Snorkel Respirators, 3D-Printed Masks, and Other Grassroots Efforts To Fight COVID-19

People around the world are working together in unprecedented ways to help their neighbors and produce critical medical supplies.


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They're sewing face masks, 3D-printing ventilator valves, converting snorkeling gear into respirators, and crowdsourcing research into diagnosis and treatment. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all across the world people who are locked in their homes are still organizing in novel ways that may have a lasting impact on culture and society well after this crisis fades.

In communities around the globe, people are pooling resources and providing assistance to neighbors in need—a throwback to the mutual aid societies that acted as a social safety net before the rise of the welfare state.

They're relying on shared documents like the Coronavirus Tech Handbook, which started out as a one-page shared Google Doc just weeks ago and has grown into one of the largest and most widely used online libraries of tools in the fight against the virus. The internationally crowdsourced compilation of tips, guidelines, and resources has thousands of users and active projects.

As the severe shortage of personal protective equipment became apparent, home sewing networks sprung into action to make improvised face masks. Schools, businesses, and hobbyists have turned their 3D printers into micro-factories for medical equipment. A team out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently released specs for a $100 mechanical ventilator, and technologists around the world are building on each other's open-source data and plans. Other DIYers are developing diagnostic tools that require no physical testing kits, such as by analyzing voice samples that people record on their phones.

The 2020s may be off to a rough start, but efforts such as these show the potential for technology and human ingenuity to empower individuals in the coming decade, even when they're sitting on their couches.

Produced, written, and edited by Justin Monticello

Music: "consciousness hacker" by el_vis, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license; "Newsroom" by Riot; "Third Time" by Jingle Punks; "Diamond Knight" and "Hurry Up" by Silent Partner; "Critter Cruise" by Matt Harris

Photos: Jo Prusa posing in 3D-printed face shield, Jo Prusa; 3D-printed face shield, Stratasys; 3D-printed door handles and PEEP masks, Materialise; 3D-printed valves, Cristian Fracassi; 3D-printed respirators, CIIRC; 3D-printed test swabs, Formlabs; 3D-printed Charlotte/other valves, CRP Technology; 3D-printed adapter, Northwell Health; 3D printers at Cochin hospital, BONE3D; Stopgap Face Mask, 3D Systems; Isinnova posing with valves, Isinnova; Photocentric 3D-printed valves, Photocentric; Face mask in 3D printer, Roboze; St. Barnabas face shields, iMakr; BCN3D face shields, BCN3D; VESper ventilation expansion splitter, Prisma Health; Manual ventilator converted to automatic, UC San Diego; AON3D printing face shields, McGill University; Leitat field respirator, IAM3DHUB; Fast Radius face shield, Fast Radius; Mutual aid in Milan (3), Claudio Furlan/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mutual aid in St. Petersburg, Alexander Demianchuk/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mutual aid in Moscow (2), Vyacheslav Prokofyev/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Man using phone in Ethiopia, Caro / Trappe/Newscom; Man using phone in Algeria, Oscar Carrascosa Martinez/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom; Man on couch, Jo Kirchherr/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom; Woman on couch, VITTA GALLERY/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom; Man in mask on phone in Lima, SOPA Images/Miguel Angel Valero / SOPA Image/Newscom; Homeless man using phone in Pasadena, Keith Birmingham/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Girl using phone in Nairobi, Donwilson Odhiambo / SOPA Images/Newscom; Woman on phone in Sochi, Vladimir Smirnov/TASS/Sipa USA/Newscom; Woman on phone in Changchun, Wang Haofei Xinhua News Agency/Newscom; Woman on phone in Ethiopia, Caro / Trappe/Newscom.

NEXT: Why Voluntary Compliance Is Key To Fighting COVID-19: Dr. Jeremy S. Faust

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  1. Just like the people to take advantage of a crisis to circumvent government controls!

    1. You guys keep this up and the internet will be classified as “non essential “.

      1. And the media as well.
        Let’s face it, we are getting a lot of our ‘information’ from elites who are still getting paid while sitting at home with expensive computer networks for virtual living. Maybe if we stop their checks, they will get a better feel for the real world.
        Shut down social media, broadcast and print media completely. CSPAN is designed to get us the official information, and nothing else is needed. For what is usually printed, the official dot gov web sites can provide all that is needed.
        A few weeks of that and we will see how the elites feel about subservience.

      2. Facebook is paying $530 Per day. Be a part of Facebook and start getting Extra Dollars every week from your home. Sax..I just got paid $8590 in my previous month……….,Visit Site

  2. Here’s the thing about face masks: The N92 and masks like it are not just pieces of paper over your face. They actually have specially designed material with holes so small that virus particles can’t fit through them. Needless to say, you cannot make your own N92-equivalent face masks at home.

    Second, your homemade face mask/bandana/snorkel is useless at best and harmful at worst. The primary benefit of a covering to your face is to protect you against particles that might be dispersed forcefully when someone coughs or sneezes in your direct vicinity. For free floating virus particles in the air your face mask isn’t helping at all. You still need to breathe so anything in the air you are breathing is going right around it or through it and into your body. That’s the BEST case scenario. The worst case is you’ve now got a thing against your face all the time that traps moisture and anything your body might choose to expel.

    So unless you are standing next to someone coughing up their lungs or are yourself coughing up the black death then a face covering will do you no good against COVID-19 and will probably make you more susceptible for a number of other pathogens.

    Stop this madness at once.

    1. Second, your homemade face mask/bandana/snorkel is useless at best

      For stopping viruses, probably. For instilling unjustified fear in the populace, however…

      1. They worked fairly well for Jesse James.

      2. Dallas County ordered us into bandanas Saturday. I told the liquor store guy “I promise we’re paying customers!” as we walked in

    2. From what I have read, the homemade masks (two-layer cotton) are more about reducing the chances of the wearer spreading the disease. Perhaps in the range of 50% effectiveness, they are still probably better than doing nothing. The masks I am using (designed for industrial use), will stop the passage of most bacteria, but not viruses. I wear them at the grocery store, not for protection, but mostly to ease the minds of other folks who might be a bit more freaked-out than am I.

      1. Actually, when I see people wearing masks in the grocery store, I assume they are plague carriers out to kill the rest of us.
        Believe science.

        1. LOL. Yeah, I have thought of that, too. But, since there is only one case in our county (and he’s an inmate), I don’t have to worry much about that. Hey, if I wanted to freak people out, I would wear my “plague mask.”

        2. Part of the science to believe is that infected people are contagious for several days before showing symptoms.

          1. also every person on earth is an asymptomatic carrier. duck everybody!

        3. ‘Branch Covidians’

    3. NO. The primary purpose of masks as worn by most people is to prevent infecting others, not to prevent the wearer from being infected. People are contagious before showing symptoms. This is different from use by doctors and nurses and EMTs to prevent being infected by contagious patients.

      As such, bandanas and DIY cloth masks are better than nothing. It’s easy to laugh at people who put them on before entering stores and take them off on coming out, thus violating the basic rules for hospital single-use masks and gloves, but their purpose is different.

      1. Unless you are coughing or sneezing (or wearing a fully enclosed gas mask) the face mask does nothing. Not 50% effective. 0% effective. You don’t exhale less air because you are wearing a face mask. You exhale exactly as much as you inhale. If you aren’t transmitting the virus through relatively large liquid droplets from coughing or sneezing that free floating air is going to go around and through your idiotic bandana and kill that grandmother 5.9 feet away.

        1. It reduces how far most of your exhalation spreads.

          It is a fallacy that only coughing or sneezing can spread the virus, and infected people don’t show any symptoms for several days.

          Even bandanas are better than nothing.

    4. “Stop this madness at once.”

      For fucks sake. I am so sick of everyone feeling like they need to be the scolding expert, as if no one else can do a fucking google search on the efficacy of masks.

      What we are being asked to do is wear “Sickness Masks”. They aren’t there to prevent us from being infected, but to reduce the chances that you will infect others. If you cough, or sneeze, or just breathe heavily, any dual layer mask will shorten the spread distance of the virus.

      Sickness Masks have been worn for years in many asian countries. They are not madness, and it is noteworthy that many of those countries with the sickness mask culture seem to be doing pretty good at preventing wild outbreaks.

      1. yeah i’m not wearing a mask everywhere I go in perpetuity because asia

    5. Yep, and our Governor made them mandatory as of last night. If I could get a medical grade mask, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem, but, I can’t. The funny thing about PPE is that it gives people a false sense of safety. They tend to do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do because the PPE makes them thing that they are protected.

      The 3D printed stuff is a good idea except for one problem. The plastic won’t hold up to repeated sterilization.

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  4. >>tools in the fight against the virus

    we’re the Washington Generals in this fight.

  5. I don’t wear a mask.
    And I’m out and about every day

  6. Another link worth looking at is Sourceful ( – a list of public Google docs – similar to the Coronavirus Tech Handbook.

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