On a Sunday morning in February, recent Taylor University graduates Jordan and Michelle Florian were looking online at designs for 3D printed face masks.
“There were a lot of designs out there,” Jordan said. “A lot of them were not up to the standard that would be acceptable for protecting somebody from COVID, and a lot of them were also very rigid and did not allow for users to fit it to their face, so there were a lot of gaps.”
Jordan and Michelle decided to try to design a 3D printed mask that would fill the gaps that others missed.
“It took us about five iterations to come up with a design that we were happy with,” Jordan said. “It actually prints flat, and then you are able to heat it up with a hairdryer and form-fit it to your face.”
Their unique design is able to fit a variety of face sizes and to limit any gaps, allowing air to only travel through the filter, which is taken from a furnace filter the same quality as that of an N95 mask.
“The mask is also durable. It can be sanitized and re-worn,” Michelle said. “It can even be reshaped for another user.”
Michelle and Jordan shared their design with their boss at an Indianapolis-based biotech company called OmniVis, which is working to create a rapid prototype device for detecting cholera in water samples.
“Our primary focus is cholera, but this was obviously something that was causing the whole world to have to act in a different way,” Jordan said.
OmniVis received a mini-grant from Peace First, allowing the company to begin 3D printing masks and sending them to medical professionals and those in need.
A 3D printer heats a spool of plastic filaments up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and when it’s heated, the plastic melts, allowing the printer to form shapes layer by layer.
“It basically prints from the bottom up,” Jordan said.
Jordan and Michelle sent their first shipment of masks to their friends in the health care field and at-risk people they knew, including a nurse practitioner in South Carolina, a nurse in South Bend and two children with cancer in Michigan.
“We were able to send out packages to two children in Michigan. We personalized them based on the animals that the kids liked and the color they wanted their mask in,” Michelle said. “We sent little gifts with the masks and notes of encouragement, so it did look like a care package for these kids.”
Jordan said he hoped the personalized masks would be something the kids were excited about wearing, instead of just another thing they had to do as part of their treatment process.
It was important to Jordan and Michelle that the “OmniMasks” were free of charge to those who needed them, they said.
“We see some people who are trying to profit off of the situation,” Jordan said. “Our overall goal at OmniVis is to bring health care to people that don’t have access, and I think that translated pretty well to the COVID crisis.”
The mini-grant only allowed OmniVis to print and deliver 80 masks, but Jordan said anyone with a 3D printer would be able to print the masks themselves.
“If someone or someplace in Grant County has a 3D printer, we would love to partner with them so they can help us get them out,” Jordan said.
Michelle estimated that anyone with a 3D printer could print the mask on their own for $1.76, not including the filters and elastic.
“We just want to help in any way we can,” Michelle said.
Jordan and Michelle said they are doing what they can to help during the COVID-19 crisis and noted there are ways others can help without even leaving their homes.
“Instead of thinking, ‘When am I finally going to be able to leave my house?’ think of those people that are terrified because if they get this disease, their risk of not surviving is very high,” Jordan said. “Approach it with a mindset of compassion and thinking of others.”
Michelle said she believes this moment in time is an opportunity for people to team up and have a global-health mindset.
“Even in the midst of the difficulties that we are experiencing, just think about how we are in this together and do what we can to help other people,” Michelle said.
For more information about the OmniMask, and the 3D printing file, contact Jordan@omnivistech.com.