WAUKESHA — Waukesha company Husco is among more than 25 organizations that has joined a Milwaukee task force with the goal of designing and manufacturing masks for health care professionals treating patients with COVID-19.
The Milwaukee Mask-Force is working to develop a reusable design for N95 respirators, made from plastic or hard rubber that can be manufactured at scale.
The MaskForce is working on three mask designs with universities including Concordia, Marquette, UW-Milwaukee and Milwaukee School of Engineering. They are partnering with manufacturers, including HUSCO; Midwest Composite Technologies, based in Hartland; and Briggs and Stratton.
Health and safety organizations are helping guide the project, including Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin and the Milwaukee County Emergency Operations Center.
Design samples will go through local clinical testing to verify safety, comfort and performance.
Pat Masterson, vice president of corporate manufacturing for Husco, said they first became involved with the project because a couple of health organizations started reaching out to the community looking for ways to help with the national shortage of Personal Protective Equipment. Masterson said a couple of teams then started on the project late last week.
“We were thinking about how we could help,” Masterson said. “We have rapid prototype capabilities and we also have a lot of design resources in our Husco team and so we started working on it independently ... and through some connections at Froedtert and through some different discussions we kind of came together as one larger team and started sharing ideas.”
Masterson said they decided to start collaborating on the designs and manufacturing process to produce high-quality, highvolume masks.
“Late last week the federal government signed some legislation allowing these kinds of masks to be used in a health care setting,” Masterson said. “The feedback that we’ve received from the health care workers is they would like to see a very much improved design over a standard mask over what you buy at a hardware store, because they are treating patients all day long. So there’s the fitness of the mask, there’s the materials, there’s the risk of exposure.”
As for now, Masterson said there is not a timeline for the project, but they are working around the clock to resolve it quickly.
“We need to make sure that all these people who are taking care of patients and putting their life on the line every day have the equipment that they need to do their job successfully and be safe and be able to make it home each night,” Masterson said.