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ODU engineers 3D print medical equipment for Sentara

They’re designing and 3D printing adapters for face masks and experimenting with ventilator parts.

NORFOLK, Va. — Class is out for the year, but that’s not stopping a group of Old Dominion University engineering professors and students from working in the lab.

ODU professors Dr. Sebastian Bawab and Dr. Anthony Dean teamed up with students Chris Betton and Juan Cortez to work on critical pieces of medical equipment.

“In this specific case, Sentara came to us – the university, the provost - and asked if we could help," Dr. Bawab said.

They’ve designed and 3D printed parts for face masks.

Dean explained the part helps “give them [healthcare workers] that airtight seal in a full face mask.”

It's an adapter that goes between the mask itself and the air filter.

“We’ve been receiving parts that are already manufactured and we’ll reverse engineer it," Betton explained. “Having the opportunity to actually assist a local hospital has helped me find some purpose in this global catastrophe.” 

They’re also designing a component that would allow a ventilator to support more than one patient.

It’s still just a concept at this point, but being able to double the capacity of a ventilator, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, could mean the difference between life and death.

“Since I’ve been hearing about all the shortages with the ventilators that we can do something to increase the capacity of people being put on them, it’s great,” Cortez said. “We can see problems arising and think we can’t do anything but it’s kind of nice to be in the position where we can contribute in some way.”

The engineers say they don’t want to 3D print an inferior product, it’s all about designing and making parts that are safe. It’s a process that takes a lot of patience and expertise.

The face mask components are already in use at Sentara. Officials there say the parts can be disinfected and reused alongside their masks.

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