Clear face shields and valves are focuses of the efforts of the Luddy makerspaces and FAMES Lab.
In challenging times, leaders emerge.
Enter the FAMES Lab and the Luddy School makerspaces at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.
The Fibers and Additive Manufacturing Enabled Systems (FAMES) Lab, led by Assistant Professor of Intelligent Systems Engineering Alexander Gumennik, is doing its part to support medical professionals in their battle against the coronavirus and COVID-19. In the face of a growing shortage of personal protective equipment for nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel, the FAMES Lab has leveraged its resources to prepare the state of Indiana and for what is to come.
“We are trying to be ahead of the curve for shortages in medical supplies that are anticipated to hit Indiana in case the pandemic keeps spreading,” Gumennik says. “Specifically, the FAMES Lab can target any spare equipment that can be rapidly prototyped using computer-aided design and manufacturing by 3D printing, laser cutting, and CNC machines. Those include, for instance, clear face shields, retrofit adapters that can convert scuba masks into respiratory masks, valves for ventilators, and COVID-19 test kit swabs.”
The FAMES Lab, which includes a 27-foot tall fiber-draw tower, a pair of optical labs, two preform-fabrication labs, an additive manufacturing lab, and a small maker space for electronic and mechanical assembly works, is a research facility in which the machines are specifically designed for flexibility. Prototyping is one of its main focuses, making it a perfect resource to help in the COVID-19 effort.
“FAMES Lab conducts a research on the interface between Advanced Manufacturing and Bioengineering,” Gumennik says. “Graduate students in our team have the full spectrum of expertise, from 3D modelling through digital manufacturing to assessment of biocompatibility for clinical use of the biomedical devices that we design and prototype.”
The team at the FAMES Lab already has working prototypes for face shields and Venturi valves, while some of the other efforts are still in the CAD development phase.
“Our robust engineering team allows us to provide impactful, high-immediacy response to real-world problems,” Gumennik says. “For me, this is technological wisdom enabling compassion in action. It’s a joy to be so uniquely useful to others.”
Christian McKay, the director of Luddy’s 3D Fabrication and Design Inquiry Labs, is playing its own role as part of a coordinated group of IU and IUPUI staff and faculty who are working with IU Health on several stopgap efforts on PPE production. Face shields are his current focus.
“This predominantly involves vetting designs for viability in healthcare settings,” McKay says. “This is accomplished through fabrication of a select set of designs for consideration. Fabrication methods include 3D printing and laser cutting interlocking components of designs in a variety of materials. Standardizing a design and its fabrication methods and materials is a crucial aspect of our design prototyping activities.”
Rapid response to the crisis is critical, and the experience of those working in the Luddy makerspaces is critical.
“Our expertise lies where design meets machine fabrication methods and processes, particularly as they relate to materiality,” McKay says. “We are able to rapidly sort through conceptual mismatches between design, materials, and fabrication methods, and refocus those elements to best meet the end user’s requirements. This allows us to speed up the entire process by weeding out any well-meaning designs that may otherwise be misguided through a lack of knowledge in materiality and fabrication processes, and how they affect the end product’s viability for the end user group.”
With four makerspaces involved in the effort, production on the important components and projects are moving forward quickly.
“Under the current crisis, these normally vibrant spaces would have been sitting idle,” McKay says. “It’s imperative that we ensure those spaces are engaged in efforts to provide for our community’s crucial needs at this critical time. As a public institution, IU and the Luddy School are uniquely positioned to provide a much-needed public service.”
The items produced at the FAMES Lab and the other makerspaces are being vetted, and they will quickly be evaluated and tested by organizations such as IU Health and Eskenazi Health before further decisions are made on production.
“The Luddy School is uniquely positioned to help our community in this time of crisis,” says Dennis Groth, the interim dean of Luddy. “The unparalleled expertise of our faculty members and the state-of-the-art equipment that is available for the design and prototyping of these important items are the perfect example of technology making an immediate, real-world impact on lives in the state of Indiana.”
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For more information regarding IU’s research and expertise in the fight against COVID-19 please visit https://research.impact.iu.edu/coronavirus/index.html