The Centers for Disease Control approved a mask fitter designed by engineers at UW-Madison to combat the spread of COVID-19 last week.
The mask fitter — called the Badger Seal — is a soft, adjustable mask frame with elastic ear loops that, when worn over a non-medical-grade disposable mask, has been proven to improve air filtration by covering gaps from regular masks.
“Adding the Badger Seal to this 3-ply mask was able to reduce the effective particle penetration by about 15 times,” Dr. Lennon Rodgers, one of the principal researchers behind the project, said. “That was a significant improvement and kind of heads toward that N-95 standard.”
The mask fitter went through 15 prototypes to reach completion, according to Fox 11 News. The idea was based on research on the levels of protection from different types of face masks.
Researchers in the UW College of Engineering found that the mask filtration system worked best when it was tightly sealed, which they observed by taping the edges of a mask to a mannequin.
“Adding the Badger Seal to a three-ply disposable mask helps contain aerosols and droplets,” Dr. Scott Sanders, another principal researcher on the team, said. “For wearers, a sign of a tight fit is when the mask material moves in and out with each breath.”
According to the researchers, they also pioneered the project to provide a low-cost, adjustable option for a mask frame.
“It takes about five minutes to make, and we released the design, like our other COVID projects, as an Open Source design that anyone can use,” Rodgers said.
The UW Makerspace has released 10 other COVID-19 designs on their website, including a pop up face mask and surgical shields.
So far, 10,000 mask fitters have been distributed to university staff, according to Fox 11 News. However, students and staff can manufacture their own Badger Seal in the Makerspace lobby — or can go to this link to learn more details on the mask brace, including how-to-do videos and where to purchase one.