“Many times we pull down our masks and wear it up again because of the discomfort since they’re constantly touching your face. It is airy and roomy inside this mask. You don’t feel like taking it off.”
For the past 26 years, Desmania Design, a market leader in industrial product design, has been designing everything from jars to cars out of their state-of-the-art working facility in the industrial hub of Manesar in Gurugram district, Haryana. Its clients include major FMCG making corporations like P&G and Hindustan Lever and automobile giants.
Earlier this year, like other companies, they too were hit hard by the COVID-19-necessitated lockdown. However, unwilling to sit on the sidelines, the employees decided to contribute to the collective effort in facing the pandemic. Using in-house resources, a team of 3 people converted a vague idea for a face mask into a usable prototype by 6 April.
“We started out with a hackathon from Day 1 of the lockdown since we had to give some work to people working from home. The objective was to achieve some sort of social impact with our product. For the first three days, a lot of ideas came through in different verticals and domains. While we put most of our ideas on social media for others to ideate upon, we decided to take forward the project of making masks in-house,” says Anuj Prasad, Co-Founder and CEO of Desmania, speaking to The Better India.
The prototype eventually became AARMR, a unique and affordable full face mask, for frontline health workers, office-goers, delivery executives and travellers. The company claims that AARMR has three times the efficacy of a normal mask, due to three reasons:
- First, the unique design ensures that the mask covers the entire face so there is no risk of touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Second, it is reusable and durable.
- Finally, it provides clear vision to the wearer because of the low refractive index of acrylic.
“Many times we pull down our masks and wear it up again because of discomfort since they’re constantly touching your face. Inside the AARMR, however, it is airy and roomy with minimal contact on the face. You don’t feel like taking it off, and there is no question of touching your nose or mouth while wearing it. There are entities making masks which cover your mouth and nose, while others are making a face shield to cover the entire face. Then there are the ones making goggles to protect the eyes. We integrated all these features into AARMR,” says Anuj.
The price range on Desmania’s full face masks range from Rs 500 to Rs 1200. These masks are made for essentially four user groups, that are divided by function and not age group. Since each one has a different filter, the price changes. For example, they have made masks for delivery executives, office goers or those visiting shops to buy essentials, travellers and one for doctors and policemen on the frontlines.
Almost all the face masks available in the market completely hide the wearer’s face, preventing any real human interaction. Hence, Desmania decided to make their masks fully transparent, and add a modular filter. This filter could be an either N95 equivalent, surgical one or nanotech filter depending on the category of AARMR you’re wearing.
“For masks distributed to delivery boys and office goers, we have used a filter which is water washable and durable. They can wear it till the time it gets damaged. For travellers, we are offering modular filters. The main frame remains the same, but the filters can be changed—like cartridges. For the doctor masks, we are doing a lot of R&D and working with a few doctors to get the specifications right. This may take a little longer because doctor masks require a whole array of compliance measures and certification,” says Anuj.
For those entities who have placed orders, Desmania has distributed samples of the full face masks, while making the final touches for mass production. They hope to produce the face masks at scale by the end of June, and deliver them in large quantities.
“We are still testing them amongst a wide variety of users, who have all loved the product and are pushing for early deployment. The design evolution is continuous and so is the refinement to design. People can come on our website now and place orders, although supplies will start at the beginning of next month,” notes Anuj.
Making Masks With IIT-Delhi & AIIMS
When Desmania couldn’t open their workshops initially because of the lockdown restrictions, they reached out to IIT-Delhi. Speaking to senior professors about their product, they also asked them whether they could use their workshop as the institution had opened up some sections of the campus, where innovators were working.
“IIT-D helped us with ideation and workshop facilities before we could open ours, and through them we also managed to reach out to doctors at AIIMS and get their feedback, which was invaluable. Finally, with permission from the Haryana government, we were able to open our facility, albeit with limited personnel. Design and development took nearly two months and it was very challenging since purchasing material was made difficult thanks to the lockdown,” he says.
Nonetheless, the journey, Anuj believes, has been worth it.
“As a result of our knowledge base and capabilities, there are less complications in making AARMR in-house. Having said that, this is the first product we are ever manufacturing. Despite the pandemic, it has given us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves as a company instead of sitting at home merely as consultants for three months,” argues Anuj.
“It is an innovative mask which solves many user related problems. The Design Department at IIT Delhi supported Desmania with design ideation and validation in the early days of conceptualization. I am sure it will meet the user expectations,” says Dr. PVM Rao, HoD, Design Department of IIT-Delhi.
With the rising number of COVID-19 cases showing no signs of abating in the near future, AARMR is a product many desperately need to see through this period.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)