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YSU professors design cartridges for masks

Can be 3D printed

YOUNGSTOWN — Two professors at Youngstown State University have designed a 3D printable cartridge for an N95 filter or other media that can be retrofitted to commercially available masks.

The concept, now in its sixth or so generation, from Darrell Wallace and Brian Vuksanovich, is under review to be placed on the National Institutes of Health’s 3D print exchange. That’s a repository for design uploads to link the capabilities of additive manufacturers to the needs of medical workers on the front lines fighting the novel coronavirus.

Designs placed in the repository are put on the fast track for review.

The conversation about how to use the renowned 3D and additive manufacturing expertise at YSU to address COVID-19 started in mid-March. But at that point it was more about going about producing masks akin to the conventional 3M-made N95 mask.

“We were thinking the best path forward was to make masks, but leverage additive to do the tooling and ramp up production of that even if we had to limp along manually to do it,” said Wallace, professor and program coordinator for manufacturing and engineering at YSU.

Then Vuksanovich, associate professor of manufacturing and engineering technology, had the idea that changed the game: What if somehow an existing, well-fitting mask could be adapted?

“There are lots of masks that are not typical medical masks that fit great. Could we do something to utilize those, make them reusable, washable … so we can make something that people can use over and over, fits comfortably, seals very well and holds a good filtration media,” Wallace said.

Wallace and Vuksanovich took the pitch and ran, came back and picked the best parts of both and started to evolve the cartridge.

Its design allows it to be produced through 3D printing or injection molding.

The filter is the outside component.

“We recognized that people are in a position right now where they are using whatever they can,” Wallace said. “We just saw the surgeon general post an ad or post a public service about how to fold a T-shirt into a mask. If we have reached the point where people are relying on T-shirts, we are kind of getting desperate.

“So what we are looking at, we can use any available media that can fit into a 3-by-4 rectangle — and what we are producing is a good housing that takes any available media.”

Eric MacDonald, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and Friedman chair for manufacturing at YSU, started the conversation. Wallace and Vuksanovich masterminded the project while MacDonald is using some of his $2.5 million endowment to fund some of the research and printing costs.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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