Monash student makes 3D printed key against viruses

A Monash University engineering student has used 3D printing to develop a plastic tool that can open doors and push buttons to slow the spread of viruses.

PhD student, Muthu Vellayappan, has created a “safety key” that can help people avoid direct contact with door handles, lift buttons, ATM digits, toilet flushers and hand dryers, and other surfaces where contamination may be present.

Vellayappan said the key has many functions and can work on L-shaped and U-shaped door handles commonly found at shopping centres, hospitals and universities, and in places of high pedestrian traffic.

“With a size less than that of a mobile phone, I was able to adjust the key to fit a number of door handles across the university – allowing me to open and close each door without making contact with the handle,” he said.

“Usually we are prone to infection in a common area, like shopping centres and public bathrooms, where L-shaped door handles are common.

“Cleaning the keys is also very simple – because they’re made from plastic, a gentle wash in warm water with soap will do the job.”

Vellayappan was inspired to design and test the tool after he watched online videos of people sneezing and spitting into their hands and deliberately touching door handles and lift buttons.

Under the guidance of Monash University’s head of department of materials, science and engineering Professor Neil Cameron, Vellayappan made 30 prototypes which were circulated to Monash staff, and another ten copies to a neighbouring hospital.

Professor Cameron said he hoped the tool would be adopted widely to prevent the spread of disease in the community.

“This is a great example of how resourceful and creative our PhD students are,” he said.

Vellayappan is looking to modify the key so it can be used on the handles of supermarket trolleys.

The key costs less than $1 to produce one of the keys using 3D printing, which includes materials and manufacturing.

If the design is injection moulded for mass production, the cost could be even less with industry support.