Health

I build 3D models at an architecture firm. Now I’m making medical masks.

CBT model shop director Aaron Williams brought his firm's 3D printers home to make medical masks for a local hospital.

CBT's model shop director Aaron Williams brought his company's 3D printers home to make medical masks for a local hospital. Aaron Williams

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This story was told by Aaron Williams, and has been transcribed and edited from a recent conversation with Madelaine Millar.

Aaron Williams’ NanoHack Mask from Copper 3D allows one N95 mask to be cut and used to protect several people.

My name is Aaron Williams, I’m 46, and I’m the director of the model shop at the architecture firm CBT. Initially when we were all told to work from home I was not sure about what to do, because most of my job is done in the office and creating things in our shop.

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One of our principals sent along a tweet from Massachusetts General Hospital that basically said there’s open source map files online, everybody should be printing face masks now. I started looking into it and found a design group in Chile called Copper 3D, they actually came up with this open source design mask called the NanoHack Mask. It was plausible for the CBT model shop to print them, so I contacted the principals and asked if it was okay for us to do this, then ran to the office, picked up the printers and brought them to my house, where I started printing. CBT was very supportive of it. 

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The thing that I hate doing is developing or printing something that nobody is going to use, so the next step of the process was discovering where these could go. Luckily within our firm, one of my co-workers has a connection with the chief medical officer at a hospital south of Boston. She connected me to him, and he was very excited about the idea. 

We’re not exactly printing an N95 mask. I’m actually starting to call them holders because it enables the hospital to cut the N95 mask into smaller pieces and then insert them into the mask [holder], so that they can spread their resources a little bit further. Each one prints flat, which takes about two and a half hours, and then you heat it and mold it to your face, which takes about 15 minutes. There is a little circular insert where you would put the N95 filter material. I’ve dropped off some for testing. [The chief medical officer] has told me “so far so good” right now.

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It’s been amazing seeing the mobilization of the maker movement, whether it’s people building face shields out of soda bottles, or people 3D printing masks, or people sewing masks. I think every hospital is concerned with the amount of supplies that they have, and we’re just really trying to just offer them something.

I want people to get working and help any way they can. If you’re a maker, do what you can to help. It’s important to support people who are providing for us every day. We all need that light at the end of the tunnel for when this is over.

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