A Seattle Nonprofit Has Helped 105K People Around the World 3D Print Masks

To date, more than 100,000 masks have been printed using the Maker Mask initiative’s open-source designs. The initiative’s network includes members from more than 156 countries.

Written by Nona Tepper
Published on Jun. 04, 2020
A Seattle Nonprofit Has Helped 105K People Around the World 3D Print Masks
maker mask
Photo: Maker Mask

In mid-March, engineer Rory Landon went down to his Seattle basement and 3D printed a respirator mask. Two weeks later, the National Institutes of Health approved his mask design for use by first responders across the country.

“I kind of realized, ‘Holy Moses, there’s something bigger here,” his father Garr Landon, told Built In.

After Garr saw the mask, he teamed up with family friend Jonathan Roberts — a 20-year Microsoft veteran who is now the co-founder of venture capital company Ignition Partners — to start a movement that has since gone global. The two launched MakerMask, an effort to help users across the world help their communities stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative’s website features Rory’s open-source CAD designs and outlines how to 3D print three types of respirator masks (in sizes that fit adults and children). All designs use simple materials that can be found at any local hardware store, Roberts said.

The Seattle nonprofit now counts 105,000 members from more than 156 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere as part of its network. Some members are hobbyists, but others include universities, governments and commercial businesses. Rory’s design files have been downloaded more than 156,000 times to date. All told, Roberts estimated makers across the globe have 3D printed 100,000 of the custom face coverings.

The nonprofit is now expanding its product line. Maker Mask — which is funded by Roberts’ nonprofit RPrime Foundation — is holding a free online webinar at 1 p.m. PT on Thursday, when attendees can see a sneak peak of Rory’s design for how to 3D print an affordable ventilator.

Roberts said the ventilator design, which still needs to be tested by medical personnel and approved by the NIH, is essentially a condensed Ambu bag, or manual resuscitator. He said the final product should cost individuals less than $100 to print.

“A month or two ago, I was just this capitalist guy,” Roberts said. “We’re still figuring out this whole medical equipment manufacturing game.”

Once the dust on COVID-19 settles, he said he aims to help the “small batch production sites” that have popped up across the world — which are essentially sites that are printing more than 10 masks — learn to print other necessary items for their communities. He said the hobbyist network offers a local solution to supply chain disruptions.

“Imagine that you’re in Nairobi and you’re trying to get critical components in the middle of a crisis,” Roberts said. “As long as you can download an STL file, you can 3D print the device or item you most urgently need.”

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