Students and professors from the Miller School of Medicine are currently working on a 3D printed mask to address the global shortage of N95 masks, the most protective face masks against the coronavirus.

N95 mask shortage

N95 face masks are capable of filtering out 95% of airborne particles, so they are the most popular face mask for health care workers looking to stay protected and prevent the spread of COVID-19. After noticing that people across the world were struggling to access N95 masks, the Miller School of Medicine’s professor of surgery and executive dean for research, Dr Carl Schulman, began to consider using 3D printing equipment to create a reusable, washable N95 face mask.

“We are trying to recreate these masks in a way that anyone could reproduce and use them,” Schulman said. “If we can get it finalized, this would be helpful not only locally but nationally and globally.”

The design

In late March, Schulman and his team of professors of molecular biology and biochemistry and recent graduate students began to print face mask designs from the internet and test them for facial fit, durability and comfort.

After receiving assistance and consultation from the Miller School of Medicine’s COVID-19 Preparedness Committee, Schulman’s team was given rapid response funding by the school’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research to purchase materials and refine the design of the mask.

The team is said to be extremely close to creating a prototype, which is designed with a hole in the centre to hold various medical pathogen filters in order to purify the air that circulates within the mask. These filters are designed to protect the wearer and those around them and are available in the majority of hospitals as they are used in ventilators and respirators.

Next, the team is set to create an effective and comfortable airtight seal so that healthcare professionals can wear them for long periods of time without feeling uncomfortable.

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