Federal agencies collaborate on developing 3D-printed masks

Three federal agencies are teaming up to design 3D-printed masks to manufacture the critical medical supplies as hospital supplies dwindle.
(Getty Images)

Three federal agencies have banded together to develop 3D printing models for masks as hospital systems run low on personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and Department of Veterans Affairs signed a memorandum of understanding to share lessons learned, data and technical information on producing masks for health care workers with 3D printers. The federal partnership also coincides with a public-private partnership with nonprofit America Makes for the agencies to connect with medical facilities who are in need of the masks.

Broadly the goal is to “jointly develop a response to COVID-19 that will ensure veterans and civilians have access to the most innovative medical solutions and technologies to support their care,” according to the MOU.

As part of the partnership, the three agencies are connecting hospitals with 3D printing manufacturers and helping to develop models that medical facilities can 3D print.


Representing the VA in the agreement is the Veteran Health Administrations Innovation Ecosystem, a group of innovators that work on emerging technology in the VHA. The ecosystem and the VA have been working on developing 3D printing technologies in the past for telehealth. The VA will make a website for 3D printing experts to participate and provide engineering support.

The FDA will also provide engineering support and maintain an email address to answer questions the public may have about the masks. NIH will leverage its health expertise in the process, providing infectious decease experts to inspect the protective quality of materials used in the additive manufacturing processes

Civilian agencies are not the only ones chipping in to fill the shortage of medical supplies. Universities are working to make face shields and stories of airmen working to prototype 3D-printed masks have circulated on LinkedIn.

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