A Surefire Way To Make Masks

By now, the wearing of a facemask to protect ourselves from pandemic infection is for many of us a daily fact of life. Perhaps that means a cheap disposable mask, but there’s no reason that has to be the case. It’s easy to make more durable masks that can be washed and re-used time and time again, and our Hackaday colleague [Kristina Panos] has shared her pattern and workflow to help you do it.

Her pattern isn’t a complex cut-out but a simple rectangle, and the trick of sewing them together and flipping them inside out makes for a very tidy result. With three pleats pressed in and the elastic sewn up the result is a mask that’s neat, attractive, effective, and cheap, which is a win in our book.

It’s worth repeating her important point that these are not for use in medical environments, instead they’re the standard street-wear aerosol catchers we’re all used to. This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at masks here at Hackaday, or indeed though [Kristana]’s are by far the tidier neither is it first time one of us has made a mask. We looked at them in depth last year in our surviving the pandemic as a hacker series.

From Trash PPE To New PPE

As the coronavirus pandemic circles the world, a fact of daily life for millions of people has become the wearing of a face mask. Some people sport colorful fabric masks, but for many, this means the ubiquitous Chinese disposable mask. They have become the litter of our time, which as [blorgggg] notes is something that shouldn’t have to be the case. Their plastic can be recycled and made into other useful things, for example, ear savers similar to the ones many of us were 3D printing earlier in the year.

As you might imagine diving into a pile of used masks can be a little unhygienic, so the first step is to disinfect with alcohol. Then the various layers can be separated and the outer polypropylene ones collected and stacked between baking parchment to be melted on a skillet. The result is a polypropylene sheet that can be laser cut if it is thick enough, and from this are cut the ear savers. It’s not quite as neat a cut as the acrylic sheet we may be used to, but it’s adequate for the task.

While on the subject of masks, earlier in the year we presented a series in whose first part we dissected a selection.

Microwave Modified For Disinfecting

We’re all hopefully a little more concerned about health these days, but with that concern comes a growing demand for products like hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and masks. Some masks are supposed to be single-use only, but with the shortage [Bob] thought it would be good if there were a way to sanitize things like masks without ruining them. He was able to modify a microwave oven to do just that.

His microwave doesn’t have a magnetron anymore, which is the part that actually produces the microwaves for cooking. In its place is an ultraviolet light which has been shown to be effective at neutralizing viruses. The mask is simply placed in the microwave and sterilized with the light. He did have to make some other modifications as well since the magnetron isn’t always powered up when cooking, so instead he wired the light into the circuit for the turntable so that it’s always powered on.

Since UV can be harmful, placing it in the microwave’s enclosure like this certainly limits risks. However, we’d like to point out that the mesh on the microwave door is specifically designed to block microwaves rather than light of any kind, and that you probably shouldn’t put your face up to the door while this thing is operating. Some other similar builds have addressed this issue. Still, it’s a great way to get some extra use out of your PPE.

A Properly Engineered UV Chamber For PPE Sanitization

Designed to be used once and then disposed of, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 face masks proved to be in such short supply during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic that getting a few extra uses out of them by sanitizing them after a shift seemed smart. And so we saw a bunch of designs for sanitizing chambers, mostly based on UV-C light and mostly, sad to say, somewhat dodgy looking. This UV-C disinfection chamber, though, looks like a much better bet.

The link above is to the final installment of a nine-part series by [Jim] from Grass Roots Engineering. The final article has links to all the earlier posts, which go back [Jim]’s early research on UV-C sanitization methods back in March. This led him to settle on an aquarium sanitizer as his UV-C source. A second-hand ultraviolet meter allowed him to quantify the lamp’s output and plan how best to use it, which he did using virtual models of various styles of masks.  Knowing that getting light on every surface of the mask is important, he designed a mechanism to move the mask around inside a reflective chamber. The finished chamber, which can be seen in the video below, is 3D-printed and looks like it means business, with an interlock for safety and a Trinket for control.

We love the level of detail [Jim] put into these posts and the thoughtful engineering approach he took toward this project. And we appreciate his careful testing, too — after all, it wouldn’t do to use a germicidal lamp that actually doesn’t emit UV-C.

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PPE Testing Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, June 17 at noon Pacific for the PPE Testing Hack Chat with Hiram Gay and Lex Kravitz!

When the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in early 2020, the hacker community responded in the most natural way possible: by making stuff. Isolation and idleness lead to a creative surge as hackers got to work on not only long-deferred fun projects but also potential solutions to problems raised by an overloaded medical system and choked supply chains. And so workshops and hackerspaces the world over churned out everything from novel ventilators to social-distancing aids.

But perhaps the greatest amount of creative energy was set loose on the problem of personal protective equipment, or PPE. This was due in no small part to predictions of a severe shortage of the masks, gowns, and gloves that front-line medical workers would need to keep them safe while caring for pandemic victims, but perhaps also because, at least compared to the complexity of something like a ventilator, building a mask seems easy. And indeed it is as long as you leave unanswered the crucial question: does the thing work?

Answering that question is not as easy as it seems, though. It’s not enough to assume that putting some filtration between the user and the world will work; you’ve got to actually make measurements. Hiram Gay and Lex Kravitz, colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, actually crunched the numbers on the full-face snorkel mask they modified for use as a face shield for medical PPE, and they have a lot of insights to share about proper testing of such devices. They’ll join the Hack Chat this week to discuss their findings, offer advice to builders, and reveal how they came up with their idea for a different way to build and test PPE.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, June 17 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
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Hackaday Links: June 14, 2020

You say you want to go to Mars, but the vanishingly thin atmosphere, the toxic and corrosive soil, the bitter cold, the deadly radiation that sleets down constantly, and the long, perilous journey that you probably won’t return from has turned you off a little. Fear not, because there’s still a way for you to get at least part of you to Mars: your intelligence. Curiosity, the Mars rover that’s on the eighth year of its 90-day mission, is completely remote-controlled, and NASA would like to add some self-driving capabilities to it. Which is why they’re asking for human help in classifying thousands of images of the Martian surface. By annotating images and pointing out what looks like soil and what looks like rock, you’ll be training an algorithm that one day might be sent up to the rover. If you’ve got the time, give it a shot — it seems a better use of time than training our eventual AI overlords.

We got a tip this week that ASTM, the international standards organization, has made its collection of standards for testing PPE available to the public. With titles like “Standard Test Method for Resistance of Medical Face Masks to Penetration by Synthetic Blood (Horizontal Projection of Fixed Volume at a Known Velocity)”, it seems like the standards body wants to make sure that that homebrew PPE gets tested properly before being put into service. The timing of this release is fortuitous since this week’s Hack Chat features Hiram Gay and Lex Kravitz, colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine who will talk about what they did to test a respirator made from a full-face snorkel mask.

There’s little doubt that Lego played a huge part in the development of many engineers, and many of us never really put them away for good. We still pull them out occasionally, for fun or even for work, especially the Technic parts, which make a great prototyping system. But what if you need a Technic piece that you don’t have, or one that never existed in the first place? Easy — design and print your own custom Technic pieces. Lego Part Designer is a web app that breaks Technic parts down into five possible blocks, and lets you combine them as you see fit. We doubt that most FDM printers can deal with the fine tolerances needed for that satisfying Lego fit, but good enough might be all you need to get a design working.

Chances are pretty good that you’ve participated in more than a few video conferencing sessions lately, and if you’re anything like us you’ve found the experience somewhat lacking. The standard UI, with everyone in the conference organized in orderly rows and columns, reminds us of either a police line-up or the opening of The Brady Bunch, neither of which is particularly appealing. The paradigm could use a little rethinking, which is what Laptops in Space aims to do. By putting each participant’s video feed in a virtual laptop and letting them float in space, you’re supposed to have a more organic meeting experience. There’s a tweet with a short clip, or you can try it yourself. We’re not sure how we feel about it yet, but we’re glad someone is at least trying something new in this space.

And finally, if you’re in need of a primer on charlieplexing, or perhaps just need to brush up on the topic, [pileofstuff] has just released a video that might be just what you need. He explains the tri-state logic LED multiplexing method in detail, and even goes into some alternate uses, like using optocouplers to drive higher loads. We like his style — informal, but with a good level of detail that serves as a jumping-off point for further exploration.

Surviving The Pandemic As A Hacker: Making A Mask Of Your Very Own

As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued along its way through the world, our community has responded as it always does, by designing and making things intended to solve the problems thrown up by the situation we find ourselves in. Much of this effort has gone into the production of PPE to plug the gap and many essential staff have been protected by maker-provided equipment, while the remainder of the effort has produced a wide array of clever designs for COVID-related items.

With curves flattened in many areas, Governments around the world are now encouraging the wearing of face masks in everyday social interactions. The purpose of mask for the general public is for droplet catching rather than virus filtering, and home made masks easily accomplish this. So let’s take a look at what you need to know about making a mast of your very own.

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