JC faculty members make 3D masks for healthcare workers during COVID-19 pandemic

JC faculty members make 3D masks for healthcare workers during COVID-19 pandemic
Jones College’s Electro-Mechanical Technology instructor, Cody Robertson (left) puts the finishing touches on the masks while EMT-Paramedic instructor and Health Services Division Chair, Benji Sessums (right) inserts the filter on the masks they created using 3D printers. (Source: Jones College)

ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Faculty members at Jones College are making a collaborative effort to help healthcare providers on the “front lint” fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Electro-Mechanical Technology instructor, Cody Robertson, CAD Engineering Technology instructor, Karen Kirk and EMT-Paramedic instructor and Health Service Division Chair, Benji Sessums, have put their skills and resources together with the efforts of others around the world by using 3D printers to create personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

“People all over the country are realizing they can make these supplies,” said Robertson. “We can’t do it at the speed or as efficiently as a regular manufacturer, but when you crowdsource that kind of manufacturability you can make a significant impact.”

The JC team’s prototypes were developed out of a collection of files already tested in Montana and from other parts of the country.

Robertson and Kirk made some adjustments after talking to local healthcare providers, adding an adhesive type sealant around the edge of the mask, as well as modifying CPAP masks and designing a face shield to protect the eyes.

“The real question we faced was what type of filter material should be used. We have lots of options because we’ve been experimenting and testing different filters to go into the plastic masks,” said Sessums. “We’ve taken the current masks everyone uses and cut into squares to make it last longer. We also tested the use of surgical drapes, which has a higher-grade filtration than the N95 filtered masks.”

Robertson predicts they can make at least 30 masks with removable filters each day using the 12 3D printers in Kirk’s lab, which also allows them the option to easily adjust the size of the mask, making them better than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s minimum standard which is a bandana.

Once any fringe materials are removed, plastic bands and the sealant would be added around the edges.

Robertson speaks on feeling obligated to healthcare workers after surviving pancreatic cancer.

“I don’t want my friends and family members working around the virus to have to rely upon just a bandana. What we are making is not replacing the mask, but we’re offering a better option for emergencies,” said Robertson. “Our healthcare providers are on the frontlines of a war that could very well reach our doors, and I, along with many others, have a duty to help them.

The three faculty members claim their creation is reusable, uses much less filter material, which can extend the success of the plastic masks from a financial and safety aspect in comparison to the previously stated CDC minimum.

“Most of the area hospitals and service providers are being proactive and are not in a critical supply need today,” said Sessums. “However, in four of five weeks from now, when supplies are decreasing, they are developing plans now for when they reach that point, to protect their employees. We are read to answer their calls.”

Kirk said she plans to put this “lesson” into the student’s curriculum for JC students who are working from home.

“I’m going to demonstrate to students what we’ve been doing, talk about the design process and show them a video of the mask printing on the 3D printer,” said Kirk. “We’ll also discuss other ways 3D printers can be utilized. Hopefully, this situation will encourage them to think outside the box and discover other productive ways to use the 3D printers to help society.”

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