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UT-developed 3D-printed masks could be in hospitals by next week

As health care workers across the country face a shortage of masks while battling coronavirus, engineers from UT are working to create a 3D-printed mask.

AUSTIN, Texas — In a matter of 10 days, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin are close to coming up with a solution to help health care workers facing a shortage of masks.

The Cockrell School’s innovation center, Texas Inventionworks, teamed up with Dell Medical School to create 3D-printed masks to prepare for a shortage.

As of late last week, Dell Medical School only had a supply of about 16 days’ worth of masks, UT said in a news release.

Now, researchers are in the early phases of testing the customized masks with health care professionals.

The masks, made from a nylon material, would be reusable and allow for the filter to be regularly replaced.

“The reason why we're looking at nylon masks is that that is a material that's already been qualified for use in the medical setting,” said Scott Evans, director of Texas Inventionworks. “We have a selective laser sintering technology, 3D-printing technology, that was invented at UT, and we have a lot of those machines here in town. So, we've got an ability to leverage that technology to produce enough masks to supply the health care providers in Austin.”

Since nylon is an alternative supply chain, Evans said it will make the process easier in terms of higher amounts of production.

Health care providers will have their faces scanned, in order to make sure the mask fits properly before it gets printed.

RELATED: UT researchers developing 3D-printed face masks

Evans said by Saturday afternoon, the team hopes to be able to test some of the prototypes. And by Tuesday, he said they could possibly start being used in hospitals.

“We’ve got some expertise and we’ve got some people and networks that can solve this problem,” Evans said. “We’ve just been trying to get after it and do what we can as quickly as possible.”  

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