Custom-fit facemasks in 24 hours

Close-up of healthcare worker and senior woman holding hands

Credit: FG Trade/GettyImages

A company creating custom-fit, medical-grade masks that will fit all people regardless of age, sex or ethnicity has been awarded funding by Innovate UK.

Masks that fit properly are critical in healthcare settings, where an adequate seal is required between the mask and the face to keep the wearer safe.

But human faces are different shapes and sizes, which means this can be difficult to achieve, and frontline healthcare workers might not have a mask that fits them.

MyMaskFit will produce reusable filtering facepiece (FFP) masks at FFP3 standard, which filters 99% of aerosols and is recommended where there is a risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The masks will be the first fully custom-fitted, reusable, FFP masks made to this standard in the UK.

Rapid collaboration

The project began in April, when scientists from the University of Birmingham and King’s College London recognised the shortcomings of the masks available for healthcare workers.

The team brought together expertise in:

  • facial imaging
  • skin interfacing devices
  • 3D printing.

The project was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the UKRI COVID-19 response.

The result was a prototype for a customised seal to reduce the risk of exposure and the time it takes to fit the mask, while improving comfort for healthcare workers and others who need to wear FFP masks all day.

Professor Owen Addison from King’s College London, a member of the team, said:

Both UKRI’s rapid support of COVID-19 responsive projects and outstanding collegial working environment between universities, industry and policy makers during this difficult time is enabling the early translation of this work, which can deliver real benefit to the point of greatest need.

Both universities filed patent applications during the course of the project, and the rights to these patents are being licensed to MyMaskFit.

Innovation and development at pace

Paul Perera from MyMaskFit said:

The company is working with technology partners in the spirit of the UK’s Ventilator Challenge to accelerate the pace of innovation and development so we can supply the NHS and care homes with masks that fit their workers, who will be able to use a mobile device to scan their face and receive a mask within 24 hours.

MyMaskFit plans to make technology behind the mask available to developing countries in partnership with Emergent Alliance, a not-for-profit that aims to build economic resilience in the post-COVID world.

Dr James Wilkie, CEO of University of Birmingham Enterprise, which filed the Birmingham patents, said:

This is a fantastic example of bringing university research ideas to market quickly so they can improve people’s lives as soon as possible.

MyMaskFit will now take the product through regulatory approval and bring it to market to meet the growing demand for FFP3 masks. The first masks will be manufactured in Swansea.

Last updated: 14 December 2020

NOTE Council web content is being transitioned to this website – let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.