StopTheDrop is a not-for-profit initiative which aims to contribute to the slowing of the coronavirus spread by addressing the worldwide shortage of facemasks. We are hoping to kickstart a community development of new, locally mass-producible alternatives, which can be used for everyday use. The aim being to allow medical personal protective equipment to reach those who need it most, the frontline workers.
In order to achieve this, we have launched a project, which calls on those with creative, engineering and design skills, to develop and enter a design competition, either by improving on our MFA1 Prototype [link to page] or by designing their own. This campaign asks for the production of something new and ground-breaking, and could have the potential to help everyone during these challenging times.
We are not selling facemasks, instead, we are aiming to find creative solutions to the shortage of personal protective equipment and provide a match-making service between those people with manufacturing capacity and the people who need the equipment.
Crisis Point Problems
The most pressing problem at this point in the global pandemic, is the lack of personal protective equipment, such as facemasks, available to both medical staff and the general public. The short supply of masks, coupled with the surge in demand, has led to a drastic increase in prices, a problem of significance in countries where facemasks in public are mandatory.
With plans for relaxing lockdown in many countries reliant on mask availability, the lack of access to Personal Protective Equipment will only delay the fight against COVID-19.
From a user perspective, the mask should be lightweight and of ergonomic fit in order to provide a decent seal around the face, without digging-in or creating marks. There should be no chaffing or pulling at the ears by the rubber strings. It should be easy to clean, hygienic and comfortable to wear. Lastly, it should be accessible and affordable to anyone.
The StopTheDrop initiative is asking people to create designs for facemasks, which can be easily replicated and made for everyday use. The masks will need to have an interchangeable filtration material which will help to reduce the droplets when breathing out (the primary way COVID-19 spreads), be cheap to produce, and be capable of production by 3D printing or injection moulding.
We have designed a facemask prototype (MAF 1) [add link] but believe there are other creative people out there who can improve on our design or come up with something better.
Finally, and to add an extra incentive to take part, this initiative will take the form of a competition, where the person with the best design will receive 10 000 Euro worth of prize money.
Key Challenges for the Facemasks
Some of the key challenges are to design something that is quick and easily scalable for mass production anywhere, without new machines or manufacturing processes.
It needs to be able to be produced locally and should use little material and thus be cheap to manufacture to be of low cost to the end users.
The mask should have interchangeable filtration material to easy cleaning and provide better hygiene than homemade cloth masks. Ideally using materials that are widely available and also have a low environmental impact.
“Adherence is likely to be higher during a serious pandemic, and modelling of an influenza pandemic suggested that substantial numbers of cases may still be prevented even if masks are only 20% effective at reducing transmission”
(Tracht SM, Del Valle SY, Hyman JM. Mathematical modeling of the effectiveness of facemasks in reducing the spread of novel influenza)
“If an aerosol droplet hits the weave of the mask fabric rather than the hole it is clearly arrested. And lessening the aerosol dose chips away at the R0 [reproduction number] and helps to slow the epidemic . . . They are not a cure but they address the longer flatter epidemic curve everyone is trying to achieve.”
Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, British Medical Journal – BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1422 (Published 07 April 2020)
How effective are face masks at stopping transmission?
Jeremy Howard The primary transmission [of coronavirus] is now known to be droplet-based, and we now know that that transmission largely occurs in the first seven days after infection, when people are largely asymptomatic. So that means that if you’re highly infectious, you probably won’t know
Is it important to form a seal? Would that pose a problem for people with beards?
Howard: No, not at all. A seal is something you need for aerosol-generating procedures. So unless you’re planning on intubating patients at your own home or during your shopping trip, that’s not an issue. Remember, the main thing we’re doing is protecting those around you. (Jeremy Howard is a distinguished research scientist at the University of San Francisco and founder of the #Masks4All campaign)
The prevention of a second epidemic is viable after the metropolitan-wide quarantine is lifted but requires a sustaining HIGH FACE MASK USAGE and a low public contact rate