Coronavirus, Sherrie Peif, Weld County

Johnstown man leading the way in Colorado to print 3D face masks in wake of shortage

JOHNSTOWN — For 25 years, Johnstown resident Danny Dodge and his wife have perfected the ability to keep germs out of their house. Now, Dodge hopes to help others like him, or anyone with need, do the same in light of the coronavirus spread.

Dodge’s son was born with several health problems that doctors predicted would take his life within the first two weeks after birth.

“That was 25 years ago,” said Dodge, a video producer by trade. “I’ve been keeping my son and family safe. My son has had pneumonia well over 30 times in his life. He can’t walk, talk or eat by himself, so I’m already up to speed on how to keep viruses out of my house.”

Now, Dodge wants to help others.

“Almost overreacting doesn’t hurt in a time like this,” Dodge said. “I don’t know much about coronavirus, but I know a virus dies when it doesn’t have a host. That’s the basic idea. If there is no one to host it, the quicker we stop this virus.”

Danny Dodge works on printing 3D masks from his home in Johnstown.

Dodge has begun printing 3D masks designed by a doctor in Montana for anyone who needs them. Although they are not the exact level and design normally used for medical care, he said they can be used in hospitals.

He learned of the design by friends who sent him clips of news stories about the Montana neurosurgeon and a dentist who made the files and instructions public.

“This is my small part in keeping other people safe and eliminating the spread,” Dodge said. “I had taken on 3D printing as a hobby that has turned to business. All that time I spent doing that development, made this easy to figure out, and time is of the essence here.”

Dodge said they are made out of a type of plastic known as PLA, which is commonly used in 3D printing.

PLA is short for polylactic acid. It is easy to print, very inexpensive (Dodge says his masks cost him about 90 cents each to make) and is an environmentally friendly filament. It is renewable and biodegradable. It is stiff, has good strength, and a long shelf life.

“Most medical supplies are held to a tight tolerance,” he said. “They are not being made in the most optimal situation and may not be the optimal plastic, but they can be used in hospitals.”

Once the mask is printed, it also requires a filter to complete the product. That filter is the material that is used in surgical masks. The doctor who designed the mask and the hospital he works in Montana are working with a company to make the filters in bulk to anyone who wants to help print the masks.

“Lucky we have a hospital and doctor involved working with a company to get them produced,” Dodge said. “And I’m trying to source the elastic, once I get that we’ll be in business. But if all fails, I have a ton of rubber bands I can use.”

Dodge has two printers he’s using simultaneously to make six at a time. It takes 10 ½ hours to complete one batch. He has no intention on charging for the masks. He said people can reach out to him and give him dimensions that he can use to size the masks to fit their face.

He’s hoping others in Colorado with 3D printers will follow his lead and the shortage of masks can be managed. He plans to make a how to video and help others get started in printing who may want to get started.

Dodge said people can contact him through his Facebook page, Danny Dodge.

“I understand the need,” Dodge said. “If people have a need, they can communicate with me. I will make time to get it done because, in the end, it will be worth it.

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