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NJIT Designers Fabricate Masks and Shields to Combat COVID-19

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As medical supplies dwindle in the face of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, members of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) community are designing and fabricating devices using lasers to bolster supply.

After consulting with emergency room physicians on specifications, a team in the Makerspace at NJIT designed and manufactured a prototype of a face shield that can be used by various emergency workers. The front of the mask is a long piece of clear polycarbonate plastic, while the frame is made from HDPE plastic — the same material used in plastic milk bottles, which pathogens have difficulty clinging to. The shield covers most of the face and is held in place by a simple strap.

“Our goal was to build something as cleanly as possible that is easily sanitized and reusable,” said Daniel Brateris, director of experiential learning at NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering (NCE). “Cutting the masks with lasers from sheets of plastic, rather than 3D-printing them, allowed the effort to avoid the “little cavities that develop when objects are built up layer by layer.”

The team sent a batch of 100 shields, put together in safely spaced assembly lines, to New Jersey state agencies for testing. While requests for supplies have begun flowing in at a steady clip, NJIT didn’t wait for them, said Moshe Kam, NCE’s dean.
Justin Suriano and Daniel Brateris try on a face shield they designed and fabricated in the Makerspace at NJIT. Courtesy of NJIT.
Justin Suriano and Daniel Brateris try on a face shield they designed and fabricated in the Makerspace at NJIT. Courtesy of NJIT.

“We have the capability so we started to work on designs, make prototypes, and see who could use them,” Kam said, adding, “As we are working on these face shields, other efforts have been launched.”

The Makerspace team is working with a group from a public hospital in Michigan on a field ventilator for short-term use in for patients waiting for standard ventilators to become available. They also are reviewing a request from a hospital in Ohio to make specialized vent filters.

“As long as this crisis continues, the Makerspace at NJIT will be fully dedicated to the redesign of prototypes, making and testing of these prototypes and delivery of ready-to-manufacture designs of needed devices to industry,” Kam said.

NJIT’s fabricators are collaborating with researchers, including as part of NJIT’s partnership in the New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science (NJ ACTS) led by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, on studies that will, for example, better elucidate the rates and risk factors for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among health care workers.

Answering the call from a local emergency room physician, NJIT’s Albert Dorman Honors College sponsored a design competition for both face shields and masks. Students were directed to follow CDC guidelines to ensure regulatory compliance and to use specified materials. Nearly two dozen took up the challenge. The winner of the face shield contest, whose design was approved by a regional medical system, produced more than 500 shields that were delivered to the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood. The winner of the mask competition sent 100 triple-cotton masks to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

With requests flowing in, the Honors College is following up with a competition to build shields and masks for local emergency responders and other area hospitals as well.

NJIT labs are also donating supplies. In the early days of the regional surge in COVID-19 cases, researchers emptied their closets of hundreds of gloves, goggles, and gowns to donate to the Essex County Office of Emergency Management.

May/Jun 2020
BusinesscoronavirusCOVID-19LasersNJITNew Jersey Institute of TechnologyCOVID-19 News

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