts Medical Center. For more details, see the latest information under the Youtube video below.

It is based on the design released in mid-February by Creality, which makes it one of oldest designs out there, and therefore, one of the more refined designs. You can use Creality’s guide or check out lafactoria3d’s improved design here.

This mask has 3 parts: the frame, the grid, and the cap. That means there are three corresponding STL files that you will need to download. STL files are the design files that your 3D printer will use to print the masks.

To be clear, you can only print the three plastic parts. The filter must be sourced separately. See the above section on filters for more information.

Print Settings

  • Rafts: Doesn’t Matter
  • Supports: No
  • Resolution: 0.25mm
  • Infill: 40-80%
  • Recommended Filament brand: Hatchbox
  • Filament material: PLA / PETG

Check out this youtube video guide to making this mask:

As you can see, the mask will require you to source a few extra materials, such as elastic bands, hot glue, and some rubber padding to help it seal around your face. You can also create smaller clips to help adjust the straps. But otherwise, this mask is simple and effective.

*** Disclaimer: none of the items in this guide have been approved by regulatory authorities. Use at your own risk. Use only as a last resort, if you do not have any other protection. Please visit the CDC website for more information. Also see the FDA guidance here. ***

2. COVID Pandemic Mask by ctwiles

This next mask is a passion project by Dr. CTWiles based on a design on Thingiverse by Kvatthro (#4222563). You can find Dr. CTWiles improved design here. He is a doctor who loves 3D printing, so he put his skills to use to improve the design of this mask to fill the PPE shortage.

According to Dr. CTWiles himself, he has validated this mask and implemented its use at the hospital he works in, which appears to be the University of Connecticut (unverified). Still, proceed with caution, and as always, use it at your own risk and only as a last resort. You can see his validation snapshot below:

Also, Dr. CTWiles specifically notes that he has only printed these out using an Ender 3, so he can’t verify that they will print exactly the same way on other 3D printers with different build volumes and settings. If you want to follow his lead exactly, pick up an Ender 3 for this project.

The first benefit of this design is that it only has two parts: the frame and the filter grill. Assembly does require you to hot glue the filter in place onto the filter grill in order to create an air tight seal, which means that you can’t swap out the filter the way you can with the other mask above. That might make it more difficult to sterilize and subject the filter to more wear and tear.

But the benefit comes from its scalability. With just two parts to print, two printers working in tandem can churn out masks at a higher rate than other designs. Dr. CTWiles has also paid close attention to conserving material and driving down the cost per mask. By his calculations, each mask costs:

$0.97 PLA + $0.06 3M filter + $0.31 MERV 13 filter + $0.25 glue + $0.29 tourniquet = $1.88

That’s not bad.

According to Dr. CTWiles, he has made the following improvements to the original design: he has “added reinforcement, fixed the nose gap problems, created multiple sizes, made a smaller filter box, added filter blockers to the base so it can’t slide too far on, and successfully fit tested it with 1 layer of sealed in 3M 1500 filter and 1 layer of pressed in folded ace hardware MERV 13 filter.”

Check out his full tutorial for more information:

Print Settings

  • Printer brand: Creality
  • Printer: Ender 3
  • Rafts: No
  • Supports: No
  • Resolution: 0.2mm
  • Infill: 20%
  • Filament Brand: generic
  • Filament color: preference
  • Filament material: PLA

Update: After a bit more research, it is clear that this design is being used widely in North America and Europe. Apparently, the famous 3D printing company Prusa has devoted its immense resources to scaling up the production of this design. That is a strong vote of confidence.

*** Disclaimer: none of the items in this guide have been approved by regulatory authorities. Use at your own risk. Use only as a last resort, if you do not have any other protection. Please visit the CDC website for more information. Also see the FDA guidance here.  ***

3. Protective Face Shields

The last item we will cover is the face shield. While not as useful for walking around in public, these face shields are vitally important for healthcare workers dealing with Covid-19 patients. After all, one of the hallmark symptoms of the Covid-19 disease is coughing, and coughing produces droplets that can be ejected into the face of caretakers. Face shields prevent that from happening, and studies have shown that they add a significant layer of protection when used in healthcare settings. That means they can save lives.

Face shields are by far the simplest item in this guide. They are easy to produce because they are made from simple parts: a plastic visor band that rests on your forehead and a transparency sheet from old-style projectors. You can find transparency sheets at Staples or buy a box of 100 for a few bucks on Amazon.

This face shield design is being championed by a well-known personality in the 3D printing world: Joel Telling AKA the 3D Printing Nerd. His tutorial is excellent and the description underneath his Youtube video contains everything you need to get going as well as additional information about organizations and people who are working on this global problem. Check it out here.

*** Disclaimer: none of the items in this guide have been approved by regulatory authorities. Use at your own risk. Use only as a last resort, if you do not have any other protection. Please visit the CDC website for more information. Also see the FDA guidance here. ***

Conclusion: Covid-19 Mask 3D Printing Quick Start Guide

Hopefully, this guide covered everything you need to get started immediately or at least provided a few breadcrumbs to help you find what you are looking for. It is a work in progress and we will update it with information as the designs and needs of healthcare workers evolve. And make sure to only use these items as a last resort.

The lack of PPE is an urgent crisis and we need everyone who can help to get involved as quickly as possible. It’s hard to overstate how important it is that we do our best to provide our healthcare workers with the best equipment possible. They are our last line of defense against the virus.

By producing the items on this list you can play a small part in the effort to combat this disease. Even if you are only able to produce one mask or face shield, it will be worth it if you can save a life as a result.

The masks and shield we covered here are by no means the only designs floating around. Always look for designs that have been validated in some way by medical professionals. And if you have an improved design or suggestions for other designs to consider, feel free to leave a comment. If you are new to 3D printing and have questions about getting started, drop your questions in the comments section and we will do our best to find answers for you.

These are dark times, but together we can defeat this virus. The pandemic will not last forever, and we can bring it to an end one mask at a time. Hopefully, this guide can help in that effort.

As always, happy printing!

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