In recent times, there has been a growth in portable wearable health and fitness devices and in the wearing of masks which are designed to prevent virus transmission. As a demonstrator of the capability of advanced manufacturing, a 3D printed multi-material health monitoring and preserving face mask was designed and produced.
The 3D model was developed in SolidWorks and fabricated using a Stratasys Connex 260 3D printer, taking advantage of its capabilities of printing 3 materials (soft and hard) within the same part at the same time. The facemask was ergonomically designed fit the face creating a very organic shape. From aesthetic and interpersonal communication perspectives, the main housing is a hard transparent material which allows people to see as much of the face as possible. The soft material which touches the face is bonded within the 3D printing process to the clear hard material and allows a comfortable conformal fit with the face preventing external gas ingress. Several tests were completed to discover the best orientation to maximise the yield strength of the bond strength and load bearing capability for the different materials. The facemask housing was designed to have a BOM (Bill of Material) of one, no fastenings such as screws are required to fix components such as the filters and circuitry to the housing. This was possible taking advantage of the natural flexibility of the printed polymers. From an assembly point of view, the components can be fitted by clicking them into place speeding up the assembly process, cutting down on the assembly time and unit cost. Again taking advantage of the natural flexibility in the polymer, the electronic securing stand-offs were designed to absorb a physical shock, such as in the event that the unit is dropped, reducing the sudden peak impact stress on the circuit boards.
In order to capture the data a sensor was used on an Arduino board allowing for the capture of volatile organic compound (VOC) gases, pressure, temperature and humidity of the wearer’s breath. The 3D printing inks were manufactured in the course of this work and the sensors were separately designed, 3D printed, and tested. The sensor data was transmitted via Bluetooth to an application developed within this project for the use with a smart tablet or phone which analyses and presents in a more understandable manner the wearers’ data. Respiration rate and change in humidity, as measured via the sensors, were shown to be directly related to the wearers’ level of activity. With the wearing of a facemask becoming acceptable during the Covid-19 pandemic, such a device is useful for both health monitoring and health preservation. The development of this device has enabled the demonstration of the capability of advanced manufacturing to produce bespoke inks, as well as 3D printed multi-material sensors and multi-material sensorised facemask device designs. The project in particular has shown the possibility of 3D printing a ‘smart’ facemask which pairs via Bluetooth alongside with the user’s smart tablet or phone allowing them to gain a better understanding of their health.
In this multi-institutional collaboration, staff working on this project at DCU included Terence Bowden, Ronan McCann, Hasan Ayub, Eanna McCarthy, and Dermot Brabazon; at TCD Lorcan McKeon, Oskar Ronan, and Valeria Nicolosi; and at NUIG Ayesha Sharif, Alan Conneely, and Gerard O’Conor.
This work was supported by a research grant from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under
grant number 16/RC/3872, the SMART-2M EIT Raw Materials project Grant No. 10038, and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund.
Exploded View of the Smart Facemask
Rending of the Smart Facemask in use.