Billings inventors' re-usable mask gaining global interest

Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 16:12:07-04

In a matter of days, three inventors in Billings had come up with a solution to the shortage of surgical masks at hospitals and medical facilities in the area.

Dr. Dusty Richardson, a neurosurgeon at Billings Clinic, along with Spencer Zaugg, a local dentist and his son, Colton came up with a 3D printed, plastic mask that could extend the life of the common surgical mask.

“We’ve had a fantastic community support with the mask and we are taking donations from the community,” Richardson said. “We are performing our own quality control process on these. We are sanitizing them and we are putting them together.”

Billings' inventors' mask design going global

On Sunday, the team published their design file and asked for people in the community with access to 3D printers to help them equip medical staff in the area with the masks.

Along with Zaugg’s four printers, Billings Public Schools offered the use of the districts many 3D printers to help, along with other businesses and individuals in the area.

But the idea is reaching far beyond Billings and Yellowstone County. Since publishing the design, there have been at least 30,000 downloads of the designs from countries all over the world.

“Yesterday we had phone calls from Orange County, California, from Seattle, from New York, from Michigan, from Florida from Texas…so all around the world and all around our country,” said Richardson. “We know there are thousands of people that are being affected by this and we hope that this helps.”

Richardson said hospitals hoping to print their own masks need to vet them internally and do their own research to make sure they can preform the way the need them to.

“If you’re using a surgical mask filter patch, this will function has a surgical mask,” said Richardson. “If you wanted to use this as a N95 mask, you would have to do the appropriate testing with the appropriate patch on that to make sure that it functions in that intended purpose.”

Surgical masks are used to protect both the patient and the provider from ‘splash’ – be it from surgeries or from the droplets created when you cough or sneeze, but they do not filter air. An N95 mask has far more regulations and standards to meet, as it is meant to filter air before reaching the lungs of the person wearing it.

“This is about everybody being able to help themselves in a time of crisis and providing an idea that has served as the springboard for a lot of communities to do projects, to get people involved, to solve the problem,” Dr. Richardson said.
There is still a need in our community for more masks. Dr. Richardson said while they have had people donate both time and resources to print the masks for medical professionals in Billings, they are still in need. They ask anyone with the ability to use a 3D printer, or to donate recourses, to help if they can.

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