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Application of 3D printing in the production of transparent plastic masks

Transparent plastic masks manufactured by 3D printing technology (Photo: ActivArmor)

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, health workers had at times resorted to towels and other temporary protective measures because of a lack of medical equipment and supplies. This has prompted experts from the University of Maryland in the US to come up with the idea of ​​​​producing a reusable and highly effective mask using technology. 3D printing, helping to better protect frontline workers in the event of a new wave of COVID-19 or another pandemic in the future. This project was carried out in collaboration with the company ActivArmor in Pueblo, Colorado.

In the past year, ActivArmor has patented and sold 10,000 transparent plastic masks manufactured using 3D printing technology. There are two types of masks for users to choose from.

The first type is at the request of the buyer, accordingly matching the face of the orderer himself. Engineers asked customers to scan their faces with an iPhone app and 3D printed molds in a lab at the University of Maryland. After that, the company ActivArmor carried out the production stage, using 3D printed molds to create transparent plastic masks for customers. ActivArmor has sold about 5,000 such custom-made masks.

The remaining masks sold are the second type that is pre-manufactured with 6 sizes for users to choose from. However, the price of both masks is very high, with $99 for a pre-made mask and $149 for a custom-made mask.

This type of mask has the same appearance as a transparent respirator, with small replaceable filters on both sides to provide the highest protection. The most important thing is that the mask is transparent, so that the patient can hear and see what the medical staff are saying. Users will feel comfortable, without the mask imprinted when worn for a long time. After use can be cleaned under running water. Currently, the biggest drawback of this type of mask that users reflect is that it accumulates a little moisture inside the mask when used, but can be dried with a cloth.

ActivArmor President and CEO – Diana Hall said that she wants to transfer the above mask production project to a large-scale manufacturer and distributor in order to reduce cost, the only barrier currently preventing the type of mask to be rejected. This mask has not been widely used. She believes other companies can use the heat-generating technology used to make disposable plastic cups to make face masks for as little as $2 a mask.

Pre-manufactured masks in six sizes can still be ordered through HMD Technology in Canada, but Ms. Hall said the price is still very high, from 65 USD or more for each mask of this type.

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