Coronavirus: McGill University students design 3D-printable masks for health-care workers

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WATCH: A group of engineering students from McGill University is hard at work creating face guards using 3D printers – Mar 24, 2020

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to reflect new information. 

Students at McGill University in Montreal, Que., are putting their higher education to use toward the greater good, designing new protective equipment for health-care workers battling against COVID-19.

With reports of dwindling medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) coming from all corners of the country, a group of students is perfecting their design of a face mask that could be manufactured on a 3D printer.

Prusa is a 3D printing manufacturing company based out of Prague, Czech Republic. With the help of Prusa, these students are able to build on the original design and hope to mass-produce these masks in Montreal.

READ MORE: Demand for face masks causes concern among Canadian health-care workers

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”This is a primary design. It’s not the final product, but if you put it on your face, you can see that it still protects me, and if I talk to you, it captures my fluids and it protects my surfaces from other fluids,” said Cyril Mani, a first-year engineering student at McGill.

Mani and a group of fellow engineering and business students are designing face masks that can be reproduced on a 3D printer, without the need of a large-scale manufacturing process or factory crew.

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“We don’t want to get in the shop — the whole concept of this is to decentralize production so that not a lot of people are in one place,” Mani said, adding that the group is already in contact with companies that could help them mass-produce the product.

READ MORE: Quebec coronavirus cases surge to 1,013 as partial shutdown looms

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Respecting recently enacted state-of-emergency rules on social distancing, the group is unable to meet in person. They meet on Skype, discuss their 3D models and show each other their prints. They are still hoping that McGill will offer them some workspace despite the lockdown.

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“It’s just about convincing one technician who’s ready to work to go in help us print. We don’t need to be in the building, we will send them the file to print for us,” Mani told Global News.

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Seeing the crisis unfold in other parts of the world, manufacturing the masks has become a priority for the entire team to help prevent rampant infection here in Canada.

“We can be printing these masks in real-time and prevent what has happened in Italy and Iran, where they were lacking these masks and PPE equipment,” said Mani.

READ MORE: Mayor of Quebec town that has seen all of province’s COVID-19 deaths feels left in the dark

Premier François Legault has said maintaining an ongoing supply of medical equipment remains a priority for all levels of government in Quebec, with a plan to work with more than a dozen companies “for ventilators, masks and all the equipment for testing.”

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Mani is hoping to be one of those companies.

“We are not expecting anything from it. We are trying to first face the pandemic and the urgency of the situation,” he said.

The federal government is also working to ensure necessary safety equipment is available for health-care workers.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan on Friday that will provide support to manufacturers that want to retool their assembly lines to build ventilators, masks and other personal protective gear.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadian company working with Ottawa to boost ventilator production

This student-led team at McGill is not asking for money. They say they want to be a part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With a file from the Canadian Press

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