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3D Printed Mask Production in StartupCincy

To address the severe shortage of protective masks, several Cincinnati startup ecosystem players – Polar3D, InfoTrust, and Cintrifuse have launched a “pop-up” mask production operation with 50 3D printers in Union Hall

“This is StartupCincy at its best. Entrepreneurs, innovators and our startup ecosystem coming together at a time of crisis to meet an extreme need in a crazy-fast, crowd-sourced, crowd-funded, incredibly resourceful way. I could not be more proud of our partners and our Cintrifuse team.” – Pete Blackshaw, CEO of Cintrifuse

HOW DOES 3D MASK PRINTING WORK?

Polar3D is using open-source 3D PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) designs that have been reviewed and approved by the National Institutes of Health. The printers use these designs to print mask components that can then be quickly and easily assembled. The approximate design is similar to this model

HOW WAS THE OPERATION SET UP? 

Polar3D and a handful of “safe distanced” volunteers delivered and assembled approximately $150,000 worth of equipment consisting of 100 3D printers and 1,000 rolls of filament to Union Hall on April 2 and commenced production of Personal Protective Equipment. The machines are now operational, connected to WIFI and Polar cloud software, and run 24 hours per day, producing more than 2,100 masks per week. 

WHO WILL RECEIVE THE MASKS?

Local health care providers are evaluating the first batches and are advising on whether any modifications need to be made. Polar3D will make adjustments if and as needed and will continue production for as long as requests are coming in. The team has been in contact with multiple health care, senior care and first-responder organizations expressing high interest in masks.

HOW CAN ORGANIZATIONS RECEIVE THESE MASKS?

Requests can be made by completing this form.

ARE 3D-PRINTED MASKS SAFE?

The NIH has reviewed and approved 3D-printed PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) open-source designs for use in this time of shortage. The team is using one of these NIH-tested-and-approved designs.

HOW SAFE IS THE FILTER?

The filter material being used is what surgical masks are made of and meets the standard.

  • What is NIOSH Mean? What is n95?
  • On polypropylene: “Polypropylene is a commonly used material for N95 masks. To get through a filter made out of interlaced layers of polypropylene fibers, small particles have to wind through a rather tortuous path and as a result tend to get stuck, as described by a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report that Jayaraman helped author. Think about getting through the filter material as getting through the entire crowd at a BTS concert. However, creating a tortuous path isn’t the only way that polypropylene makes it difficult for viruses to pass.” (link)
  • 3M’s N95 Mask Datasheet – Filter Reference
  • We looked at the non-woven polypropylene under our scanning electron microscope and it looks very promising. We have not conducted a fit test yet. (link)

HOW ARE THE MASKS ASSEMBLED AND PACKAGED FOR DISTRIBUTION?

The team is still prototyping designs to identify the simplest, safest and most effective product. The goal is to choose a safe and effective design that requires very light and fast assembly and packaging.

WHAT STEPS ARE WE TAKING TO ENSURE A SAFE WORK ENVIRONMENT?

The printers operate remotely with minimal human involvement in the 3D printing process, mostly to remove product and refill materials. Union Hall is closed to all co-working so only essential volunteers, working exclusively on this project, are in the building at any given time. We are operating in full compliance with all state requirements.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE MACHINES AFTER THIS IS OVER?

Once the need is met, Polar3D’s intention is for all 100 3D printers dedicated to this project will be donated to k-12 schools participating in the GE Additive Education Program. A crowd-funding effort is being launched to enable this donation. 

ARE ANY OTHER ORGANIZATIONS IN CINCINNATI MAKING 3D-PRINTED MASKS?

We’re not currently aware of other organizations making masks, but we’re highly supportive and will gladly share designs and provide guidance to others who may be interested. An important part of Cintrifuse’s role is to be a catalyst for startup support and innovation, so collaborating with others in our community is in our DNA.

WHO IS BEHIND THIS EFFORT?

A unique coalition of contributors from Cincinnati’s startup community is working collaboratively on this project: 

  • InfoTrust – local marketing tech startup with an employee-backed foundation, managing the crowdsource funding for the masks 
  • Polar3D – local provider of 3D software, hardware, and materials 
  • Cintrifuse – startup community catalyst assisting with logistics and connections 
  • Union Hall – tech-based co-working and event space owned by Cintrifuse, providing space for the production 
  • The Health Collaborative – donated 70,000 yards of elastic to help complete the masks
  • Northern Row Brewery & Distillery – donated N95 filter material to help complete the masks

WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA?

This idea is the brainchild of Alex Yastrebenetsky, InfoTrust CEO. He established the InfoTrust Foundation as an avenue for employees to give back to the communities in which they live and work. On March 27, Infotrust launched the #SuperHeroesWearMasks campaign to crowdsource funding for the masks. 

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS 

  • InfoTrust is a global end-to-end digital analytics consulting, data governance, and technology company based in Blue Ash, Ohio. InfoTrust works with many of the world’s most recognizable brands, specializing in online measurement architecture and ensuring that teams have the confidence to make data-backed decisions. 
  • Polar 3D is a software company offering the Polar Cloud, an online platform for 3D printing in education that enables institutions to efficiently manage unlimited 3D printers, students, files and curriculum from a single 
  • CintrifuseCintrifuse is Cincinnati’s startup catalyst and syndicate fund whose mission is to make Cincinnati the #1 startup hub in the Midwest and one of the top tech-based innovation hubs in the nation.
  • Union Hall is the historic home of Cintrifuse in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine district. It is a 38,000-square-foot co-working and event space dedicated to creative thinkers, doers and entrepreneurs.

More on the story, here in an exclusive write up from Andy Brownfield at the Cincinnati Business Courier.

For more information, please contact Eric Weissmann.

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