3D Printed Masks for Powders and Viruses Safety Protection Using Food Grade Polymers: Empirical Tests
The production of 3D printed safety protection devices (SPD) requires particular attention to the material selection and to the evaluation of mechanical resistance, biological safety and surface roughness related to the accumulation of bacteria and viruses. We explored the possibility to adopt additive manufacturing technologies for the production of respirator masks, responding to the sudden demand of SPDs caused by the emergency scenario of the pandemic spread of SARS-COV-2. In this study, we developed different prototypes of masks, exclusively applying basic additive manufacturing technologies like fused deposition modeling (FDM) and droplet-based precision extrusion deposition (db-PED) to common food packaging materials. We analyzed the resulting mechanical characteristics, biological safety (cell adhesion and viability), surface roughness and resistance to dissolution, before and after the cleaning and disinfection phases. We showed that masks 3D printed with home-grade printing equipment have similar performances compared to the industrial-grade ones, and furthermore we obtained a perfect face fit by customizing their shape. Finally, we developed novel approaches to the additive manufacturing post-processing phases essential to assure human safety in the production of 3D printed custom medical devices.