NYU makes face shield design for healthcare workers that can be built in under a minute available to all

New York University is among the many academic, private and public institutions doing what it can to address the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) among healthcare workers across the world. The school worked quickly to develop an open-source face-shield design, and is now offering that design freely to any and all in order to help scale manufacturing to meet needs.

Face shields are a key piece of equipment for front-line healthcare workers operating in close contact with COVID-19 patients. They’re essentially plastic, transparent masks that extend fully to cover a wearer’s face. These are to be used in tandem with N95 and surgical masks, and can protect a healthcare professional from exposure to droplets containing the virus expelled by patients when they cough or sneeze.

The NYU project is one of many attempts to scale production of face masks, but many others rely on 3D printing. This has the advantage of allowing even very small commercial 3D-print operations and individuals to contribute, but 3D printing takes a lot of time — roughly 30 minutes to an hour per print. NYU’s design requires only basic materials, including two pieces of clear, flexible plastic and an elastic band, and it can be manufactured in less than a minute by essentially any production facility that includes equipment for producing flat products (whole punches, laser cutters, etc.).

This was designed in collaboration with clinicians, and over 100 of them have already been distributed to emergency rooms. NYU’s team plans to ramp production of up to 300,000 of these once they have materials in hand at the factories of production partners they’re working with, which include Daedalus Design and Production, PRG Scenic Technologies and Showman Fabricators.

Now, the team is putting the design out there for pubic use, including a downloadable tool kit so that other organizations can hopefully replicate what they’ve done and get more into circulation. They’re also welcoming inbound contact from manufacturers who can help scale additional production capacity.

Other initiatives are working on different aspects of the PPE shortage, including efforts to build ventilators and extend their use to as many patients as possible. It’s a great example of what’s possible when smart people and organizations collaborate and make their efforts available to the community, and there are bound to be plenty more examples like this as the COVID-19 crisis deepens.

Prisma Health develops FDA-authorized 3D-printed device that lets a single ventilator treat four patients

The impending shortage of ventilators for U.S. hospitals is likely already a crisis, but will become even more dire as the number grows of patients with COVID-19 that are suffering from severe symptoms and require hospitalization. That’s why a simple piece of hardware newly approved by the FDA for emergency use — and available free via source code and 3D printing for hospitals — might be a key ingredient in helping minimize the strain on front-line response efforts.

The Prisma Health VESper is a deceptively simple-looking three-way connector that expands use of one ventilator to treat up to four patients simultaneously. The device is made for use with ventilators that comply to existing ISO standard ventilator hardware and tubing, and allows use of filtering equipment to block any possible transmission of viruses and bacteria.

VESper works in device pairs, with one attached to the intake of the ventilator, and another attached to the return. They also can be stacked to allow for treatment of up to four patients at once — provided the patients require the same clinical treatment in terms of oxygenation, including the oxygen mix as well as the air pressure and other factors.

This was devised by Dr. Sarah Farris, an emergency room doctor, who shared the concept with her husband Ryan Farris, a software engineer who developed the initial prototype design for 3D printing. Prisma Health is making the VESper available upon request via its printing specifications, but it should be noted that the emergency use authorization under which the FDA approved its use means that this is only intended effectively as a last-resort measure — for institutions where ventilators approved under established FDA rules have already been exhausted, and no other supply or alternative is available in order to preserve the life of patients.

Devices cleared under FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) like this one are fully understood to be prototypes, and the conditions of their use includes a duty to report the results of how they perform in practice. This data contributes to the ongoing investigation of their effectiveness, and to further development and refinement of their design in order to maximize their safety and efficacy.

In addition to offering the plans for in-house 3D printing, Prisma Health has sourced donations to help print units for healthcare facilities that don’t have access to their own 3D printers. The first batch of these will be funded by a donation from the Sargent Foundation of South Carolina, but Prisma Health is seeking additional donations to fund continued research as well as additional production.

Relativity Space expands its rocket-printing operations into an enormous new Long Beach HQ

Building a rocket is a big operation, even when you’re printing them from the ground up, like Relativity Space . The launch startup is graduating from its initial office, which is a bit cramped for assembling rockets, to a huge space in Long Beach, where the company will go from prototype to first flight.

We recently visited Relativity at their old headquarters, which had the scrappy (literally — there were metal scraps everywhere) industrial feel you’d expect from a large-scale hardware startup. But except for the parking lot, there didn’t seem to be anywhere to put together… you know, a rocket.

So it was no surprise when co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis said that the company was just starting the process of moving to a gigantic new open-plan warehouse-style building in Long Beach.

Relativity CEO Tim Ellis is obviously excited about the new HQ.

“It’s a big step,” Ellis told TechCrunch. “It’ll actually be the first factory we fully build out with 3D printers. This new space is actually big enough that we’ll be printing the first and second stages, and the fairing at the same time. The new ceiling height is approximately 40 feet, which will allow us to build taller — about twice the height of our current facility. We’re on track to start shipping parts to Stennis for testing later this year.”

In addition to the three “Stargate” printers that can print parts up to 15 feet high, they’ll have three more that can go up to 20 feet and two that can go up to 30. It’s a bit hard to imagine a single printed rocket part 30 feet tall until you’ve seen some of the pieces Relativity has already made.

Not only do the rockets take up a lot of space, but the company itself is growing.

“From two years ago to now we’ve over 20X-ed our entire footprint as a company,” Ellis pointed out. In other words, it was starting to feel a bit overpopulated in their old spot near LAX.

This the space as it is now; the image up top is a render of how it will look once active.

Assembly of the launch vehicle, called Terran 1, its Aeon engines and R&D will all take place in the new HQ. It’s nearly 120,000 square feet, and will be built as a very high-tech manufacturing operation indeed. There will be no fixed tooling, meaning the factory can be rapidly reconfigured, and will be highly automated. The company’s 3D printers aren’t like the simple ones used for rough prototyping, but enormous, carefully monitored robot arms that perform real-time analysis of the metal they are laying down.

“It’s really the first autonomous factory, and it’s not just for rockets,” Ellis said. “Once we prove out the factory with this first launch vehicle, we’re convinced this works towards our long-term plan of launching factories to Mars and building a wide range of products that you’re going to need there. It’s on the path for the long-term vision but also a way for us to be a pioneer in this new value chain for aerospace.”

“It’s going to be cool,” he added.