With social and professional activities gradually restarting, wearing a face mask is one of the additional measures to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Wearing a face mask won’t necessarily prevent you from catching the virus, but it will reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.You’ll see face masks in all sizes and shapes, but most have a traditional structure with elastic loops around the ears. While these loops are practical to keep your mask in place, they are more unpleasant to wear for a longer time. Just ask health care workers. These elastic loops can rub the ears and skin, causing painful friction and irritation when wearing them for prolonged periods.
The FabLab and the Centre for Polymer and Material Technologies (CPMT) at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture of Ghent University came up with a clever hack: the EarBuddy.An EarBuddy holds the elastic loops of a mouth mask at the back of the head, thereby reducing irritation of the ears.
This EarBuddy may be a welcome accessory for our students and supervising colleagues, as they are required to wear a mask for 3 hours during the exams. But also researchers and caregivers will benefit from this gadget. 2500 EarBuddies are now produced daily in the CPMT labs.
Prof. dr. Ludwig CardonHead of department
From waste to useful accessoryThe concept of the EarBuddy is a collective initiative of the FabLab, CPMT and the Green Office of the university. It is designed to be made from recycled polypropylene from (completely clean) empty pipette tip boxes from the labs. In this way, we realize a closed and high-quality material cycle from collection to recycling to reprocessing within Ghent University. This internally recycled polypropylene is a so-called "lost plastic" identified in the Interreg project PlastiCity, in which the City of Ghent and Ghent University work together via the CAPTURE platform to keep more plastics in the circular economy (and away from combustion). The pipette tip boxes are the perfect recycled raw material for injection molding the EarBuddies and are fully sterilisable.
The expertise from various research projects (Horizon 2020 Repair3D and Horizon 2020 PolyCE and the Flemish Catalisti-ICON Hybrid Moulds) was combined to quickly optimize prototypes and 3D printing, design a hybrid injection mold and control everything via a Moldex3D flow simulation. With the practical support of mould builder VDS Technics, it was thus possible to switch from mold design to actual production within 1 week. By combining the knowledge of FabLab-UGent-CPMT, an innovative gadget was produced from sustainable and circular plastic. This article appeared originally in Dutch as a LinkedIn article by Kim Ragaert.