N95 is a standard to aim towards, but it is not realistic that enough will be produced in the necessary timeframe. Staff nurses and hospital staff, especially in an ER, need to be able to grab a new mask the minute they feel uncomfortable—and, ideally, people in waiting rooms should have the same access. As the disease is primarily pulmonary, we need protection from coughs and sneezes. And a masked cough or sneeze is less likely to end up on someone’s hands.
Around the globe, people are responding to the urgent scarcity of N95 masks with homegrown solutions. We believe One Mask has several distinct advantages when compared to most of these:
The Coronavirus has overwhelmed our healthcare infrastructure causing a shortage of masks. There are many types of masks in use today. They range from the complex assembly of technologically sophisticated materials to home-sewing of cotton bandanas.
A non-woven substrate without elastic or wires. A breathable, pliable, soft, non-woven material that will not fray.
Two identical pieces assemble into one mask. Cut pattern using CNC, laser or by hand. (Each mask requires only two identical parts.)
Weld one seam, connecting the pieces. Cut pattern using CNC, laser or by hand. (Each mask requires only two identical parts.)
The N95 is the evolutionary descendant of a mask designed by Dr. Lien-teh Wu in 1910 in response to a pneumonic plague that had erupted in Manchuria. Dr. Wu understood early on that the plague was being spread through the air—a concept that was initially met with derision—but his mask worked, protecting healthcare workers and slowing the spread of the disease. By the onset of the Spanish Flu in 1918, Dr. Wu’s mask was known, and being produced, worldwide.
Dr. Wu’s mask was easy to manufacture in the early twentieth century as it required only a supply of fabric and a basic knowledge of sewing machine operation. In times of need, it could be produced in garment factories or even with a distributed labor force—every home with a sewing machine. In the early decades of the 20th century, most households in the US had a sewing machine and many young girls learned to sew in home economics class. Sewing one’s own clothes was a rite of passage and there was a textile store in every community selling fabrics by the yard. It was easy to enlist a workforce of women at home to do their patriotic duty making masks while the men went to war—literally a cottage industry.
Now, much of what we’re seeing is not very different. There are literally thousands of people sitting over their sewing machines at home or in factories stitching one mask at a time.
We are proposing a different approach. One Mask was conceived for mass production by companies with automated cutting and seaming technologies—a 21st century solution. Manufacturers of sneakers, outdoor and athletic gear, furniture, window coverings, clothing and packaging come to mind. The use of non-woven fabric is a simple choice as it does not require stitching to prevent fraying and it is extremely effective blocking particles from passing through it.
One Mask was designed with two identical parts held together with a single line seam along one edge. The curvature of the seam obviates the need for pleating seen in rectangular masks. Assembly is an easy task, even if produced one at a time. The two parts can be sewn together; for the manufacturer with a workforce and sewing machines it is a low-skill stitching operation that can be done at a very rapid pace. With social distancing and work-from-home regulations in place, this method may ultimately be much like the cottage industry of the last century.For the manufacturer with ultrasonic welding capabilities, the assembly is considerably simpler and significantly faster. Sonic welding permits many masks to be produced at the same time—the only limitation being the size of the raw material and equipment.