Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Creative Technology Lab at Ryerson is partnering with hospitals to make protective equipment
The Creative Technology Lab at Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) is working to make protective equipment for frontline health workers, the school announced Tuesday morning.
Using 40 3D printers and four laser cutters, the lab expects to make 75 3D-printed headpieces, 350 casted headpieces, 425 laser-cut plastic shields and 250 face masks daily. The plastic face shields and sustainable face masks will be used as protective medical equipment.
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi said FCAD is working with Toronto General Hospital and with Unity Health Toronto — which operates three hospitals, including St. Michael’s — to produce the equipment.
“I’m very proud of the teamwork and generous spirit displayed by our community,” Lachemi told the Ryersonian on Monday.
People in the medical community are currently testing the face shields, which will be produced outside the lab once the design is finalized.
Three faculty members from Ryerson’s School of Fashion have also developed prototypes for a handmade face mask that can be cleaned and reused. Medical professionals are helping them refine the prototypes, which will be presented to St. Michael’s Hospital later this week.
In addition to its other innovations, the lab is attempting to create moulds through a casting process, which would decrease the 3D printing time and speed up production for the headpiece – a key component of the face shield. The total production time could be cut from four hours to 15 minutes.
Ryerson tweeted Monday that the lab may soon get more people involved in the production of equipment, in order to increase its potential volume of production.
Rana Latif, the director of marketing and strategic development at FCAD, told the Ryersonian on Tuesday via email that the project started during the final week of March. It was initiated by Jonathon Anderson, an associate professor and the director of the Creative Technology Lab, along with other leaders at FCAD.
Latif said the FCAD leaders “felt the urge” to help frontline health-care workers during this crisis, given their knowledge and advanced technology.
“We believe that we play an integral role in the growth and development of our cities,” Latif said. “We can’t be sitting on so much expertise and technology while watching the hospital sector struggle. It’s our duty to step in to help the health-care system and the city.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturers have expressed concerns about being unable to keep up with the demand for face masks in North America, dating back to at least as early as March 5, when NPR reported on face mask manufacturers who were already overwhelmed.
In recent weeks, these concerns have amplified as nurses and doctors across the continent pleaded publicly for more personal protective equipment.
According to Latif, the work on the project has been “quite seamless” so far because people are aware of the urgent need for hospitals to receive personal protective equipment.
She also said that although it was hard to foresee a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, FCAD and the lab are always ready to collaborate with different sectors and “find innovative solutions” to difficult problems, such as what hospitals are currently facing.
“We always knew the technology would allow FCAD to have an impactful role,” stated Latif.