Southern University engineering students and staff produce 3-D printed masks for frontline healthcare workers

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRProud) – Students and staff from the Southern University College of Sciences and Engineering are making 3-D printed parts for reusable masks for healthcare professionals treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I saw an article on Facebook talking about people using 3-D printing for masks,” said Jason Chang, director of information technology at the College. “I said, ‘We (Southern) can really help our community.’”

The lab, located in the P.B.S. Pinchback building at Southern University, houses the most 3-D printers in a central location at an educational institution in Louisiana, according to Chang. The lab is equipped with 40 desktop-sized and one commercial-scale printer. To date, Chang and the engineering team have produced nearly 2,000 masks.

According to Southern University, the lab and all materials, including those to make the reusable masks, were made possible by a $2 million grant from Entergy in 2018. The gift was matched by Gov. John Bel Edwards for a total of $4 million given in support for STEM disciplines and facility upgrades.

Even with states and cities opening up all across Louisiana, the need for PPE remains high for healthcare professionals.

“The need for PPE (personal protective equipment) is paramount in the safety and protection of our healthcare community and we continue to have a shortage… which makes our frontline healthcare workers more vulnerable,” said Sandra Brown, dean of the College of Nursing and Allied Health at Southern, and co-chair of the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. “The College of Sciences and Engineering’s response to this pandemic is an example of how combining science with humanity can yield a product that will impact the lives of so many.”

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