As restaurants, shops and salons begin to open back up, service industry workers are being confronted with a new normal: How can they effectively protect themselves from the spread of Covid-19 while staying hands free and accessible to customers? In an effort to solve this conundrum, ZVerse recently completed the design of ZShield Flex, a face shield specifically designed for customer-facing service workers.
ZSHIELD FLEX flips the design of traditional face shields available on the market upside down, literally. While most face shields feature a strap at the forehead, ZSHIELD FLEX features an adjustable neck mount that holds the shield upright.
When interacting with food or customers, the shield can be worn covering the face, but when stepping out for a phone call or when doing tasks away from customers, the shield can easily be flipped down for an unobtrusive look. It can be adjusted without touching the face, which is key to reducing the spread of Covid-19.
A study conducted by the University of Iowa concluded that face shields reduce immediate viral exposure by 96% when worn by someone within 18 inches of a cough and 92% when worn 6 feet apart from a cough. The traditional forehead strap face shields have proven to be even more effective, however, it's important to keep in mind that ZSHIELD FLEX is not designed for front-line healthcare workers but for lower-risk service environments.
"The traditional face shields that are strapped to the forehead with a tight seal are worn by front-line healthcare workers, and are needed in high-risk environments like a hospital or emergency room," explains ZSHIELD FLEX designer Scott Henderson. "That style of PPE, combined with an N-95 mask, is designed to protect the wearer."
The purpose of ZSHIELD FLEX, however, is to protect the people around the wearer, similar to the non-surgical face masks that everyday people are now wearing. To that point, ZSHIELD FLEX is curved so that the wearer's exhale and potential forward projecting droplets stay behind the shield's plastic barrier, even when the wearer turns their head 45 degrees. For those who need more protection, ZVerse already offers ZShield Health, an ear-to-ear face shield for medical workers.
"The main way Covid-19 transmits from person to person is when it is wrapped up in the in larger, liquid droplets that we all produce when talking, sneezing or coughing," continues Henderson. "If you block those droplets from shooting straight out away from your face, you cut down the chances of spreading the virus by a large percentage—and that's it."
When it comes to designing a face shield with Covid-19 in mind, time is certainly of the essence, as no one truly knows how long the pandemic will last and what its lingering effects will be. Timing was not lost on Henderson and ZVerse CEO John Carrington as the duo employed a rapid iteration and prototyping process that allowed for an incredibly quick turnaround.
For an industrial designer like Henderson, the speed at which he was allowed to ideate and prototype was a dream come true. "The design process behind ZSHIELD FLEX was design as it should be," he says. "Each morning ideas were discussed and the remaining daylight was spent modeling a new 3D CAD that we would then 3D print overnight to be ready by the following morning."
The CAD and 3D printing process were repeated around 10 times before the duo landed on a final design. However, the design process didn't end there: "Instead of sticking with 3D prints as the shippable end-products, we made the jump to plastic injection molding with an American supplier so that we could make a meaningful impact on the extremely high demand quickly. As a designer, the whole experience was very satisfying."
As for the future of face shields, Henderson sees the market growing. ZVerse is at work developing a kid's face shield, which is currently in regulatory testing and will be available soon. According to Henderson "It will be huge for schools."
Emily is a freelance writer based in NYC with an interest in all things design, specifically the design process. When she's not writing about design, Emily can either be found taking care of her 31 houseplants, going on "nature" walks in her neighborhood or studying Japanese. Before going freelance, Emily was an Editor at Core77.