In under a week, the Montana Mask – a 3D printable face mask designed with a replaceable filter developed by three Eagle Scouts in Montana – has gone global. The free, open-source software has been downloaded over 120 thousand times in 151 countries.
Dr. Dusty Richardson, a neurosurgeon at Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont., and Eagle Scout, was driving home last month, listening to a story about the lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and wondered how he could help.
Richardson sketched an idea for the mask on the back of a receipt and worked with Dr. Spencer Zaugg, a Billings dentist, and Zaugg’s son Colton to develop a design.
“It was kind of a perfect storm,” said Colton, a Montana Council Scout who received his Eagle in 2010. “We have Dr. Richardson who was well aware of the problem and very knowledgeable about what solutions would not work in the medical industry. And then my dad who has been using 3D printing in the medical industry. And my background in 3D printing as well.”
By Sunday, March 22, 2020, the team had finalized the design for a plastic mask that uses a small square of a surgical mask as a filter.
From idea to the distribution was completed with incredible speed and ingenuity.
“The Scout Motto and Scout Slogan are really how (the mask) happened,” Said Spencer, who received his Eagle in 1980 in Utah and his Silver Beaver in 2015 in Montana. “Be prepared. So it was the right time and the right place. Then, do a good turn daily. That’s why we obviously put it out there for free and tried to push it and get it to everybody out there to download.”
Looking back on his Scouting experiences, Colton attributes some of the rapid success of the Montana Mask and the group’s ability to work as a team to his Scouting background.
“What’s incredible about Scouting is the opportunity you have to be given leadership opportunities to work in your troop. And, of course, for your Eagle Scout project you’re given leadership opportunities for the larger project,” he said. “Probably one of the best teachers is the ability to work with others, the opportunity to work as a leader and the opportunity to work with mentors as well.”
It is hard to imagine the future evolution of the Montana Mask, where it will be most useful or the final impact of 3D printable personal protective equipment.
Since its inception, Will Ritter, an Eagle Scout and owner of Spark R&D in Bozeman, Mont., has collaborated with Richardson and tweaked the design to allow for injection mold production. This provides faster mass production and gives a more comfortable feel using softer and more flexible materials.
“As you look at Scouting and the way the patrol method works,” Said Spencer. “You are presented with a problem and you have to problem-solve together and develop a solution.”
Re-invention of the mask may always be evolving. The foundation for discovery was there at the beginning in Scouting for each Eagle Scout involved.
“I think Scouting is a big part of how we grew up, the experiences that we have,” said Spencer. “Everything that we learn really helps shape who we are.”
Visit www.makethemasks.com for more information and the open-source code to make your own 3D printed masks.