Reusable face masks at hospitals? They're being tried out

A 3D-printed mask made from polylactic acid
Photo credit Rowan University
GLASSBORO, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — The call has gone out far and wide for protective equipment for health care staffers and others on the front lines against the coronavirus. 

Researchers across the country are coming up with innovative options, one of which is coming out of a lab at Rowan University in Glassboro.

Professor Shreek Mandayam runs the virtual reality lab on campus. He gathered a group of 30 students from engineering, medical, chemical and artistic backgrounds, and they've designed a face mask that's far from the standard-issue stuff.

"These are printed in a 3D printer out of a material called PLA, polylactic acid," he said. "So these can be washed in hot water and molded to the face and then later sanitized and reused."

Staffers at Inspira Hospital in Mullica Hill and Cooper Medical Center in Camden will test 30 masks over the next few days to, in effect, get the bugs out.

"We will modify the mask design early next week. And after that, we will go into final production," Mandayam said. "And we want to be able to print hundreds of masks so that we can provide a good supply to the local hospitals."

Up next on the research front? Mandayam's team is also working on 3D printing plastic face shields.​