Virginia Western Community College recently completed a project with Carilion Clinic to manufacture PPE devices to help protect healthcare providers in the Roanoke Region during the COVID-19 pandemic. College employees and students collaborated in the STEM Building’s Fab Lab to 3D print almost 600 devices that were used to increase the effectiveness of respirators.
At the end of 2020, Carilion Clinic reached out to Virginia Western’s Fab Lab about partnering on the project. There was a shortage of the PPE devices, which attach to a respirator and allow additional filter material to be used with the respirator.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic caused a shortage of PPE for healthcare workers globally, I knew there could be a demand for the use of equipment in our labs and an opportunity for our students to gain valuable experience,” said Kristian Cusimano, the VWCC Fab Lab Manager. “We enjoyed working closely with Carilion to ensure we made what they needed, when they needed it.”
Virginia Western students worked on the 3D printing projects at school in the Fab Lab, and they also were able to work at home with portable 3D printers on loan. This collaboration gave mechatronics students a chance to see real-world applications for the skills they learn in the classroom while allowing the lab to become a resource for the entire community.
“I feel honored to be a part of this project. Safety has been a top priority for the past year, and knowing that I may have had a small part in helping prevent infection puts me at ease,” said mechatronics student Bradley Wallace. “Applying the knowledge I’ve gained in Virginia Western’s mechatronics program and putting it towards a real-life scenario has strengthened my education and given me insight as to what my future career may look like.”
Throughout the project, Virginia Western supplied almost 600 devices that healthcare providers are now using in hospital settings. Each device took about 1.25 hours to manufacture and includes a PLA filament.
“We are proud to help with this important project and believe it is a win-win for both our community and our students,” said Cusimano.