Camosun Innovates, the applied research and innovation arm of Camosun College, is contributing their expertise and advanced manufacturing capabilities in the fight against COVID-19. Working at their campus facility and in collaboration with local industry partner AP Plastics, Camosun Innovates is producing more than 9,000 medical grade face shields for local health care workers on the front lines of the global pandemic.
“Everyone at Camosun has stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to support students, each other and the wider community,” says Sherri Bell, President of Camosun College. “The innovative work of the team at Camosun Innovates to support the needs of health care professionals with high quality and effective face shields is an example of how we are all in this together. We expect that the new design and enhanced manufacturing process will support faster production methods to be replicated locally and across the country.”
“We are grateful for the innovative work being done by Camosun College to develop face shields that meet the health system standards,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair. “This partnership is an example of how community efforts and expertise can result in direct support for health-care workers.”
The Camosun Innovates team is led by Dr. Richard Gale, with Applied Research Technologist Matthew Zeleny serving as the coordinator of all COVID-19 response activities. As Canada began to prepare for the global pandemic, Zeleny reviewed the available open-source face shield designs and realized that a 3D printed solution would not be able to meet the growing demand. He consulted with Island Health and local manufacturer AP Plastics, then designed from scratch a new flat-pack version that Camosun’s facilities at the Babcock Canada Interaction Lab could produce at a rate of 90 per hour rather than 10 per day using their industrial 3D printer.
“I started with a speculative design and then took the specs required by Island Health and fit them to the manufacturing standards of the machines and materials we had available,” explains Zeleny. “The shield is designed with a built-in buckle so it’s adjustable and compatible with a wide range of strap materials for the greatest flexibility in real-world conditions.” His design also removes the need for a 3D-printed brow-piece standard in most other models.
This run of the masks is being manufactured using high quality modified Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETG), sourced by industry partner AP Plastics, and production will begin this week at the college’s Interurban campus using Camosun Innovates’ laser cutting machine. The initial run of face shields will help support Island Health and provide industry partner AP Plastics with time to retool their facilities in Calgary so that the Camosun design can go into full-scale production for use throughout Canada.
“Camosun Innovates exists to provide innovation for the public good,” says Dr. Richard Gale, Director of Camosun Innovates. “We’re here to support the college, the community, and the entire country by bringing our expertise to bear on immediate challenge, providing not just materials and products but strategic insights and design solutions for the industries that we serve. This collaboration is a perfect example of how Camosun College is responding to the current crisis by helping local business address a national need.”
In the coming weeks, AP Plastics will continue to produce face shields based on the new design, utilizing CNC machining, while simultaneously retooling their facilities in order to increase production. They expect to be able to produce 4,000 shields per day by the end of May.
“The British Columbia government has designated us an essential service, not only in terms of research activity but also to help our industry partners as they support the health care sector,” says Dr. Gale. “When the pandemic hit and we saw reports of health care workers in urgent need of personal protective equipment, we reached out to Island Health and offered to help because the culture of Camosun College is and always will be service to the community.”