PISCATAWAY, NJ — When he’s not working on his M.A. in History or at his part-time job with the Rutgers Oral History Archives, Donald Koger is 3-D printing masks that he gives away to essential workers and friends in need. 

Koger first became interested in 3D printing when his brother introduced him to tabletop gaming.  “In my spare time, I do 3D printing and resin casting, mostly for tabletop games,” he said. “I've also done some archeological artifact reproductions.” A friend working at an in-patient care facility for individuals with special needs wondered if Koger might be able to print masks.  He noted that their facility was now required to face coverings but was worried about supply shortages.  

At the same time, Koger noticed that other friends working in essential services were also posting on social media that they were having trouble finding the masks required for their jobs. “When a good number of friends who are considered ‘essential’ such as those who work in the medical field and hospitality asked me about 3-D printing masks, I had to say yes.” 

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3D printed mask

Photos courtesy Donald Koger

To print the masks, Koger is utilizing a Externalfree design template that he modified slightly to make the assembly simpler and also to give it a personal touch: “I added some nerd-chic to it with a Star Trek symbol I found online,” he said.  

As the demand grew, Koger found that he couldn’t print the masks fast enough to keep up with the requests, so he retooled his resin-casting setup, which he’d previously used to produce miniature models for tabletop games so that he could cast masks. Koger is modest about his efforts. "I know there are folks out there with larger setups who are producing more, and it’s nice to see people using their hobbies to help one another.”  

Koger, who has been using his own resources to print the masks at home, says he will continue to give away masks until he runs out of the plastic he uses to make them or when people stop asking. He stresses that the masks are for personal use only, as they haven’t been certified of evaluated, and he only provides the base plastic units.  So the recipients will still need to sanitize, assemble and add their own filters. 

So far, Koger has given away approximately 60 masks. “Although I’m not able to produce the boxes and boxes of masks as some other people with more printers or casting setups, I’m happy to share what I can with anyone who needs one.” Essential employees who need masks can request them by emailing him at dek90@scarletmail.rutgers.edu.  

"I am following the same spirit that Rutgers embodies by coming together to share what we can to make our way through this time of uncertainty.” 

Koger is currently on track to graduate with his M.A. in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2021.  He received a B.A. in History from Rutgers-New Brunswick in 2018.