SOUTH WINDSOR, CT – Have you found that cloth or surgical mask slipping off your face? A new Connecticut startup company believes they have a solution.
Connecticut Biotech believes its 3D-printed mask frame sold for around $39 will be more than a necessary accessory.
“It’s something that’s simple that works,” Don Vaccaro, CEO of Connecticut Biotech, said.
He said everyone knows that masks are an important way to curtail the spread of the virus, but that wasn’t a widely accepted idea when Dr. Cato Laurencin of the University of Connecticut and a group of graduate students first pitched the idea.
The mask frame is worn over a conventional surgical mask to fit the face and seal it from external air with potential virus particles.
Vaccaro, a serial entrepreneur who is also the co-founder of Ticket Network, said a study by the U.S. Department of Defense in April found that removing the air gaps in surgical masks increases the efficiency of filtration of particles greater than 30 nanometers.
“And you’re not taking those N95 masks away from the health care workers,” Vaccaro added.
ICU Nurse Kaitie O’Connor said she’s very proud that UConn was able to keep her and all of her co-workers safe during this time with these mask frames.
Vaccaro said their goal is to make the frames for health care workers who don’t need an N95 mask, but who need superior protection. He said they are also outfitting school systems, including 900 teachers in Middletown, with the mask frames.
“Those teachers will feel safer. Those students will feel safer,” Vaccaro said.
The mask frame slips over the surgical mask and is custom made for each persons face.
Using technology, a person sends in two photos of their face and the mask frame is custom fit for that person.
Production of one mask takes about three hours.
If the company is able to scale up for their facility then they may be able to produce 20,000 per day or about 600,000 frames per month, according to Vaccaro.
But scaling up will depend on how many institutional orders they receive and they are about 22 days behind at the moment.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal pointed out that there is no COVID-19 vaccine that’s been clinically tested.
“In the meantime, we’re going to be relying on masks, physical distancing, handwashing, and staying at home for the most vulnerable people who are at risk. Masks are our future,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said the mask frame is a “seemingly simple invention” but mass producing a product that helps masks fit better “is potentially a lifesaver.”