Plastic and Ceramic Injection Molding (CIM)

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Bruno Bürgisser
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In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, the Lausanne-based start-up Helvitek Labs has developed a solution to prevent injuries caused by the intensive wearing of protective masks used in medical environments. Bruno Bürgisser, professor of mechanical engineering, was actively involved in the project. A model of innovation, developed in the emergency of an unprecedented context.

In this exceptional situation, health care workers are on the front line suffering from psychological pressure, strain and exhaustion. The daily use of FFP2 and N95 respirators, which cause facial injuries especially when worn during long periods, contributes to this stress. In the light of the sanitary and medical urgency linked to COVID-19 and in a spirit of solidarity to help improve the comfort and protection of care workers, Helvitek Labs proposes the facepieces in a medical elastomer to Swiss medical establishments.

Helvitek focused on developing a protective film that tolerates prolonged skin contact and avoids excessive pressure on the face. Made of medical elastomer, this morphological facial structure, which is disposable for health reasons, is added to the inside of the protective mask.

From anti-pollution mask to anti-covid-19 mask

Since 2018 Helvitek has been developing effective, elegant and above all comfortable urban anti-pollution masks. The team quickly decided to use its know-how to offer a solution to carers. A multisciplanary team participated in the project in a start-up spirit. Thanks to the Inov3 engineering office, Helvitek was put in contact with Bruno Bürgisser, a professor of mechanical engineering specialised in injection processes. BMCO, a Zurich-based design agency, also collaborated on the project.

As the morphological parts had to be produced using an injection process, Bruno Bürgisser helped Helvitek with the industrialisation of the product. He guided the start-up in the choice of materials and suppliers in order to meet the requirements of functionality and medical standards. He validated the injectability of the part by means of rheological simulations, i.e. relating to the deformation and flow of the material. In addition, he contributed to the optimisation of the part design and developed the mould concept. The morphological facial structure was quickly ready. The first masks have been tested at the CHUV since mid-May. Marketing of the product in Switzerland and Europe will follow.

An experiment for the future

The eruption of the pandemic did not waste the young company's time. The experience of the face protection film acted as a catalyst. It made it possible to speed up the industrialisation process and to make contact with partners or strengthen existing partnerships. Théo-Tim Denisart, co-founder of Helvitek Labs, confirms that "we are continuing in parallel the industrialisation of our initial product, a complete protective mask for urban use".

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