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Design of the Week: The VOCAL Mask

Design of the Week: The VOCAL Mask
3D printed face mask designed for singers [Source: The VOCAL Mask]

This week’s selection is the The VOCAL Mask by David Angerman.

There are plenty of non-surgical mask options available these days due to countless entrepreneurs creating new functional designs and visual styles. However, there’s one that addresses a specific concern: singing.

COVID-19 and Singing

It turns out that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through the air, usually having been expelled from the lungs of an infected individual. This process is exacerbated by any activity that involves people opening their mouths and expelling air rapidly. This is the reason for the strong recommendation to use face masks in public situations these days.

Several specific activities are notably affected by this phenomenon, including late-night bars, where there are lots of people crowded inside a room, each talking close and loud due to background music. Another similar situation is singing, and in particular, choirs.

There was a case early on in the pandemic where most of a choir was infected during a single session. It seems that singing drastically ramps up the exhalation of virus, and as choirs typically take place in closed spaces, this is optimal for virus transmission.

The reaction among singers and institutions has been to curtail singing activities. One musical director friend of mine explained in their singing activities the participants simply “mouth” the words, basically pretending they are singing. That’s not great if you’re a singer.

The VOCAL Mask

The VOCAL Mask 3D printed frame design [Source: The VOCAL Mask]

But there could be a solution. Angerman, a music teacher based in Austin, Texas, was dissatisfied with typical mask solutions as they block the unobstructed flow of air from the singer. To solve the problem he designed a specialized face mask that includes structures to hold the mask material a distance away from the mouth. This allows a much more natural method of singing and only slightly mutes the sound, which is quite different from typical face masks that greatly dampen sound fidelity.

Angerman experimented with several different materials for the mask, which he calls “The VOCAL Mask”. Some, like nylon, were not received well due to the rigidity. He worked with 3D print service Varia 3D and Evonik to develop the optimal combination of materials and process to produce a wearable mask made of flexible material, which turned out to be Evonik’s Flexosint 65.

Choir using 3D printed face masks designed for singers [Source: The VOCAL Mask]

The frame for the mask is 3D printed, while the remainder of the mask is made from a special fabric. They explain:

“It includes a removable Milliken BioSmart Technology fabric which is durable through 75 wash cycles according to their website.”

Response to the mask has apparently been quite good, as it does perform the functions as advertised.

Angerman is selling the VOCAL Mask online at a cost of US$28.50, and you can choose either black or navy blue colors.

Via The VOCAL Mask and Varia 3D

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