It has long been an adage that what others invent the Japanese perfect. I have seen it in action many times and their skill set is particularly apropos with barware and drinks equipment. Japanese perfectionism has taken the classic American cocktail shaker that once wiggled when set on the table—due to its irregular base—and reinvented it to sit perfectly flat.
So, it no surprise that Japanese insight has also perfected a version of the mask that provides both safety during the pandemic and easy access to drinks. What is more they have even made the design free to anyone with a three-dimensional printer. So I recently corresponded with Hasumi Ozawa, a Suntory spokesperson, about what went into creating this mask. All responses have been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.
Liza B. Zimmerman (L.B.Z.): How long did this mask take to design?
Hasumi Ozawa (H.O.): About six months. We started developing face shields designed specially for eating and drinking in June.
L.B.Z.: Why does it provide more protection while eating and drinking than other masks?
H.O.: First of all, this face shield (mask) does not provide 100 percent protection from infection. Thorough measures to prevent infection, such as appropriate ventilation, hand sanitization and distancing, are also required for the wearers to stay safe.
The face shield was created with three characteristics in mind. This bowl-shaped design running from the chin to the nose blocks the spread of about 70 percent of droplets. Its upper part covers the eyes and people can wear this face shield easily because of its shape which is similar to a pair of glasses. The lower part can be easily opened—and moved to the side—and closed to cover the wearer’s face from the chin to the nose so that people can easily eat and drink while wearing it.
L.B.Z.: Why did the company decide to make it free to everyone?
H.O.: Toppan and Suntory released the design so that anyone in the world with a 3D printer would be able to produce this face shield. We hope to support restaurants and bars and help consumers safely return to on-premise venues. We would like a variety of manufacturers to produce this face shield in order to help revitalize the food service industry.
L.B.Z.: How do you print it on plastic with a 3D printer?
H.O.: You can download the design data here.
L.B.Z.: How did the Japanese perfect this mask?
H.O.: RIKEN, Suntory and Toppan combined their expertise to develop face shields to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection at restaurants and bars. Making use of its new supercomputer Fugaku, RIKEN has been conducting the world’s largest virus droplet simulation.
L.B.Z.: Are people already using it in Tokyo and what has the response been?
H.O.: We released the data in December and anybody can make this face shield now. We don’t know who is currently making it but the face shields will be available for purchase from the Inshokuten-youhin.jp website, which is one of the Suntory’s subsidiaries.
L.B.Z.: Might it be used in hospitals as well?
H.O.: We developed the face shield designed specifically for eating and drinking in restaurants and bars.
L.B.Z.: Has it been copyrighted?
H.O.: Yes, it’s been copyrighted by Toppan and Suntory.
L.B.Z.: Do you have other mask designs in mind?