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A technology veteran and a 3D-printing “savant” have teamed with other members of industry, health care and government to launch Maker Mask, a Seattle nonprofit creating medically endorsed, reusable protective masks using everyday 3D printers.

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Jonathan Roberts, founder and partner at the Bellevue, Wash.-based venture capital firm Ignition Partners, is also a co-founder of RPrime, a nonprofit that is helping to fund the mask-making initiative. The former Microsoft executive said the goal is to address critical supply shortages and support “the real heroes on the front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The respirator-style mask with a replaceable HEPA filter and other commonly available parts, was developed by Rory Larson, a rapid prototyping expert with 10 years experience in engineering, CAD, 3D printing, CNC and small batch production manufacturing. It took just a week for the group, working with Larson’s design, to get a small production facility up and running out of Epiphany Parish in Seattle.

With 28 3D printers running and 15 more on the way in the coming days, Maker Mask is operating 24 hours a day, with the potential to print nearly 1,000 masks per week by Friday. They hope hundreds of small-batch production sites will be operating across the U.S. as the design is available to the public and government free of charge through an open source model.

The 19 3D-printable parts that make up the mask are visible on the Maker Mask website along with details on materials needed, download instructions, videos, the ability to donate to the cause and more. The cost of each finished mask, printed in about three hours, is estimated to be between $2 and $3.

Users must register to gain access to assets in the “makers zone,” and the company said hundreds of people had reportedly done so on Monday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an all-hands-on-deck crisis. It feels good to be able to take action and start getting respirators to clinicians, first responders, and essential service workers,” Roberts said in a news release. “Sophisticated hobbyists with a $300 3D printer can get a respirator to their neighbors within hours.”

The Maker Mask is nearing approval from the National Institutes of Health, but does not have approval from the Food and Drug Administration or any other regulatory agency as a surgical mask or respirator. Because of communication limits due to a muffling effect, it’s intended for non-direct patient health care settings. The first set of masks are currently being used at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which has given provisional medical approval for use by lab technicians processing samples.

Dr. Xuan Qin in a Maker Mask. (Maker Mask Photo)

Dr. Xuan Qin, a professor of Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington and a clinical microbiologist at Seattle Children’s, called the Maker Mask “nicely designed” and “really useful” for lab technicians who process patient specimens for COVID-19. Qin is overseeing a clinical study and said the masks “will help solve shortages of personal protective equipment.” Read her full endorsement.

The Maker Mask team is working with a number of organizations, including NIH, America Makes,, InfraGard National, Matter Hackers, Nation of Makers, MITRE, Teach for America, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. military, Whiteford Taylor & Preston, and others working to address shortages of personal protective equipment.

“I wanted to help with the COVID-19 response,” Larson said. “I’m good at 3D printing design and wanted to apply my skills to see if I could address the lack of masks issue. This mask is easy to make with a common hobbyist 3D printer yet closely matches the functionality of commercial masks.”

People interested in learning more about the Maker Mask initiative and how to make the masks can join an educational webinar on the group’s website Thursday at 1 p.m. PST.

Update, Wednesday, April 1, 4:15 p.m. PT: Interest in Maker Mask has reached 88 countries and thousands of people who are visiting the group’s website. More than 88,500 page views from 20,000 visitors have occurred during the past 48 hours, and more than 1,500 people have downloaded the designs and specifications for the Maker Mask. The response has been incredible,” Jonathan Roberts said in a news release. “We’re seeing interest in the mask from a diverse mix of people and organizations around the world who are seeking to protect their health during this global pandemic.”

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