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Silcomask: industrial design in a healthcare and technological context

In the current healthcare context, industrial design can provide solutions for wellness and health projects, where innovation takes on special relevance.

 

In this context, product design has made it possible to develop solutions in many sectors. For example, teleworking has been greatly facilitated for people who usually go to their offices and do not have a space at home, or workspaces have been adapted. It also provides solutions for safe leisure, through air filters for all types of spaces, allowing people to return to normality and everyday life.


At Trem, we have had the opportunity to collaborate in this contextual framework with our client and manufacturer Silcotech, developing a mask with an innovative flow separation system that changes the panorama and proposes a durable, transparent, hygienic, ergonomic, and safe option. This project has provided a professional solution to the main needs that are not addressed by other masks on the market.


The main objective of this project is to develop a transparent mask made of silicone, to make it possible to see the face of the interlocutor during conversation and interaction between people and to avoid other discomforts that arise from conventional masks, such as fogging of the glasses. From this briefing was born Silcomask, a new concept of mask for the professional field that, despite presenting a great technological challenge in its development with a great ergonomic difficulty to be solved, revolutionizes its sector through innovative solutions.


Mascarilla innovadora de silicona prototipado trem
Prototipo Silcomask: an innovative mask with flow separation
 

Technology: flow-breathing system


Recalling the starting point of this project, the main premise of the design given by our client and manufacturer Silcotech is established: the mask will be made of silicone. Among the properties provided by this material are of interest for this project its innocuousness, being ideal to be placed on the skin, and also its transparency, thus allowing to work at the point of favoring the vision of the speaker.


However, one of the first observations of the study was the reaction of this material when exposed to vapors expelled from the mouth, with a tendency to fog up. After careful study of these effects, in order to significantly reduce the potential fogging of the silicone, it was decided to separate the flow of nasal inspiration and mouth exhalation.

Mascarilla Silcomask separación de flujos de respiración diseño
Breathing flow separation system

Both flows end in a single filter on each side that is divided in half to filter both inspired and expelled air. Nasal inspiration takes place through insertable tubes that open the nostrils, facilitating breathing. This design solution is achieved after a research phase that takes reference from the well-known anti-snoring devices, small plugs that are inserted into the nose opening the nostrils.


One of the main advantages of the system is that it avoids breathing the CO2 released, which makes it possible to perform sports or other activities with less fatigue. Another advantage is the disappearance of fogging in spectacle wearers, which is especially annoying in professional environments. All this is done with the certainty that all the air inhaled has necessarily passed through the filter.

 

Ergonomics: an innovative solution


During the analysis and research phase of this project, the first questions that will define the development of the product arise. Ergonomics has been one of the key elements. Achieving a design that fits the largest number of people, excluding only the most extreme percentiles, is a major challenge. The maxillofacial movements involved in speech make the support space dynamic.


The solution converges on using the supralabial area and the chin as pivoting elements, so that a volume is created that allows buccal movement while providing a firm grip. In other words, a gusset has been created in the chin that has some freedom for speech movement, and another support area above the lip that easily adapts to different faces thanks to the moldable characteristics of the silicone.


Sistema de acople mascarilla modelado

The upper support uses the upper duct and insertable tubes to provide a fixed point. The chin support is provided by a gusset that adapts to any physiognomy while maintaining a good seal. Finally, the elastic straps have two different positions and two straps can be used at the same time for maximum support.


 

Manufacturing: a technical challenge


We start from the premise of using silicone as a material. Our client and manufacturer Silcotech leads this sector by producing high-quality and precision parts. Silicone is a harmless, elastic, lightweight material with the potential to adapt to the shape of the face like a second skin. Another key advantage of silicone is the hygienic aspect, it is easily cleaned and can be sterilized using a microwave. Therefore, we feel comfortable working on this project with silicone as a specific material, because it fits perfectly with the design requirements of the product.


The challenge is how to get the product to be composed of a single piece coming out of the same mold. Using the shrinkage properties of the material, the variations in hardness and elasticity that are propitiated by changes in thickness, it is possible to design complex parts, which thanks to the experience and knowledge of SILCOTECH could be manufactured in a single mold, of great complexity, to achieve the goal.


Numerous 3D printed prototypes were made in both rigid PLA and flexible materials to verify the design before manufacturing the mold from which the first prototype in silicone was obtained.

 

Embarking on the design and development of a mask designed in silicone has been a new challenge for the studio, which has resulted in a lot of learning and a successful outcome.


These types of projects, with a great innovative character, are always a stimulus for designers. We are looking forward to hearing about your idea so that we can carry it out.



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