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Even though the Montana Science Center is temporarily closed, executive director Abby Turner was keeping an eye out for what the center could be doing for Bozeman. 

"We had been watching the ways that people are helping out," Turner said. "For us, we knew that some of the resources that we had available at the Science Center were going to be useful." 

One of those things, it turns out, was the Science Center's 3D printer. After the Billings Clinic approved the design of a 3D-printed respiratory mask last week, Turner fired up the printer and got to work. 

"Obviously there is a tremendous need in our community and in adjacent communities, as well, such as Big Sky and Livingston," she said. "We are working with other organizations and other groups to really decide the best use and the widest distribution."  

The 3D printer uses rolls of filament, which cost between $20 and $25 a roll, to create the masks. One roll can print about 20 masks, bringing the total cost for one to about $1. The machine can print three at once, taking between three and four hours to complete. Friday morning, Turner said she been able to print about 20 masks, with more on the way. 

"There are other places that are mass producing a little quicker than we are, but we want to be really cognizant of direct need and then also other areas that we might be able to fulfill that don't have a direct line to masks," she said. 

Like other organizations creating masks, Turner said the type of filter inserted into the mask will be up to whatever hospital or organization they ultimately end up going to. But anything the Science Center could do to help meet the need is something Turner wanted to be doing, she said. 

"We are closed, but we're doing everything that we can to not only continue our mission through the closure, so still helping to supply families with content and everything. We're also really considering the resources we have at hand that we can share with this community," she said. 

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.