CCTC creates 3D masks for McLeod Health

As the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic continues, Central Carolina’s Engineering Design Technology Department Chair David Tuders is taking his skills and technology to the fight against the coronavirus disease. Tuders is using 3D printers owned by the college to produce medical masks for healthcare workers affected by a shortage of masks when treating COVID-19 patients.

Along with teaching his classes virtually, Tuders has been coordinating local efforts to create a prototype for McLeod Health that meets the safety standards they require for maximum protection.

“Unlike visors, the masks we are making are close to the face with no gaps and include a filter that can be sterilized and re-used,” Tuders said. The masks fit tightly around the wearers face and are designed to filter out 95 percent of airborne particles.

Tuders, along with his staff of three instructors and a student in the program, volunteered their time and energy to research production of the prototype, determine startup costs and initiate production of masks at an estimated 400-500 per week. All of the volunteers just want to give back and contribute.

Tuders said, “I believe it would be socially irresponsible for us to have the skills and technology available and not offer to help.”

Central Carolina Technical College has an amazing forty (40) 3D printers available for this project, more than any other college or university in the state. Startup costs were relatively low at about $500 and were made possible by a donation from the CCTC Foundation. Caterpillar also donated approximately 15 spools of filament to help print the masks.

“These machines typically perform better when they are used, so this is a perfect way during this pandemic to keep them from sitting idle,” Tuders said.

Tuders has even volunteered to hand deliver the masks as they are completed each week.

Tuders typically uses the 3D printers as part of the Engineering Design Technology program at CCTC. The program gives students hands-on experience with computer-aided design (CAD) and technical drawings with applications that can be used in modern manufacturing. A few years ago, Tuders and his team used the technology with 3D printing to create a prosthetic hand for a young student in need.

“Central Carolina takes great pride in leading higher education efforts in South Carolina to combat this great plague known as COVID-19,” CCTC President Dr. Michael Mikota said. “In the research lab and on the frontlines, we are proud of all of our Titans for their ability to lead.  From an advanced manufacturing standpoint we are extremely gratified to showcase our nimble engineering capability to produce 3D N95 masks for our healthcare workers.” 

What makes these masks even more remarkable is that they are reusable — the plastic can be disinfected without harming it any way. McLeod Health also discovered a way to sanitize the filters so they have a longer life as well.

Vice President of Patient Services at McLeod Health Todd Hazzard hopes having these masks will eliminate the threat of running out and not being able to properly protect their employees.

“Right here, in the middle of rural South Carolina, we are able to print hundreds of 3D N95 masks for our healthcare providers, many of them alumni, on the frontlines,” Mikota said. “It is a very proud moment in time to be a Central Carolina Titan.”


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