Computer engineers from Continuous Composites in Coeur d’Alene in Idaho state teamed up with Altek, a manufacturer based in Washington state’s Liberty Lake city, to turn their expertise of making high-strength aircraft components into reusable N95 masks that could help ease the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) to fight COVID-19.

Continuous Composites chief executive officer Tyler Alvarado and his team designed the masks with their patented technology, which uses computer programs to tell a robot how to build something. His team then worked with professionals at Kootenai Health, who helped test the models to see how they fit.

They now have a mask built with a type of flexible rubber that is form-fitting, and therefore, fits different face shapes , including those of people who couldn’t previously wear standard N95 masks.

The prototype can be sterilised and reused, and can be mass produced if the demand remains strong, according to a company press release.

Altek, which manufactures all kinds of equipment for the medical, aerospace and diagnostic fields, has worked with Alvarado’s company on multiple projects.

If all goes well, production should start within a couple of weeks. Once the first masks are produced with Altek’s injection moulds, they will go through another round of test fits with medical personnel before full-scale, 24-hour production is launched.

The initial moulds would daily make about 2,000 small- and 2,000 medium-sized masks, which would fit more than 90 percent of users. If everything checks out, Altek will then build what’s called ‘multicavity molds’ that can make eight times as many in 24 hours.

In addition to providing for medical use, Continuous Composites plans to launch a website where members of the general public can pre-order the masks.