Ohio's campuses rising to the challenge of COVID-19

Using technology and innovation to meet demand for PPE
Thursday, April 30, 2020
The Point at Otterbein manufacturing PPE donations

In response to the COVID-10 pandemic, colleges and universities across Ohio are using technology and design skills to bring much needed supplies to health care workers on the frontlines in their communities. What follows are just a few stories highlighting how higher education institutions are committing resources, connecting with the health care industry, and meeting critical needs in these difficult times.

Lorain County Community College is 3D printing safety visor kits for local hospitals and medical facilities


Using equipment from the Patsie C. and Dolores Jeneé Campana Center for Ideation and Invention, Lorain County Community (LCCC) college is 3D printing headbands for safety visor kits that include five sheets of off-the-shelf acetate transparency material to create the replaceable shield. The kits are being delivered to the Lorain County Office of Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security, which is distributing them to local medical facilities in the greatest need.

LCCC has already donated hundreds of face shields, and as production ramps up, it is now producing up to 120 kits a day — and those involved are doing it all from their homes.

“We had just left campus because of the order from Governor DeWine when I got the request to fabricate some personal protective equipment,” said Kelly Zelesnik, dean of the engineering, business and information technologies division. “So we turned around and grabbed every table-top printer we could.”

The LCCC team has 12 printers spread across four homes running 24/7, creating mini manufacturing floors wherever they have space. They’re doing everything from sourcing and ordering materials to printing parts to packaging the kits. The LCCC Foundation’s Lifeshare Legacy Fund is providing funding for the supplies and materials.

Christopher Leon, LCCC graduate and lab instructional assistant, knew immediately he wanted to be part of the process, doing his part to prevent the spread.

 “We all need to pitch in to help the fight any way we can,” Leon said. “I happen to know 3D printing and we have been fortunate enough to have the college’s leadership helping us in every way they can.”

The Point at Otterbein manufacturing PPE donations


The Point at Otterbein University is working to fill the growing need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 crisis by setting up a light manufacturing operation in the university’s Maker Space. PPEs made at The Point will be donated to EMS, fire, police, and healthcare workers.

“Otterbein has strong partnerships in central Ohio, so when The Point received requests to contribute, we pulled together a dedicated team of students and staff to produce PPEs,” said Erin Bender, executive director of The Point. 

“Otterbein’s leaders are committed to serving our community and ensuring the safety of our first responders and healthcare workers, whose work is so critical especially during this global health crisis.”

Curtis Smith, Maker Space and laboratory operations manager at The Point, is working with students who answered the call to produce PPEs using the facility’s 3D printers and laser cutters.

The current emphasis is on laser-cut and 3D-printed face shields, as well as 3D-printed adapters to enable OhioHealth facilities to use ventilator screens from a distance, which will protect healthcare workers from exposure to infected patients.

“We can produce 150 face shields per day, and we are making 200 ventilator adapters for OhioHealth,” said Bender.

“We are looking for other opportunities to continue or expand our work,” she added.

Shawnee State University students develop face shield prototypes to assist medical community


Students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program at Shawnee State University have created prototypes for face shields that could be used to protect local health care workers. More than 10 of the prototypes are now being evaluated by medical professionals at Shawnee Family Health Center and Southern Ohio Medical Center.

Adam Miller, SSU professor and chair of the SSU Department of Engineering Technologies, said that Shawnee State is answering Governor DeWine’s call to manufacturers to assist with the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during this time. The equipment is in high demand because of the anticipated increase in cases of COVID-19 that will require treatment.

“We have the same technology in our student labs that is available in advanced manufacturing companies around the state, thanks to ongoing partnerships that we have with industry leaders,” Miller said.

“Over the past few weeks, we have been researching and evaluating prototypes of products that we could produce here to help our medical community safely manage the coronavirus pandemic. While our capacity is limited, our equipment and the capabilities of our students are industry standard and we want to do what we can to help.”

Miller said that the project began with SSU students Nathan Dever and Adam Bilitzke in early March. After reading an article about 3D models for alternative masks to the N95 filter used in the medical community, the two began working on prototypes.

“We first produced a face mask,” said Dever, a junior political science and plastics engineering technology major from Minford, Ohio. 

“We showed our first prototype to medical professionals at Southern Ohio Medical Center and they helped us test it.

“The plastic part needed to fit properly on the face and used a filter that was also becoming difficult to obtain. We then shifted our focus to face shields that are also needed.”

With the goal to make sure his loved ones are safe, Dever said this situation was part of why he entered the field.

“This is one of the benefits of the plastics field. It takes creativity and problem-solving skills. This is the part that appeals to me. I want to help people of Scioto County. My sister is in the medical field. I want her to be safe.”

Dever’s classmate, Adam Bilitzke, a junior from Troy, Ohio, also has family ties to the medical community.

“My mother is a nurse,” Bilitzke said. “She works in a nursing home. I have a personal interest in this project. It’s important. I can say that this is the most fulfilling project I’ve ever been involved with. Before coming to Shawnee State two years ago, I received my Eagle Scout award and worked as a lifeguard. Giving back to my community is important to me.”

The work that these students, and others who have now joined them on the project, have done is appreciated by the medical community, too.

“We’re hopeful about these face shields and I can’t say enough about these students and their desire to protect us,” Cyndy Bell, Nursing Coordinator at Shawnee Family Health Center and SSU nursing program graduate, said.

“We are seeing people in our primary care clinic and we make home visits. Having protective equipment is critical. We appreciate what Shawnee State University is doing to help.”

Coronavirus: Sinclair CC partnership will rapidly produce 3D-printed masks for healthcare workers


A new agreement between Sinclair Community College and drone manufacturer Altavian will provide 3D printed masks to healthcare workers.  

The partnership will use state-of-the-art 3D printing capabilities at Sinclair’s National UAS Training and Certification Center lab to print mask shells and filter caps 24 hours a day before shipping the components to Altavian for final assembly and distribution.

The finished masks are equivalent to standard N95 masks and able to filter 99.9 percent of airborne particles.  They are reusable with replaceable filters and can also withstand heat sterilization.

Kent State team designs, produces PPE


Kent State University’s Design Innovation (DI) Initiative is responding to the COVID-19 crisis by prototyping and producing face shields and masks to help fill the gap experienced by medical personnel on the front lines.

J.R. Campbell, director of the DI Initiative, is coordinating a team that consists of 25 faculty, staff, and students from Kent State’s College of Public Health, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, University Libraries, Research Center for Educational Technology, as well as collaboration with the College of Aeronautics and Engineering and the College of Nursing.

The team is utilizing the 3D printing and laser-cutting resources in place at Kent State to produce much-needed and increasingly scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to Kent State's first responders at the Kent State Police Department and DeWeese Health Center. The remainder will go to the Cleveland-based nonprofit MedWish International, which will distribute the supplies to Northeast Ohio’s hospital workers and first responders who are in dire need. MedWish repurposes medical supplies and equipment.

The DI network of makerspaces has the capacity to quickly react to the local and critical need for PPE.

“Our current goal is to produce 2,000 face shields since we have received funding from both the United Way of Portage County and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation,” Campbell said. “We are not yet ready to say which versions/models of face masks we will be producing with which materials, but should be making those decisions soon.”

Summa Health is testing several of the masks, Campbell said. In addition, a production company will be interviewing Campbell about the efforts to produce the masks and how the team is using Microsoft Teams in this project. If the interview makes the cut, it may appear in a Microsoft commercial, he added.

YSU professors design 3D cartridges to retrofit masks

By Ron Selak, Jr., Youngstown Vindicator [LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE]

Two professors at Youngstown State University have designed a 3D printable cartridge for an N95 filter or other media that can be retrofitted to commercially available masks.

The concept, now in its sixth or so generation, from Darrell Wallace and Brian Vuksanovich, is under review to be placed on the National Institutes of Health’s 3D print exchange. That’s a repository for design uploads to link the capabilities of additive manufacturers to the needs of medical workers on the frontlines fighting the novel coronavirus.

Conversations about how to help in the supply of PPE began in mid-March, but the focus at that time was in producing something like the conventional N95 mask. But then Vuksanovich, associate professor of manufacturing and engineering technology, had the idea that changed the game: What if somehow an existing, well-fitting mask could be adapted?

“There are lots of masks that are not typical medical masks that fit great. Could we do something to utilize those, make them reusable, washable… so we can make something that people can use over and over, fits comfortably, seals very well and holds a good filtration media?" Wallace said.

Wallace and Vuksanovich took the pitch and ran, came back and picked the best parts of both and started to evolve the cartridge. Its design allows it to be produced through 3D printing or injection molding.

Higher education donates PPE


Other higher education institutions have responded to Governor DeWine's call for PPE by donating to local health care providers.  

Universities and their branch campuses, community colleges, and adult workforce and training centers across the state have answered the call.

The Ohio Association of Community Colleges reports that Ohio's 23 community colleges have donated more than 200,000 medical face masks and pairs of gloves to hospitals and local first responders across the state.Twenty-five much-needed medical ventilators are among the colleges’ donations.

“Our campuses have answered Gov. DeWine’s call to provide PPE equipment and other critically needed medical supplies to those on the frontlines,” said Jack Hershey, President and CEO of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.  

“Many of these medical workers and first-responders have been educated on our campuses, so it is doubly gratifying that our colleges are able to support these graduates and their colleagues in this way.”

About 800 N95 masks, 1,150 breathing masks, 12,000 other masks, and 223,000 pairs of regular and sterile gloves were donated, Hershey said.