KALAMAZOO, Mich. (PRWEB) April 27, 2020
Kalamazoo Valley Community College has partnered with Vicksburg-based Eimo Technologies to produce face masks and shields for use by area medical professionals. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) has grown more urgent every day. As a result, Kalamazoo Valley faculty members Dave Brock and Bill Kring began exploring ways to create masks and face shields using the college’s CNC machines and 3D printers.
Brock and Kring worked diligently in the Engineering Design and Manufacturing Technology (EDMT) lab to design, manufacture, and assemble face masks and shields based on a design they received from a major 3D manufacturer, Stratasys. Both men are EDMT faculty members and serve as co-chairs of the EDMT department.
The duo successfully created a prototype of a mask with a commonly available filter material that has tested similar to the level of a N95 mask. Corresponding filter elements can be replaced, and the shell sanitized for re-use. They are now able to produce 250 masks and 400 shields per day with a group of four volunteers helping with assembly.
“The materials and processes we used are what we have on hand and can be sourced locally,” Brock said. “Several companies have stepped up and donated tools, shared knowledge, etc., specifically Burchett Tool, Axsys CAD/CAM Solutions, Stratasys, and Bronson Hospital.” Local business Eimo Technologies is ramping up to produce three face shield frames per minute and six face mask per minute. Jim Williams and Gary Hallam of Eimo have agreed to take on this production at their facility located in Vicksburg. Two of Eimo’s three Vicksburg plants are working to produce PPE equipment for local distribution. In addition, the parent company Nissah in Kyoto, Japan, and many of its global subsidiaries are working on similar projects.
The partnership with Eimo made perfect sense. Eimo Tooling and Technology Centre manager Jim Williams is also an instructor at Kalamazoo Valley. “When our parent company asked Eimo to see if there was some way we could help as part of corporate social responsibility, Jim was already aware of the project at Kalamazoo Valley and the components being 3D printed,” explained Gary Hallam, Eimo general manager. “Jim's idea was that Eimo could build injection molds and thermo-forming tools that could increase the output by up to 100 times. I thought this was a perfect project to support since the products were already developed and we could move quickly to use Eimo tooling and injection molding talent to make an impact within a week.” In addition to Williams’ connection to both Eimo and the college, a total of 14 Kalamazoo Valley graduates are currently employed at Eimo.
The college has worked with the Kalamazoo County Health Department to prioritize the local distribution of these items. Michael Collins, Executive Vice President for Enrollment and Campus Operations, is working out the logistics of getting the finished goods to local medical agencies and first responders who are dealing firsthand with the pandemic. Most recently, a donation of face masks and shields was delivered to Senior Care Partners in Portage.
“Bill and I started talking about this on the first day the college stopped holding in-person classes,” Brock said. “We thought we could do this - working together we could make it happen.” Brock’s wife is a nurse who often cares for patients with respiratory problems so his awareness of the severity of the nationwide PPE shortage was heightened early on. “This is pretty personal for me,” he said.
Kring was eager to get involved in something positive. “This situation can be overwhelming and when you look at our community as a whole it starts to eat you up,” Kring said. “It helps when you know you can do a little bit to help. We’re doing this not for recognition, but because we want to make a difference.” Brock and Kring said, “To us, the two most important words on the sign out front are “community” and “Kalamazoo”.”
Kring and Brock spent about 50 hours over a weekend in the lab perfecting a mask. “It’s awesome what we’ve been able to do in a small amount of time with resources from all over the college,” Kring said. He noted that support has come from local companies, from college administration and staff from multiple departments. The Groves campus and instructor Ian Salo have helped by bringing their equipment online to assist with production.
“We aren’t just throwing stuff together. We are using techniques and Fit Test equipment to show it works,’ Brock said, noting that he’s seen numerous YouTube videos by do-it-yourselfers who are making their own PPE. While those efforts are impressive, the homegrown PPEs may not protect wearers adequately. The mask crafted by Brock and Kring has gone through testing by local health care officials and has proven to be a more effective alternative to cotton or surgical masks. “We were absolutely ecstatic with the test results,” Brock said.
“It’s heartwarming to witness Bill and Dave's devotion to supporting the needs of our health care community,” said Tracy Labadie, Ed.D., Dean of Instruction - Business, Industrial Trades and Public Service, “Not only are they both continuing to teach their full course load, in a virtual environment, but they are volunteering their expertise, personal time, and resources to produce as many of these face masks and face shields as they can feasibly manage. Their efforts are impressive and an inspiration to the rest of us.”
Provost and Vice President for Instruction and Student Service, Peter J. Linden, agreed. “Our instructors are working tirelessly to step up, serving our community at a heightened level during this time of crisis and offer an innovative yet practical solution to assist health care professionals provide needed care,” he said.
As efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continue, online and remote learning for all Winter Semester 2020 instruction will continue through the end of the semester. Kalamazoo Valley will begin Summer Semester 2020 on Monday, May 11. Virtual, tele-learning, online and alternate methods of instruction will be provided. Face-to-face instruction may be added as the semester progresses. For more information about the College’s response to COVID-19, go to http://www.kvcc.edu/coronavirus.
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