BUFFALO, N.Y. — While many college students have seen educational experiences dwindle during the pandemic, some students at UB saw a prime opportunity. In February, UB formed its 3D Printing Group, a collaboration between dental students, biomedical engineers, chemical engineers, and biology students. They used existing blueprints to create personal protective equipment (PPE) with 3D printers, and formulated improvements on existing types of PPE.

What You Need To Know

  • UB students have used 3D printers to create more than 3,000 PPE units, which have all been donated to Buffalo-area groups or given to UB departments
  • The group was formed in February, giving graduate students, dental students, research assistants, and residents an opportunity to gain real-world experience
  • FDA approval has not been granted for the students to sell their PPE to the public — they're allowed to donate their PPE or give it to UB departments

"We just wanted to be a part of it, and contribute what talents we had," says Philip Sales, a graduate student at UB who serves as the lead designer. "I was good with design and CAD. So I figured why not."

The group is overseen by Dr. Praveen Arany, an assistant professor of oral biology at UB. He says there's no substitute for real-world experience, and students serving in the group agree. 

"There wasn’t a lot of hands-on things we could be doing to help out, so this opportunity opened up in the lab," says Savannah Tomaka, a dental student.

"It definitely feels good to be able to know that I’m making some sort of contribution," says Jay Ciano, another dental student at UB. "I know everyone’s schedules has been uprooted throughout all this."

The team is trying to get FDA approval to sell their PPE to the general public — at this point, they're only permitted to donate to UB departments or to groups around Buffalo.