Mercer University School of Engineering faculty and students have been working to fabricate reusable 3D-printed face masks for medical professionals in locations where personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, such as N95 masks, have been depleted by the sharp increase in patient numbers due to COVID-19.

Dr. Joanna Thomas, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Jacob Sokolove, senior mechanical engineering major, on Friday successfully put their mask prototype through a fit test with the help of Coliseum Medical Centers physicians and nurses to confirm its effectiveness.

Following the successful test, Mercer plans to move forward fabricating masks and distributing them to medical facilities and healthcare practitioners that have indicated a need for alternative PPE as a stopgap measure for employees until FDA-approved PPE is available.

In addition to producing the masks, the University is making information on the materials and the .STL files for computer-aided design software available to the public.

While this mask was designed with efficacy and the wearer’s safety in mind, using materials believed to be biocompatible based on available product data sheets, these masks are not FDA tested or approved, and Mercer cannot guarantee their efficacy or safety. Anyone who fabricates these or similar masks and/or wears the masks does so at his or her own risk.

The project was initiated by Macon dentist Dr. Amber Lawson, a 2002 graduate of Mercer’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She contacted University officials earlier this week about producing mask that she learned about from Cumming orthodontist Dr. Mark Causey while serving on the Georgia Dental Association’s COVID-19 Task Force.

Dr. Lawson was put in contact with Dr. Thomas and Dr. Anthony Choi, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who enlisted the assistance of Mercer’s Robotics Club, led by Sokolove and overseen by Dr. Choi. The Mercer team also collaborated with Dr. David Miller, associate professor of engineering technology at Pittsburg State University, on the mask design.

Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for healthcare providers in light of critical PPE shortages across the country. These guidelines include the use of “homemade” masks as a “last resort” in settings where N95 masks are not available.

About the School of Engineering

Mercer University’s School of Engineering, founded in 1985, offers innovative and academically challenging programs that provide students with a comprehensive education, featuring a solid foundation in mathematics and sciences, a core engineering curriculum, a range of courses in engineering specialties and a strong emphasis on communication technologies. The School is consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top three master’s-degree-level engineering schools in the Southeast. Known for its breadth of instruction in its undergraduate program and its five-year joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program, the School combines technical education with hands-on laboratory experience. Mercer engineers can look forward to joining fellow alumni in companies such as Robins Air Force Base, Mercer Engineering Research Center, Northrop Grumman, Georgia Power, Manhattan Associates and Gulfstream Aerospace.

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