Iowa researchers collaborate on testing 3D-printed respirators

Published on May 5, 2020

Researchers from the University of Iowa College of Public Health are partnering with the Iowa City VA Health Care System (ICVAHCS) to test the performance of 3D-printed respirator masks.

The project, funded by a $60,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and awarded to ICVAHCS, is led by principal investigator Jack Stapleton, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Iowa City VA Healthcare System. Stapleton is also a professor of internal medicine, microbiology, and immunology in the UI Carver College of Medicine.

Collaborating researchers Peter Thorne and Patrick O’Shaughnessy, both professors of occupational and environmental health in the UI College of Public Health, will test the efficacy of 3D-printed respirators produced by the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Washington.

“The VA in Puget Sound has a 3D printing lab that they are diverting to print nylon respirator components durable enough for reuse,” Thorne explains. “We will be testing various air filtering media to be used in the respirators to establish their aerosol collection efficiency, pressure drop, and stability over multiple disinfections up to 50 times. The goal is to develop filter media that is currently available and can be sourced in high quantities.”

Thorne and O’Shaughnessy will conduct the research in the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center’s laboratory on the University of Iowa campus.