Since we posted a blog post talking about how the Open Source Face Shield project had started to supply the University of Wisconsin hospitals with this critical personal protection equipment (PPE), our team has had little time to breathe.
The momentum is enormous, so I wanted to share some updates and then provide a bit more context on what has gone well and not so well as the design, engineering, and manufacturing communities have stepped up to address the PPE shortage.
Here's an update on recent activities:
- Lennon Rodgers and his UW Makerspace team have consolidated a bunch of resources to help new groups start making shields. Here are the manufacturing resources.
- Brian Ellison and the Midwest Prototyping team have ramped up production and are delivering around 1,000 of what we're calling Badger Shields to UW Hospital every day.
- Our consortium of high(er)-volume manufacturers and suppliers is growing and includes Summit Medical, Coaster Cycles, Electronic Theater Controls and Ford.
- A really nice article was published about the Badger Shield effort in Wired. Their URL calls us tinkerers. Tinkerers, really? Professionals.
- An engineer in Davis, CA made and delivered 100 shields to local clinics, showing how one person can make a difference.
- A small group in the UK is working with the National Health Service to ramp up the Badger Shield effort across the country. This is led by Barry Lillis from Osler Diagnostics and Lucy Jung from Charco.
- Our Director of Visual Communications, Corin Frost, created the awesome Badger Shield logo.
I also wanted to share a few takeaways from this whirlwind week.
This is an overwhelming need
The immediate and future need for PPEs is overwhelming and is not likely to subside any time soon. Our president, Dave Franchino, did a couple back-of-the-envelope calculations to bracket the demand for PPEs:
- 6,000 hospitals in the US
- Assume 75 personnel in each hospital that would need masks
- Assume 3 masks / shift
- Assume 2 shifts
- Assume that this represents 60 percent of needed masks (the rest is remote testing, clinics, etc.) = 4.5M shields / day in the US
- 3M says they can make 100M masks / month
- Assume shield production is equal to 1/4th masks
- Assume 3M makes up 1/3rd of available mask production
- Mask production = 300M masks/mo = 10M masks/day
- Forecasted shields available through existing supply chain = 2.5M
Shortfall = 2M shields/day
- COVID cases / 1M in Italy = 1,000 people / 1M population (probably higher but these are the ones that present at the doctor.
- Assume similar in the US = 300M people * 1000 = 300,000 cases eventually
- Assume 20 percent present to hospital = 60,000 presentations
- Assume average stay = 14 days X 8 shields / day = 7M masks total
- Assume that COVID hospital need is half - so total mask need is 14M
- Assume breakout lasts 45 days
Demand = 300K shields/day
So, there you have it - shield needs are between 300K and 2.5M per day. Or not.
In a chaotic situation, logistics are crushingly difficult. Shipping providers are short staffed and overburdened. Asking individuals to sew and deliver masks creates a disconnection between supply, demand, and quality control. Material suppliers (when they are identified) immediately run out of stock and new suppliers need to be ramped up, creating competition between all the shield manufacturers when they just want to help.
Selective use of 3D printing
Additive manufacturing feels like a panacea. I am a huge believer in finding ways for additive to revolutionize the supply chain and the design cycle, but we've done everything possible to avoid 3D printing in the Badger Shield effort. It is a crushingly slow process (today) and poorly suited for mass production of bulky parts, like N95 masks. On the other hand, it is a great solution for tiny parts like nasal swabs. Kudos to Carbon and Formlabs for ramping the printing of these critical testing supplies. (Carbon has another face shield design they are printing. Perhaps their scale proves my point wrong)
Even with relaxed regulations during crises, we still need to think about typical safety, biocompatibility, and unintended consequences. As a redhead I know says, "Proceed gingerly." Or as Hippocrates stated in Of the Epidemics, "First, do no harm." (Yeah, I looked it up. It's not the Hippocratic Oath).
Know your customer
One of the reasons the Badger Shield is being accepted by hospitals is that it is familiar, and it matches their current workflow of single-time use, donning, doffing, and material handling. I have been inundated by suggestions for simplifying the design or switching to a reusable design. And in normal times, those ideas are critical to run to ground, iterate, pilot and commercialize. Right now, hospitals can't learn something new.
As an aside, I am concerned about the mountain of trash this and all PPEs will generate across the world. Hopefully, we will learn from this and use our time to prioritize waste reduction for the next pandemic. For the time being, we are prioritizing the safety of our healthcare professionals. Please keep them in your thoughts. They are tired, stressed, and at risk.
Please stay safe and at home if you are able.
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