A few dozen Czech companies joined forces during the coronavirus pandemic to develop a new face mask and start its serial production with support from the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade. The RP95-M particulate respirator that provides the highest level of protection was designed by CIIRC institute at the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU) for 3D-print production. The code is free to download under an open license and has been in use in more than thirty countries around the world. The personal protection device in its physical form may now find its way to a greater number of countries as it has received a European certification.
“I am extremely pleased to see the success of this purely Czech respirator, which was a collaborative effort of multiple local companies and organizations. It has shown once again that innovative Czech solutions have a global potential and that we can be inventive and self-sufficient in difficult times. It has also shown that fast targeted aid can make a big difference. We supported the 3D-printed respirator from the Czech Rise Up program that we put together at the Ministry of Industry and Trade in a record time,” says Karel Havlíček, Czech Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry and Trade. “The Czech filtering facepiece meets the strictest FFP3 criteria and has passed a complete European certification. It is a great example of a technology transfer with a high export potential within the Innovation Strategy.”
The original CIIRC RP95-3D half-face respirator for 3D print was designed within a single week by experts from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC) of the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU). They responded to a shortage of personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Here at CTU, we wanted to offer some help at the time of the global coronavirus crisis. Our experts came up with many useful ideas. These included a unique mechanical ventilator CoroVent, pipetting robots for COVID-19 sample testing, disinfectant formulas, and a volunteer currier service, to mention but a few,” says CTU Rector Vojtěch Petráček. “CoroVent, Covmask and the CIIRC respirator, where research, government, and business players joined forces, played a key role with a worldwide impact.”
CTU provides the code for 3D printing of the respirator to all owners of the necessary equipment under an open license. The code is available for download at https://rp95.cz/. The files have been downloaded by nearly a hundred organizations from more than 30 countries worldwide. One of them is Mayo Clinic, the largest clinical research-oriented hospital. The US Navy has also appreciated the versatility of the solution and the speed of development.
“Our researchers have applied the latest technologies that are available to us thanks to collaboration with the Research and Innovation Centre on Advanced Industrial Production (RICAIP), added their expertise and developed a product whose 3D print code they made available to the world free of charge. We have transferred further development to our spin-off TRIX Connections. As a result, a face mask has been developed for serial production and the technology has been completely transferred,” says Vladimír Mařík, Scientific Director, CIIRC CTU, whose institute stood at the very beginning of the development of the face mask. “This is the first time that we have seen such a fast and successful transfer of an academic research idea to real production, not only at our institute, but also on the national scale.”
A team led by startup firm TRIX Connections carried on with the project to develop the the RP95-M half-face particulate respirator in collaboration with a consortium of manufacturing companies led by CARDAM R&D center. The respirator is designed so as to allow serial production for both the domestic and foreign markets. “The new type of half-face mask is an example of collaboration between research and industry with government support. It has shows that technology transfer is feasible even at high speed. We believe that our project will inspire other research teams and motivate them to improve collaboration going forward,” says Jaroslav Lískovec from start-up company TRIX Connections. “We have seen a strong demand from abroad and have achieved registration as a potential NATO contractor.”
The RP95-M respirator is one of few personal protection solutions that have been developed in response to the coronavirus crisis to achieve such international success. The certification is recognized not only in the European Union but also in many other countries worldwide. This is a key prerequisite for exports of the half-face mask outside the Czech Republic. The Czech product can therefore reach medical personnel and other professionals in different parts of the world. It is reusable thanks to verified sterilization and disinfection procedures.
“Such projects clearly show how important it is to support innovation. We have not only managed to adapt to the new situation during the pandemic and proactively seek and match suitable partners, ideas, and technologies, but also to provide much needed financial support from various programs,” says, Robin Čumpelík, Innovation Strategy Coordinator at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. They included the aforementioned Czech Rise Up – Smart Anti-COVID-19 Measures program. It has helped Czech industry and economy to implement innovations, add value, and collaborate globally. The Ministry of Industry and Trade is planning to launch Czech Rise Up 2.0 to support adoption of modern technologies in both medical and non-medical applications in association with the coronavirus. The aim is to prepare the Czech Republic for another wave of the pandemic that may come.
Source: Ministerstvo průmyslu a obchodu