Three weeks ago, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) developed a 3D-printed adaptor that transforms a standard snorkelling mask into protection for hospital staff caring for Covid-19 patients. At the same time, a collective in France was working on a similar system for the same Decathlon EasyBreath Subea mask, and is now producing the adaptor on a large scale. To meet the urgent need for more protection, the two groups have joined forces. The industrial collective and Ethias are sharing this solution on a large scale, free of charge, to interested Belgian hospitals.
Proposed distribution to all Belgian hospitals
Thanks to the combined efforts of these two collectives, the adaptors can be supplied to Belgian hospitals that need them in less than a week. Hospitals can request them via MaskForBelgium@gmail.com.
The industrial collective will supply the adaptors for free. Ethias, which is supporting the initiative, will provide free masks.
3D printing, a quick solution
In Belgium, the project was launched by engineers from the BruBotics research group at VUB. The first 3D-printed adaptors were created in less than three days in the middle of March. That made it possible to demonstrate the value of the solution in responding to the most urgent needs in hospitals. UMC St Pieter’s hospital in Brussels, which specialises in infectious diseases, has validated the devices.
Industrialisation, a step towards large-scale implementation
At the same time in France, a collective of researchers, academics, makers, doctors and industry representatives was set up to further develop this smart 3D-printed emergency solution into a solution that can be produced on an industrial scale. In partnership with the collective, the company BIC designed and developed a mould for the industrial production of the adaptors in record time. The collective carried out user tests in hospitals and received temporary approval from the ANSM, France’s agency for medicines and health products, to share the product. Various actors from different sectors have joined forces to find a fast, efficient solution during this public health crisis. Belgium is the second country after France in which the adaptors have been distributed.
Use of the mask
The mask is currently only intended for professional use by hospital staff working in resuscitation. It is reusable, meaning protocols around disinfection must be respected, which can only be done by hospitals. Furthermore, given that the exhaled air is not filtered, the solution is only meant for staff caring for people who are (presumably) infected with coronavirus.
This is an emergency solution to address the shortage of protective materials as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Where necessary, these reusable masks replace the regular personal protective equipment (face masks and visors).
Before use, the snorkel is replaced by the adaptor. This adaptor is then connected using an antiviral/antibacterial filter that is available to hospitals.
The complete system, comprising the EasyBreath mask, the adaptor and the filter, transforms a recreational mask that covers the eyes, nose and mouth into personal protective equipment that also filters the air breathed in. It protects staff working in resuscitation in hospitals against the transmission of micro-organisms, bodily fluids and floating particles during critical interventions with patients who are (presumably) infected with Covid-19.
The mask exists in various sizes to fit any face. The adaptor is suitable for all sizes of EasyBreath Decathlon masks.
News source: VUB Press
The Belgian consortium behind the initiative consists of:
Vrije Universiteit Brussel: initiator of the project and responsible for developing the first prototypes
Endo Tools Therapeutics: Expertise in medical tools
St-Vicentius hospital, Antwerp and UMC Sint Pieter hospital, Brussels: first user tests and clinical approval
Decathlon (Belgium): technical and logistical collaboration
BIC: production and donation of adaptors to hospitals
Ethias: financing of donation of masks to hospitals
This consortium has now joined forces with the industrial collective, consisting of:
Stanford University USA, Plankton Planet: research
CNRS, la Fondation Tara Océan: creation and coordination
CHRU Brest, Centre Hospitalier Saint-Malo: medical and biomedical
Atelier PontonZ, UBO Open Factory: FabLab
Decathlon, BIC: industrial
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale Lausanne, Elliptika, FM Logistic: other members of the collective and partners
Collective website: https://adaptateur-masque.planktonplanet.org