The 3D printing community around the world is striving to make the best use of its 3D printing manufacturing skills and capabilities to help slow down COVID-19 incidence growth worldwide. Josef Průša – founder of PRUSA Research, took the floor on this issue and raised the important issue of the security of 3D printed equipment.
In a post on his blog he writes that he appreciates the initiative of enthusiasts of additive technologies, but encourages to remember that safety is a priority. The fact that many of the available masks have not been medically tested can be a big problem. Although we feel safe, this is unfortunately not always the case.
It is important that by wearing a mask (3D printed or not) we create a warm and humid environment within our mouths, perfect for microorganisms. It is worth remembering that the mask should be treated as a temporary measure and reduce its wearing to the necessary minimum.
Nevertheless, the problem of a shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals is a growing problem. Průša wanting to be faithful to his beliefs, while still helping in the fight against the virus, began the project of creating face shields for doctors and nurses. The covers perform a protective function by preventing the contact of droplets of infected saliva with the face of a hospital employee.
The team, supported by Martin Havrd from the Vinohrada University Hospital in Prague, made a number of prototypes, which allowed for the preparation of a functional version of the protective mask, which was approved by the Czech Minister of Health. And all in just three days! Now PRUSA Research has started producing a test version that will be subjected to real conditions. So far, thousands of sets of masks for self-assembly have been handed over to the Ministry of Health, which will distribute them to appropriate institutions.
Using its 3D printer farm, PRUSA Research can achieve a production capacity of 800 pieces per day, which is still not the maximum quantity. The production bottleneck is a laser cutter, which creates front covers – the low cutting rate means that 20% of the production farm’s capacity is currently used. By improving this element of the production process, it would be possible to make up to 4,000 protective masks per day! Průša emphasizes, however, that the current pace is sufficient, and if there is a need to scale production, the team will certainly meet such a challenge. The cost of making one piece is less than a dollar.
Průša, of course, made the model available for download along with detailed assembly instructions (video below). At the same time, he emphasizes the importance of security issues, so he recommends finding out if anyone in your area wants to get this kind of help. He adds that the masks are for single use so far, but the PRUSA Research team is working to find a way to successfully sterilize parts. The manufacturer recommends that while printing, contact specialists and create elements in accordance with their standards, taking care, among others about:
- use of personal protective equipment during printing (disposable gloves and masks),
- work in a clean environment, in rooms equipped e.g. with an air filter.
The entire structure consists of four parts:
- two printed elements – top and bottom of the mask; according to the data provided on prusaprinters.org, the time it takes them to take about 2 hours; suggested head diameter – 0.4 mm,
- front cover, made of appropriately cut sheet of transparent plastic 0.5 mm to 1 mm thick (template according to which you can cut the plastic available on the project page),
- a rubber band, preferably one that allows adjustment and comfortable seating on the head.
The model is in the process of testing – if you want to print it for yourself, it is completely safe. The project, in the words of Josef Průša, should be verified in terms of security in the coming days, so it is worth to follow its website by that time and check if the model has undergone minor corrections.
The mask design is not the first attempt PRUSA Resarch took to fight COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the week, we described an antibacterial gel project that the Czech manufacturer produced and made available to its employees.