Following further intensive development and with the joint effort of more than thirty domestic companies coordinated by CARDAM, the mass production of protective half-masks was successfully launched this week. Prepared in close cooperation with industry experts, the RP95-M mask can be now manufactured using injection molding with production reaching almost ten thousand pieces a day. The half-mask provides the highest FFP3 level of protection against microorganisms including the coronavirus infection.
The shape of the mask had to be modified to allow for production in a plastic injection mold. The change in design and the development of the injection mold was achieved thanks to the long-term cooperation between CIIRC CTU and Czech engineering companies that provided their know-how, production capacity and valuable expertise in the follow-up development. The entire system is currently set up for mass production in order to make the mask available to health professionals and other workers exposed to the threat of coronavirus infection as quickly as possible.
„The fact that our research institute has close ties with Czech industry played an important role as well. Right from the beginning we put the TRIX Connections start-up in charge of coordinating the further development with industrial companies. The obvious choice was cooperating with CARDAM. That also proved to be a right choice as the company is connected with CIIRC not only by a shared laboratory in the same building, but also by a high level of professionalism needed for preparing production in such a short amount of time,” says prof. Vladimír Mařík, Scientific Director of CIIRC CTU about the main partners involved in securing the production.
In line with the licence agreement, the entire process of developing the mask for injection molding has been taken over and is being coordinated by TRIX Connections, a CTU-start-up. „In a very short time we managed to create a new shape of the mask, prepare a new and a unique prototype and transfer it to production,“ says Jaroslav Lískovec speaking on behalf of TRIX Connections. „It took a lot of energy, research and negotiations but mainly a lot of our own development to transfer the idea of a protective mask prepared by CIIRC CTU for 3D printing to real mass production.“
The CARDAM company – a joint venture by The Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Česká zbrojovka Group and Czech engineering company BENEŠ a LÁT – has been appointed to coordinate and carry out the complete production process.
„The focus of CARDAM is the development of new products and complete engineering solutions for new production processes,“ says Ondřej Kurkin, CARDAM’s Managing Director. „In the matter of a few days, we completed the development of the product, prepared the entire production chain for mass production and during Easter launched a trial production. It is an entirely Czech product. There have been almost twenty companies involved in the production process and nearly thirty institutions and companies have in some way contributed to the preparations. It was very demanding to manage the organization of the production but we succeeded. Depending on the actual demand for masks, it will be possible to bring in more suppliers who keep on offering their production capacity and expertise.“
Dr. Petr Kadera explains on behalf of the research team: „Our goal was to keep the proven functional features of the first model but, logically, we had to quite significantly adjust the construction of the prototype to suit mass production. Based on this assignment we prepared a detailed technical documentation that allowed technology engineers to make metal molds and other tools for injection molding machines.“
„In order to speed up the preparation of the forms as much as possible and to subsequently speed the launch of the serial production of the protective half masks, the work on the molds was split up among six tool mills that worked on ten molds at the same time,“ says Jan Lát, Vice Chairman of the Board at BENEŠ a LÁT Company, and adds: „This will allow to increase the planned production volume to 50,000 protective half-masks per week.“
The testing equipment for pre-shipment controll is being developed at The Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Moravian company of JAN SVOBODA is cooperating in tool production. The protective half-mask RP95-M will be initially supplied with a filter manufactured by AVEC CHEM Pardubice who is able to supply several thousand filters a day.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade of the CR and the CzechInvest government agency played a major role in the finalization of the production and especially in securing future sales.
„The Czech Republic will now be able to resolve the pressing shortage of FFP3-level protective equipment,“ confirms Patrik Reichl, Director of CzechInvest. „All of this has been possible thanks to the involvement of Czech companies and by utilizing resources within the Czech Republic. We are glad that we could have contributed to their mobilization and helped them connect with relevant ministries.“
“We are aware of the great production potential of the Czech industry and the ecosystem of companies, especially the ones surrounding the automotive industry. The serial production of protective masks can be used as a good signal for the whole world and everywhere where the FFP3-level protection equipment is needed,” says Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade in charge of Digitization and Innovation, Petr Očko.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade in charge of Foreign Trade and EU relations Martina Tauberová adds: “The state will deliver the respirator from CIIRC CTU to hospitals based on a supply contract the Czech Ministry of Health has signed with CARDAM. Czech companies can, however, help with solving the coronavirues pandemic situation not only in the Czech Republic but also beyond its borders. ”
The result of the joint effort of all the involved subjects is a delivery contract for 50 000 masks signed on 16th of April 2020 by the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic.