(PRYOR, Okla.) – The severe global shortage of reusable N95 masks after the coronavirus outbreak has encouraged several companies to join the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to help address the shortage. MidAmerica Industrial Park, collaborating with Miami, Okla. based Discovery Plastics, is the latest to join the cause to manufacture reusable N95 masks.
The N95 mask is a particulate-filtering face respirator mask that prevents 95% of airborne particles from entering the wearer's mouth and nose when properly fitted. While typical N95 masks are meant for one-time use, these masks will be reusable with a disposable filter. The filter is connected to the mask and removed after use. The group will be utilizing a high-efficiency filter material that is manufactured in Claremore, Ok. by NXTNANO.
MidAmerica and Discovery Plastics decided to start with the Montana Mask open source design file and worked on modifications that would allow the mask to be produced via plastic injection molding. Several prototype designs were 3D printed until the file was deemed ready. After finalizing the prototype from MidAmerica, Discovery Plastics began the process of designing a mold that will be used to manufacture masks. Once in full production the facility plans to produce 2,000 masks per day.
In addition to the reusable mask, staff at the MidAmerica Center of Excellence 3D printed headbands for the face shields and respirator parts using 3D printers located in the complex’s recently opened Center of Excellence.
This collaborative effort was made possible in part through Oklahoma’s new incentive program, the Manufacturing Reboot Program. The program was created to address the negative effect the pandemic has had on Oklahoma businesses, specifically manufacturers. It utilized up to $5 million from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund to assist existing Oklahoma manufacturers as they retool to develop new products and/or expand current capabilities. Priority was given to companies who make
medical equipment, PPE, hygiene products, water treatment or food and pharmaceuticals. The project was awarded $27,000 to help offset the costs of the project.
“When the COVID-19 situation became serious, we immediately began thinking about how we could respond to help local companies and workers in essential businesses,” said MidAmerica Chief Executive Officer Dave Stewart. “We landed on the PPE shortage and started researching how we could leverage the equipment and resources at the Center of Excellence. We used the 3D printers at the Center to print prototypes of the mask to come up with a viable solution. Dynamic Plastics has been great to
work through the entire process.”
The Center of Excellence is a space dedicated to technology, training and career opportunities, allowing companies at MidAmerica have access to a quality workforce and job-seekers have opportunity. It is a consortium approach to workforce solutions that leverages the expertise of strategic partners to create a tailored approach to talent development. It is led by a committee of MidAmerica company leaders who set direction, monitor performance and provide operational support. The Center provides access to advanced technology to assist its companies with research and
development and product development.
When asked about the project, Discovery Plastics Managing Partner Tom Paul said, “We were already having internal discussions about how we could help with the PPE shortage when the folks at MidAmerica reached out to us about the reusable N95 Mask project. It was a perfect fit and having a team that was like-minded, and working to achieve the same goals, made our decision easy. We plan to donate several thousand masks locally and at the state level.”
The materials used for filtering in the masks is constructed using nanofiber technology and is capable of filtering out microscopic particles, which is why it’s preferred for medical-grade masks, such as N95 respirators, that form a seal around the nose and mouth.
The companies plan to produce more than 100,000 masks per month. Distribution will begin locally, specifically focusing on critical care personnel, then distributing to essential companies, such as grocery stores and gas stations.