OU team unites to create prototypes for essential equipment in fight against COVID-19

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – As the country works to find ways to protect first responders and healthcare professionals on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, a local university is doing its part to try and alleviate the shortage of protective gear and critical equipment.

More than 40 individuals from across the University of Oklahoma’s three campuses have teamed up to develop, prototype, validate, and offer recommended essential equipment designs.

“The speed and effectiveness with which the research and innovation communities across OU have come together to respond to these critical needs in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic are a true testament to the values of the university and the quality of its people,” said OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia. “I am extremely proud of our faculty, staff and students for how they’ve responded to this challenge. The community will be safer, and OU’s future will be stronger as a result.”

OU students create prototype for equipment
Kolton Topetchy, a tech lead with the Tom Love Innovation Hub, cleans and prepares CNC-cut frame components for more than 80 face shields produced using rapid-prototyping techniques.

For the past three weeks, the COVID-19 Essential Equipment Task Force has been evaluating prototypes and iterating designs.

Designs that meet both industry standard testing and the needs of front-line health care professionals are published and available for public download at ou.edu/foroklahoma. Proven designs for three types of face shields and a silicone head strap and are now available.

Nathan Herring, a tech lead with the Tom Love Innovation Hub, uses a palm router and pattern bit to build a prototype of an isolation box used to protect medical personnel caring for COVID-19 patients.
Nathan Herring, a tech lead with the Tom Love Innovation Hub, uses a palm router and pattern bit to build a prototype of an isolation box used to protect medical personnel caring for COVID-19 patients.

“There has been an incredible desire among makers and manufacturers to provide products that our front-line health care workers so desperately need,” said Tom Wavering, executive director of the Tom Love Innovation Hub, who co-leads the task force with Dr. Yacoub Al Sakka, director of digital technologies in the OU College of Dentistry. “Innovating and publishing these medically vetted designs is one way OU can leverage our expertise and resources in the broad effort to fight COVID-19.”

Officials say they hope to soon publish designs for a novel 3D-printed respirator mask, isolation boxes for intubation or patient testing, 3D-printed swabs, ventilators, ventilator valves, and full face protective masks.

The university intends to manufacture several of the designs listed, provided required approval from the Food and Drug Administration is obtained.

“This project, which has brought together several disciplines with a singular focus of helping those on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, is a powerful example of the collaborative and community-oriented culture that spans the entire university,” Wavering said.

Zane Raines, a tech lead with the Tom Love Innovation Hub, uses an orbital sander to put finishing touches on a prototype of a small isolation box.

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