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Mihai Hogea Helps Create Open-source Face Shield Design

By Andrew Connor

June 8, 2020

Mihai Hogea
ID alum addresses PPE shortage in collaboration with mHUB

A shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) among health care workers has led quick-thinking individuals to create innovative solutions in a short period of time. Among those people is ID alum Mihai Hogea (MDM 2018).

I just felt that I could leverage my experience in a short burst to help support the situation.

Hogea, who co-founded the kitchen technology company Pepper Life Inc. with his brother, Andrei Hogea (MDes + MBA 2018) in 2016, had just returned from a trip to Germany as the novel coronavirus was beginning to rapidly spread in the United States. At about the same time, Chicago-based hard tech incubator mHUB—in collaboration with fellow Chicago incubators MATTER and 1871—put out a call for designers to work on life-saving personal protective and medical equipment.

Hogea had created multiple sleep apnea mask designs while working at Philips, including the first commercially available textile sleep apnea mask. So this seemed like the ideal way for him to make an impact.

A low-cost ventilator is really complex—there’s a long development timeline and it requires a lot of engineering support. I think [mHUB] should still try that, but at the same time I was advocating for this idea that designing PPE is a really easy win. I knew I could knock out a mask really quickly because I had been doing it for so long.

After receiving a call from Northwestern Medicine informing them of their concern over a lack of face shields, Hogea and his collaborators realized that a shortage of PPE was going to be one of the biggest issues facing health care workers.

Working with mHUB co-founder and director of innovation services Bill Fienup and three other designers and mHUB staff members, the group was able to design and prototype a shield within two hours, according to mHUB. The shield at first glance looks like a typical medical face shield. But Hogea’s face shield is deliberately designed to be as simple as possible.

It is cut from two pieces of polystyrene and is fastened with an elastic band. When the band is pulled taut around the wearer’s head, the face shield bends into place. The group opted to go without the typical foam headband.

“Foam is great,” Hogea explains, “but a lot of times foam has increased labor time. You have to have somebody cut it and apply it to everything.”

One face shield can be produced by an individual with access to a laser cutter in a under five minutes, says Hogea. Any individual with the manufacturing capability can build the masks and send them to facilities in need. Download the instructions online.

Over 20 volunteers at mHUB were able to create a production line at the incubator’s manufacturing facility that produced roughly 6,000 masks within three days of completing the design, according to mHUB. Five hundred masks were purchased by Northwestern Medicine, while thousands of others were donated to other Chicago hospitals on the south and west sides of Chicago.

“I just felt that I could leverage my experience in a short burst to help support the situation,” says Hogea. “I’m super thankful for the people at mHUB who are actually producing and assembling all these products.”

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