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Daikin to develop medical face mask with national institute

Reusable type will be equivalent to NIOSH-approved N95 versions

Daikin hopes to head off a mask shortage in the event of a second wave of coronavirus infections hitting Japan. (Source photos by Kosaku Mimura/Manami Yamada) 

TOKYO -- Japanese air-conditioner maker Daikin Industries will develop a high-performance reusable medical face mask in cooperation with the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center and CrossEffect, a Kyoto-based three-dimensional engineering company.

Production of the mask will begin this autumn and is designed for health care workers in need of highly protective masks to deal with the spread of coronavirus, Daikin officials said.

The planned mask will consist of a facepiece and replaceable filter. The facepiece can be reused as long as it is disinfected after each use.

Daikin will ensure that the mask is the equivalent of N95 filtering respirators approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health of the U.S. In order to start production as early as possible, Daikin will select manufacturers that can turn out filters on a limited scale this autumn, paving the way for producing 100,000 units daily from 2021.

N95 respirators are widely used in medical environments. A global shortage emerged in April when COVID-19 spread across the world, promoting a scramble among countries to secure a supply of the respirators.

3M, the world's largest manufacturer of N95 masks for use in health care, is the main supplier in the U.S., where infections continue to rise.

Japan's N95 stockpile is reportedly nearing 13 million, a level considered sufficient to meet demand, thanks to imports and increased inventories at domestic suppliers.

However, demand for high-performance medical face masks will likely increase as the second wave of infections erupts. Japan heavily relies on imports from China for its N95 masks.

Daikin hopes to ease concerns about a supply shortage through domestic development and production of the new mask.

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