3D Printable Masks to Help with Cristical Shortage
Protective masks are in short supply everywhere. According to ABCNews, a team at the Medical University of South Carolina is moving fast on a mask design that mimics the N95 surgical mask and is printable on a 3D printer.
The team developed the Self-Assembly Filter for Emergencies—SAFE—cartridge system in just a matter of days. Michael Yost, Ph. D., vice chairman of research at MUSC’s Department of Surgery, said they’re currently working with the Food and Drug Administration to get emergency approval for the device.
The system has two parts, including a printable mask that can be cleaned and reused and a printable disposable filter cartridge. The cartridge is outfitted with a HEPA filter, the same high-efficiency air purifier used in household A/C units.
“Our ultimate goal is to provide for our local healthcare providers and people on the front line fighting this virus,” said Joshua Kim (pictured), senior designer and program coordinator in the Department of Surgery. “Whether they are in the medical field or working at their local CVS pharmacy, just to get these supplies to them as fast as possible.”
MUSC has already released the plans online, so people can download the file and print at home or wherever a 3D printer is available. The team said they’re also in talks with a number of manufacturers to see if this is something that can be mass-produced.
Yost said the HEPA filter works just like the N95 mask, filtering out 99.7% of particles. He estimates the disposable cartridges to cost between $1 and $3 and around $30 for the mask, which is reusable.
“These are for emergency use and so it might be a little more expensive than an N95 mask, but certainly in a pinch, we can get these out to as many people as possible,” said Yost.
While FDA approval can take several months and even years, Yost said the agency is expediting the process due to the pandemic crisis. They expect to hear back in the next couple of weeks.
“Hopefully this design, now that it’s been published and released, can help a lot of people around the country,” said Kim. “So if you do have a 3D printer, we recommend that you start making these cartridges to donate to your medical professionals and, if you don’t, we hope you reach out to your local libraries and schools to see if they have 3D printers and can help you make these products and get them out as fast as possible.”
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