In 2021, COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives and health and transform the ways we interact with each other. To prevent the virus spread and to save lives, face masks have proven to be an effective measure that became mandatory in public places in most European countries. For many citizens, however, wearing a face covering for a prolonged period of time associates not only with the risk-lowering benefits but also with emotional and physical discomforts, such as inability to share a smile or skin irritations.
In the beginning of the pandemic, the unprecedented demand for face masks became one of the major challenges. To protect European citizens, patients and front-line practitioners and to address their needs rapidly, CO-VERSATILE consortium partners joined forces to prepare Europe for managing pandemics by elevating the adaptability and resilience of the manufacturing sector. A group of partners for one of CO-VERSATILE production lines ‘Silicone masks’, led by ML Engraving, deployed high-performance, silicone bio-compatible multi-use face masks. The novel design of masks and the development of new finishes ensure a more comfortable fit and improved air circulation.
At the end of the project, the following results were achieved:
Simulation software is used to model the behaviour of face masks under external forces and evaluate how they interact with the face.
Fraunhofer IGD developed an efficient GPU-accelerated shell simulation, and the static deformation simulation capabilities in RISTRA were extended by a prototypical implementation of a contact simulation algorithm.
The prototype mould was tested in-house, and physical face mask characteristics were analyzed to replicate them in the second cavity.
A two-injection-points system was used to solve the problem of visual stripes in the nose/mouth area of the prototype mould.
The simulation of the mould was performed to solve air trap problems, the injection point, the viscosity, and flowing of the silicon.
The prototype mould was converted into a serial mould by adding a new insert with the second cavity to the existing mould prototype.
Textures to be used in different parts of the face mask were identified, and a laser texture for the part in contact with human skin was selected for optimal user comfort.
SKM, ORP, and MLE collaborated to complete the industrial design of the Pilot-Face Mask and test multiple surface texturing options.
Several options of silicone compounds were test-moulded to verify mould flow against the design and simulation stages and for the true wear-and-feel test.
The serial face mask design and manufacturing were completed, and the optimal moulding parameters were set and optimized by SKM and ORP.
ORP ran new moulding trials and tests with the silicon provided by SKM + MESGO and used an IMG horizontal injection with 300TONS Clamping.
The manufacturing solution for the ’Silicone masks’ production line additionally includes guidelines, recommendations and tools to support companies in reconfiguring their supply chains to cover a sudden surge in demand and assess the supply chain risks caused by the pandemic.
Mask design: ML Engraving, SKM Aeronautics, ORP STAMPI SRL
Mould design and manufacturing: ORP STAMPI SRL
Maskprototyping and moulding: ML Engraving, SKM Aeronautics, Leibniz University Hannover