UVI Creating 3D Face Masks to Support Fight Against COVID-19

A group of professors and students at the University of the Virgin Islands have stepped up to help keep the community safe during this Coronavirus pandemic.

They’ve been using 3D printers to produce medical-grade respiratory masks, “We had no idea when we created these (innovation) centers that we would be helping to save lives someday,” said Dr. Timothy Faley, Distinguished Professor at the UVI School of Business.

But that is exactly what has been happening at the University of the Virgin Islands.

They’ve been using 3D printers since the end of March, and have since produced more than 250 plastic respiratory masks, “Mostly for first responders and other people on the front lines, so postal workers and grocery store clerks, but of course physicians and nurses,” said Faley.

The masks take about 5 to 6 hours each to produce, they can be sanitized and reused several times, the user just has to simply replace the filter.

Dr. Faley, along with Kenisha Charles, a business student in St. Croix, and UVI Physics Professor Dr. David Morris, have been running the 3D printers 24 hours a day, “We never had any idea going in that these printers would be used for this purpose,” said Dr. Morris. “But it’s great to have this technology available so that when something like this occurs, that’s the whole point of the 3D printing technology, is to rapidly be able to use a prototype and develop something new,” Morris continued.

And their efforts aren’t stopping at the masks. This pandemic is a teaching moment, allowing the students to come up with innovative ways to make us safer in this new world.

They’ve come up with ideas such as hand sanitizer stations for establishments, and other ways to keep people safe, “The students have really begun to put their minds to work and start to think critically about, ‘What are the problems they see around them? How can they design a solution to help out? What can they do to try to solve these problems around them?’ And having the 3D printers available to prototype those ideas if it is a physical item, and get it out into the hands of the community, we hope that will be something some of these students can be involved in going forward,” said Dr. Morris.

When a physician asked the university for help, they didn’t hesitate to solve the problem, and come up with this solution for a safer Virgin Islands, “I’m very happy to be part of a university that considers itself an integral part of the community,” said Faley. “I’ve been at seven different universities, not all of them think that way I can assure you that. So, it’s really gratifying to be part of a university that thinks of itself as part of the community, because we are a part of the community, these are our friends and neighbors, and so we wanted to do whatever we could do to help them,” Faley continued.

UVI is also using the 3D printers to create full face shields for medical professionals.