By Jeremy Losaw | April 24, 2020
Innovation is always up for a challenge and the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown an interesting one. Creative and development communities have been responding to the novel coronavirus with innovative solutions, inspiring the Enventys Partners community to use our tools to help save lives.
The Ways Product Development is Fighting the Coronavirus Spread
First Flatten the Curve
Our first responsibility was to ensure the health and viability of our team so, like the rest of the world, we have shifted to working remotely. Fortunately, since most of our projects are physically the size of a loaf of bread or smaller, we were able to divvy up prototype parts and equipment to various team members, so that we could continue to work on current projects. Since the beginning of Enventys Partners’ social distancing efforts, we have been able to effectively advance the development of almost all of our projects.
Assisting the Ventilator Shortage
With ventilators at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight, much of the innovation response has been focused on them. For patients with respiratory symptoms, ventilators can take over the job of breathing and provide heavily oxygenated air to keep them alive. With so many infected by the virus, there’s been a massive shortage of this medical device.
Designing and Printing Y-Splitters
One way to help with the ventilator shortage is to use one ventilator for multiple patients. This can be done by splitting the output air from the ventilator into two streams with a simple part called a Y-splitter. A major Charlotte-based hospital system wanted to deploy this strategy in their facilities so they reached out to Enventys Partners for help. Senior Mechanical Engineer, TJ Root, quickly jumped at the opportunity, leading the initiative to finish the design and produce the parts they needed. After the CAD was created, the splitters were printed using medical-grade material and a production-spec Origin 3D printer. So far, we’ve built 50 units and plan to make hundreds more in the coming weeks.
Innovation in the Dominican Republic
It is not just healthcare providers in the US that are struggling to meet the need for ventilators.
With only 400 ventilator-equipped ICUs for over 10 million residents, the Dominican Republic is extremely under-prepared to handle the COVID-19 crisis. However, a team of talented engineers, led by Marizeth Beato, who was a student from the Innovation Bootcamp in February, has created an initiative called the Open Air Project. The group designed an automated ventilation system with a set of gear-driven arms that collapse a hand pump ventilator bulb to create automatic breath pulses. While not meant to be a long-term treatment, the device provides emergency care to patients and keeps hospital staff free from having to manually compress bulbs.
Automated Ventilation Systems
The open-source design was inspired by a decade-old MIT project and has been updated to use low-cost parts and fabrication techniques that can be easily duplicated in the Dominican Republic and other countries. The Open Air team tested their first prototype at a hospital in Santo Domingo before deploying one to a hospital in San Francisco de Macoris. Based on the positive results from that test, Open Air was given the green light to build and distribute ten more. Merizeth admits that attending the Innovation Bootcamp gave her the methodologies to take on this challenge. It also introduced her to the hardware that’s used in the machines from IoT company, Particle, who is now donating their cellular-enabled Boron devices to help the program.
Better Shielding Face Masks
In addition to ventilators, personal protective equipment is a frontline need for healthcare professionals and staff. Charlotte-based designer and owner of the firm, CAD Design Help, Scott Tarcy, has been leading the charge to help. He was inspired after a local doctor, familiar with the open-source design of a low-cost 3D-printed face shield, reached out for assistance. However, she wanted one that would wrap further around her face to behind her ears instead of stopping just behind the eyes. Scott dutifully took up the challenge, quickly modifying the design and building a set of prototypes. Taking the program a step further, he created a crowdfunding page to raise money for material and plans to donate 75 masks to Charlotte hospitals and clinics. With all of us at Enventys Partners inspired by his actions, one of our engineers, Casey Povelones, pitched in to help by cutting the face shields on our waterjet cutter. In addition to the masks, Scott is also working on a device that allows users to interact with their environment without having to touch potential virus-infected areas like door handles and bathroom fixtures.
Providing the Help We Can
While we are proud of the headway our team and surrounding community has put in place, there’s still more work to be done. Feel inspired? Donate to Scott Tarcy’s GoFundMe project and follow the Open Air Project on Instagram if you’d like to support these COVID relief efforts