The 3D printable Montana Mask, whose instructions have just been made free online.

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It seems like every headline is centered around these unprecedented times right about now, with the novel coronavirus and resulting COVID-19 pandemic circling the globe. Most recently, government officials everywhere have taken the advice of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and started requiring the use of face masks in public to reduce the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, those requirements have led CDC-approved masks to completely sell out in both online and brick-and-mortar stores. In order to compensate for the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), sewing machines are humming in many households, producing homemade fabric and filter masks to share with family, friends, doctors, nurses, and pretty much anyone else who needs one.

Now, one company has found another solution to the PPE shortage in the form of a 3D-printed face mask, and they’ve made the design available online for free download to anyone who wants it.

Informational graphic explaining how to 3D print one's own Montana Mask

When it comes to mask efficiency, materials and designs vary widely, each offering differing amounts of protection. While the designers of The Montana Mask recognize it’s not meant to replace a properly designed medical mask, it is a relatively fast and easy answer to the shortage at hand. The mask was designed by Dr. Dusty Richardson, a neurosurgeon at Billings Clinic in Billings, MT, in a partnership with Spencer E. Zaugg, DMD, and Colton Zaugg. The trio built the face mask using three components. The first is the actual mask portion that’s placed over the face. The second is a filter frame, which in turn holds the third piece, a filter.

Montana Mask users can choose from varying levels of protection based on the type of filter they use, and whenever the current filter gets dirty, replacement is as easy as swapping it out with a section of medical-grade mask material. In this way, one mask can become several. Of course, since there are so few CDC-approved masks out there right now, it’s also important to consider what other materials might do the job. Current suggestions include HEPA vacuum or furnace filters, several layers of cotton, or even cotton covering the HEPA filters. The team also offers users a method for creating a nose cushion and a better seal around the mask using rubber window sealant.

The inventors of the Montana Mask have made the file available for anyone who wants to 3D print their mask here. They also want to emphasize that their mask is not approved by the FDA or NIOSH, and that individuals should always research filter options if they choose to substitute for an actual medical mask.

They strongly stress that “the 3D-printed mask information presented here is intended to assist the general public during the current global pandemic related to COVID-19 and the related nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment. Please be aware that this mask design is not intended to replace standard protective equipment such as N-95 masks or surgical masks when that equipment is available. The use of these 3D printed masks has not been fully tested and has not been approved by federal or state authorities. Billings Clinic, Marlin D. Richardson, M.D., Spencer Zaugg, DDS, Colton Zaugg or anyone associated with, assume no liability and make no representations, warranties, or guarantees regarding the safety, efficacy, or appropriate use of these masks in any particular situation. Each facility should test each batch of masks prior to relying on them for protection. Use of this information for any purpose is at the maker’s and user’s own risk.”