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Disabled Navy Veteran Using 3D Printing Technology to Help with Mask Shortage


interview by WAT2020 Team

edited by Sherry Liu 

Stephaney is a disabled navy veteran based in Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.A. She initiated the project LNK 2020 - Grassroots Campaign: Hack the Pandemic 2020, a mission to help with the mask shortage during the pandemic using 3D printing technology. The WAT2020 team interviewed Stephaney about her journey on this mission.

W: How was this idea of distributing 3D printed N95 masks initiated? 

S: The idea of 3D printed masks came about in the middle of the night at the middle/end of March. I am a disabled Navy veteran and I was having trouble sleeping because I was so upset with the things I was seeing and reading about, and I wanted to do something that would help get frontline warriors, essential workers, and high-risk people protected, but again, I didn’t know-how. So, that night, I saw an idea for 3D printing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and thought how clever of an idea that was but had zero ideas of how to go about it, so I began my research and educating myself on everything. 


W: What were some of the biggest concerns when you started the campaign? 


S: My biggest concerns, in the beginning, are still the same ones I have now, “How can I stretch donor funds, so I can keep my Team going for as long as possible?” The weatherstrip made by MD Building Products was one of our most expensive materials, however, it was by far the most comfortable and best quality, so we couldn’t change it. Craig Cheney, our Head of Assembly, reached out to MD Building Products and they ended up donating 200 ft of weatherstrip material to our Team, and it lined over 80 masks extra masks.


I am constantly trying to find new ways to save money. However, I will not compromise quality.

The Printing Team has its own 3D printers that they had prior to this. However, we have purchased two Team LNK printers. Jake Vrbka, my Head of Production, and basically my second in command runs the two team printers, in addition to his own. We have agreements written up, that are signed, stating they’re the property of the Team.

W: How has the 3D printing technology been made available to produce the masks, and what parties did you have to consult regarding the regulations?


S: Deborah Manes, she’s our medical expert with more than 18 years of experience in the medical field, and she is the one I consult about EVERYTHING regarding our mask and the materials used for the production and the filters we use.


I don’t take this lightly and I have gotten her approval on everything because it would be negligent and dangerous to the lives of our mask recipients if I was any other way.


I forgot to mention that, the mission slightly changed due to the restrictions loosening and the country opening up. When I saw that masks were going to be required and that there were so many people and businesses trying to profit off the desperation and worry of folks, I opened up mask requests to EVERYONE. Financial abilities should not play a factor in whether or not, a person is able to properly protect themselves and their families, etc. So, donations are not a requirement to receive our Mask Donation Bag or Box. We do encourage people to please make a donation if they’re able to, but unless they are requesting a large volume of masks, I don’t ask for a donation. All donations go right back into our Team bank account and are used for the purchase of more materials and supplies for the production and distribution of masks.


W: This project has generated great value for individuals and organizations using 3D printing technology. We wish all the best to Team INK and thank you very much for giving your time for this interview.


S: Thank you very much!

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