SuperCool respirator review by product design student

“I have to say, the SuperCool looks neat! It’s petite, slim and foldable for easy transportation. The transparency has a friendly feel but its only once you put it on that you realise how unobtrusive the SuperCool really is, to look at and wear.”

Erika Hansen, an Industrial design student from New Zealand, researched the use of respirators for cycling and running. Throughout her research Erika concluded the key challenge of respiratory protection design is to create a mask that people want to wear. She also listed a few additional challenges:

  • Drinking and communicating with the mask on.
  • A comfortable seal for a large demographic of users.
  • Does not reduce performance.
  • We invited Erika to take a look of our SuperCool and see how far it match her ideal design of a respirator mask.

    After trying the SuperCool mask, following is what she has to say.

    Industrial design student Erika test SuperCool mask at Oriental Parade, Wellington, New Zealand on the 17th of August - Photo by Bayden Filleul
    Industrial design student Erika test SuperCool mask at Oriental Parade, Wellington, New Zealand on the 17th of August - Photo by Bayden Filleul

    “I have to say, the SuperCool looks neat! It’s petite, slim and foldable for easy transportation. The transparency has a friendly feel but its only once you put it on that you realise how unobtrusive the SuperCool really is, to look at and wear.

    Being a petite woman, the Supercool was a little long for me, which put pressure under the nose and excess material under the chin however it can be simply trimmed down with scissors. The instruction booklet enclosed with the mask could be improved if it clarified this attribute with a series of diagrams. The embossed website address confuses which way up the mask should be worn. My interpretation was that you would wear the mask with the text upright so it was readable, positioned under the chin. However the form of the mask suggests that it is designed to be worn up the other way, with the text under the nose. A clear visual in the instruction booklet could demonstrate this and save users from trimming the ends only to find that it’s upside down. However the ability for the user to create a custom fit, simply with a pair of scissors is great.

    At first the SuperCool can take a bit of effort to put on but, unlike other masks I’ve experienced, you can whip it off with ease, without feeling like your being strangled by the tangled mess of straps.

    On testing the super cool I have to say I was rather impressed! With personal design experience in the area of respiratory masks I can appreciate how challenging it is to design a mask that users not only feel comfortable enough to be seen wearing but actually enjoy wearing! The SuperCool will definitely benefit users who feel at all claustrophobic in half face masks that cover the nose.

    I do have questions about the performance of the mask when it doesn’t cover the nose. For exercising it could be a good solution as most people tend to breathe through the mouth however this wouldn’t necessarily be the case for other users such as allergy sufferers. There is potentially a compromise in the performance of the Supercool as there is no seal around the filters however users can easily remove the covers and replace the filters themselves when required.

    The SuperCool is surprisingly comfortable. I could happily wear it for a few hours at a time and occasionally become unaware of it. After half an hour of use I was left with light indents on the face but I view this as assurance of a tight seal rather than a down side.

    It’s great to see that the SuperCool is latex free, a huge plus for latex allergy sufferers! The SuperCool appears to be a great mask for those wanting personal protection from particles and due to the size it would make a great travel companion should unexpected situations arise where you would benefit from low level respiratory protection against particles.”

    Erika Hansen
    Industrial Design
    Massey University
    New Zealand
    —————————————————-
    Editor note:
    Thanks to Erika’s feedback, we’ve improved the instruction of the SuperCool mask and made the possibility to trim the mask more clear.
    Regarding the orientation of the mask, some users achieved a better face-seal while wearing the mask in the upright orientation. Others find the upside down orientation is better. This has also been expained in the instruction sheet.
    —————————————————-
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    Testing Totobobo mask against N95 mask

    Totobobo mask is the most comfortable and advanced respirator in the non-certified respirator market. In many respects the patented design is revolutionary. The original design cater to the needs of common users, who do not have access to professional fit-test facility and yet need the assurance of a well fitted respirator.

    preparing Totobobo mask for test
    Preparing Totobobo masks for test

    A different approach
    To provide assurance of good fit, we made the reusable mask with transparent plastic, so that users can see through it and check the face-seal. We make the mask customizable, so that users can trim it to fit their face. The thin and flexible plastic is highly adaptive and easily follows the contour of the face, require very little force to hold on to the face. The strap is exceptionally flexible and comfortable to use. There is silver ion anti-virus additive in the mask to make reuse more safe. all these sounds great on paper, but how does it perform in real life?

    testing Totobobo mask
    Testing Totobobo mask

    Testing the masks
    To validate the protection of Totobobo, we sent the masks to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong to test the effectiveness by professional fit-test facilities.
    A randomized controlled cross over study was carreid out to compare the efficacy of Totobobo with fitted tested N95 masks (1860 or 1860s or 1862, 3M). The test was conducted in 22 healthy volunteers. The key findings are:

    – The pass rate (filtration factor >100) of Totobobo mask was over 73%, while majority of (N95) masks fitting less than 40% of the test population
    – The average filtration factor of fitted tested N95 masks is higher (193) then Totobobo mask (135).
    – In terms of comfort, 65% subjects preferred Totobobo mask over their fitted tested N95 masks

    Quote from the report:

    “..Using the Totobobo mask in the panel of masks to be tested may reduce the number of masks that need to be tested before an adequate fit is found. This potential advantage, however, will need to be balanced against the time taken to trim the Totobobo mask to size. Furthermore, in situations where there is insufficient time to carry out fit testing use of the Totobobo mask may be a useful stopgap measure. In addition to this, the fact that the Totobobo mask is designed to be reusable may provide significant advantage. This would minimize the problems associated with the need to stockpile disposable masks and the difficulty of obtaining supplies in an epidemic. However, prior to concluding the mask is re-usable it is necessary to test the effect of sterilization processes on the mask. It is conceivable that such processes may make the mask less pliable and the fit less good. Moreover it is important to ensure that the process of changing the HEPA filters does not contaminate the user with infectious particles.

    In terms of comfort 65% of subjects preferred the Totobobo mask over the N95 mask (1860, 1860s 3M). While the confidence interval straddles 50% this may be due to our small sample size. Comfort is an important issue when masks need to be worn for long periods of time. Greater comfort may translate into greater compliance with proper use of the mask and hence greater protection in clinical use. The experience of our ICU during SARS suggests that compliance is an important factor in determining the risk of occupational infection.”

    The bottom line
    If your have access to fit-test facility and have time to conduct fit test, the best option is fit-tested N95 mask. Otherwise, Totobobo mask provides reasonable good protection even if you don’t have access to fit-test facility or there is no time for fit test.

    fit-test result from one of the subject
    fit-test result from one of the subject

    Source:
    A randomized controlled pilot study to compare filtration factor of a novel non fit tested HEPA filtering facemask with a fit-tested N95 mask.
    by Dr Sylvia S.W. Au, Dr Charles D. Gomersall, Patricia Leung and Dr Peggy T.Y. Li.
    Dept of Anaesthesia & Intensive Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong.