Designed, Made and Tested Here

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UHN fast-tracks on-site manufacturing of face shields, test swabs and ventilator components.
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Saba Ansari, Anesthesia Research Coordinator (left) demonstrating the face shield assembly process and Vahid Anwari, PPE Production Manager (right) wearing a completed face shield.

Laboratories at UHN have partnered with medical programs to become hotbeds for the design, manufacturing and testing of medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE).

These initiatives are supporting frontline workers and the fight against COVID-19 by providing a locally manufactured and reliable supply of safety-tested protective equipment—including face shields, patient monitoring components and alternatives to disposable N95 masks.

The programs that are leading these efforts include Techna Institute’s Image Guided Discovery Lab (IGDL) and Tele-Monitoring Program; as well as UHN’s The Lynn & Arnold Irwin Advanced Perioperative Imaging Lab (APIL), and the departments of Anesthesia & Pain Management and Medical Engineering.

A key challenge of manufacturing medical equipment is the need for it to meet the highest safety standards. Tackling this issue requires multiple rounds of designing, prototyping and clinical validation. Being based as Canada’s largest research hospital is a key advantage and has enabled the vertical integration of these processes.

The following innovative projects are being led to meet the increased demand for scarce resources:

● The IGDL has helped to fast-track the manufacturing process by serving as a hub for multidisciplinary collaboration between engineers, scientists and clinicians.

● The APIL, led by Dr. Azad Mashari, is contributing an extensive collection of 3D printing equipment—which is key to manufacturing the various PPE components. Currently, the facility is producing the components required to assemble 100 face shields/day and supplying to hospitals throughout the Greater Toronto Area. 3D printing is also being employed to manufacture test swabs and new ventilator components to support ventilation for more than one patient on a single machine.

● The Tele-Monitoring team, led by Techna’s Manager of Engineering Jimmy Qiu, has been working closely with Medical Engineering to conduct rapid prototyping, 3D printing and assembling of camera mounts for medical vital sign monitors. These remote monitoring systems have been deployed to medical wards so that patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms can be continuously monitored for oxygen saturation levels.

● The APIL has also been working with the department of Anesthesia & Pain Management to develop and clinically validate a number of stop-gap solutions for the shortage of N95 masks, should the supply disruptions for masks and respirators continue. These solutions include a reusable, silicone N95-caliber mask and a positive pressure respirator to reduce risk of exposure for clinicians performing aerosolizing procedures. These devices have been prototyped and can be manufactured at a small to medium scale using 3D printing and molding techniques refined by APIL. For more information about this innovative N95-caliber mask, see the APIL website and this article.

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new set of challenges for safely delivering care to a critically ill patient population. By working towards a common goal, diverse experts at UHN are rising to the challenge to support frontline healthcare workers.

UHN and Toronto hospitals are seeking unopened and unexpired PPE, as well as medical gowns, gloves, masks and eye protection. If you or anyone you know would like to donate supplies or help in other ways, click here. All donated equipment are inspected and assessed by UHN’s Safety Services team and the Infection Prevention and Control team.

The COVID-19 PPE Taskforce at the 3D-printer facility in the IGDL production space; (from left) Joshua Hiansen, Vahid Anwari, Dr. Azad Mashari, Nour Ayach and Dr. Jesse May.

A reusable, silicone N95-caliber mask designed, manufactured and clinically validated in IGDL, led by Dr. William Ng (pictured).