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Cleveland man 3D printing masks and donating them to local hospital

Justin Sobota says he and his coworker are printing 40 masks to donate to a local hospital this...
Justin Sobota says he and his coworker are printing 40 masks to donate to a local hospital this week.(Justin Sobota)
Updated: Mar. 30, 2020 at 10:36 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The dwindling number of personal protective equipment or PPE continues to put first responders on the front lines at risk.

Even in Ohio, hospitals are in short supply of things like face masks for healthcare workers. A Cleveland man and some of his coworkers came up with a high-tech way to help out.

It began as a hobby for Justin Sobota, 3D printing Star Wars props in his basement.

“Just the fact that you can have it in your household and use it to print things that you need like at first we were just printing cell phone stands, something to hold our cell phones or our tablets up,” Sobota said.

But now what he’s using his 3D printer for could potentially save lives.

“Now we’re doing something where we’re printing COVID-19 masks and possibly visors and maybe down the line the split valve for the respirators, but it’s just amazing the capabilities you can do,” said Sobota.

Sobota said when a coworker came to him with the idea, he and another coworker with a 3D printer immediately jumped on board.

“It actually didn’t take too long to get up and running there was an already existing 3D file out there of the masks from a website and the only thing I had to do was download the file and set it up using a program to then go into the printer and start printing,” explained Sobota.

He tested it out and said it came out great, now he’s partnered with a local hospital in need of PPE masks.

“So, my print bed will actually allow me to print up to four but just to make sure that the quality stays consistent across all masks I’ve been only printing two at a time,” he said. “They take close to five or six hours a piece if I’m doubling up it’s close to 14 or 15.”

To be clear, these masks are not FDA approved as an N95 replacement, according to the FDA, 3D-printed PPE may provide a physical barrier, but are unlikely to provide the same fluid barrier and air filtration protection as FDA-cleared masks and N95 respirators. The FDA does provide guidelines for healthcare workers who use 3D printed masks.

Between Sobota and his co-worker, they are hoping to fill the hospital’s request for 40 masks by Friday.

“The filters are separate, so the hospital was saying that they have the square filters they just didn’t have the equipment basically to put them on,” Sobota said.

Once they’re all printed, Sobota will sanitize them, package them in plastic and donate them to the hospital.

“At first it didn’t hit me as hard but then yeah seeing all those videos and a lot of supplies being not available at this time it started to give you a sense of pride when I started printing these to be donated,” Sobota said.

He said as long as there is a need, he will keep printing and donating the masks. He also says for anyone who has a 3D printer at home and wants to help, he is happy to share the design.

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