Face mask producers see a ‘clear’ path to the future

Francisco Castro

Francisco Castro

March 1, 2021 () –

Even as the COVID-19 vaccination rollout continues and picks up speed, it’s very likely people will continue wearing face masks for the foreseeable future, mostly out of precaution while the world is waiting to reach “herd immunity.” However, some will continue masking simply because the devastating pandemic has caused them to change their behavior permanently.

Socially speaking, we all know that mask-wearing comes with some drawbacks:

For some, the masks are a barrier to positive human interaction. You can’t see whether a person is smiling, frowning or showing other emotions. Folks who are dating might ask: are they pretty or handsome, friendly or angry?

Face coverings not only hide facial expressions but also muffle voices. They are therefore burdensome for people who are hard of hearing or deaf, as they often rely on reading lips and other visual cues to interpret communications.

In response to these issues, some face mask producers are releasing clear and see-through products.

Ford, which pivoted to produce PPE amid the pandemic last year, is said to have developed a medical-grade face mask with clear panels that also filters most airborne particles. The clear panels are treated with anti-fog coating and designed to provide a full view of the wearer’s face while the side panels have filtration material.

Engineers at the automaker say the transparent respirators could improve interactions between doctors and patients. The company will seek N95 certification from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for the masks, which it expects to be available in spring.

As we’re reopening schools, the transparent face masks will also benefit teachers and students.

A competing producer has already launched a similar product.

Medical supply firm ClearMark received FDA clearance last year for transparent surgical masks that meet ASTM Level 3 requirements for fluid resistance and flammability. The items are suited for use in hospital, clinics and other settings.

However, neither of the above transparent designs solves the voice muffling problem. It takes a consumer electronics manufacturer that understands sound transmission to come up with a viable design.

Earlier this year, at CES 2021, gaming equipment company Razer launched the Project Hazel face mask that can promote safe social interaction and is good for the planet at the same time. Made with recyclable plastic, the transparent N95 medical-grade mask uses detachable, rechargeable active ventilators and also includes Voice Amp Technology with built-in microphone and amplifier to improve voice communication for the user. And the futuristic, sci-fi look will surely appeal to mask wearers who want a less clinical appearance.

Francisco Castro is the Paper, Hygiene Products & Publishing editor for Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. To arm yourself with the latest market intelligence, contact ClientCare@IndustryIntel.com. Ask us about our interactive intelligence map and search bot on Microsoft Teams.

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