USask team engineers 3D-print sterilizable N95 mask
Prototype design, that uses replaceable filter inserts, awaits medical device license.
An engineering team at the University of Saskatchewan announced it has designed a reusable and sanitizable N95 mask. The prototype design, which includes replaceable filter inserts, is being tested by health care workers at the Royal University Hospital as part of the process to receive a medical device license from Health Canada and the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Once the design is approved, which will most likely take a month or more, as many as 60 masks per day could be manufactured using USask 3D printers.
“We’re trying to make the masks out of the most commonly available materials for 3D printing, so anyone with a 3D printer should be able to produce this easily,” said engineering graduate student Erik Olson.
The USask team says it’s also testing the “Montana Mask,” another 3D-printed mask that has already undergone positively preliminary testing at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, but would require Health Canada approval.
The work involves three graduate students—Olson, Alvaro Espinosa and Pablo Franco, as well as engineering college staff member Rob Peace, and Grant Tingstad, a research engineer at the USask Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS). GIFS is also providing 3D printing materials and use of the institute’s laboratory and equipment. Innocorps Research Corporation, a Saskatoon-based startup company focused on water filtration, is assisting with prototype development and leading the process of seeking Health Canada approval.
The USask team is testing potential filter insert materials, including those made from existing medical-grade respirator masks, air purifiers, vacuum bags and vacuum filters. USask engineering students and staff are also involved in developing and testing three other PPE products including a transparent plastic box to separate COVID-19 patients from health care workers, a flexible plastic drapery to cover patients and a full-length plastic face shield.
“I am incredibly proud of the vision, humanity, and tenacity shown by our students and faculty members throughout this crisis,” said USask Engineering Dean Suzanne Kresta. “Their response represents innovation in action, global collaboration, and delivering tremendous value to our community. This is a great example of how we are able to build engineers the world needs today—and connect them to a safer world for tomorrow.”