The Mask Launcher; Like An Airbag For Your Face

One of the most effective ways to slow the spread of pathogens like the novel coronavirus is to have individuals wear facemasks that cover the nose and mouth. They’re cheap, and highly effective at trapping potentially infectious aerosols that spread disease. Unfortunately, wearing masks has become a contentious issue, with many choosing to go without. [Allen Pan] was frustrated by this, and set out to make a launcher to quite literally shoot masks directly onto faces.

To fire the masks, Allan built a pneumatic system that gets its power from a compact CO2 canister. This is hooked up to a solenoid, which is fired by the trigger. The high-pressure CO2 then goes through a split to four separate barrels cleverly made out of brake line ([Allen] says it’s faster to get parts from the automotive supply than the home store these days). Each barrel fires a bola weight attached to one of the strings of the mask, in much the same way a net launcher works. The mask is then flung towards the face of the target, and the weights wrap around the back of the neck, tangling and ideally sticking together thanks to neodymium magnets.

Amazingly, the mask worked first time, wrapping effectively around a dummy head and covering the nose and mouth. Follow-up shots were less successful, however, but that didn’t deter [Allen] from trying the device on himself at point-blank range. Despite the risk to teeth and flesh, the launcher again fires a successful shot.

While it’s obviously never meant to be used in the real world, the mask launcher was a fun way to experiment with pneumatics and a funny way to start the conversation about effective public health measures. We’ve featured similar projects before, too. Video after the break.



33 thoughts on “The Mask Launcher; Like An Airbag For Your Face

  1. “One of the most effective ways to slow the spread of pathogens like the novel coronavirus is to have individuals wear facemasks that cover the nose and mouth.”
    Is that so? Here in the UK they apparently act as a check valve, letting the virus out but not in – hence the fact that they must be worn not to protect one’s self, but others.

    1. And of course I mean “in but not out”.
      The interesting thing is that there’s nary a spec or industry standard to be seen in govt. guidance.
      In fact, the masks readily available in the average supermarket go one step further and carry a warning that they aren’t to be relied upon as a means of preventing transmission of communicable diseases.

      1. I wonder how much of that advice is “please don’t sue us” rather than any ineffectiveness? Once again, unintended consequences.*

        *I’m sure those that believe in a “sue everyone” policy never foresaw the side-effects further down the line.

    2. There is certainly not sufficient evidence to support any claim that face masks are “one of the most effective ways” yet. All the research papers say they *may* reduce the spread of the virus.

      The only way to reduce the spread that has been proven is social distancing, and people tend to use face masks as an excuse to come together in crowded places.

      1. As someone living in a city with a mandatory mask order which has seen a significant curtailing of infection numbers due to that order, I say “blah”. Just because a paper doesn’t make a concrete statement for or against doesn’t automatically “prove” that there won’t be a significant benefit.

        Besides, the benefit isn’t from blocking infectious particles, it’s from massively reducing the distance those particles can get before dispersing. Which is functionally identical to social distancing, and both measures together are more effective than one alone.

      2. Research papers written up since the COVID hysteria began make various claims about the effectiveness of cheap masks VS virus. Earlier papers written up on controlled studies involving up to 3,000 participants showed minimal, if any, effect on reducing transmission of influenza viruses. SARS CoV-2 is a coronavirus, one of the two virus families that cause the “common cold” Coronaviruses cause around 15% of colds, most of the rest are caused by rhinoviruses.

        Why it’s so difficult to stop a virus is due to how small they are. Until the invention of the electron microscope the existence of viruses could only be inferred due to when a fluid that could cause a disease (such as from a smallpox sore) was passed through the finest filters until under optical microscopes it appeared clear, the fluid would still be capable of causing the disease.

        That’s why the term filterable virus was used. Researchers were looking at the possibility that viral diseases could be caused by unknown chemical compounds.

        Then someone took a look with an electron microscope. “There ya are, ya nasty li’l bugger!” Finally discovering what viruses are provided the right path to analyzing them, taking them apart, finding out what is in them and how they work.

        Many viruses can survive as particles of just a single virus, called a virion, which can stay floating in air for quite a while. Those will go right through an N95 mask, surgical mask or any homemade cloth mask. Doesn’t matter that they’ll catch spit and snot droplets laden with viruses. When the droplets dry they can release the viruses to go on through.

        N98, N99, and N100 masks do a better job but they cost more and are more difficult to breathe through.

        Any mask that doesn’t seal tightly around its edges may as well not be on your face. Plenty of air and whatever nasties it may be carrying will blow in and out past the edges. Guys with beards may as well not bother.

        If you want to really be protected, use a respirator mask with a flexible face seal (guys have to shave) and replaceable filter cartridges that are NIOSH rated. Learn how to fit test to ensure they don’t leak.

        Want still better protection? Get a Powered Air Purifying Respirator or PAPR. That has a full face shield and a HEPA filter with fan to pull air through the very fine filter. The filter may be mounted on the chin of the mask or as a belt pack with a hose to the mask. Or go full bunny suit with a full coverage hood and bib which the coveralls go over. If you’re *really serious* about protection put one of those on before you go to WalMart.

    1. Oh gods you win. I’d rather keep mine in a vice than get it anywhere near that

      Likewise- to the rest of the world- the sane Americans still left over here are deeply sorry and ashamed of the stupidity of our fellow citizens, the fact that someone had to feel inspired to shoot people for safety really tells you how messed up as a country we really are right now.

  2. Ongoing or life-long lung damage can occur in mild cases, who didn’t experience any notable symptoms and were unaware they’d had Covid-19, but are now experiencing lung issues, including presenting as limited capacity.
    Also facing younger patients: anywhere there are ACE2 receptors and anywhere affected by blood clots. This includes, but is not limited to, male sterility, amputated limbs and neurological issues.

  3. I am extremely glad about the fact that I live in a Country without mandatory masks. Nobody wears one. When I look at pictures of the daily life in “mask countries”, it looks like a dystopian horror movie.

    1. – Lucky bastard :-) – Yep, dystopian about sums it up. Not long before people will be walking around in hazmat suits to make sure they don’t ever catch a cold at the rate we’re going.

    1. – I might not go that far, but I appreciate your sentiment. If he wants to live life in fear of everything, have at it, but don’t expect me to join your camp, or support it in public.

    2. Yeah I’m pretty sure in most states you could shoot him right back with FMJ, which is exactly what I’d do. And what he deserves. Houellebecq was right, the banality of it all is more than anyone could bear.

  4. The USA is probably the worst place in the world to shoot anything at people. Pull a stunt like that on a veteran with PTSD, who also has a concealed carry licence, (or a twitchy gang member) and you are going to end up dead.

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