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Simon uses 3D printer to produce masks: Masks produced have been donated to fire, police


GALENA–Dan Simon of Galena has picked up a new pastime that allows him to also assist his brother and the community. Simon’s brother is an operator of 3D-universe which is a member of the e-NABLE community.

The e-NABLE community was founded seven years ago as a free, open-source 3D printing community that prints prosthetic hands and arms. e-NABLE has grown to thousands of volunteers worldwide and has delivered approximately 15,000 devices to individuals.

“They are a group of people with 3D printers that volunteer their time to produce prosthetic hands for kids,” said Simon. “Once the coronavirus broke out, they shifted their focus temporarily to printing N95 masks.”

Simon said e-NABLE has been working with different groups in modifying and designing a couple different masks based on a mask design created by a doctor in Montana who used a 3D printer for a mask named the Montana Mask.

“They started working with that as a basis and started modifying it to have a better fit, a better seal to the face and went through different facial profiles to come up with a range of sizes,” said Simon.

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Simon wanted to get into 3D printing for a while and the mask printing has been a jump-start to help the greater community.

In 3D printing, a printer takes plastic up to its melting point and exerts it through a thin 0.4 millimeter nozzle and, based on tradeoffs of time and quality, determines how the print occurs.

“We have been balancing speed and printing ability with comfort and fit,” said Simon. “We ended up with 0.3 millimeter thick lines.”

They use a material called PPU that is a faster more pliable material, but very finicky and sticky as it is printing which creates some issues.

Simon, who has a background in materials engineering, has been helping come up with print settings to get the material to print as cleanly as possible. A typical mask will take four hours to produce.

Since he began two weeks ago, Simon has produced 30 masks which he donated to the Galena Fire and Police Department and has also talked to Midwest Medical Center about future donations.