Personalised PPE: The Facemask That Fits
Imperial College London are researching into custom made facemasks with ventilators that are made to fit the user.
The COVID-19 virus – the lockdown and the government’s actions – has acted as a demand side shock in the British and Worldwide Economy. It is causing certain industries to grow at unprecedented rates, we have seen the rise of home working platforms, a boom for delivery companies and a surge in online retail. Another fast-growing market is facemasks, which gained another boost with the recent introduction of mandatory facemasks in shops.
However, a common problem being raised by members of the public is the discomfort they often lead to. This can be a fitting that is too loose due to the strings or straps being too long. The main part of the facemask can also be either too large or too small, leading to the facemask giving no protection. There are also problems with glasses steaming up due to gaps at the top of the mask. These problems occur as a result of one-size-fits-all production. Everyone has a different shaped face and we cannot all be expected to fit into the same mask size. Though some retailers offer sizing, such as small, medium or large, this is not specific enough for the human face which has so many variables and is so precise.
Imperial College London’s research is aiming to solve this problem by producing a facemask that fits the owner perfectly. They are using 3D printing to produce masks that are made for a single user and moulded to their face.
The customer uses a face scanner app – on an iPhone X or later – to create a 3D image of their face. You then upload your data to the Mensura Mask website where code converts your details to the blueprint for your mask. This “blueprint” is then saved on your device as a free file which you can upload to any 3D printer to create your mask.
For those that do not have access to a printer, many businesses including UPS have printers that can be used. You can find 3D printers near you at all3dp.com. The facemask should cost around £5 per mask though this varies depending on the company used and those with access to home-printing should find it to be cheaper. This means the masks are relatively inexpensive and, though pricier than a disposable mask, they can be reused. The ventilator that is included is removed and replaced every 24 hours but this is a standard sized item that can be easily bought online.
The facemask is recommended for those who must wear it all day rather than people who are just visiting a shop. However, the current state of the country would suggest that we should be wearing masks all day when out of the house and therefore a comfortable mask is becoming more important all the time. The mask itself is softer around the edges and as small as possible meaning it will be less of an annoyance. In addition to this, the personalised fit means the user has a mask that is moulded to her face.
There are certain aspects that need ironing out still. The camera quality, app quality and printer quality all have a significant effect on the mask’s final fit. The research is still awaiting approval to be used by the NHS as well but the hope is that this technology will soon be used by all medical staff. Dr Connor Myant, from the Dyson School of Management, is playing a key role in the research and ensures us that every purchase helps them to refine their software in order to develop a better product which can eventually lead to a “real impact for the NHS”.