Companies Printing Face Masks with Reusable Frames to Meet COVID-19 Medical DemandsApril 08, 2020 by Alessandro Mascellino
Essentium, a company specializing in 3D printing for mass production, has announced the fabrication of 3D printed face masks with reusable frames and filtration media.
The move comes amidst an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the US and will see the Texas-based firm follow directives from the Pflugerville Community Development Corp in the City of Pflugerville.
The first batch of 30 pilot units was delivered last week to the Pflugerville Police and Fire Department, followed by 500 being delivered this week. Essentium said that it is redirecting resources to produce the masks, and estimated initial production capacity of 5,000 masks per week.
Disrupting Traditional Manufacturing Processes
Essentium focuses on bridging the gap between 3D printing and manufacturing
The company does so by enabling its partners to scale-up additive manufacturing by delivering a supply chain solution that addresses machines, materials, and processes.
In order to achieve this goal, Essentium utilizes its High-Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D Printing Platform, a device built to harness the speed and accuracy of industrial 3D-printers while keeping the production costs down.
Essentium’s High-Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D Printing Platform. Image used courtesy of Essentium.
By utilizing the company’s FlashFuseTM plasma technology and industrial-grade materials, Essentium is trying to scale-up 3D printing solutions without sacrificing products’ quality.
If you're interested, you can take a look at the printer’s full specifications.
Essentium’s Response to COVID-19
Writing on the company’s blog on March 25, Essentium CEO and co-founder Blake Teipel stretched the important role that manufacturers in the US can have in tackling the COVID-19 emergency.
“Together, we have the potential to deploy a devastating weapon in the fight against our common enemy, COVID-19,” Teipel said.
However, the Essentium CEO also added that, in order for this effort to be effective, coordinated leadership and response are necessary.
Essentium employees standing in front of the High-Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D Printing Platform. Image used courtesy of Essentium.
“3D manufacturing presents itself as a critically important supply chain enabler,” Teipel said. The CEO went on explaining that, while actors in the manufacturers' industry cannot be first responders, they can and should be second-tier responders.
In fact, Essentium’s COVID-19 Response Strategy Team is already exploring several options to produce medical equipment necessary to tackle this emergency.
3D Printing Reusable Masks
Specifically, as mentioned above, the company has started the 3D-printing of protective masks.
These are made of a material known as Essentium TPU74D (thermoplastic urethane) that allows for easy cleaning and can be utilized with a single-use, replaceable filtration media.
The masks have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for general non-medical use during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Essentium has made their design available online through the National Institute of Health (NIH) open-source model.
Essentium is also currently planning to use 3D printing to produce several components needed for ventilators, such as venturi valves, together with various building ecosystem controls like hands-free door openers.
“While the emergence of COVID-19 is testing the limits of global healthcare systems,” Teipel concluded, “I remain hopeful that a coordinated leadership and response at the highest levels of our industry will see us make meaningful steps to limit its impact on our communities.”
What do you think about Essentium's efforts? Are you using 3D-printing to tackle medical supply shortages during this crisis?