Covid-19 mask wearing: The "Undermask"

Everybody is concerned about the pace of Covid-19 infections in the US and Texas in particular. This affects our ability to be in public safely and hang with friends let alone get things done at ATXhackerspace.

The few people I’ve spoken to about mask wearing note the discomfort of wearing a mask: getting enough air, pressure on your face from the straps, its effectiveness when “fitting” (often poorly) to one’s face especially around the nose and under the eyes. This is frequently discovered by those wearing glasses when their glasses fog up. That demonstrates the mask isn’t fitting properly.

I came across a material - Rolyan Splinting Material - that I’m exploring to make a small appliance to make face masks more comfortable and functional. Roylan comes in a variety of colors and thicknesses and is typically used to make orthopedic splints to immobilize an injured finger or wrist.

It is typically heated to 130 degrees in hot water (think frying pan on a stove) and it changes state to become very plastic. When it cools to about 110 degrees it can be placed on the body and molded to a person’s shape and contours.very easily. When cooled to room temperature it becomes quite stiff but still flexible. It can be washed with soap and water and reused again and again. It can be reheated to change the fit as well if needed.

I’ve been troubled by people avoiding wearing a mask or not wearing a mask properly to avoid the discomfort of not breathing freely.

I’ve made some prototypes of an appliance that people can fit to their face at home using a pan of hot water and fitting the appliance over the bridge of the nose. The “undermask” distributes the pressure of a cloth or surgical mask and seals the space between the mask and nose under the eyes. It also creates space between a cloth mask and our mouth and nose so the cloth doesn’t get sucked into our nostrils and mouth. That makes it much easier to breath.

I think face masks will be with us into the foreseeable future and our public safety will be determined by how many are wearing masks properly. I invite any of you hackers to get one and try it out. All I ask is that you help me refine the design for different face shapes and contours.

I’ll be cutting out the “undermask” pattern on CNC (hopefully if that works) and then preforming the “undermask” into a generic shape. The consumer (hacker volunteers) would take this and form it to their face “in the safety and privacy of their own home.” Wear it. Try it out. Give me feedback on problems. Help make it better.

If interested, send an email with the subject “undermask” to Thanks.

David Richardson