Firstly, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of the Front-Line Workers (globally) and their support providers for their dedication and beautiful courage to help those afflicted by Covid-19. It’s a very difficult time and life as we know it, has changed. Watching the devastation week after week has been almost unbelievable.
This is very real. My condolences to those that have lost loved ones and my prayers and thoughts are with those that have it.
I’m very grateful to be able to work from home. I feel safe and do my part with social distancing. Our Canadian Government and the Ontario Premier (and his team) have been doing a great job in helping us through this ever-evolving situation. They have been providing daily updates and really stress the importance of hygiene, distancing yourself from others and caring for the most vulnerable. I think this will be our way of life for a while and we all need to respect what the medical profession educates us on and be vigilant on helping to control the spread of Covid-19.
I know there are people working frantically in identifying how to treat Covid-19 and can only hope to hear some positive news in the next month or two…
Now to my post.
I know there has been a concern about the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and how we really need to get medical staff proper equipment to do their jobs effectively. I really love how people come together and share ideas on homemade equipment or local businesses ready to band together and use their 3D printers and/or manufacturing equipment, to develop safety gear and get those to Front-Line Workers. Faith in Humanity…Restored!!
However, I’ve been very concerned about how an increasing amount of health professionals that are contracting the virus, even with protective gear on. I read an article in The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/opinion/coronavirus-viral-dose.html) and it explained the idea of virus dosage and exposure to individuals. Pretty scary!
So, I’ve been spending some time at night working on an idea for medical staff that are exposed for longer periods of time to the virus and treating those in close proximity.
Now this idea is not meant to be a quick fix or DIY (although I would have loved a 3D printer to try printing some of the parts to see how functional they were). I’m not an Industrial Designer and don’t pretend to be. This idea comes from thinking about a long term plan for this pandemic and any possible/future pandemics, that could be lurking around the corner. This has to be properly thought out and manufactured.
There were three things I was focusing on here. Fit, Form and Function. I kept seeing images of hospital staff with painful bruises, cuts and indentations from their masks. I couldn’t help thinking that they were trying to tighten those so tightly around their faces to save them from potentially contracting the virus by breathing in exposed air through some of the open areas. Then adding another article like glasses or a visor/shield probably gave them some comfort but many didn’t have them.
So, when designing the idea, I had to place myself in that critical role. What would they need? What would they want in protective gear?
Here’s a list I jotted down:
- Safety - it has to do the job of protecting against the virus - provides confidence
- Comfortable (this is a balance based on design, materials and manufacturing)
- Cleanliness - it has to be able to be washed down/disinfected easily
- Simple approach - combining a mask filter and shield for quick and easy protection
- Less constrictive - Need some breathing space and inner space while using it
- Light - materials need to be very light but still moldable to the individual’s face
- Peripheral vision - very important to see surroundings, no hindrance of vision
- Air Filter has to be disposable and easy to produce - easy movement of air
- If possible, use recyclable material
- Locally manufactured
To be honest, when thinking about this design and wanting to share my post on blenderartist.org, I originally thought of Adidas (I knew they signed up as a corporate sponsor for the Blender Development Fund) as a possible company that could do something like this. Their expertise in innovative materials and manufacturing processes, along with engineers’ breathing form and aesthetics, could probably put something like this together pretty quickly (but much more appealing and prettier). Who knows, maybe they are… I know it’s not sports oriented but if we deal with Covid-19 effectively, we can maybe enjoy life as we did…with sports!
Once I had my basic idea, I set forth on my concept for a medical mask. Here are some visual concepts of the developments.
As you can see, I tried to evaluate all parts of the mask to be as functional as possible. Though I know it looks rather bulky, I did think about trying to keep it fairly simple as well and not be too “creative” where it just couldn’t be achieved.
The idea of incorporating a face shield was key. This unit would potentially help stop air borne particles from entering through the eyes, mouth and nose. There’s ample space in the front of the face where you could talk freely and maybe even show a smile or two. It was important for me to see someone’s mouth. I think seeing them communicate is a must and helps with personal bonding. The main gasket around the face would need to be a non-porous material that would create a “seal” around the individual’s face. In fact the main mask unit’s material would need to be light, strong and flexible for its purpose. I added the two side windows for peripheral vision. I would think that helps with moving around easier and possibly balance. In order for the mask to be effective, I had to think of a way to hold the gasket up onto the face. Basically, it’s like the simple elastic bands on the back of your head and neck, with a little more muscle. One would place the mask on, then place the back pad comfortably on the back of the head and neck. Tighten accordingly using the adjustable strap at the top and clip and tighten the bottom ones. The bottom strap is also adjustable. The back pad is made up of a foam/soft rubber for comfort and the straps would be made of a material like nylon that didn’t grab or pull hair when placing or removing the mask.
The actual shield and side windows would be made of a clear plastic or acrylic and hopefully, fog-free! The filter is the tough part. I tried to create something that really controlled the air coming in and out with easy flow but filters out any virus microbes or particles within that separate, disposable filter. That would have to be removed when cleaned/disinfected and then replaced.
The idea would be that everyone in close proximity and in areas of high exposure to a virus could use this. Of course, there may be a need to create different sizes like large, medium and small.
The original design I had thought of seemed too restrictive. You can see it here.
I liked it but again, I thought about someone who needed to talk, explain and converse with patients and didn’t think this was a good option. Maybe for something else??
So that’s it. Now that you’ve seen it, what are your thoughts? Would like to hear from people in the medical field or manufacturing if these designs have any merit and are achievable. If you know of someone that can get their first hand experience to Covid-19 and how this could work or changes that are needed, please share and let me know.
Next steps? I’m not really sure. I guess it all depends on the feedback and advice I get from the community. My goal, to see something like this come to fruition and protect those that are highly exposed and help save lives. This is my way of giving back to the community. I’d be happy to really make a difference. Thanks for your feedback in advance and appreciate any and all comments. I know there are incredible people out there that want to help. This could be a way of doing just that.
Stay safe and take care!
Some geeky 3D stuff below.
A little about me…I’m from Cambridge, Ontario. About an hour from downtown Toronto. I’ve been in the Packaging Graphics field for over 20 years now and enjoy it. It’s never dull and you never stop learning about the business. I started teaching myself 3D several years ago and focus on packaging visuals and product design. It’s more of a hobby for me and I usually spend evenings trying different approaches with different software. There’s so much out there to learn and too little time!
I started teaching myself Blender about a year ago and like using it. I’m constantly watching videos on different techniques and efficiencies when modeling. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know!
When I first started this design, I was actually going to use ZBrush. I knew it had some assets that I could use as a base to build off of. However, I quickly learned that my zmodeler skills stink. I know if I was proficient with that program, I could have done it there. I just was getting too frustrated with my lack of skills. I did repurpose the female model and saved it out as an obj to import into Blender. Thank you Pixologic (https://pixologic.com/)! Of course, this asset is being used as an internal reference and would not be sent or shared to anyone in digital file format.
Once I had the model reference in Blender, I had to look up a size of an average human head (female) and scale the model proportionately, so I was using real life measurements.
From here, I started with the shape of the main mask and how it was going to incorporate both a filter and shield. Next came the full gasket and straps and then the back pad element. It took a couple of nights, on and off to finally get a good handle on where I was heading. I finally had some time over the Easter weekend (by myself and GSD) to finish this off. I know that mirror modifier is my new best friend and that sculpting with Blender is really fun!
I’m not great at texturing, so don’t look too closely. I didn’t have a lot of time to get that perfect look. I was trying to balance what looked good enough and getting this idea out for discussion. I’m sure there are more iterations to come and refinements will follow. Sometimes you have to let it go.
Now that I was happy with the overall (and stopped the tweaks), I had to get some renders out. I’ve been a fan of Octane Render and using the free tier plugin for these images. I have a GTX 1070 and can only run one graphics card with this plugin. So renders had to be reduced as they were taking me a while to render out. To help with lighting, I really like HDR Light Studio (https://www.lightmap.co.uk/). Again, I’m not a true professional but I definitely feel like it when I use that program (which reminds me that I need to renew my maintenance!). It also allows you to use other HDRI within. Thanks to HDRI Haven (https://hdrihaven.com/) for some of their assets and support to help with lighting, as well.
I did manage to learn quite a bit while working on this project. It’s amazing how much more there is to know and teach yourself.
If you have any questions about the process, feel free to reach out.
Just want to thank the Blender Foundation for creating an incredibly powerful open source program that anyone can enjoy. The more I use it, the more I want to create.
All the very best to the Blender Community and 3D folks everywhere.