United in deterring the spread of COVID 19
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United in deterring the spread of COVID 19

Selina Rapulane

Medical personal trying out the facemask fitter frames

The Vaal University of Technology Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park (VUTSGSTP)’s Idea2Product (I2P) Lab has collaborated with Maker station in Woodstock, Cape Town, and 3D Printing Store, in manufacturing facemask fitter frames for staff members at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, particularly those in the forefront of the fight against the spread COVID-19.

The collaboration was formed after Maker station approached VUT, requesting assistance with the manufacturing of Bellus3D Mask Fitter frames. These frames are personalised to the contour of a person’s face to improve the peripheral seal of surgical, KN95 or other masks. Using Additive Manufacturing (AM) is the preferred way of manufacturing for this project, as each frame is customised.

The aim of the project is to assist the hospital staff at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) effectiveness, and the project is overseen by Mr Felix Holm from Maker station.

The three collaborators are contributing differently towards the project and this has the project performing at an optimum level. The I2P Lab is responsible for the printing process, while Maker station is responsible for distributing the scanned frames of the healthcare workers and facilitating the generation of the fitter for printing. 3D Printing Store sponsored the ABS material for the project through their CEO, Mr Paul Cronje.

Mr Sarel Havenga: Facilitator at the I2P mentioned that Mr Paul Cronje donated the material just before the lockdown, for community outreach and COVID related research. “We have since used the material to produce 3D printed face masks, safe grabbers and face shields for security companies and we have been approached by creches and schools to help produce face shields frames for them. We hope this technology can soon be implemented at our VUT campuses and local hospitals”, he added.

Mr Zacharia Moalahi: I2P Lab HOD, said that the products will be printed in the lab making use of the donated printing material to aid in the fight against COVID 19, by 3D Printing Store.

The goal of the project is to print facemask fitter frames for the entire hospital staff which consist of 1500 staff members, mostly doctors and nurses who are at the front-line of fighting the virus. The project plan consists of printing about hundred products per week and it is projected to continue until end of September 2020.

“The project is very important as it enables the lab to make a positive contribution towards the fight against the global pandemic and thus saving lives. The project also enables the lab to showcase its capabilities as a manufacturing solution and precinct for limited or small-scale production”, said Mr Zacharia Moalahi.

He further stated that the I2P Lab aims to contribute positively towards the curb and prevention of the COVID 19 infections by making use of AM (3D printing) technologies as well as other manufacturing technologies at the lab’s disposal.

The I2P Lab plans to print face shield masks for VUT staff members and students, as an effort to assist the university to fulfil its mandate of ensuring a safe environment for work and study for both staff and students, as per government regulations in relation to the COVID 19 global pandemic.

The lab is currently embarking on the manufacture of two products in line with the above objective, the Bellus3D Mask Fitter Frame and Face Shield. The team is making use of Bellus3D cellphone app to ensure a better seal for surgical or similar face masks. These frames are personalized 3D printed plastic frames that are contoured to the specific shape of a person’s face to improve the peripheral seal of surgical, KN95 or other masks. The frame is automatically generated from a 3D face scan using the Bellus3D Face App or Dental Pro app for Apple iPhone X, iPhone 11 or iPad Pro with FaceID capability.

The VUTSGSTP Design Department is also investigating alternative solutions for producing these frames. Mr Leslie Becker: Marketing Specialist, added that the Design Department and I2P Lab have various scanning and AM tools to their disposal, to produce such frames, where these mobile technologies are not available to the general public.

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