Air Pollution Mask
A Clean Air Solution For Polluted Environments
Airhead | Designing An Air Pollution Mask | Consumer Product | User Centred Design, Material Science, Testing, Design For Manufacture
Why did a trio of uni friends leave their jobs to launch a brand-new product to protect everyday commuters?
After discovering the effects of air pollution whilst commuting & finding nothing for commuters. Airhead set about creating a solution. After a Kick-starter project with Brunel Uni, Realise created a comfortable, beautiful mask.
Our integrated textiles + user-centred design + design for manufacture produced a radically improved filtration mask capable of filtering 99% of particulates. Production-ready through the height of the pandemic.
The Result? Airhead successfully launched, selling 6,000+ units worldwide and winning multiple awards!
Behind the Mask
Behind the Airhead mask is a team of university friends Harry Young, Alex Smith and Elliot Denvir, with an entrepreneurial flair, spotting the need for an effective pollution mask for the active commuter. The passion and energy that the Airhead team have are what makes this product special. Air quality has become increasingly important within busy cities. The impact that this has on our health was the inspiration for this revolutionary mask.
Their mission is to encourage people to be more active outside and empower people by educating them about air quality and helping them to make choices about their respiratory health.
The Design Challenge
Designing a pollution mask that not only looks excellent but uses proven technology to deliver health benefits to its users is a tall order – but Airhead has done just that!
There is increasing demand for products in major cities to combat air pollution for cyclists and runners. Poor air quality significantly impacts people’s health, potentially causing respiratory infections, diseases, and cancers.
The Airhead team struggled to find a good fitting, attractive-looking, and cost-effective mask that provided the top-tier filtration needed to protect wearers against polluted air.
With a saturated market with many product offerings, the hugely successful Airhead Kickstarter campaign highlighted the demand for a mask that meets these requirements.
Airhead product features:
- Meet filtration standards
- Modular design for easy cleaning and hygiene maintenance
- Quick-release ‘mask door’ for ease of conversation and makes drinking and eating easy.
- Relatively low profile with an aesthetically appealing appearance and customisable AirSkin options.
Our Design Solutions
Having developed initial ideas and models for the mask, Airhead sought expert help from Realise to design a commercially viable, standard-compliant, manufacturable design ready for market launch.
It was crucial to evaluate and understand the needs of active commuters. Above all else, the product had to work in every situation, whether running, walking or jumping. It had to be secure at all times inside and out to deliver uninterrupted filtration confidently.
Next, we created the technical documentation required for laboratory testing. The Airhead project developed when demand for PPE, raw filter materials and laboratory testing was already high. Then came the covid pandemic which highlighted the benefit and need for facemasks. This posed a big challenge to the project with disrupted supply chains but our tried and tested industry contact network alleviated this issue. Prioritising the critical product requirements alongside the Kickstarter milestones and budgets, we planned a complete program of work accommodating these unprecedented supply chain issues.
Exploring how each layer within the mask could fit harmoniously with the face was an essential first step to the design process.
Given the nature of the product and its use, cleaning the mask is also a key feature for users. Utilising a modular design for disassembly ensured that all areas could be accessed and cleaned effectively.
The Realise team used three-dimensional head modelling to ensure optimal face fitting alongside vent positioning to improve breathability and minimise leakage around the face seal.
Changing the mask door mechanism to a single latch and adding extra fixing points improved the rigidity of the product and sealing. From here, we were able to re-design the mask door opening operation without causing discomfort.
Using our prior experience with both safety devices and health care products, we were able to work closely with commercial development laboratories to speed up and reduce risk throughout the process. In addition, we ran a series of tests on prototype masks to assess filtration quality, seal, and fit and adjust where necessary to improve performance.
To increase the longevity of the filters, the design team carefully considered the construction and fitting of the outer AirSkin®, exploring a variety of materials and processes such as 3D knitting. In addition, textile development ran alongside the enclosure design, a specialised discipline our team has experience with.
The design team embedded the Airhead branding into the design process was just as important as the technical delivery, and in this case, the logo featuring AirSkin® became the ideal place.
Onward into manufacture, the Realise team, created all technical files and met with suppliers directly to help support Airhead on the final leg of their journey. The Airhead mask is patent-pending across the UK and Internationally, registered in the UK, US, China, and the EU. The outcome of all the hard work is a sophisticated, customisable, comfortable mask that has been designed to last.
“Thank you for your incredible work and support in helping us create the Airhead mask. You’ve taught us a huge amount and always gone the extra mile to get things right. We’ve truly loved working with you.”
Alex, Elliot and Harry
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