Since NYTimes’s Tara Parker interviewed me about my origami facemask design in early April, I have received many emails inquiring about the origami mask design from all around the world. Many people have sent me photos of the masks they made using various materials; however, the mask project was significantly slowed down as two of the manufacturers I had been working with forfeited the project in June — I won’t said it had nothing to do with the nonchalant rhetoric regarding mask wearing in the U.S. Recently, the origami facemasks gained some momentum again with various new interests. Here I will give an update on my latest design which will soon be going through alpha testing by a start-up company.
In my previous blog, I discussed the concept of an app that will allow people to upload pictures of their faces to get the right sizing for a custom-fit mask (I have developed eleven different sizes to fit various face widths and face lengths). This project is still under development. I have recently been working in Python and OpenCV to understand how to measure facial landmarks, and consulted a computer vision expert at Indiana University on the feasibility of the project. I hope to wrap up the development in October.
The new mask has many improved features. Aesthetically, the original stapler technique has been replaced by heat-sealing (the mask is still a no-sew mask to avoid tiny holes in the fabric as the result of sewing) and plastic snap buttons (the color of snap buttons match the many color choices of the Oly-fun fabric).
After wearing my own DIY masks this summer, I realized that there are two features I really need to improve: comfort and reusability. The original ear loop design, which causes discomfort behind the ears after wearing a mask for more than an hour, is now replaced with a single long loop that threads through the upper and lower borders of the mask and wraps around behind the neck. The single long elastic loop helps secure the mask tightly around the face.
For the reusability aspect, I want to be able to disinfect the origami mask at home just like a regular cotton mask. I have looked at many different kinds of materials other than cotton, finally arriving at Oly-fun fabric, a type of fabric made of non-woven polypropylene (PP), for the outer layer. Oly-fun fabric is similar to the fabric used in a typical surgical mask but a lot heavier and stiffer, with a weight of 65 GSM, making it suitable for the folding application. In addition, it is water repellent and breathable. For the inner layer, I use another type of PP that is thinner, smoother, and more comfortable when placed next to the skin. A disposable filter is inserted between the two PP fabrics and is made of melt-blown material that has more than 98 percent Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (I received a donation of the melt-blown material from Derek Yurgaitis of the Meltblown Technologies based in Georgia). The melt-blown filter material is very fragile and can’t be washed in any way, and the PP fabrics can’t be placed in the washer (hand-washing the PP fabrics with soap is OK). However, the PP can be disinfected in boiling water as the PP’s melting point is higher than 100 Celcius.