COVID-19 Research: Face mask trial to keep health care workers safe

Posted 2 Jul 2020

A trial will soon begin at Flinders Medical Centre to test 3D printed face mask seals moulded to the faces of individual health care workers…and it’s all thanks to your generous support.

This innovative world-first research aims to reduce potential infection in health care workers caused by ill-fitting masks when treating COVID-19 and during other high-risk procedures.

Using a mobile phone app to scan the 3D geometry and coordinates of the individual’s face, a seal is then printed to sit between a standard N95 grade face mask and the health care worker’s face.

The aim of the new, reusable, custom made seal is to prevent gaps between the cheek and the nose where viruses, bacteria and fluids can leak through.

The idea was born out of Cardiologist, Associate Professor Anand Ganesan’s desire to protect colleagues close to home and around the world and make their days on the frontline more comfortable.

He reached out to fellow researcher Darius Chapman and together they set about developing a prototype for the seal.

“At the beginning of COVID-19 our immediate concern was supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as there were problems accessing it, not just here at the hospital but for GPs and health practitioners in the community where there was nothing left over for them, so we wanted to do something about that,” A/Prof Ganesan said.

“We’ve also seen images of our colleagues, particularly in other parts of the world, with bruises and pressure sores on their nose and cheeks from the force of continually wearing masks with the straps pulled tightly to try to protect themselves.

“The human face is so variable and there’s different shapes and sizes for everyone so a generic one size fits all mask won’t capture everyone… so we’ve set about trying to limit the leak from these masks.”

Thanks to your generous support of Flinders Heroes, A/Prof Ganesan is among eight researchers sharing in funding from Flinders Foundation and Flinders University to make new discoveries into COVID-19. Thank you.

If the trial is successful, A/Prof Ganesan says the face seals won’t just be limited to healthcare workers either, with potential to expand their use to the public, and those working in other industries such as fire fighters. He and Darius are also exploring their use in patients with sleep apnoea to improve the comfort and efficiency of CPAP machines.

“Masks haven’t become part of our culture in Australia like they have in other parts of the world during the pandemic, but they’re going to be needed around the world for quite some time,” A/Prof Ganesan said.

“And despite SA doing well, COVID-19 is not over by any means…so we want to make them available for the safety of people in a hospital setting as well as in the community.”


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