When firefighters go into a rescue mission, 2 major factors determine whether they will come out alive again: how well they can breathe and how well they can see. Design Reality, a UK based design consultancy, recently used 3D printing to create a gas mask which may improve the success rate of rescue situations. Using the Objet 260 Connex multi-material 3D printer, the company was able to develop a prototype of an improved version of gas mask respirators for the UK Ministry of Defense and the US Fire Services.
With the new safety standards in the US put into place, Design Reality was given a task to reduce CO2 re-breathe levels to below 1%. While limiting re-breathe levels below 1% is not usually a challenge, the company was told to create the gas mask without excess cost.
Thanks to 3D printing, the team was able to develop the respirator quickly; with CAD designs and stereolithography files being created in England on Monday and working prototypes ready for testing in North Carolina the next Friday.
Utilizing the multi-material printing function of the Objet 260 Connex machine, the team was able to create every aspect of the mask from the rubber seals to the transparent lens as one single print; eliminating the need to separately print and gluing the different materials by hand.
The prototype created by Design Reality was successful in doing its task. The new gas mask respirators were able to reduce CO2 re-breathe levels to 0.75% and there was no increase in cost. In addition, the new design provides an improved comfort in-use and a better field of view for the firefighters.