A serial production of protective masks will be launched by the Institute of Physics in cooperation with ten Czech companies

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Serial production of the RP95-M protective semi-mask designed to provide a higher protection level will start next week. The project is a joint effort of CARDAM, a daughter of the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences; Beneš a Lát, a.s., and České zbojovky, a.s. The mask is based on a model originally developed by the Czech Technical University (ČVUT). As of next week, the key components of the semi-mask will be made within seconds – not minutes – as was the case with their production on 3D printers during the provisional phase of the project. This will increase the quality of the mask and reduce its price.

One of the first batches of the planned weekly 50 000-piece productions will be delivered to the institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences, where researchers test samples for the presence of the coronavirus. The production of the mask is coordinated by CARDAM, s. r. o., a daughter of the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and Beneš a Lát, a. s. and České zbrojovky, a. s. “The mask enables to use disposable filters, including the P3 R filters, that exceed the FFP3 protection class,“ explains Michael Prouza, the Director of the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, where researchers developed a special chamber for the testing of the tightness of the mask.

The design of the prototype developed by the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics of the Czech Technical University (ČVUT) had to be adapted to suit the characteristics of the serial production executed on injection moulding machines. The result was a modified RP95-M model, whose development and adaptation for serial production was jointly provided by CARDAM, s. r. o., and Beneš a Lát, a. s., based on an exclusive licence provided by ČVUT TRIX Connections, s. r. o.

The interplay between academia and industry

The cooperation between scientists and production companies on the innovation of the prototype and the launching of the serial production was based on the experience gained in the previous projects for the MATCA National Competence Centre as well as on personal dedication of a lot of people. “This was an example of a well-orchestrated interplay between academia and industry,” says Miloslav Klinger from the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Jan Lát from Beneš a Lát, a. s., adds: “For example, in order to maximize the acceleration of the mould production rate, we divided the mask production process between six tool shops that were working on ten moulds for the production of the masks at the same time.“

A key safety feature of the mask is its tightness. “Each mask will be subjected to conditions that are much more strenuous than those during the normal operation. “The aim is to send only the highest quality masks to first-line workers,” explains Tomáš Jetmar whose team is in charge of the development of the testing equipment that was developed directly at the Institute of Physics.

Higher quality, lower price, longer life-cycle

The costs related to the use of the masks are significantly lower than those of the FFP2 respirators, plus the latter provides significantly lower protection. “In comparison with the commonly available FFP2 respirators, the monthly operation costs are more ten times lower,” says Ondřej Kurkin, Director of CARDAM, s. r. o.

Due to its durable materials, it is possible to re-sterilize the mask; its life-cycle is set to a minimum of 100 sterilisation cycles by autoclaving and an unlimited number of disinfection cycles.

The combined particle P3 R filter used corresponds to a maximum level of protection and according to the manufacturer of the mask – AVEC CHEM, s. r. o. – to approximately a week-long continuous operation in a clean hospital environment. Additionally, the Institute of Physics and SIGMA Research and Development Institute, s.r.o. are developing a filter disinfection method to extend the life-cycle of the filter.

Additionally, the Institute of Physics also coordinates the distribution of one of the first orders where 1200 pieces of protective masks will be delivered to and used by scientists at the biological institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences who are taking part in the testing and in other activities in the fight against COVID-19.

The preparation of the serial production was a joint effort of among others the following companies:

  • JAN SVOBODA s.r.o.
  • Šonka servis s.r.o. (Černošice)
  • Jiří Češka. Nástrojárna Příbram (Příbram)
  • FORMEX Koh-I-Noor machinery s.r.o. (Brno)
  • Staform UH s.r.o. (Uherský Brod)
  • KONFORM PLASTIC s.r.o. (Zlín)
  • Peartec s.r.o. (Plzeň)
  • Libeos s.r.o. (Liberec)
  • TD-IS, s.r.o. (Plzeň)
  • JSW Machines s.r.o. (Brno)

Prague, 17 April 2020

Foto: Beneš a Lát, a. s.