Tinkerers, sewers and scientists bring their ideas and 3-D printers to bear on the shortage of medical supplies.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are tackling several types of medical equipment: respirators made out of vacuum bags, 3-D-printed face shields and ventilators that can be manufactured quickly. Penn plans to make 5,000 face shields in the coming days using 3-D-printed parts provided by hobbyists and local maker enthusiasts.
Mohit Prajapati, the director of research and development, strategy and operations at Penn Medicines Center for Healthcare Innovation, has been overseeing the effort to use strategic folding techniques like origami, he said to create respirators out of sterilization wrap, a material that is used in N95 masks but which hospitals use to wrap sterilized medical equipment. Penn has also experimented with vacuum bags and other materials that provide some level of particle filtration.
We started off with Home Depot, Mr. Prajapati said.
Although Penn is awaiting results from a laboratory, a process that could take two weeks, it is starting to make more of the masks so theyll be ready when and if theyre needed.
I can say for certain they are better than wrapping a bandanna around your face, he said.
Many of the ideas have come to fruition in a remarkably short time. On Thursday, the New York City Economic Development Corporation placed an order for 300,000 face shields that students, teachers and doctors at New York University designed, produced and field tested with employees at N.Y.U. Langone Health. It started last week on a conference call where we thought, What can we do to help, and then it took on a life of its own, said Grant Fox, director of N.Y.U. Tandon Future Labs, which led the design. Its been a real brain trust.
Next up for the lab? A negative pressure hood that can be placed over the head of Covid-19 patients to prevent the virus from leaking out and infecting health care workers and other patients.
Business owners are also doing what they can. Max Friefeld, the chief executive of Voodoo Manufacturing, is using his 20 employees and the companys Brooklyn workshop to produce 500 face shields a day for hospitals in New York.