Researchers reveal reusable Covid-19 mask for hospitals and factories

19 Oct 2020

IMR researcher wearing the PMask. Image: IMR

Researchers at the Irish Manufacturing Research lab have developed a face mask to protect against Covid-19 in settings such as hospitals and factories.

Researchers at the Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) lab in Mullingar have unveiled a new type of face mask called the PMask, which could be used to protect workers from Covid-19 in high-risk environments such as ICU units and factories.

Working alongside researchers at Cork’s Tyndall National Institute and entrepreneur Dave Manning, the team reimagined and adapted a mask initially designed for scuba divers for use in workplaces where social distancing is not possible.

It is a fully sealable mask with two-way protection for both inhalation and exhalation, protecting those who may be in a room with the person wearing the mask. Its designers said it is both reusable and can be sterilised.

Manufactured in China with filters and plugs coming from other parts of the world, the mask is being distributed by a new company, also called PMask, which is headed by Manning. IMR and its design team worked with the developers to design, modify and produce prototypes using its advanced industrial-scale 3D printing systems.

Masks already shipped

“A diving mask is fully sealed and so gives complete protection to the person wearing it and to those around them,” said IMR CEO Barry Kennedy.

“The key was to find a way to enable the wearer to breathe normally and to use materials that reduced the weight of the mask so it could be worn comfortably for long periods of time. We also had to consider factors such as visibility, condensation and fogging in certain environments and how best to overcome them.”

Manning added that researchers from IMR and Tyndall have helped make the mast considerably cheaper to produce than other full-face mask options.

“We can also scale up supplies of this new mask as orders materialise and we’ve already shipped a supply of masks to a paediatric cancer hospital in Tanzania,” he said. “We hope the masks will be seen as a viable option for hospitals right across Africa which are struggling to secure PPE.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic