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Engineering student designs masks for safety, efficiency, comfort and style

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Morgan Mitcham wanted her friends and family to have comfortable
Morgan Mitcham
Mitcham at home making masks.
fitting masks with high-quality filters, so the Lamar University senior mechanical engineering major created her own.

With two 3-D printers, printer filament and a few items from the hardware store, Mitcham, who plans to graduate in December, crafted a mask that is comfortable, meets CDC filtration standards and comes in a variety of colors.

“I basically found a design online that I made my own,” said Mitcham. “I added a little more comfort to the existing design to accommodate different nose sizes and added insulation foam right around the edge, so it seals better than an N95 mask.”

Most unique about Mitcham’s masks is the filter. She uses the highest quality residential air conditioning filters. The filter material is capable of preventing COVID-19 from passing through it and has a 97% particle removal efficiency rate.  

Mitcham filtered mask
“They’re expensive, $40, but I can cut it up into small bits, double it and make 100 filters for the masks from one 20-by-30 air filter,” said Mitcham. “The filters are pleaded so there is no fiber glass, and they’re probably more efficient than N95.”

Another ‘Mitcham distinction’ is the comfort of her masks. She super-glues insulation foam that is used to secure window unit air conditioners in windows. The memory foam-like product easily adheres to the edges of the mask that come in contact with the face providing cushion. She also prints ear straps using a flexible rubber material that is adjustable for different head sizes and also takes the strain from the ears.

“I have made about 30 masks for family and friends and medical professionals I know personally,” said
Mitcham cushioned mask.
Mitcham. “They are working really well and it’s something I can do to help in this situation.

In between her LU course work – two classes and a senior design project – Mitcham makes her masks. Each mask takes about eight hours to produce and assemble and costs a little less than $3. Mitcham hasn’t charged for her masks, but she’s put about 100 hours into the project.

“It’s been really fun making them and now I’m making them in different colors which is more fun than solid white,” said Mitcham. “I’ve got colorful filament for ear sabers like turquoise and yellow.”

Ear Strap
Colored earstraps
To support her new project, Mitcham has joined a Facebook group -COVID HomeBrew Mask Relief. The group communicates about the availability of filament, which is in high demand, and where masks are needed all over the country.

“It’s exciting just knowing I have two printers going all the time and I’m helping people to stay healthy,” said Mitcham.