Made in the Northwest: Continuous Composites manufacturing reusable N-95 masks

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – Continuous Composites uses groundbreaking technology to 3D print with composite materials in free space.

CEO Tyler Alvarado explained to 4 News Now how it works in 2018. Its 3D printers have fiber loaded right into the print head.

“And then we cure it right at the point of discharge, so it allows our material to hold its shape in free space,” said Alvarado. “So we’re no longer limited to stacking material over a mold.”

And now, the Coeur d’Alene company is using its technology to join the fight against COVID-19.

“Our biggest goal was just to be part of the solution,” Alvarado said. “In addition to just flatterning the curve, we knew that we had the capabilities to be part of the solution to keep people safe.”

It designed, and is now manufacturing, an alternative N-95 mask that’s also reusable.

“Whoever uses it doesn’t have to worry about discarding their mask after exposure,” explained mechanical engineer Andrew Overby. “All they’ll have to worry about is replacing a small filter inside of the mask to where they can sterilize the shell however they see fit and then they can use it for continual usages for practically a lifetime.”

Continuous Composites has already done fit testing with employees at Kootenai Health.

It’s now working with other local manufacturing companies like Altek in Liberty Lake and True Seals in Spokane Valley to make this a reality. Alvarado says its injection molds should be ready in two weeks.

“We started with a single cavity mold, which will give us the capacity to produce 2,000 masks per day.”

The company thinks it’s about three weeks away from its first deliveries of masks to healthcare workers in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area.

“We’re really happy with the result right now and we hope that the hospitals and the end users will also be happy with it,” said Overby.

It’s cutting edge technology as a catalyst to help flatten the curve.