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NYU Abu Dhabi produces sustainable 3D printed masks to combat COVID-19

Sustainable 3D printed masks designed for comfortable protection against COVID-19 reduces the impact of single-use masks on the environment.

To help tackle the rapid spread of COVID-19, Program Head and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Anthony Tzes has developed an eco-friendly 3D printed face mask based on the N95 specifications.

The pandemic has seen N95 masks become a critical accessory for healthcare professionals and members of the public as they protect themselves against contracting the virus. Due to an ever-increasing rise in demand for protective masks, a single-use N95 mask has become detrimental to the environment. The 3D printed N95 mask provides a viable solution to meet the needs of both safety and sustainability due to its ability to be re-sterilized and re-used.

Comfortable and reusable

This innovative 3D printed mask has been created in collaboration with the Health Center at NYUAD, and is designed to be protective, comfortable and reusable while reducing the impact on the environment.

The masks are treated with heat in order to achieve a smooth surface, and then breathing filters are placed on the mask, straps are tightened, and a simple layer of recyclable, environment-friendly polyurethane is placed on its boundary. It is made of plastic, predominantly of tough Polylactic Acid (PLA), a biocompatible material that bio-degrades into Lactic Acid (LA). As the mask is recyclable, it also minimises pollution caused by waste.

Tzes said: “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. 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.”

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