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fast tracked Covid19 mask design for mass production

In March 2020, at the start of Australia’s national response to fight and suppress the spread of the Covid19 virus, we were contacted and briefed by a Federal Government official for assistance. The Australian Government was on a mission to find Australian manufacturers and product developers to support their efforts in designing an Australian mask – protecting the population and its sovereignty.

The brief was to design a new protective P2 Covid19 mask that would provide superior protection, using a textile developed by CSIRO and made primarily from Australian wool. The mask was to be designed for mass production, and our industrial designers and product design engineers worked together in a fast-tracked development exercise.

Our design and engineering team embraced the Covid mask development challenge, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The fast-tracked and intense design and development activity involved long hours over two weeks and lots of rapid idea generation, concept design development, detailed design, prototyping and testing.

The challenge was to design a high-performance single use mask to protect Australian healthcare workers, as a priority, and the general population from exposure to the Covid19 virus.

A patented textile for the mask developed by scientists at CSIRO in Melbourne was used. The ‘smart’ textile features Australian wool combined with other materials.

outerspace designers and engineers worked from home on a distributed team in Covid19 isolation and in the outerspace studio and workshops in Abbotsford, Melbourne to word hands-on in the workshop, creating models and prototypes.

It was an intense and united team effort. Everyone on the team embraced the importance of the project and rallied behind the positive impact the design would have.

A strategic design approach was quickly applied to create the new mask design. Manufacturers for the P2 mask and the specialised production requirements were researched alongside the product development stages.

Our design team spent long hours creating detailed designs and making prototypes. The cutting table, sewing machine, workshop, measuring and testing equipment got a huge workout. We spent hours brainstorming, sketching and detailing multiple ideas and designs.

The ergonomics, anthropometrics and the important fit of the P2 mask to the complex curves of the human face, across all percentiles, were analysed, measured and calculated. This research informed the matching curves of the newly developed mask design pattern, and the three-dimensional form of the nose bridge support.

The design of the mask nose support creates a seal on a wide range of facial geometries to prevent exposure to airborne pathogens. The support design involved detailed material investigations into suitable plastics and metals, to find just the right feel and efficacy. Plastic nose support designs were developed to fit the wide range of facial features and sizes.

Anthropometric facial data was used to design the nose support and masks to fit any face (and nose). Complex scans of facial structures and the contours of the nose and face also guided the important metrics. Three mask sizes were developed (small, medium and large) to make sure there was a mask to fit every facial shape, and to create the desired seal on the face.

The outerspace Covid19 mask design is constructed from a single die cut piece of smart textile. This reduces the number of textile panels required, reduces material waste and makes the mask easy to machine and construct in a production environment. The ‘butterfly’ shape is easy to cut from a sheet of textile, or layers of textiles, using standard textile die-cutting technologies. The design reduces complexity in construction and makes the mask suitable for mass production.

Minimal stitching is used to reinforce the structure of the mask and makes sure the mask holds it shape in ‘cut and sew’ construction. The reinforcement ‘quilting’ lines also suit automated ultrasonic welding processes in more advanced manufacturing facilities.

Only one elasticised strap around the head is required. This reduces materials required and the time required to make each mask. It accelerates the speed of production. The strap is stitched to the mask and cut to a length to suit each mask size. In more advanced manufacturing, the elastic or polymer strap can we welded to the smart textile.

Over two busy weeks of solid product development effort and testing – the new fast-tracked mask was created. In true outerspace product development style, the new Covid19 mask is designed to be safe, comfortable and effective against airborne viruses so that it protects people from infection.

The mask is easily constructed and economical to manufacture, with minimal components and cleverly designed details. It is perfect for high volume manufacturing and mass production. The team’s medical and scientific product design expertise informed the strategic design approach and successful final result.

outerspace is proud to contribute their engineering and design expertise to Australia’s fight against Covid19 and to contribute to the effort in keeping Australians safe and healthy during and long after the pandemic.

authors

Belinda Stening

Design Strategy

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