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Making A Better Mask

June 29, 2020

A cross-divisional Hopkins team is working to design and test plans for a mass-producible reusable respirator mask to support the dwindling supply of N95s

For months, the Whiting School of Engineering’s full-service machine shop has served as Hopkins’ in-house hub for personal protective equipment, cranking out 3D-printed face shields, ear-saver mask clips, and other equipment for the university’s frontline workers.

But now, as campuses gradually reopen, the center will be ramping up their efforts to keep the Hopkins community safe, says Rich Middlestadt, director of WSE Manufacturing. Middlestadt and Niel Leon, senior staff engineer and WSE Manufacturing’s design consultant, are teaming up with aerosol expert Ana Rule, assistant professor of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, to design and test a mass-producible respirator mask, much like the N95 masks that have been in short supply since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Our goal is to design a mask, comparable to the N95 respirator mask, that offers the same filtration capabilities and the same level of protection,” Middlestadt says. “Effectiveness is our main concern, but we also want to keep the cost low. So if a company or other university wants to produce this mask, they could do it for only a few dollars per part.”

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