What it does
ESPIRE has a fully transparent front by rearranging the components of a gas mask. The filter is relocated above the visor. The airflow is guided from the top of the mask to the mouth. This increases comfort and acceptance and changes the archetype of gas masks
Full face respirators are unchanged in their component arrangement since decades. They consist of a small visor, an inner mask and an outer mask to keep exhaled air from the visor to prevent fog. Both the filter and the outlet valve are always at the bottom of the mask. Additionally they always have a complicated strap system, to keep them in position on the head. My research with professional varnishers and painters made clear, that no user actually likes to wear a gas mask. So, questioning these circumstances and creating something more user-centered was long overdue.
How it works
The ESPIRE full face respirator was created for professional varnishers and painters who use masks daily. The spin-on filter is now located at the top of the mask and thereby frees the users face with a transparent mouth section. The air flow is now guided in a linear stream from the top of the mask, where the air first interacts with the visor to keep it free from fog. The air then flows through a valve in a divider between the viewing and mouth area. Afterwards the air is exhaled through the outlet valve located at the chin, thus no exhaled air comes into contact with the visor‘s viewing area. This arrangement optimizes the air flow and drastically changes the aesthectics and the archetype of a respirator. The fully transparent front and compact design increase communication ability, comfort and acceptance for the user. Additionally, the decreased volume of the mask reduces the risk of accidentally lifting the mask from the user‘s face.
The research included many interviews with professional users of gas masks and analysing their behaviour with gas masks. Many avoid using them whilst working, which is a real health risk. The aversion comes from the small viewing area, the bulkiness that causes strain after long use, and the poor usability when adjusting the unwieldly straps. I analysed the components of other masks and tried to figure out, why they are the way they are. The air comes from the bottom of the filter, only to be sucked into the viewing area to “wash” the visor with fresh air to keep it free from fog. Afterwards, the air gets sucked through a small valve into the inner mask where it gets inhaled and then exhaled through a valve at the chin. My question was, if the air first interacts at the visor, which is at the top of the mask, why does it come from the bottom? I created ideas on how to rearrange the filter, so that the mouth area could be transparent. 3D printed mock ups and rubber materials simulated different variations. I produced sketches, to fine tune this new approach which changes the classic archetype of a respirator as we see it today. Most people still associate gas masks with fear and danger resulting from the wars they´ve been used in. It was long overdue to change this for good
How it is different
ESPIRE is the first full face filter respirator, that has a fully transparent front. The divider between breathing and viewing area makes sure the visor stays free from fog and assures that there is no trade-off in functionality. The airflow is shorter than nowadays concepts and might result in a lowered breathing resistance. The transparent front drastically increases comfort and acceptance by the users as well as improving non-verbal communication in a noisy environment. The usage of the existing masks tend to require multiple hand movements. The 5-point-strapping is complicated in its utilisation process. ESPIRE combines these 5 straps into one wide strap that ensures a tight fit. The adjustment of the strap is easy and needs to be tightened only once. The flexibility of the EPDM (rubber) material ensures a continuous and safe firmness around the face. The filter with its handle is exchangeable with two fingers and the air intake is protected, too.
I am now in dialogue with manufacturers to produce a one-off prototype to be able to test the functionality with a real filter and professional grade rubber material. After that I am hoping to create a small series for a wider feedback from users to refine the last details of the concept. My long term aim is to include a manufacturer to bring the product out into the market.
IF Student Design Award 2016 - Top 9 Finalist Red Dot Design Concept Award 2016 - Awaiting final judgement