3D Printed Respirator – Criteria for Success

3D printed respirator

A 3D printed respirator, as it turns out, takes some tinkering.  I’ve been ‘rapid’ prototyping for three weeks, and I’ve given up on several occasions.  Fortunately, for my design process, coronavirus doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.  So, with that in mind, I took a step back for a few days to re-energize, and to contemplate where we stand with a 3D printed respirator.

First, I just don’t see a lot of people wearing respirators or even face-masks on the street, but that could change quickly.  Fortunately, I do sense a hush which tells me a good number of folks decided to play it safe and stay in their homes.  Thank you to everyone who continues to self-isolate to protect our most vulnerable individuals and medical staff.  I continue to self-isolate since March 9th, and I can’t wait to finally go on a jog when this is all over.

After printing several of the recently designed respirators, I found they all shared a lot of similarities.  Mainly, these 3D printed respirators don’t fit great.  An ergonomic and hermetic seal definitively poses the greatest challenge with this design.  Below, I took a moment to organize my criteria.

Primary Critiera

Hermetic Seal – Respirator should make an air-tight seal with the face.  I have seen people heating the respirator in hot water for five seconds to customize the fit.  I also noticed people printing on fabric to add flex to the material.  These offer a second best approach, while what we need is a mask that fits most faces fresh off the print bed.

Adequate Airflow – I started with a single-filter design for print efficiency, but it’s evident from my work that a dual-filter model will provide improved air-flow.  Overall print time will increase with a dual filter design, but not dramatically.  The airflow also depends on the filter media.

Riot-Proof Fit – The mask should fit snugly on the head of the wearer.  The snug fit keeps the mask from shifting during use, and minimizes manual adjustment over the course of the program.

Minimize Fatigue – The mask should not feel uncomfortable under prolonged use.  This criteria can apply to the seal on the face, the inhalation resistance, and the elastic strap that fastens the respirator to the head.

Secondary Criteria

Single Print <5hrs. – A more efficient print will help maximize quantity available overall, but should not get sacrificed for a durable product.

Replaceable Filter Media – We must find a suitable filter media.  I’m leaning toward a cotton make-up removal pad. Also, with the possible addition of a coffee-filter layer.


FDA 3D Printing FAQ – https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/3d-printing-medical-devices/faqs-3d-printing-medical-devices-accessories-components-and-parts-during-covid-19-pandemic

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