In a development that shines light on the State as an innovation hub, a Goa-based industrial designer and his team comprising some of the top talent in the country, have come up with a product that has been incubated at CIBA-Verna, which offers a unique solution and additional options to what has become an essential requirement in today’s world – the face mask as well as the shield.
What’s more, it is being touted as the world’s first modular mask and is aimed at helping the COVID-19 frontline workers in particular; and it has already been receiving a positive response, not just in Goa but globally, following its recent concept launch in the USA.
And a big part of this plan was based on the fact that the team observed limitations in the masks available to health care workers, be it the N95 mask or the moulded variety. Given their expertise, they felt this was a problem that could provide a solution to.
As Deepak Pathania, resident of Benaulim and alumnus of National Institute of Design (NID), points out, “The N95 mask and the ‘Surgical’ mask are disposable and are therefore required in large numbers by every user. This limits their availability and also increases the global waste generation”.
Since the face also needed to be covered, the solution was to add another new product - a face shield, over the mask! Now, most face shields cannot be fit over the moulded mask, leaving two main options: Surgical masks and N95 masks. This makes putting it on, removing and securing the two items very cumbersome. And those with spectacles have one more item to stress about.
Also, the wearer’s voice now has to pass through the mask as well as the shield, increasing the stress for communication as well.
“The question is why our warriors should be in a position where they have to be overstressed any more than they already are?” Deepak remarked.
Thus, they spent the last few months working hard to find an answer to the aforementioned matter.
In the end, they came up with the ‘Multi-Mask’, an invention of a modular mask system that addresses all these issues, and is futuristic enough to tackle many unknowns.
Elaborating about its advantages, Deepak adds, “The multi-mask can be used as a regular mask, with the comforts of an ergonomically designed product. And as and when required a shield can be fit on-the-go. The voice bypasses the shield and only has to come through the filter, so it provides better audibility.”
Further, the shield is dome shaped, like a Formula 1 helmet visor. So zero reflections for the wearer. The shield can be taken off, on-the-go. For spectacles, it’s easy-in and easy-out.
Not only that, it makes for easy removal of the mask, with or without the shield. Moreover, all the parts are washable using the standard cleaning agents. Only the filter material needs replacement, so it’s production-friendly and has a low environment footprint.
Everyone can use it. In addition, as mentioned earlier, it is ‘future ready’- meaning the filter can be replaced with other fitment like an oxygen mask, electronic filter system, audio-visual systems etc.
On a larger note, one of the broader aims of this initiative was to show that creative ideas can come from any place and that Goa is brimming with good ideas; and the world has to start recognising Goa, not only for tourism, but also as a hotbed of design that can give a boost to the industry as well.
And herein, began the collaborations that helped make the product what it is today.
And if its impressive launch on Indiegogo, an American crowdfunding website is anything to go by; along with the numerous glowing reactions it has received so far from various users, multi-mask is set to carve a niche for itself in this space.
“When we did a patent search, we realised that this would be a worldwide invention if developed properly. Now an idea is one thing, but to develop a product and take it to the market, there are clearly other things required and most importantly, a correct partnership is required, “said Deepak.
For instance, Dr Ameet, founder of PlatiCare in Ponda,; Dr Rahul Wagle, founder Dental Affairs in Margao; and Dr Karla, Dr. Karla Faleiro, a skin specialist at Hospicio Hospital; were amongst those, who gave valuable feedback and recommendations on the mock versions of the mask regarding how best it could be used and what features could be added to it.
This, along with suggestions from other professionals, led to several improvements like the filter safety and breathability; and comfort by using the headband instead of the head straps.
“Being under lockdown, it wasn't easy but then in Goa, most people are more approachable and open to trying out things and help came from all quarters,” Deepak added.
Another ray of hope came from Amey Karmali, CEO of Centre for Incubation and Business Acceleration (CIBA) Goa, who informed the team that their affiliate, Padre Conceição College of Engineering (PCCE), Verna had a new ‘Maker Space’ that had crucial laser cutting/printing CNC machines. Furthermore, work was already happening at this place to make DIY (Do It Yourself) masks for hospitals etc. Amey helped the team to get permission to travel to and fro to the incubation centre during the lockdown period.
Deepak made the prototype, filed the invention patent and formed a company to manufacture the products. For this, he partnered with two colleagues, Shilpa Salgia from Mumbai, his long-time business mentor; and Kanishk Kharbanda from Delhi, who's into the business of commercializing medical innovation. They also started a US subsidiary company to sell the product there as well and the Director there is Sudeep Salgia, an IIT-Mumbai graduate, who’s now doing his PHD at Cornell University.
“This was the director-level team, but this would mean nothing, without the team that worked on the project in my office and our families and all our friends who helped in one way or the other, especially during the launch and its organic promotion,” said Deepak.
One of the big reasons that this team has received so much support is because of the long list of exciting inventions they have come with.
The Founder of D’art of Science, Deepak and his team have created products for major private companies like the first automated locker for ICICI bank; been rated amongst the Top 100 Youtube Science Channels in the world for its educative content; been involved festivals like the Science Film Festival of India etc; curated popular public events like FabLabShow, MakeInGoa etc; and have also come out with inventions that can assist folk, like the ‘smart dustbin that talks to you to help segregate your waste’; the ‘Sway Trike’, an e-bike with a pedal assist; and the hands-free sanitiser dispenser, which one can make in less than 150 Rs.
However, Deepak is not one to rest on his past laurels. He is now completely focused on multi-masks.com and is hoping to generate enough funds to help scale its production levels. “It will positively affect millions across the world and that’s why I call it a Goan offering to the world”, he concluded.
He should get some encouragement from the manner in which people have taken up to it and how it’s not just the medical staff that is using it. For instance, cycling enthusiast Tony Fernandes from South Goa was seen cycling with that gear, even in the monsoon rain.