We have started to formulate a solution to the global issue of personal protective equipment during a pandemic like the one we are experiencing nowadays.
But WE NEED YOUR HELP, feedback and responses are needed to ensure that the process we have developed is the best we can provide.
This study is completely research driven, we are simply a group of researchers offering our skills to the needs of people and we hope you can be part of the solution too.
We have written a small text below to clarify which problem we are trying to solve and how. If you have any questions or ideas please contact us.
During a pandemic it is critical that healthcare personnel (HCP) are properly protected to prevent reduction in the deployable frontline workforce. This can occur for three reasons;
Supply shortages of respirators
Available respirators do not fit properly
Significant skin damage due to prolonged wearing of the respirator
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge strain on the global supply of respirators, which are an essential item of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline HCP. The use of face masks has become a major talking point in the UK and beyond due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Healthcare agencies worldwide have begun to embrace policies of encouraging or enforcing mask-wearing. This can place additional strain on the supplyof respirators to frontline HCP who are continuously faced with high patient numbers.
For environments that require the use of respiratory PPE each HCP must undergo a mask fit test. Ensuring a good fit is paramount to proper function. This basic test checks that the mask is performing sufficiently to protect the wearer against infection. If the HCP fails the fit test they can not be deployed onto frontline locations. Thereby compromising on the availability of frontline deployable workforce and putting increased strains on the healthcare system in a public health emergency, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It is equally important to ensure good fit to create a comfortable item of PPE, to encourage proper use over long periods. HCP often have to don respiratory PPE for long periods on a daily basis. During the current pandemic this is increased to enhance infection-prevention measures. This can lead to incidences of skin damage (pressure ulcers) especially over the nasal bridge and cheeks. Such occupational hazards can put frontline HCP at greater risks of infection, undermine efficiencies and lead to loss of precious personnel.
To address the problem of respiratory PPE shortage, reusable respirators (e.g. elastomeric half-mask respirator commonly used in construction and manufacturing) have been proposed as an alternative to disposable respirators. In addition, it is possible to create custom fitted respirators for each HCP using modern technologies such as 3D Printing. Custom-fit respirators can provide greater comfort, performance and fit-test pass rates compared to mass-produced respirators. Ultimately, increasing available personnel and helping to maintain a healthy workforce.
Current methodologies for creating custom fitted face masks rely on labour intensive design processes to create Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models for each individual. This requires the designer to have expert knowledge in the CAD process. But, most significantly, it means production times are too long to have a meaningful impact during the current crisis.
To overcome these barriers, we are developing an automated design-through-manufacture pipeline which can be rapidly deployed on a large-scale for HCP. The process automatically fits a respirator mask to the HCP’s using an uploaded 3D facial scan. 3D facial scans can be obtained using the latest smart phone models and tablets which come equipped with depth sensing cameras (e.g. iPhone X, 11 and the new iPad Pro). Older models can use photogrammetry apps to good affect too.
But we need your help. By becoming a participant in this study, you are helping us to test the accuracy of our automated mask fitting process. This will enable us to create a robust process that can design and manufacture respiratory PPE for HCP that is safe, comfortable and most importantly available during a pandemic crisis like the one we face now. These masks will compliment currently available mass-produced, disposable, masks and allow more HCP to be deployed to where it matters most.