Face masks have become the most ubiquitous item of functionality in today’s world. Earlier, only health care workers and hygiene conscious and pollution weary citizens of certain Asian countries were seen wearing them. But the pandemic has changed the scenario. There is a worldwide shortage of facemasks and N95 masks, considered the most effective, have become a rarity and too expensive.
The N95, the most coveted mask at this time, has some inherent deficiencies that needed to be addressed, and Leandro Rolon, an architect designer and a 3D printing company CEO, set out on a mission to improve the lacuna in the mask. N95 is not a comfortable mask to wear, and if one is wearing it for an extended period, breathing through it is unpleasant due to the humid air that gets trapped in while breathing. It also fogs up glasses and needs to be changed after some use.
Rolon and his team have a design lab registered in Changsha, China, where pollution is a big issue, and masks are needed to fight off the bad air. Their criteria were to design a mask that allowed good circulation, was comfortable and did not fog up glasses.
In short, a scaled-down mini air purifier that could fit comfortably on the face--ATMOBLUE. The company developed an entirely new category of wearables that could actively purify the air of 99.9% of particles, as opposed to the N95, which only filtered 95% of the air, according to the creators.
The technology used was air pressure to filter the germs. The air pressure inside the mask had to be greater than outside to keep the contaminants out. Built-in fans pushed purified air right into the mask, allowing you to breathe normally, and one-way outlets got rid of the humid air, keeping the discomfort of sweat and grime away. ATMOBLUE uses two fans to pull air in through HEPA filters. The filters can be changed after some months of use, hence, this is an economical option designed as an upgrade to the N95, commonly in use among Asian citizens. The fans allow people to breathe easily, which is a bonus for people suffering from respiratory disorders. It keeps harmful air particles such as PM2.5 (a mixture of small, solid particles and liquid droplets in the air) out.
ATMOBLUE comes with a smartphone app that keeps track of the filter health and informs when to change the filters and an air-quality sensor measuring air pollution. You can also adjust the airflow based on the breathing pattern through the app. You can shop for new air filters on the app once you are informed that you need to change.
A comfortable silicone rim around the mask ensures an airtight seal and does not allow the air to leak out and fog up your glasses. The developers have designed a patented band system that wraps horizontally around the head, is not cumbersome and allows easy movement. The fans are noiseless and can be set in three settings and allow easy conversation through the mask.
The mask started as an R&D project in 2017, and won many product development awards in innovative tech design competitions. The team won awards such as the Red Dot Design Award, IDSA award and 1st place at the Techcrunch Shanghai start-up competition. The design lab started commercial production a year later in 2018.
With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the world, the company has ramped up production to meet demand. As far as future plans go, the company CPO Simon Kubski put it aptly that the company aims “to wrap talent and skills around projects that matter”.
Considering a changed future, facemasks will be an essential wearable from now onwards, and one that promises efficiency, comfort, security, and multiple uses is welcome.
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