Coronavirus: Reusable N95 masks 3D-printed in UAE

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Photo used for illustrative purposes

Abu Dhabi - The New York University-Abu Dhabi has produced an N95 mask that is comfortable and can be re-sterilised after use.


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Tue 26 May 2020, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 27 May 2020, 9:44 AM

Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, the single-use, medical-grade N95 masks have become a rare find. And people have been urged to save them for the frontliners. Now, a university in Abu Dhabi has found a way to make N95 masks reusable and eco-friendly.
The New York University-Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), in an innovative project, has 3D-printed an N95 mask that is comfortable and can be re-sterilised after use - while maintaining the high level of protection it offers.
Led by Anthony Tzes, programme head and professor of electrical and computer engineering at NYUAD, the project seeks to bridge the gap between the supply and demand for these masks that have become part of critical protective wear for healthcare professionals and the public.
Studies suggest that N95 masks - which filter out 95 per cent of airborne particles - are effective in protecting people from the Covid-19 virus. However, they must be disposed of after a single use, and this is where the university's innovation can make a difference.
The NYUAD's recyclable N95 masks are treated with heat in order to achieve a smooth surface. Then, breathing filters are placed on the mask, straps are tightened, and a simple layer of environment-friendly polyurethane is placed on its boundary. It is made of plastic, predominantly of tough polylactic acid, a biocompatible material that bio-degrades into lactic acid.
"The mask is environmentally friendly because you can reuse them, but it is also friendly to humans, meaning it will not cause itching or irritation," said Tzes.
"I think it is the responsibility of people to step in and do what they can. I stopped my projects to do this. I could use the 3D printers to do something else but I told my postdocs to stop and think and to start generating masks. Let's hope this ends soon but in the meantime, we must work together."
Tzes, who hails from Greece, had joined NYUAD in 2017 as a professor of electrical and computer engineering and established the Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab, where he is currently the principal investigator. 
His research interests include autonomous mobile systems (UAVs), surgical robotics, networked systems, and cyber-physical systems. However, since the emergence of Covid-19, Tzes and his post-doctoral associate Dr Nikolaos Evangeliou have redirected their efforts towards developing tools and solutions that can better help humanity cope with the challenges caused by the global pandemic.

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