Mullingar-based researchers develop new face mask for high risk environments

Researchers at Mullingar’s Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) have developed a new reusable face mask that can be used in high risk environments such as ICU units and factories, in partnership with a new company p-mask and Tyndall Institute.  Recent cluster outbreaks of Covid-19 in meat factories and mushroom plants in Ireland have generated increased interest in the innovative mask for the high levels of protection it offers.

Working alongside researchers at Cork’s Tyndall Institute and entrepreneur Dave Manning, the team re-imagined and adapted a mask initially designed for scuba divers for use in workplaces where social distancing is not possible.

“A diving mask is fully sealed and so gives complete protection to the person wearing it and to those around them. The key was to find a way to enable the wearer to breath normally and to use materials that reduced the weight of the mask so it could be worn comfortably for long periods of time.” says Barry Kennedy, CEO, Irish Manufacturing Research.  “We also had to consider factors such as visibility, condensation and fogging in certain environments and how best to overcome them.”

IMR, with its design team, worked with the developers to design, modify and produce prototypes using its advanced industrial scale 3D printing systems. The mask, called PMask, is a fully sealable mask with 2-way protection for both inhalation and exhalation. This means when the person wearing the mask breathes in or breathes out, they don’t breathe the virus out into the room. The masks, which are reusable and can be sterilised, offer considerably more protection than existing options.

The masks are manufactured in China with filters and plugs coming from other parts of the world, including a local supplier in Mullingar. They are being distributed by a new company PMask, headed up by Dave Manning and are generating a lot of interest from healthcare operators and businesses in the food and manufacturing sectors particularly.

Barry Kennedy said: “We realised that one of the big challenges internationally was in the need for better equipped PPE for those working in highly infectious areas such as ICU units and large-scale factories where social distancing is difficult.  We are very proud of the IMR and Tyndall research teams who worked closely and quickly together to develop this new solution.  The mask is also perfect for use in other environments where spatial separation is a challenge, such as hairdressers, dental clinics and even flight cockpits.”

Dave Manning, Founder of Pmask said: “Having worked closely with the team in Irish Manufacturing Research and Tyndall, we have developed an offering that is available at a fraction of the cost of other full face mask options, making them a much more viable solution for companies struggling to meet the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other COVID measures.

“We can also scale up supplies of this new mask as orders materialise and we’ve already shipped a supply of masks to a paediatric cancer hospital in Tanzania. We hope the masks will be seen as a viable option for hospitals right across Africa which are struggling to secure PPE.”

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