Researchers developing reusable N95 mask with 3D printing technology

Figure: Baum and Bakali test the fit of their mask.
Figure: Baum and Bakali test the fit of their mask.

With an initiative of Dr. Carl Schulman, Executive Dean for research and professor of surgery, professors, and students of the Miller School of Medicine are developing a reusable N95 mask with 3D printing technology. The team is very close to the prototype.

“We are trying to recreate these masks in such a way that anyone can reproduce and use them”, said Schulman, “if we can finalize it, it will be helpful not only locally, but nationally and globally.”

This 3D printing N95 mask features a hole in the middle, where a variety of treated pathogen filters can be inserted (and replaced) to purify the air circulating through the mask and protect the wearer and the people around. These filters are available as they are used for respirators and ventilators in most hospitals. It is also comfortable, durable, and well fitted.

Graduate student Umer Bakali and recent Ph.D. graduate Jeramy Baum, the members of Schulman’s team, hope that it will enhance the comfort of health care personnel who have been wearing the disposable N95 masks for the recommended duration.

“A solution like this could help decrease the discomfort for medical personnel who are wearing these one-time-use N95 masks long-term,” Baum said with adding “Because right now, they are getting rashes and lesions, and some are even getting scabs from wearing these masks for so long.”

These masks also can be disinfected, and could help cut down on biomedical waste, which has ballooned since the pandemic began, Baum added.

The team is now working for a comfortable seal so the masks will be airtight. After they are satisfied with the seal, Schulman’s team will test the masks to confirm they are able to meet the N95 standards. The team plans to write a paper about the process and make their design available to anyone who wants to create their own 3D-printed N95 mask once all the imperfections are ironed out.

Sylvia Daunert and Sapna Deo, professors of biochemistry and molecular biology, Ramon Montero, biomedical engineering assistant professor of professional practice, and Max Jarosz, a model shop manager in the School of Architecture, also consulted and assisted with the team.