During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Concordia University doctoral candidate Nathalie Duponsel and a team of five other students and professors wanted to find a way to respond to the PPE shortages being experienced by medical professionals and front line workers.
Duponsel’s research led her to Thingiverse, a website where people can share their 3D design files. That’s where she got the idea for a simple frame rather than a full mask.
“We wanted to test various designs that were out there to see what would be the most effective at creating an alternative to N95 respirators when there are shortages,” said Duponsel.
With the help of a research institution and a grant from Mitacs, a Canadian not-for-profit organization, Duponsel’s team was able to design, create and print their own frame that could be used on top of surgical masks.
“It eliminates the gaps in the surgical masks that can exist for instance on the side or at the nose or even under the chin on very small faces,” she said.
“It forces the air to go through the surgical masks instead of around it.”
The frame was tested using a common machine found in hospitals used to test N95 respirators. Duponsel says her team found that a certified surgical mask with the frame over it had just as much efficacy or comparable results to the N95.
Although the frame and surgical mask are not full replacements for the N95, Duponsel says they can be used as a back-up in case there are shortages of N95’s again.
It prints in about 20 minutes and multiple frames can be printed on an given day, making them accessible to almost anyone as 3D printers become more common.
“If they find themselves on a plane or a train where they’re quite close to other people they could use this to protect themselves better,” she added.
The instructions are available free of charge on Instructables.com. All you need is a 3D printer.