The issue of mask fit is critically important in healthcare settings, where an adequate seal is required between the mask and the face. The wide variations in mask design and the variation in the shape of human faces, mean that this fit can be difficult to achieve, and when healthcare staff find a mask that fits, it may not be available at the next round of supply.

Scientists from the University of Birmingham and King’s College London recognised these issues at the outset of the UK lockdown, and started a collaboration that brought together expertise in facial imaging, skin interfacing devices and 3D printing.

Starting in April, this intensive project involved Professor Liam Grover, director of the Healthcare Technologies Institute at the University of Birmingham, Dr Sophie Cox, senior lecturer in healthcare technologies, University of Birmingham, and Professor Owen Addison, chair of oral rehabilitation, and Dr Trevor Coward, reader in maxillofacial & craniofacial rehabilitation, at King’s College London.

Supported by the EPSRC as part of the UKRI COVID-19 response, the combined team rapidly produced a promising prototype for a customised mask seal to reduce exposure risk and fitting time, while also improving comfort for professionals who need to wear FFP masks all day, every day. Both universities filed patent applications during the course of the project, and the rights to these patents are being licensed to MyMaskFit.

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

Paul Perera of MyMaskFit, who conceptualised the project, said: “MyMaskFit is bringing clinical knowledge, chemistry and manufacturing engineering expertise. 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.”

A rapid scale-up of manufacturing operations is already planned, and will involve manufacturing partners, including cloud collaboration tools from design and manufacturing software company Autodesk.

Read about MyMaskFit funding on Med Tech News