The bottom line is, people are not good at wearing things on their face--even if it might save their lives. Look at these people on an airplane that has just gone depressurized, as one example; for another, look at the variety of casual facemask-wearing "styles" at your local supermarket, if they're even observing mask protocols. And even with a standard N95 facemask, I have zero confidence that the average layperson can competently execute a nurse-level mask fit check.
This is a design problem. If masks fit perfectly in the first place, they'd stay in place on their own while minimizing uncomfortable pressure points. But masks need to be mass-produced, and the shape of everyone's face is different. So what's the fix?
Boston/Toronto-based design firm LuxMea Studio believes they've cracked the problem. According to them, end users can take a series of basic measurements of their faces, send them in, and LuxMea's algorithm can accurately deduce the shape of their face without requiring a 3D-scan. A custom-fit mask design is then generated, 3D-printed and shipped to the end user.
These Nuo 3D Masks, as they're called, were successfully crowdfunded to the tune of $243,348 ($118,647 on Kickstarter, $124,701 on IndieGogo).
Enter a caption (optional)
I love the idea, but would have needed further clarity on one issue and resolution of another before I'd have been convinced to pledge.
The first issue is the self-measuring process, the details of which are unclear to me. "All that is needed for input is a basic set of measurements that mark the distance between your eyes, nose, and chin," the company writes. While this sounds simple in theory, I'd need to see precisely how to execute this, and what level of accuracy is required, before I'd be convinced that I or a layperson could competently provide the necessary data. A simple real-time video demonstration with a layperson would suffice.
The second issue I'd need resolved before I ponied up would be the longevity/reusability. The company states that the masks are "paired with a set of replaceable filters," and the FAQ on their Kickstarter says these filters are N95-compliant. However, also in the FAQ, their answer to the question "How do I get filters afterward? How much are they?" raises a concern: They are in the process of "securing filter material supply. We are currently working on filter pricing with the secured US manufacturer; there is a shortage in the material where the cost of filter material is relatively high."
Without a guarantee that I could easily purchase replacement filters for the foreseeable future, I'd worry that this would become another one of those tech-based objects whose support simply evaporates in the future, and is then rendered worthless for want of a part. If this thing is custom-fit to my face, I want it to be a lifetime object.
Overall I think the idea is great, and I really hope that LuxMea can address the two issues I've named. If they can, I'll be first in line to buy the retail version. Pandemic aside, I need a well-fitting mask on this farm constantly; for my indoor workshop, for power tool work outside, for cleaning out the stables and mucking out the chicken coops. Right now I use a full-face 3M respirator because it is the only marginally-tolerable solution that provides a complete seal. And it is hot, uncomfortable and difficult to wash.