James McCrimmon is the inventor of an accessory to keep your beer cool. His Alberta-based business relies on major events like Canadian Football League games and rodeo for sales.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, McCrimmon found his proverbial keg empty. But instead of crying into his frosty mug, he decided to reimagine his product into one that could save lives.
His original product is TUDI Wrap. “It’s the ultimate drink insulator,” says the inventor and president of Vegreville-based Tubmask and Re Tee Inc. The device secures snugly around your mug, glass or can to help maintain the temperature of its contents.
“But with no functions (allowed under COVID restrictions), nobody can have tournaments. What are we going to do?”
Like most inventor/entrepreneurs, solving problems and overcoming adversity is all in a day’s work.
McCrimmon credits his sales rep for sparking the idea. With a shortage of masks at the time, he asked whether McCrimmon could turn their existing product into a mask.
“It’s breathable neoprene,” he answered. “I can’t see why not?”
But he wasn’t going to create just any mask. Like his wraps, the masks needed to be reusable and sustainable. They also needed to fulfil several other important requirements: be stylish, fit snugly and be comfortable. They also needed to seal around the nose properly so the user’s glasses don’t fog up.
“Fogging up is not only annoying, it’s also dangerous, especially in places like construction.”
So off he went to the drawing board.
He made the inner layer of the mask with breathable neoprene that also wicks moisture away from the skin. He used tight-weave polyester for the outer layer to allow for better printing of colours and designs. And the seam down the centre gives it stability as you breathe.
He looked to his TUDI for further inspiration.
“Different stadiums use different-sized cups,” he said. “So we use Velcro on the TUDI to adjust for a snug fit. For really big containers, you can attach two together.”
He applied a similar technique to his masks, with a twist. The ear loops are adjustable and removable, attaching to the mask with Velcro. He added a Velcro-tabbed lanyard that works as a head strap so the mask can hang around your neck when not in use.
The fogging dilemma raised another big question. “How are we going to do the nose clip?”
The challenge was to use one suitable for any face that would properly seal around the nose and was durable.
“We modelled the nose clips after those in the N95 mask, but of course, unlike N95, which are designed for one-time use only.”
The nose clip had to be malleable and withstand extensive use. It also had to be anti-magnetic so it could be certified as a non-medical breathing mask.
The process took two months.
McCrimmon designed the nose clip as a self-contained unit with a Velcro back so it could be removed when washing the mask. It can also be used on disposable masks to make them anti-fog.
The result is a product he calls TUB Mask, which he says can be washed, dried and ready for use in just over seven minutes. And he estimates that one TUB Mask will save at least 200 disposable masks from the landfill.
TUB Masks are made in Canada and come in different sizes and designs, including fire-resistant ones for industrial use.
For those who wear disposable masks, the nose clips are also available separately in a variety of colours.
You can find all these products at TUBMasks.com or a number of retail outlets, including Canadian Tire, Peavey Mart, Value Drug Mart and Pharmasave.
Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca. For interview requests, click here.
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