Province orders Manitoba-made reusable masks
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This article was published 08/05/2020 (1115 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The first batch of reusable respiratory masks that are made in Manitoba is expected in hospitals within weeks.
The provincial government has ordered one million reusable silicone N95 masks from Precision ADM in Fort Garry, Central Services Minister Reg Helwer said Friday.
The government placed an initial order for 500,000 masks and has an option to purchase 500,000 more over the next 14 months. The value of the contract is $9.27-million.
Martin Petrak, the president and CEO of Precision ADM, said medical masks are an addition to the medical products manufactured at his firm. It specializes in 3D printing and product engineering for the medical, aerospace and energy sectors.
“It’s definitely an area that most companies in Canada have not focused on,” Petrak said. “We hope that with a strong partnership with different companies and organizations in Manitoba, there could be opportunities to work to help satisfy other needs that might be out of province and potentially help with some of the COVID responses to the N95 shortages by manufacturing in Canada.”
Governments have scrambled to get N95 medical masks, which filter out bacteria and viruses, because of high global demand.
“If this was taken care of very well, it could probably last indefinitely. It’s a difficult number to say, but the idea was if they could get 30 uses, it could be quite beneficial.”
– Christian Petropolis
Provincial health officials have said staff is working with 600 suppliers to bring in personal protective equipment.
To bypass supply chain challenges, the province put out a call for manufacturers to mass produce a reusable, silicone mask designed and 3D printed by local doctors Christian Petropolis and William Turk.
The mask, including the straps, is silicone and has an external compartment where an N95 filter is inserted.
Petropolis, a surgeon at Health Sciences Centre, said prototype testing of their masks in health-care settings shows the design is comparable to traditional disposable N95 masks. The masks were also tested for fit and comfort, Petropolis said, and Health Canada approval is pending.
“We tested them with different filters that were rated for different levels, and the mask wasn’t the limiting factor,” Petropolis said. “The mask was able to perform at the level of our respirator.”
The masks can be sanitized and worn as many as 30 times, depending on use and abuse, care, and other variables, Petropolis said.
“If this was taken care of very well, it could probably last indefinitely,” he said. “It’s a difficult number to say, but the idea was if they could get 30 uses, it could be quite beneficial.”
The masks will be soft-launched next week to further refine the design before Precision ADM ramps up production. Manufacturing is set to begin the week of May 18 and masks would be distributed a short time later.
“The sooner that we can get everyone protected, the sooner we can get back to treating patients,” Petropolis said.
Petrak said the first phase of production will involve hand-pouring a run of masks for immediate use while engineers at Precision, and subcontractors BOMImed and Melet Plastics, prepare to scale up manufacturing to a silicone injection process.
“It’s a rudimentary stop-gap to try to get these silicone masks into health-care workers’ hands as quickly as possible,” Petrak said.
Meanwhile, his firm will also collect feedback from wearers to address any flaws.
Precision ADM also 3D-prints nasopharyngeal swabs for the province; production capacity is expected to reach 80,000 a week.
Petrak said as many as 40 workers will be hired at the firm.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
Updated on Friday, May 8, 2020 7:05 PM CDT: Adds photos