College 3D printers join fight against COVID-19

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This photo shows upclose a head band on March 27, 2020 in the MESA Center. Academic lab technician Ben Uresti downloaded the file for the headband, which will be affixed to a plastic face shield. The device will be donated to medical workers who are the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy Dee Dixon

By Richard Stone

Two 3D printers at this college are being used to create headband prototypes which should lead to producing injection molded headbands that can be used to affix transparent face shields in front of people’s faces to lower their chance of contracting COVID-19.

Another printer is being used to create a face-mask.

“My department (Title 3 grant office/creative multimedia) has printed one headband,” Aaron Ellis, academic program coordinator, said.

Ellis added that during the week of March 15, a student suggested to him the idea of using one of the 3D printers in Moody Learning Center make a face mask to help combat COVID-19.

The idea was later modified to making a resin, headband prototype on a Stratasys Objet 260 Connex 3 printer, located in Room 651 of Moody Learning Center.

The original open source file to give the printer instructions to print the prototype was made by Prusa 3D, a Czech company.

Because the file was designed for a different type of printer, Ellis modified it to make it work on the printer he uses.

Each headband takes 6 hours to print.

“It’s not as easy as people think,” Ellis said.

Ellis said that because printing is impractical for mass producing headbands, he is working on making a cast from the prototype which he will then use to create injection molds.

If the molding process is successful, it will only take 20 minutes to make a finished headband, Ellis said.

Ellis added that his first test of making a mold from the prototype was on April 1.

His employee keycard gives him access to Moody.

Ellis last used the printer on April 2.

COVID-19 can bring out an idealistic side of human nature, an academic laboratory technician said

“We’re doing this because we hope it will help healthcare workers,” Benjamin Uresti.

Uresti is making a headband prototype out of carbon fiber filaments and a proprietary Markforged material on a Markforged Onyx Pro Desktop printer in the MESA center in Room 204A of Chance Academic Center.

He also had to modify a Prusa 3D file to make it work on his printer.

Additionally, Uresti is making sure the center’s two printers are working in case the center’s student members are authorized to use them.

He last accessed the printer on April 1.

Not being able to walk into a store and get the work materials you need is difficult, Mariana Zoll, client support specialist, said.

“I would be lying if I said it didn’t cause stress,” Zoll said about how COVID-19 has affected her work.

Zoll said she has brought a Prusa i3 MK3S printer home with her so she can print a facemask that can have an air filter installed on it.

Zoll usually works in Scobee Education Center.

Zoll said she is printing the masks from a file she downloaded from

She added that she will test PLA, an easy-to-sanitize, plant-based plastic, and NinjaFlex, a flexible, petrochemical plastic, to see which material is better suited for making masks.

Zoll said masks made with either material would have to be printed as they are too weak for injection molding.

Zoll said she would appreciate any donation of PLA, preferably new-in-the-package HATCHBOX brand, or masks.

For more information, email Ellis at,

Uresti at or Zoll at


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