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Picture for illustrative purposes: N95 face masks Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Faculty at the New York University Abu Dhabi have developed an eco-friendly 3D-printed face mask based on the N95 specifications, the university announced in a recent statement.

The mask has been designed by Anthony Tzes, programme head and professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the university, to help tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, N95 masks have become a critical accessory for healthcare professionals and members of the public as they protect themselves from contracting the virus. And due to an ever-increasing rise in demand for protective masks, a single-use N95 mask has become detrimental to the environment.The 3D printed N95 mask developed by Tzes therefore incorporates features that allow it to be re-sterilised and reused. It is also protective and comfortable for users.

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Sustainable N95 masks under the 3D printer Image Credit: NYUAD

The NYUAD masks are treated with heat in order to achieve a smooth surface, and then breathing filters are placed on the mask, straps are tightened, and a simple layer of recyclable, environment-friendly polyurethane is placed on its boundary. It is made of plastic, predominantly of tough Polylactic Acid (PLA), a biocompatible material that bio-degrades into Lactic Acid (LA). As the mask is recyclable, it also minimises pollution caused by waste.

“The mask is environmentally friendly because you can reuse them, but it is also friendly to humans, meaning it will not cause itching or irritation,” Tzes said.

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Sustainable N95 masks under the 3D printer Image Credit: NYUAD

“I think it is the responsibility of people to step in and do what they can. I stopped my othjer projects to do this. I could use the 3D printers to do something else, but I told my students to stop and think and to start generating masks. Let’s hope this [pandemic] ends soon but in the meantime, we must work together,” he added.