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J-CAD Uses Virtual Reality and 3D Printing to Help Design Origami-Inspired Face Masks

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842391c3062758a1eb056e0cf832adce_originalIn recent years – particularly if you live in certain cities – you may have noticed an increasingly popular accessory worn by people around you, on the streets, on the subway, on the bus. You may even be rocking one of these functional accoutrements yourself. What is this must-have fashion item? The air-filtering face mask. Yes, the papery white surgical mask is becoming more and more commonly seen on the streets, but this is one trend that I think everyone can agree they don’t like to see.

It’s not going anywhere anytime soon, though. Air pollution is getting worse on a global level according to the World Health Organization, and it’s contributing to a host of health problems from asthma to heart disease. It’s frightening that many people, particularly those with respiratory or other health conditions, cannot go outdoors without protective coverings over their faces – it seems like an apocalyptic scenario, but it’s real, and unless governments and corporations start taking significant action, it’s only going to keep getting worse.

Canadian entrepreneur Tony Luna doesn’t claim to have the solution to worsening air quality, but he has come up with a way to make air-filtering face masks more attractive – even fashionable, while at the same time drawing people’s attention to the pollution issue. Façade Urbane, currently on Kickstarter, is a line of dramatic, avant-garde face masks that turn respiratory protection into an actual fashion statement – as well as a political statement.


The masks were inspired by the designs of University of Toronto graduate Stacie Vos, whose thesis revolved around the design of fashionable smart clothing that senses germs and pollutants and reacts to protect the wearer. Vos used origami-inspired designs that provided additional layers of protection, as well as aesthetic appeal, for her masks – an idea that appealed to Luna, who recruited Vos for help with his project.

To begin production of the masks, Luna turned to 3D design and printing firm J-CAD Inc. The ten-year-old company recently began designing in virtual reality, which is what they did for Façade Urbane, translating Vos’ 2D designs into 3D models which they then printed to create press molds. (You can take a look at a couple of the models here and here.)

kickstarter-crowdfunding-support-jcadusa“Tony provided the dimensions of each mask and we designed the press molds to the size specifications,” J-CAD CEO Jason Vander Griendt tells us. “We needed to offset the mold faces by 1mm to accommodate the material folding around the mold…These molds would be virtually impossible to manufacture without 3D printing and if possible would cost a fortune.”

While 3D printing greatly lowered the costs of production, the masks are still quite costly to produce, which is why the Façade Urbane Kickstarter is trying to raise $70,000 CAD (around $53,700 USD) by July 29. Physical rewards start at $50, which will get you a customized T-shirt designed by local Toronto artists. For a pledge of $110, backers will receive a pack of seven disposable polypropylene masks with the origami design, while $175 will get you a white or gold reusable origami mask. Higher contribution amounts will earn you things like multiple designs, bespoke designs, and even an invitation to the official launch party. (All amounts are in Canadian dollars.)

The project is currently in the prototyping stages, and the first release will be limited until sufficient funds are raised to begin producing the many varied designs that the company has come up with. These include more complex origami designs, as well as form-fitting masks without origami tessellations, for a “business professional” look. Designer Michel Karkar of Michel’s Bespoke also contributed designs for simpler, customized versions.

“We believe now is the time for something dramatically different when it comes to the design of a face mask as we currently know them,” says Luna. “That is when we decided to bring an array of high fashion face masks with a unique design unlike any other, that will match each personality’s style…Façade Urbane was born not simply to introduce a product, but also become a movement. We aim to topple perspectives and draw attention to the unique requirements of urban life…Although not everybody is afflicted by the same compulsion to wear a face mask, we wanted to utilize fashion to raise awareness to the individual necessities and to get onlookers thinking.”

Do you need one of these masks? Discuss further in the 3D Printed Air Quality Masks forum over at

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