Metamason transforms CPAP mask design

The current market is ‘a race to the bottom’ Les Karpas says
Friday, February 20, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories on new startups with HME products. The first: WHILL’s new wheels.

PASADENA, Calif. – Les Karpas sure knows a lot about CPAP therapy for someone whose background is as a mechanical designer for art installations.

Karpas is the founder and CEO of Metamason, a new startup based here that designs and makes custom CPAP masks using 3-D scanning and printing technology.

“When you look at the human factors-based design (behind the current CPAP masks), it’s a race to the bottom,” he said. “It’s, how can we create a product that’s optimal for no one, but the least bad for everyone, instead of looking at things on a person-to-person basis. No one’s anatomy is more different than their face.”

Metamason is currently working to get 510(k) clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Respere Secure CPAP Mask. It plans to sell the mask for about $600 in the retail market.

A custom mask, Karpas says, eliminates two of the biggest complaints about CPAP therapy: bad seals and painful pressure points.

“By creating a mask that’s conformal, you’re creating the best seal and the least amount of pressure, because you’re not trying to deform silicone into a user’s face,” he said. “You’re keeping the silicone in the exact position on the face.”

Metamason’s go-to-market strategy involves partnering with home sleep diagnostic companies. The idea: The home diagnostics company ships a 3-D scanner and tablet to the user with its home sleep study kit; following a sleep test, the user performs a scan and uses an app to customize a mask; Metamason receives that information, prints the mask and ships it to the user.

“We’ve had some initial conversations with companies, but we have a ways to go,” Karpas said. “Initially, we plan to launch in China to get all dialed in, then launch here.”

Karpas says Metamason hasn’t ruled out involving HME providers in its business model, but because the company doesn’t have any equipment for them to inventory, it might not be the best fit.

“If there are providers out there that want to get into the manufacturing business and want to license our medical device, we’d be happy to staff them up as a distribution point,” he said.

As to why Karpas, who started Metamason as a grad student at the Art Center College of Design, turned his attention to CPAP masks?

“The 3-D printing industry noticed a long time ago what it could do for the mouth—Invisalign—and the ears—hearing aids,” he said. “Given that the mouth and ears were taken, we went for the nose.”