An affordable mask to protect from COVID

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ETEX, a Smart Textile Startup incubated at IIT Delhi, is working towards innovative engineering solutions for healthcare. Being the first mover in the wearable e-textile market in the country, ETEX aims on fulfilling the need of functional and advanced textile solutions to solve the real lifestyle issues related to pain management, posture correction, health monitoring and protection (against pollution, COVID 19, etc). The team is backed by the technical expertise of core textile engineers from the Department of Textile and Fibre Engineering (IIT Delhi).

In an interview to Dr Vanita Srivastava of the Communication Cell, Prof Bipin Kumar outlines the challenges and the future plans

Edited excerpts:

How and when did you get the idea?

With the advent of COVID19, we quickly realized by observing the trends of China, Europe and the United States that PPE was going to be one of the main shortfalls in India. Utilizing our strong background in textile processing and understanding of the garment manufacturing industry, we set about defining a clear goal of protecting the masses through engineered textiles. After running through multiple iterations of design, test, quality control and iterating on those through March, we were finally satisfied of the product that we had come up with which would provide a cheap solution and leverage existing industries without the need for heavy capital acquisition.

The cost of N95 mask used for the protection against Covid-19 in the Indian market is quite high, making it unaffordable for the masses People are using surgical masks also but due to loose-fitting of such masks, not securing proper cover around the nose and mouth; this may allow COVID-19 virus to enter or leave from the side edges. Furthermore, the use of sewn cloth face covering or handkerchief is useful only to an extent, not providing sufficient protection due to absence of nonwoven filtration layer. Looking at this situation, KAWACH is the best option that we decided to come up with.

What were the main challenges?

The primary challenges we faced were fascinatingly not technical in nature. We have had to battle on the front lines debating and trying to prove our product in a market that has been flooded by fake masks without certifications.

As technocrats, it is our mission to have the right product at the cheapest price available to the masses, but the current scenario is such where masks are being distributed by traders and stockpilers in an unethical situation.

Hence, it became even more challenging that we had to come up with a secure fit mask at a price point that would make it affordable for the average Indian to spend on protecting themselves for a week.

What are your future plans?

Our future plans include, setting up of an Indian standard of mask and protective gear technology rating. In order to prevent a national public health crisis, we need to reward our front line workers, doctors, nurses, army, policemen with the best of PPEs. Hence, we would like to open a Center of Excellence which would act as a collaborative setting for policy makers, Industry experts in garment manufacturing, Public health officials, Academicians to come together and prevent the occurence of a future COVID like situation.

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