Czech researchers develop top-grade respirator for 3D printing

Photo: archive of CIIRC

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a global scramble for face masks and respirators. Most of the world's face masks are made in China and Taiwan, which currently find it hard to satisfy demand, and scientists are racing to find alternative sources. A team of researchers at the Czech Institute of Computer Science, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC) has developed a high-grade respirator that can be printed on industrial 3D printers or produced by injection molding technology.

Photo: archive of CIIRC

The Czech Institute of Computer Science, Robotics and Cybernetics has just made a big contribution to resolving the world’s pressing need for quality respirators. The prototype which has emerged in the space of just one week meets a number of important criteria – it can be produced on HP Multijet Fusion printers, high-capacity industrial printers or with the help of injection molding technology anywhere in the world, it is reusable, saves filter material and is as effective as the highest standard respirators now available on the Czech market (FFP3).

Alexandr Lazarov,  photo: archive of CIIRC
The respirator is reusable following a simple disinfection procedure and filter replacement. Aviation construction engineer Alexandr Lazarov, who is in charge of the project at the Institute of Computer Science, Robotics and Cybernetics, says the team raced against the clock to deliver a reliable product in record time.

“We received certified approval for the RP95-3D respirator at the end of last week. It was certified as an FFP3 class safety half mask with interchangeable external filters. The selected material and technology guarantees optimal properties – the respirator is flexible, light and impermeable. The good news is that anyone who has the necessary technology HP Multijet Fusion printers can produce them anywhere in the world getting exactly the same product as the original. We should be ready to start sending printing data to those who apply within days.”

Photo: archive of CIIRC
There are currently eight printers with the respective technology in the Czech Republic and all the companies who have them have already offered their full production capacities. It is estimated that one printer could print 50 to 60 respirators a day, with all eight companies producing around 500 respirators daily for hospital staff and others in need. However the demand on the market is much higher and the team is now finalizing a second means of production of the respirator which would enable mass production –using molding technology. Alexandr Lazarov explains:

“At present we are finalizing work on a second means of production via injection molding technology, in other words a machine that processes plastics by injecting molten material into a ready-made mold, which would significantly increase production capacity. Once this is up and running it will enable production of 10,000 of these respirators a week."

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Materials for the respirator are widely available and the present estimate is that the cost of one –printed on a 3D printer -would be under 1,000 crowns, which is considered a very good price for a high grade respirator of this kind.