College engineers turning snorkel masks into ventilators to combat shortage amid pandemic

Students also using 3D printers to make face shield parts
Posted at 9:21 AM, Apr 03, 2020

DENVER, Colo. – At Metropolitan State University of Denver, engineers are hard at work using 3D printers to produce medical equipment that is in short supply.

“We have this pandemic and we’re not prepared for it so we have the ability and the equipment to help that shortage,” said Aaron Brown, Ph.D., an MSUD mechanical engineering professor.

Brown is leading a group that is using 3D printers to make both parts for face shields and valves that can turn snorkel masks into ventilators.

“We’re anticipating a lack of traditional ventilators,” said David McCallum, an MSUD lab coordinator. “So, this is an off-the-shelf with a little bit of 3D printing to hopefully fill that gap.”

They’re filling a gap that could help flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

“I hope it makes the maximum difference possible,” McCallum said. “But if it helps, then it was worth it.“

Down the hall in the industrial design department, lab coordinator Will Kellogg is printing off parts for face shields that will be used by first responders working on the frontlines in hospitals across the country.

“We probably have made 70 to 80,” he said. “The hospitals are requesting thousands.”

To help meet the demand, these engineers are asking anyone with a 3D printer to help out and ultimately help prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed.

“This is a scary time for a lot of people,” Brown said. “I'm hoping this will be helpful for a lot of people.”