In 2020, a gas leak at a bakery in the Gaza Strip, Palestine, caused an inferno resulting in 25 fatalities and dozens of people sustaining injuries, many being burns related injuries.

To assist some of the survivors on their road to recovery and rehabilitation, medical professionals with Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) at their Gaza clinic have turned to additive manufacturing to print compressive masks which are designed to speed up the healing and reduce scarring of the face.

You can see the plastic mask in the image below.

mask gaza
(Image credit: MSF)

Izdihar al-Amawi and her daughter Maram both sustained facial burns in the accident. They were caught in the blast while waiting for a taxi nearby at the time and they have both been treated with the masks.

The masks are part of a larger MSF program which aims to provide 3D printed masks and prosthetics to burn patients, and so far the program has provided over 100 patients with various 3D printed devices.

The program has so far treated patients from a number of countries including Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Haiti. Within Gaza, over 20 patients have received masks since the program started in 2020.

The foundation has been aided by industry partners who have provided 3D scanner hardware and software to enable rapid capture of the shape of patients’ faces into the CAD environment.

Each patient begins with a personal assessment to see if they need a compressive mask, and to discuss patient expectations with the potential wearer.

The 3D scanner is then used to capture the patient face geometry data before the data is sent to burns specialists at the Léon Bérard Hospital in France, or to other remote MSF team members where the files are cleaned up, optimized and made ready for manufacture by specialists.

The manufacturable custom file is then sent back to the clinic for 3D printing and for rapid delivery to the patient.

This tele-expertise element adds particular value, as facial burns treatment is a long term process which requires equipment and expertise that is not readily available in many parts of the world.

The traditional method of manufacturing these masks is time consuming and requires a lot of manual measurement and fitting on the patient. Naturally, this cumbersome iterative process is not optimal for patients’ comfort.

By use of non-intrusive 3D scanning, the geometry of the patients’ face can be captured without any physical contact with the measuring tools, and after the file has been made ready for printing, the finished product can, in principle, be manufactured right the first time for the wearer.

A compression mask works by keeping the skin flat and soft as it heals, which reduces the scarring afterwards. The transparency of the mask helps doctors to examine the face as it heals.

Thanks to 3D printing (and also 3D scanning), the staff at MSF have been able to reduce the turnaround time and increase patient comfort while maintaining the benefits of how a compression mask works.

“Our wounds have improved thanks to the mask,” confirmed Izdihar al-Amawi.