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Innovative design solution for face mask

WHEN the Covid-19 pandemic hit and there was a shortage of face masks everywhere earlier this year, Jean-Luc Fringeli, a Swiss national who has been living in Singapore for five years, decided to do something about it. Director of a company called Mdesign Solutions, he decided to take a fresh look at the standard face mask and came up with an entirely new design solution for it.

"We asked ourselves as to why we use a full surgical mask when in fact we only breathe through a small surface area," says Mr Fringeli. He felt that the common use of the raw filter material in the standard full face mask was not efficient at all. So he thought why not use a smaller filter piece that could be easily taken from the existing supply of surgical face masks.

"Our strategy was to develop a product line to aid breathing. Our heads were full of ideas when the face mask shortage was threatening Singapore in February. And when everyone was trying to increase the production of reusable face masks, we just took a different angle to the problem," the 42-year-old tells The Business Times.

"When you look at the design of a face mask, only 20 per cent of the surface area is used to filter air. Thus we came up with the cartridge concept that can increase the usage of a disposable face mask six times by using a small cut out from it to filter air. The cut out from the disposable face mask is put in a cartridge. We then designed a carrier in which the cartridge is placed and it became the Gill mask," the Swiss designer adds.

The Gill mask is made of a soft and biocompatible silicone formed in a shape that allows the contour of the human face to be sealed very well while being comfortable. Unlike other face masks, in the mask designed by Mr Fringeli, all inhaled air goes through the filter piece. In that sense, the Gill mask competes with the N95 face mask due to its air tightness, he says. And when you crunch the numbers, the payback is about a week since the filter pieces for the gill mask are much cheaper than the full N95 mask. The Gill mask itself can be washed when required and can last up to two years, its designer says.

Mr Fringeli says that while his company Mdesign takes care of the product and its sales, contract manufacturers in a few countries are used to produce the Gill mask and its filters. Distributors supply the Gill mask to retailers and online platforms. The Gill mask is available in Singapore from retailers, online platforms or the company's website: www.gillmask.com.

It has been quite a success so far and the company's Facebook page receives a lot of positive comments, according to its designer.

Mr Fringeli says that as a result of the Covid-19 situation, the whole world has had the time to take a step back and reflect. "Lots of opportunities will indirectly arise from this pandemic so we should all keep a look out to the post-Covid-19 changes. For Mdesign, we will continue making innovative products for our customers because it is just in our DNA. The products may be slightly different though."

Having lived here for five years with his family, he feels that "Swiss businesses can greatly benefit by having a footprint or partner in Singapore since it is a fantastic door to China and other Asian countries".

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