We’re All in This Together
U of I College of Engineering Leads Community Effort to Boost Production of 3D-Printed Respirator Masks and Equipment Sterilization Systems for Area Medical Staff
Last updated 4/2/20
Medical staff on the Palouse and in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley are working with the University of Idaho to fulfill the overwhelming demand for additional respirator masks and equipment sterilization systems at area hospitals.
The coronavirus COVID-19 has nearly depleted supply of needed personal protective equipment nationwide.
“We’re all stuck at home, and we want to fix this in any way we can,” said U of I College of Engineering associate professor Gabriel Potirniche. “We can’t have COVID-19 overwhelm our healthcare system. If we keep medical staff safe, this is less likely to propagate in our community. Everyone has a duty to put a stop to this virus. Everyone is involved.”
U of I engineering faculty are finalizing a design for a 3D-printed N95 filtering facepiece respirator mask. These masks are recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the best tool for filtering bacteria and virus particles. Prototypes of the design have already been delivered to medical staff in the Lewiston and Clarkston areas for validation and feedback.
With a design expected to be finalized this week, work will begin with 3D printing partners across Idaho and Washington to mass-produce these masks for delivery to hospitals in need.
“One of the things that has helped me get through this difficult time is watching the huge outpouring of support and efforts from the people in the community as we continue to work toward this goal,” said Cassidy Hall, director of the U of I Doceo Center for Innovation and Learning, who has five 3D printers ready for production.
While boosting the supply of N95 masks, the U of I Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is also working to develop mobile mask sterilization stations that can be used to clean several existing masks at a time.
The system uses ultraviolet C (UVC) light, a short-wavelength light capable of converting the virus into harmless carbon compounds and water.
Traditional UVC bulbs are also short supply because of the pandemic. Biological engineering professor Dev Shrestha and research support scientist Chad Dunkel are prototyping the system using a more readily available LED bulb also capable of reaching the needed frequency for germicide.
The college expects to be able to deliver a plan soon that would allow community hospitals to build their own systems using the specific bulbs and materials a person could pick up at any hardware store.
Article by Alexiss Turner, College of Engineering
Photos by Gary Bradford, Presidential Communications, and Alexiss Turner, College of Engineering
Help Support Our Efforts
100% of gifts made to support our College of Engineering COVID-19 research and response go toward expenses related to producing Vandal masks, face shields and UV systems.
Download Open-Source PPE Designs
Free, downloadable 3D solid modeling files for respirator masks, face shields, and design plans for an ultraviolet C light (UVC) sterilization systems built from hardware store materials.
Sew Your Own
ATD faculty develop face mask pattern.
A New Type of Production
U of I’s costume shop sews masks for local medical professionals
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