Western partners with Sweetwater County EOC to 3-D print masks for first responders

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Photo courtesy of Western Wyoming Community College

ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING (May 6, 2020) — Western Wyoming Community College’s Assistant Professor of Engineering, Sandy Brown, is working with the Sweetwater County Emergency Operations Center to 3D print N95 masks for first responders.

The 3D printer works by melting thin plastic filament that hardens almost immediately and layering it to build something. With personal protection equipment (PPE) in short supply, the 3D printed masks allow filter material to go further as only a small amount is needed within the plastic mask. The mask itself can be sterilized when the filter material is replaced.

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In early March, the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department realized the PPE situation throughout the United States was dire. Wyoming is not a hotspot for COVID-19, which means this area would not get much PPE support from the strategic national stockpile, so the Sheriff’s Department took action.

Lieutenant Joseph Tomich, of the Sheriff’s Department, learned that doctors in Montana had come up with a 3D printing solution that could stretch a standard N95 mask six-fold. Within a week of Tomich presenting his idea to Sheriff Grossnickle, the Sweetwater County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was formed, and Tomich began working with Western, school districts, and local businesses to start printing masks for all first responders in the county. This allows the actual N95 masks to go directly to healthcare workers with direct exposure to the virus.

The EOC has been asked to have 500 masks made for distribution. As of April 24th, 267 were completed and will be distributed to agencies this week. The EOC has a source in Montana who is making the N95 filter patches for the printed masks, and have placed an order of over 1000.

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“Health professionals and other frontline workers are continuing to endanger themselves and their families while most of us are able to stay at home. If we can do anything to make them safer in addition to limiting social contact, then it should be a no-brainer. A health worker in the community where my parents live caught coronavirus at work brought it home, and their 9-month old child died. They deserve all the help we can give them,” stated Sandy Brown.

Western’s Associate Professor of Technical Theatre, Amy Critchfield, will also join in the efforts to create 3D printed masks with the Theater Department’s printer.

To learn more about how Western is supporting its students and the community during COVID-19, visit the Coronavirus Updates page on their website. To learn more about the county EOC, visit www.sweetwater311.org.

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