Georgia School of Engineering Designs Surgical Masks for Medical Staff in Need

By: Marie McCarthy

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases anywhere in the world, and as the pandemic spreads, hospitals and medical facilities are running dangerously low on supplies. In many places, doctors and nurses on the front lines are being asked to re-use their face masks, a move that could endanger their lives and others.

In light of the shortages, engineering staff and students at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia have released designs and prototypes of 3D-printed face masks.

It all started after a local dentist and Mercer University graduate approached the school with the idea. Dr. Amber Larson is serving on the Georgia Dental Association COVID-19 task force and had been brainstorming ideas with an orthodontist.

The team at Mercer University got started and worked to use materials that were “biocompatible” with FDA-approved masks.

In March, assistant professor Dr. Joanna Thomas and one of her undergraduate students teamed up with Coliseum Medical Center to fit-test their products with practicing health care professionals.

The school says they plan to make many more masks and distribute them to local health centers. They have also made the 3-D print files available for anyone in the public to utilize. Click here to download the files.

The nation’s top health officials are mulling over the need and efficacy of face masks for use by the general public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a thorough guide to using personal protective equipment during the outbreak.

On their website, they say homemade masks like bandannas and scarves can be used as a last resort, however their efficacy in protecting against COVID-19 is unknown. The CDC recommends wearing a face shield in addition to this alternate gear.