UCI campus, industry and the medical center collaborate.
Personal protective equipment such as gloves, medical masks and face shields are in short supply as the medical community deals with the influx of COVID-19 cases. Hospitals and medical centers are working vigilantly to provide medical staff and first responders with the equipment they need to safely treat COVID-19 patients and others.
In mid-March, UCI joined the fight when Carolyn Stephens, managing director of enterprise collaborations at UCI Beall Applied Innovation, received a call from the UCI Medical Center asking for assistance.
Within days, a team was tasked and assembled, including collaborators from the medical center, the business community, Applied Innovation, UCI School of Medicine, the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA).
With industry partners consulting on the product’s design, assembly and packaging constraints to ensure they would arrive uncontaminated and in accordance with the medical center’s procurement standards, Jesse Jackson of CTSA and Ben Dolan of UCI’s Institute of Design and Manufacturing Innovation, and their team, got to work creating numerous disposable face shield prototypes with laser cutters and 3D printers.
Following feedback on function and desired features from medical professionals, they settled on a design that could be produced by either 3D printing or laser cutting to make it easier for other individuals or institutions to produce, as well as to run both machine types simultaneously to quickly hit their production goal of 5,000 units.
Key to the success of this project were the design leads and their advanced manufacturing facilities on campus. Jackson and Dolan combined the available fabrication resources from UCI facilities, including Applied Innovation, RapidTech, FABWorks and the Speculative Prototyping Lab, to produce the parts, and received help from Cove lab tenants and UCI students, faculty and staff who assembled the single-use face shields – all while employing safe practices and social distancing – at the Cove @ UCI, Applied Innovation’s headquarters.
This interdisciplinary effort from campus, with collaboration from the community and the medical center, is just one of the many ways that Southern California is mobilizing to support one another.
“When UCI Beall Applied Innovation opened its doors five years ago, we never imagined that we would be faced with a global pandemic,” said Richard Sudek, executive director at Applied Innovation and chief innovation officer at UC Irvine, “But the collaboration that we foster between the university and the business community is exactly what allowed this time-sensitive project to succeed, and it is what will help the local economy rebuild in the coming months.”
Learn more about how Applied Innovation is taking action.
Main photo: Sara Willman, lab manager at UCI Beall Applied Innovation, holds one of the 5,000 face shields being produced and assembled for the UCI Medical Center.
All photos: Ryan Mahar