Annapolis family builds 3D printer network to create masks

3D printed masks

After watching the news for days, Steven Saint Amour was aware that hospitals would soon face a shortage of PPE – something that kept him up at night. Looking for ways to help, he stopped by Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) and dropped off his contact information at the information desk.

“I just couldn’t wrap my head around the collective loss of knowledge and experience after I saw the news where they reported that over 50 doctors in Italy and an untold number of other health providers had died,” Saint Amour explained. “Who would have ever imagined that these people faced equal or greater risk than our folks serving in the military, police and fire department? I chose to fight.” 

Shortly after, he received a call from Jan Wood, president of AAMC’s Foundation, who said she would take all personal protective equipment (PPE) that Saint Amour kept on hand and anything else they could donate.

“As we face this health care crisis, our partnership with our community has never been more important or more valuable,” Wood said. “Steve and his mighty team have combined ingenuity, passion, kindness, expertise and a ‘can-do’ spirit to make a real difference in AAMC’s ability to provide the best possible care for our community and we are incredibly grateful.”

Getting to work

Saint Amour has been involved in the subsea industry for over 38 years and is recognized as an authority in the field of aviation and marine casualty investigations. His entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to donate approximately $2,000 worth of PPE from Eclipse Group, Inc., his own subsea services company, which he co-founded with his wife, Joan, over a decade ago.

Saint Amour determined more needed to be done.

In another middle of the night “aha!” moment, he looked at his 3D printer and did research online. He came across information about a team of doctors in Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont., who designed and coded masks with 3D printers. Saint Amour realized one printer would not produce masks fast enough.

“We were already on lockdown and in the middle of dinner, my 17-year-old daughter very calmly and casually said she knew were we could find more,” he explained. Next day, Saint Amour called St. Mary’s High School (SMHS) and before he knew it, he had more 3D printers coming his way.

Expanding the network of 3D printers

Saint Amour picked up two machines from SMHS in the morning and got to work. “Later in the day, they called to say they had four more 3D printers at the elementary school and by Friday we had six printers printing masks,” he recalled.

SMHS Principal Mindi Imes, without hesitation, joined the effort by putting out a call to action to 72 regional schools to donate their 3D printers and printing supplies. Volunteers promptly responded willing to lend their printers and as of April 3, Saint Amour has 21 printers. 

He keeps these in either his conference room in his company’s warehouse or at various other locations, including the homes of private citizens determined to help provide help to AAMC.

Over the past week, he’s been contacted by local schools, residents, groups and other individuals offering to lend their 3D printers.

“It’s kind of a grassroots effort,” he said.

How it works

The 3D printers are turned on at 5 or 6 pm and 10-12 hours later, there are 40 plastic mask shells ready to be assembled. To finalize these, Saint Amour and his team add a double gasket material so that it has a good seal and barrier on the wearer’s face, and then they insert a filter element and elastics to hold the mask to the face. In five minutes, the 3D printed mask is ready for use.

Masks are delivered, each one independently in their own plastic bag. AAMC is using the masks for patients and for those in health care spaces who are not taking care of patients yet need extra protection.

About 80 percent of the mask is plastic with an aperture at the front, making it easy to sanitize the mask, change the filter and reuse – a critical feature as PPE is precious now.

Right now, Saint Amour is donating nearly 60 masks every day to AAMC. His goal is to produce 100 masks per day. “Our hold up right now is not having more 3D printers,” he said.

Saint Amour is also working with volunteers in several other states and Canada to expand the effort and encourage them to produce masks using 3D printers.  

“We can either be spectators to a human disaster or we can act,” he said.

Ways you can help

If you or someone you know has a 3D Printer, consider joining St. Mary’s and Steve Saint Amour at Eclipse to produce Montana Masks.  For more information about the local operation, the process for using your 3D printer to help, or starting your own local movement, please email SMHS Principal, Mindi Imes

If you would like to support the local Annapolis Montana Mask Movement, please donate using Venmo to JoanSaintAmour.  Funds raised will be used to coordinate the purchase of supplies to create protective gear. St. Mary’s Elementary School Principal Rebecca Zimmerman is coordinating the purchase and collection of items needed, including 3D printing filament, furnace filters and disinfectant wipes.