Fit-to-Face Mask Design Challenge Developed to Utilize 3D Printing Innovations During the Pandemic

May 14, 2020 by Jeff Kerns

From shifting products to challenging design communities, organizations are accelerating innovation to help in global pandemic.

3D Printing Stepping Up to Help

New technology is helping the global community operate in a decentralized way while staying connected. This isn’t the first time a global community has seen medical innovation and outreach. For example, back in 2012 makers from around the world came together with E-Nable to 3D print hands for children that weren’t able to afford prosthetics.

Custom made medical devices are expensive and children grow quickly, so it is no surprise that over the several years, E-nable has been around it has already helped 3D print tens of thousands of prosthetics around the world. 

Today, companies are doing what they can to combat the current pandemic. For example, a small company, Circuit Breaker Labs, has expanded from making jewelry from recycled electronics to making masks and other products. The stories of people stepping up are heartfelt and inspiring. However, these stories align with trends we see in manufacturing such as decentralization, flexibility, and mass customization.

Being able to organize makers and engineers in a community or platform has shown a great ability to solve problems. This has been so successful that professionals and large organizations have been jumping on board over the last several years. Dr. Bon Ku and Dr. Rob Pugliese of Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Philadelphia started a new laboratory to introduce and connect doctors with 3D printing to help inspire innovation in the medical community. 


Fit to Face—Mask Design Challenge

Another success was in a recent announcement in Youngstown, Ohio on May 12, 2020. “America Makes, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), proudly announces the top designs of the Fit to Face—Mask Design Challenge, a rapid response challenge to support the ongoing shortage of safe and effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 frontline workers.”



An N95 face mask from Honeywell. Image used courtesy of Honeywell

“Through our ongoing collaborations with VA, FDA, and NIH, America Makes has facilitated entry paths for the AM community to engage and address PPE supply chain gaps during this crisis,” said America Makes Executive Director John Wilczynski. “With the Fit to Face Challenge, participants leveraged leading Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) principles under a compressed time frame to advance designs that demonstrated considerable improvement of mask fit characteristics. It truly showed the remarkable innovative nature of the additive community.”

Fitting masks correctly to a person’s face is important to how well it works. With so many shapes and sizes of faces, producing a mask to fit everyone is difficult. Participants were given five digital headform datasets by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to assist participants in crafting submissions, but also had to consider other challenge criteria including the following. 

  • Instructions for use
  • Manufacturability
  • Assembly
  • Manufacturing instructions

Top design submissions were fast-tracked through the VA, FDA, and NIH testing and evaluation process.


Top Designs

  • Alliance PCB Solutions, LLC: Vader Small


Alliance PCB Solutions, LLC: Vader Small. Image used courtesy of America Makes.
  • Carnegie Mellon University: Moldable Mask Small and Moldable Mask Large



Carnegie Mellon University: Moldable Mask Small and Moldable Mask Large. Image used courtesy of America Makes.


Honorable Mention

  • Re:3D Inc.: Flex Fit Small and Flex Fit Large
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): Every Mask


The Every Mask from NIST. Image used courtesy of America Makes.


These designs will be showcased on both the America Makes and the NIH 3D Print Exchange websites. For more information about America Makes, its COVID-19 response, or how to become a member, please visit the America Makes website.


If you are a healthcare provider, manufacturer, or 3D designer and would like to learn more check out their website.