World’s first cement suit has been designed in India to fight coronavirus. Here’s all you need to know
As the world fights the coronavirus pandemic and an incessant lockdown, many are trying to use the art of innovation and technology to come up with measures and ideas that will help the world battle the coronavirus in the most practical way possible. Somesh Singh, co-founder of Craft Village and its initiative India Craft Week and former director of The Institute of Apparel Management, who has in the past transformed mundane concrete into functional objects has designed the world’s first corona suits made of cement, to protect doctors, paramedics and police force engaged in saving us from the coronavirus pandemic.
In an exclusive interview, Singh talks about the inspiration, process, design and utility of the first-ever cement suits that he has designed to do his part in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Excerpts from the interview:
What was the inspiration behind creating these cement suits?
I have been reading about the scarcity of PPE, and everyone’s been waiting. I came across many media reports that showed agitated doctors and everyone urging to avail these garments. Unfortunately, we don’t have research and development labs in the country that deals with the development of ‘Functional and Smart Clothing” and accessories for extreme situations like this or Medi-Tech to protect doctors and staff from such an eventuality.
I learnt that for doctors and police it was like fighting a battle and to fight a battle they needed proper uniforms, equipment and other things. What worried me most is that in a usual battle you can still see an enemy, but in this fight against CoVid-19 there is only an unseen enemy. Therefore, I was continuously thinking to tackle and protect the doctors and police more, when they can’t see viruses with naked eyes, and they are in the frontline facing challenges every minute.
At the moment they are our heroes, and of course, they became my inspiration to do something for them with knowledge and ideas I had, So I began my research and found out that these people need airtight/highly filtered protection from infected air, and they also need to de-infect taking a bath wearing these attire, so the fabric has to be waterproof. There were many materials available, but most of them are 100% synthetic, the cement fabric is a combination of Natural Material (50%) and Synthetic Material (50%), so that it is more comfortable and later when it is disposed of, it reduces the impact on the environment (that is also a battle we have to constantly think about).
I have given it a name as well, its CoValor-21, as doctors, police and others have shown great courage in the face of danger, especially in a COVID-19 battle.
Is it ready and at par with how the design and utility were conceived? Has it been tested?
The design specification and all components are ready, it just needs to get stitched as due to the lock-down, few elements that are to be sourced are not available, which I am hopeful shall happen anytime post 14-15th April. The cement fabric is ready, the intermediate and lining are all in place, and it just needs to be put together. Once the prototype is ready it would be sent for lab testing and also given to doctor and police personnel for testing it. This would be done in a phase-wise manner, and I am ready to share the specification with the industry so that they can produce it. Anyone and everyone is welcome to produce them and join this endeavour. The design is very robust keeping in mind all facets needed to fight this battle.
What is the cost and for how long it will last?
Rs 3500-Rs 5000 depending on the material quality. But typically it would be available in this price range only since the fabric cost being the specialised one is higher. The Cut-Make-Trim cost is very nominal.
What were the key design and safety elements kept in mind while creating it?
I had with my vast experience designing police army uniforms/gear had done a lot of extensive research on material, function, technology, ergonomics and construction. So I could not hold myself hearing this battling news and began the design and thinking of Corona Suits. There were so many challenges, one I saw doctors wearing almost three layers, which means imagine the time they need to spend on wearing them, in an emergency, you should have the attire to slip in within seconds.
Due to multiple pieces that were worn, i.e. mask, attire, shoe covers etc it had many areas through which the infection could have seeped in, so the challenge was to design an integrated suit that has no scope for external infected air to pass in and that took almost 15-20 days to study and think through the design solution, and additional 7-days to detail out with full specifications and a week to construct the garment. The special attire having waterproof cement fabric is to encourage the culture, that doctors can take a batch in the suits itself or use DE-infect spray to get rid of virus on the surface. It can also be left in the sun, infrared ray and ultraviolet ray for getting sanitised. It also uses a bonded seam that doesn’t allow any air from outside. It would need some source of oxygen flow. Also, a communication device is attached so that the doctors and police avoid touching mobile phones or any external object that could have a possible infection.
For police, since they are not in an interior environment and so at high risk, therefore they needed a face and body shield, that could help them be protected from the people they are interacting and in case they are infected. The additional fragrance finish would help them to de-stress them in such a high-pressure work they have been assigned during this crisis. Also, it has glow in dark print so that someone seeking help can reach them even in the areas that have no presence of light etc.
More specific detail is as below:
Material: Three-layered fabric to mitigate or have minimum penetration or impact into highly infectious areas, also high bonding, air-tight, water-proof, and strong material creates an ideal combination. Details are given in the diagram.
Function: The function is very important, both physical and visual. The function comforts the doctors/police, while the aesthetics/message helps the patients to get out of fear or trauma they have. So use of printed messages, finer cuts helps the doctors to look more pleasant, and reduce the mental impact on patients who might feel like being a ‘frog in the chemistry lab’.
Technology: Smart clothing is need of the hour, so the uniforms have an inbuilt communication device so that they can hear and respond very well, also there is a suction for oxygen inlay and I would have preferred to add heat-sensing on their sunglasses, this part may take time but not unachievable.
Ergonomics: Lightweight, use of raglan maximizes and facilitates easy body movements, the uniform since being a single layer would also be better fitted, and very easy and fast to slip in, reducing significant time spent on wearing these garments. Cement fabric can be stretched so it is more comfortable for all body movements.
Construction: All seams are bonded seams and are 100% air-tight. Only air is passed using an external source or through stringent filtration of air into air pockets created into uniforms for easy breathing and respiration. Single body suits having gloves, boots, hood and everything attached.
How does one get access to it?
It would be available soon post lockdown and would be used by manufacturers to produce it, I really suggest that manufacturers should make this under the CSR budget and supply this at least free of cost, or Govt. can help subsidise those manufacturing it. We must encourage creative production in India, else would always be dependent on other countries for design, innovation and then making, adding to waste of time and woes in future.