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Virginia dentist using 3D printer to make medical-grade masks for first responders

Dr. Phil Cai is giving all the masks he makes away to nurses and doctors.

MCLEAN, Va. — Guidelines came down on Friday from the CDC suggesting we all wear a mask when we leave our homes. But, there’s still a shortage around the nation and here in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region for actual surgical masks.

For healthcare providers treating patients with the coronavirus, surgical masks are lifesavers.

We’ve all seen the surgeon general’s recommendation of how to make our own mask at home; and those are good suggestions for us, to wear cloth face coverings.

But still, people who aren’t first responders are buying medical-grade masks, and it’s taking them away from the ones who need them the most. That’s why Dr. Phil Cai is stepping in so he can make masks doctors and nurses can use on the front lines.

“Each mask actually takes about five hours to print.” Dr. Cai said. 

That’s the hardest part. Using a 3D printer to make the shell of the mask.  

“It takes literally less than five, five minutes to do this," he said.

In a matter of minutes, Dr. Cai has made a mask that could give health care workers the protection they need.  

“When we were designing these masks, we wanted to make something or design something that was simple that anyone can make that was cheap," he said. "You know the parts are readily available and is reusable.”

He uses filters for the front.

“I ordered these filters on Amazon. They're literally just air filters; it’s nothing more than that. This was, I believe $40. Just break off the frame and you lay this flat and you just start cutting out circles that would fit on the front here," he explained.

Those filters can help make 40 masks. That’s a dollar a piece. He’s giving them to medical professionals in the area—for free.  

“I thought this project would be a great way to get my mind off of everything else that’s going on and do something productive.”

The future for his practice is uncertain. Like many other Americans, he’s a small business owner. Despite the uncertainty, Dr. Cai is optimistic. 

“If we just stick together and pull our collective heads and hearts together we can come out of this, you know stronger than ever. And no virus really stands a chance against human spirit.”

Dr. Cai said he’s using 3D Print NoVa to print these masks. To contact him, click here to send him an email.

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