Local college student works to improve protective face masks, creates silicone-based design

AM Extra

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — As coronavirus cases continue to climb in the U.S., a local Washington State University student has created a silicone-based design to help protect health care workers. 21-year-old Connor Weller says he developed the “BaselineDesign” mask with the goal to eventually be able to offer it to hospitals as an affordable, alternative to the N-95 mask.

“This is a silicone mask that I designed in response to the PPE shortages across the world,” Weller said as he pointed at his new mask. “It can properly seal on the face and it can be used safely over and over.”

Weller says that the “BaselineDesign” mask is still undergoing extensive medical testing.

“I’ve got a team at OHSU right now that’s going through the medical testing process,” Weller added. “It’s passed the FIT test without any issue, but we are continuing to see how it works with moisture permeability, filter efficiency, the percentage of people that it fits, and so on.”

The college student says he designed the open-source mask so that it can use readily available filter material, is made to fit properly on most people, and can be safely reused. Weller adds that “BaselineDesign” mask doesn’t rely on medical supply chains for materials

“I tried to make something that anyone can make and that and that anyone with the right skillset can go out and manufacture these with no issue,” Weller said.

Weller created the mask with a two-part silicone poured into a simple 3-D printed mold, which he sells on the BaselineDesign website. He says he designed the mask so that anyone could access the tools needed and easily make it on their own.

Emergency Medical Specialist Dr. Sean Stone is listed as one of the medical advisors for the “BaselineDesign” project and has watched the mask evolve over time. He says having a back-up plan ahead of a potential PPE shortage is vital.

“Having novel ways to come up with these protective pieces of equipment, is absolutely necessary because we are not out of this by any stretch,” Dr. Stone said. “I’d give that new design a very solid ‘A’. It’s very comfortable and it forms a very tight seal on the face.”

The silicone-based mask is Weller’s latest project to help in the fight against COVID-19. In March, he put two of his start-ups on pause, and– in addition to “BaselineDesign” — also founded “MakerForce” — a nonprofit that has now manufactured and shipped more than 40,000 3-D printed face shields around the world.

“I’m glad I was able to help people and can continue to help people,” Weller said.

If you would like to support or find out more about Weller’s “BaselineDesign” mask, click here.

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