ISSUED: 22 April 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University has expanded its production of safety shields and masks to include a copyrighted N95 design that exceeds federal standards created by Kay Dartt, 3D fabrication manager, and Chase Molden, theater technical director, which the West Virginia National Guard can mass produce using silicone molds.
While the design for the mask can be 3D printed in about five hours, Dartt said using molds allows production of up to 70 or 100 masks per hour, depending on how many molds and equipment are available. Molden and Dartt recently took 14 mask molds and six filter molds to the National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg and provided training on how to make the masks.
“The molds that the National Guard is currently using are the fifth version that I have made in the last month,” Molden said. “Each one started with a 3D printed version that was then cleaned and smoothed. After each mold was made, Kay and I would look at the cast product and find ways to slightly adjust the design to make it more efficient, a new version would be drafted and 3D printed by Kay and I would make a new mold.”
“Because the molds are made of silicone, they’re very stretchable,” Dartt said. “We chose that material for ease of use and ease of production. Theoretically these molds can travel across the state, you don’t need any special material or machines to produce the masks, and the average person can be trained to use this process.”
Dartt said they began working with a mask design made of more rigid plastic. As they adjusted, they started using a material that is more flexible, so the new N95 mask is rigid where it holds the filter, but more flexible where it meets a person’s face.
“We’re excited that the National Guard verified that our masks exceed current N95 standards,” Dartt said. “Being able to make a quality product is exciting. Chase and I worked as a team figuring out better manufacturing processes, material choices, and design changes to make it better.”
Molden said he and Dartt were also trying to find a way to produce as many masks as possible quickly and consistently while keeping the process from being so hard that it limits who can help during the mass production stage.
“After working with the 167th Airlift Wing airmen, I am proud to say we are making great strides,” Molden said. “I am humbled to have been able to be a part of this project. When I first got involved I had no idea it would lead to something on this large of a scale and I am constantly in awe of how many people are working so hard for the common good, be it for this particular project or the hundreds of other makers out in the world right now doing their part to make face shields and cloth masks to protect people they will never know or meet.”
Shepherd continues to 3D print face shields by request for community organizations. Dartt said so far, more than 1,800 face shields and more than 120 N95 have been made at Shepherd.
Organizations wishing to request face shields and anyone interested in donating to the cause can visit https://www.shepherd.edu/covid-19/community-ppe-request.
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