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Patent: To Make and Wear Filters and Face Masks
Patent:  To Make and Wear Filters and Face Masks | dal_ftw_txbz, Michael L. Bowen, Richland Hills, patent, 8061356, directional, flat, face, mask,

Michael L. Bowen of Richland Hills received U.S. Patent 8,061,356 for “Directional Flat Face Mask.”

Texas Business Patent of the Day:  In response to today’s multiple environments of “clean rooms” and sterile environments, a Tarrant County man has devised a better face mask.

Michael L. Bowen of Richland Hills received U.S. Patent 8,061,356 for “Directional Flat Face Mask.”

Bowen filed for the patent on February 19, 2008.

The patent assignee is Prestige Ameritech Ltd. of Fort Worth.

The present invention relates to flat face masks of the type used to filter contaminants relative to the wearer, as well as methods of making the same. 

Face masks are worn in medical environments, such as surgical operating rooms, in order to minimize the transfer of contaminants, according to the patent document.

In an operating room, the surgeons, nurses, and other personnel wear face masks so as to filter out contaminants from their breathing and to minimize the risk of infection to the patient undergoing the surgical procedure. In addition, the face masks serve to protect the medical personnel from infectious agents that may emanate from the patient. 

Another use for face masks is in clean rooms. Such clean rooms are used, for example, in semiconductor manufacturing. The face masks reduce particle emissions from the human workers. 

Early face masks were made of cloth and were sewn together.

In the 1960's, masks began to be made from disposable non-woven fabrics. At first, the disposable fabrics were sewn; later the masks were made by ultrasonically bonding the materials to each other. 

One general type of face mask is flat and is typically rectangular in shape. Flat face masks are typically pleated in the mask body to allow for some fitting of the mask to the curvature of a human face. A flat face mask can be of the 4-tie variety or the ear loop variety. In the 4-tie variety, ties extend out from the mask body which are then tied around the back of the wearer's head. The ear loop variety has elastic loops that fit around the ears of the wearer; no tying is needed. 

The prior art flat face mask has a flat nose strip along the top edge. To use, the face mask is placed against the face, with the nose strip located on the bridge of the nose. The user presses the nose strip to form a contour around the nose. 

Another type or style of face mask is the "cone" or "cup-shaped" mask, which is a molded bowl-shaped mask with an elastic band that extends around the back of a wearer's head.  The shaping layer is made by molding webs of thermally bonding fibers in heated molds, which molds are at temperatures above the softening point of the thermally bonding fibers. 

Flat face masks typically have a body with three layers, namely an outer layer, a middle filtration layer and an inner layer. The inner layer is chosen so as to be comfortable on the skin. The outer layer can irritate the skin. Therefore, it is desirable to properly orient the mask to the skin, so that the inner layer is against the skin. In addition, the face mask typically has a fluid resistant layer and has an anti-microbial layer. These fluid resistant masks and anti-microbial masks perform satisfactorily only if they are worn correctly, with the outer layer on the outside and the inside layer against the wearer. 

Identifying the proper orientation of a flat face mask has proven difficult. People frequently don a flat face mask with the inner layer facing out, in an inside out orientation. 

In many masks, the inner and outer layers are the same color, making identification of the inside particularly difficult. In some prior art flat face masks, the inner layer and outer layer are different colors. Even with this color differentiation however, problems persist in correctly donning the face mask. Furthermore, some prior art face masks have the word "inside" imprinted on the inner layer. However, health care workers still don the masks inside out. 

Bowen’s invention provides a method of making a flat face mask. A panel of mask material is provided. The mask material has an outside and an inside, with the inside structured and arranged to be adjacent to a wearer's face.

A deformable nose strip is provided adjacent to the mask material. The nose strip is pressed into a contour, with the outside of the contour being convex and the inside of the contour being concave, while retaining the substantially flat shape of the remainder of the mask. The face mask is then packaged. 

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the flat face mask has an area without thermal bonding so as to retain flexibility. 

In accordance with still another aspect of the present invention, a fluid resistant layer is provided in the mask material. 

In accordance with still another aspect of the present invention, an anti-microbial agent is provided in the mask material. 

In accordance with still another aspect of the present invention, the step of pressing the nose strip into a contour further comprises positioning the nose strip and adjacent mask material into a press, closing the press on the nose strip and forming the contour and then opening the press and removing the face mask. 

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, the nose strip is pressed into a contour by moving the face mask through forming rollers. 

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, the face masks are stacked so as to nest the nose contours. 

The present invention also provides a method of donning a flat face mask. A flat face mask is provided with an inside and an outside and a preformed nose contour that bows to the outside. The face mask is oriented to a face so that the nose contour is aligned with a nose on the face, wherein the inside face is the face. The face mask is contacted with the face, with the contour fitted onto the nose. 

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, the face mask is fastened to a wearer's head. 

In accordance with still another aspect of the present invention, after contacting the face mask with the face and fitting the contour onto the nose, pressing the nose strip to further shape the contour to the nose. 

The present invention also provides a stack of flat face masks. Each face mask has an inside and an outside and side edges. Each face mask is generally flat with the exception of a contoured nose portion that bows in the direction of the outside. The face masks are stacked so that the contoured nose portions are nested, wherein the insides of the face masks all face in the same direction. 

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, the stack is oriented so that the outsides of the face masks are up. 

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, packaging surrounds the stack of face masks. 

In accordance with still another aspect of the present invention, the face masks have an area without thermal bonding.