Castle Grade Australia talks with Israeli product engineer Anna Grinvald, co-founder of Castle Grade and inventor of the G-Series mask about purpose-driven design and the technology we should now expect from face masks.
The innovative Castle Grade G-Series silicone face mask
Anna, you talk about 3 key design principles that led to the development of the G-Series Mask, can you tell us about them?
Yes, simply put our design idea came from the three key problems we saw with most current masks: (1) insufficient protection, (2) waste and (3) discomfort. We set ourselves the challenge of solving each of these issues with our design.
Let’s talk about protection first, how does your mask compare to others?
Protection is of course the most important criteria. The most widely used masks today are disposable surgical masks and cloth masks. Neither are respirators, in other words air leaks around the sides of them which means that the filtration the material provides is lost. On top of that, cloth masks have limited filtration effectiveness, which worsens as they gather moisture. These are some of the reasons why the World Health Organisation (WHO) initially recommended against widespread mask wearing when COVID-19 hit us.
"...cloth masks have limited filtration effectiveness, which worsens as they gather moisture"
Our mask uses a soft silicone to provide a better seal and ensure the air you breathe is filtered through our 4-ply medical-grade filter that has been lab tested to filter out over 98% of particles at <0.3 microns. This is a higher standard than medical-grade N95 surgical respirators (which filter out 95% of these particles).
And how do you make a mask reusable when contamination is an issue?
Reusability is really important to us. Disposable masks create so much waste and this has escalated enormously during the pandemic. Of course, we are dealing with a virus, so to be reusable and safe you have to be able to easily sterilise the mask – this is one of the reasons we chose medical-grade silicone for the G-Series. It can be easily sterilised in boiling water, is dishwasher safe and medical professionals can use their autoclave sterilisers.
So many masks cause fogging, skin irritation and can be uncomfortable to wear, how have you addressed this?
Yes, comfort is so important if you have to wear a mask a lot! The respirator’s seal not only provides protection but stops glasses from fogging which is a huge annoyance of most masks. Most importantly, our mask is soft and comfortable to wear all day and silicone does not irritate sensitive skin in the way other mask material can.
We also designed the mask with an air pocket to improve breathability. Most masks have very little space between your mouth and nose and the filter, so when you breathe the pressure makes it feel like you are getting very little air. Our air pocket evens out the airflow as the air passes through the filter, so you still get the protection but don’t feel as claustrophobic.
Your husband helped you with the design, I understand he also worked on projects for NASA?
Yes! My husband Ron helped perfect the design. He is an injection mould specialist who worked on several parts of the NASA space suit. So, I guess you could say our design is “space age’ [laughs]!
Innovative design keeps the 4-ply filter out of contact with the wearer
What inspired the design initially?
Actually, the first prototype was built in 2019 as a solution for my mother who lives in aged care in Israel. We first set out to solve the fogging of glasses which was bothering her when she wore a mask, and realised this was a problem for anyone who needs to wear a mask regularly like dentists - who are our biggest customer group in the US.
When the pandemic hit us, we accelerated our investment in R&D and testing to make sure we could provide the best product possible given how widespread and essential mask-wearing has become.
What is your goal with Castle Grade?
Everyone in Castle Grade wants it to be a purpose-driven company. Our product is designed with a clear purpose in mind and everything we do we strive to do in a socially and environmentally conscious way. Of course, we can only have an impact if we can make our mask easily available to everyone who needs it.
This is one of the strengths of my co-founders, Dan and Carly Castle. They have worked tirelessly to launch the product in the US and make sure it is well tested, well understood and available for purchase by everyone who needs our mask. They are also parents of 3 beautiful young girls and this in part helped us design our very first Kids mask, the G7 which just launched.
We are also very excited to be launching in Australia this September!