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Recently, a consortium of Milwaukee-area manufacturers teamed up to help alleviate the shortage of face masks that hospital workers desperately need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This group, which calls itself MaskForce, has designed, developed and produced a reusable face mask with easily changed filter media. It is temporarily authorized by the FDA under an emergency use authorization for use by healthcare professionals to help prevent the spread of infection or illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MaskForce was formed by Husco Manufacturing but quickly grew to encompass more than 50 professionals representing local manufacturers, first responders, educational institutions and healthcare organizations.
New Berlin Plastics donated engineering expertise and tooling to the project and is manufacturing components for the masks.
Unlike most face masks that are designed to be discarded after a single use, the MaskForce product can be sanitized and re-used. Made of medical-grade silicone and polypropylene, the final design is soft, comfortable and provides a low-pressure facial seal.
The MaskForce team accomplished a lot in only four weeks:
Its members collaboratively designed a reusable face mask with a replaceable filter that provides excellent visibility and can be worn for hours without discomfort.
The MaskForce team tested hundreds of suitable materials and collaborated with multiple university labs, medical professionals and first responders before finalizing the production design.
The initial production run of 30,000 face masks is underway at Husco’s headquarters in Waukesha, Wis., with the first masks shipped to Milwaukee-area first responders on April 29. The consortium is working on plans to ramp up production to more than 10,000 masks per day to help meet national demand.
New Berlin Plastics’ engineering team participated in the design of the mask body and designed a simple injection-molded plug that fits on the front of it. Its unique design enables the filter to be replaced in a matter of seconds. Its elegant tabbed design holds the filter securely in place, so all air passes through it, not around its edges.
“Because we had so much input during the design of the mask, we were able to contribute to the creation of something truly special that meets the needs of medical professionals and is easy to manufacture,” explains New Berlin Plastics president Jim Schneberger. “Most importantly, because our inputs were in parallel with HUSCO’s efforts, the speed at which we could achieve this result was phenomenally fast and effective,” he adds.
Schneberger is pleased that New Berlin Plastics has been able to play a role in this critically important project. “We’re proud that we can help to alleviate the strain that COVID-19 is causing on our local hospitals,” he says.
“This project fits perfectly with our core values, which include selfless service, doing what’s morally right and putting the needs of the team before your own. Under the circumstances, that team includes our MaskForce partners, local hospitals, and the Milwaukee-area community,” he points out.