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Father and son team up to make 3D masks for hospital
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Father and son team up to make 3D masks for hospital

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A Hamilton High School teacher and his son made masks from a 3D printer for healthcare workers to be certain they are ready to handle a crisis where Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is needed.

On Friday, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital received 60 of the hard-shell masks for the safety of hospital staff.

“These masks are really cool. They fit comfortably, are not heavy and will be put to good use,” said Cheri Clapsaddle, inpatient charge nurse. “It is wonderful that the high school is helping the students make a difference.”

Michael Bonnes, computer science and marketing teacher, and his son Hunter, a sophomore, stepped up and used their time of self-isolation (for the prevention of the spread of coronavirus) wisely.

“It’s been a lot of fun, a good distraction from the current situation and by having my son help me it was something positive to do together as opposed to the doom and gloom,” Michael Bonnes said. “It was a good way to partner to show that in a town like Hamilton with central hubs of the school and hospital we support one another.”

The 3D printer is usually in Bonner’s classroom, but he received permission to take it home and print around the clock.

“3D printing has been run in the industrial arts program at the school but we’re adding it to my curriculum,” Bonnes said. “We use the 3D printer in class, but this is the first foray into using it as a potential health benefit for the community.”

The original 3D printed mask template was made by a Billings dentist.

“He posted all the build plans for the masks then those were sent to all the high schools,” Bonnes said. “Ryan Wells, our principal, passed it on to me and we ran with it.”

Bonnes said his son helped him redesigned the template to maximize the printing time. Each mask took three hours to print but having three on one block meant that three masks could be run in one session — nine hours at a time instead of changing the mold every three hours.

“We just let it run 24/7 and whoever was there would just pop them off and get it running again,” Bonnes said.

The 60 masks currently have no filter because filters are in short supply and are back ordered.

“But the advantage of these are that if the hospital gets into a pinch because they are getting low on PPE, a single N95 mask can be cut to make six to eight filters,” Bonnes said. “If we hit crisis mode, it will allow them to stretch their supply. I hope the masks just sit in a cupboard on a shelf and are never used. Ideally, that’s my hope that we’ll get through this without using them, but they’ll be there for the next go round.”

Elastic to hold the facemasks in place is in short supply but Bonnes’ wife put out the call for the elastic needed and community members stepped up.

“The local Facebook sewing group ‘Sew Kindness in the Bitterroot’ rummaged through their stuff and found what they could, it’s been really sweet,” Bonnes said.

HHS sophomore Hunter Bonnes said he is happy he found a way to help the community.

Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital’s Public Information Officer Amy James-Linton said the hospital is “humbled” by the ongoing support from the local community.

“Weekly businesses have purchased from local eateries to provide meals to the hospital staff working day and night shifts,” James-Linton said. “The smiles and words of appreciation from the caregivers and support staff are heartwarming. The hospital has also received many generous donations of much needed personal protective equipment, including hundreds of colorful homemade masks. These acts of kindness and generosity is what makes our community special.”

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