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Designing face masks for local production

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally in 2020, researchers Dylan Cawthorne and Kjeld Jensen from SDU UAS Center started a collaboration with the Department of Clinical Research at SDU and Engineers without Borders Denmark on designing, producing, and distributing face masks in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau. 

Designing face masks with local materials

Designing the prototype of a face mask that could offer sufficient protection, was the first step for Dylan Cawthorne. The effectiveness of face masks depends on how they are sewn, their shape, design, and materials. It took a lot of sewing, fitting , and testing in Dylans’ workshop to get it just right. In addition, it was important for the project that the face masks could be produced by local African tailors and with local materials. Therefore, the prototypes were designed from two local African cotton shirts.

Once the prototype was developed, it went through tests conducted by FORCE Technology and further clinical test in Guniea-Bisseau where the Department of Clinical Research at SDU already lead the Bandim Health Project.

Local students produce face masks

To hand over the knowledge of how to sew the face masks, Dylan made step-by-step video guides for the African tailors to watch and learn from.

The production and distribution of face masks in Sierra Leone were handled by Engineers without Borders. 70 students in a technical college for disabled students in Sierra Leone helped sew the face masks by following Dylan Cawthorne’s instructions.

More than 100.000 face masks were produced and distributed locally in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau through the project. In addition to the face masks, Engineers without Borders also distributed soap and educated the locals on Covid-19 precautions.

Face masks patterns and tutorials

Face mask tutorials and patterns at Engineers without Borders website


SDU and Engineers Without Borders provide face masks in Africa, 17th July 2020,

For more information

Contact Dylan Cawthorne from SDU UAS Center


Engineers without Borders Denmark

Learn more about Engineers without Borders


Last Updated 01.12.2023