Camosun’s Face Shield Designs Help Locally, Globally
When Island Health requested specialised personal protective equipment in early April, Camosun Innovates stepped up to design and manufacture over 9,000 medical-grade shields for local health care professionals. After fulfilling that large order, the Camosun Innovates Team, led by Dr. Richard Gale, with Applied Research Technologist Matthew Zeleny coordinating all COVID-19 activities, made their design files freely available online and continued to protect members of the community from the COVID-19 virus by manufacturing face shields on demand for local non-profits, elder care facilities, medical and dental offices, and law enforcement.
"We're not interested in making a profit off of this," says Dr. Gale. "We're interested in doing the right thing. We are producing the face shields at cost and sharing the design with anyone who is interested. All you need to do is ask, or download the specs from our website."
The initial face shields production run in April provided Camosun partner AP Plastics the time it needed to retool their factories for large-scale production of Zeleny's design. With AP Plastics now up and running, fulfilling orders in the tens of thousands, Camosun staff are now focusing their efforts on fulfilling affordable small-scale orders for local community groups.
"We're hearing very positive feedback because we're able to quickly fulfill a local need," says Dr. Gale. "The Personal Protection Equipment available online for small-quantity purchasers can be quite expensive and take a long time to arrive, if you can find it at all right now. What we produce is safe, tested, reusable, and available to our community partners."
The face shields are being deployed to staff doing vital work in the age of physical distancing, and clients who might not otherwise be able to use the organizations' services. Local orders have gone to the North Saanich/Sidney RCMP, assorted local dental offices, care facilities for the elderly and the developmentally disabled, and even charities such as Beacon Community Services, Community Living Victoria, and the United Way.
Applied Technologist Matthew Zeleny designed the face shields as Canada began to prepare for the global pandemic; Zeleny reviewed the available open-source designs and realized that a 3D-printed solution would not be able to meet the growing demand. He consulted with Island Health and partner manufacturer AP Plastics, then designed a new laser-cut three-piece flat-pack version that Camosun Innovates, Camosun College's Interurban campus applied research facility, could produce at a rate of 90 per hour in their Babcock Canada Interaction Lab.
Since making the design files freely available online in April, enquiries have come from manufacturers across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.
"Because we made the designs available on our website, we don't always know who is using them or where," says Dr. Gale. "They haven't necessarily told us about it, but we have had discussions with our partners at Technology Access Centres around Canada, as well as with manufacturers across North America and in the UK, so we do know that our designs are getting attention and having an impact beyond Victoria and the Lower Mainland."
Camosun's face shields are already in use by doctors and nurses in the Greater Victoria region, and a commercial facility in Campbell River is using the design to supply Island Health's up-island needs.
"We continue to get good feedback from users all over the region," says Dr. Gale. "The first 500 were deployed to determine whether our design would address the needs of health care workers, and they responded with a few minor changes that we implemented immediately, but since then the feedback has been that they are very happy with our design in terms of comfort and reliability. Enough so that they put in another large order to AP Plastics. Obviously, we're very pleased to hear than."
Dr. Gale continues to work with Island Health, providing Camosun Innovates' expertise and advanced manufacturing capabilities in service to our local health care system.
"Camosun College and Camosun Innovates are always eager to help in times of challenge, small and large, local and global," he says. "As the COVID-19 pandemic continues we are seeing more and more potential for innovation, but also realizing that the work we do now will protect people and save lives for a long time to come. Even though we are responding to a crisis in the spring of 2020, we recognize the cyclical nature of our work. Looking ahead, to the next wave or the next immediate need, we have to remember that our job is to ensure the perpetuation of innovation, so that we're not just designing and producing for one moment in time, but anticipating and preparing to help Canada and the world solve problems over the long term."