Architecture students, Face masks, Face shields, N-95 masks, 3D printing techniques, Front-line medical staff, PPE, USC, Alvin Huang, Sanchit Mehta, Covid-19

Architecture students produce face masks and face shields for medical staff using 3D printing techniques

With front-line medics in dire need of the equipment, these USC students have stepped up in time

During these tough times when the world is faced with a public health emergency, people all over have come together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Help has also come from an unlikely group of people, who are playing a significant role to help curb this global menace. Sanchit Mehta, a Master’s in Architecture student at the University of Southern California (USC), has reported a ground-breaking initiative that the university has come up with. Where healthcare workers are fulfilling their jobs wholeheartedly, students and faculty of the university have come together to fabricate protective gear including face masks and face-shields for healthcare workers to ensure their safety while treating the virus-infected patients.

Deeply affected by the lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits for the unsung heroes during this pandemic, Mehta states that, “If we run out of the N-95 masks in upcoming months, these 3D printed masks serve to be a backup plan as they are definitely better than wearing the rudimentary surgical masks.”

Students are employing their personal 3D printers and laser cutters to make the visors, which are being delivered to hospitals for dispensation to front-line medical staff amidst the shortage of PPE and similar safety hardware. The shields and masks are outlined with laser-cut plastic sheets that cover the face. The design is simple yet thoughtful. Its modular attributes make the mask reusable as three different parts are provided, keeping in mind the wear and tear aspect while increasing the vitality module of the product. These 3D-printed components just require the addition of a HEPA filter to be inserted in the grid, a perimeter sealant, and they are ready to use. The masks are “a step above using handmade masks and bandanas,” says Alvin Huang, director, USC Graduate Architecture.


“It's an entire university-wide initiative right now. We're trying to work as fast as we can to make sure that, if we come to a shortage of supplies, we have backups of things that could work,” Huang said.

“These masks are reusable, being plastic masks; they can be sanitised every now and then and they come with an added benefit where their consumables like filters can be replaced and they might be a better alternative than N-95,” says Mehta.

In these difficult times, when the entire world is agonised by a profound crisis, this initiative is no less than a blessing, proving pivotal in fighting the public health emergency. The USC School of Architecture is also printing these devices for Keck School of Medicine, USC. In the present-day scenario, many LA Schools, local firms, alumni, faculty, etc., have joined hands to be a part of this noble cause. AIA LA has also sponsored the USC School of Architecture and encouraged them to continue their efforts in making these improvised means of protection to aid in this health crisis.

Similar initiatives may help in other places too, as rigid steps need to be pursued in order to flatten the curve and restore normalcy as soon as possible.

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