Helping in Times of Crisis: How One Softvisioner is Making an Impact

How Cognizant Softvision Chief Architect, James Hartling is using technology to help deliver much needed supplies to the medical community

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make its impact across the world, medical supplies are in high demand. With an unprecedented and drastic shortage of gloves, face masks, and face shields–supplies that help protect our medical professionals– we are now feeling the urgent sting of this global health crisis. 

When Cognizant Softvision Chief Architect, James Hartling heard about how Polytech University in Hong Kong was 3D-printing face shields, he set out to see how he could help.

I first heard about Hong Kong Polytech using printers to make supplies in Hong Kong back in February, then as Italy got impacted by the virus, a huge groundswell of open-source designs emerged and people started contributing locally,” says James.

James was put in contact with two other engineers in the Philadelphia area, Omer Dekel of Ontario Systems, and Vikram Agrahar of PhillyDIY, and immediately the three started working on the problem systematically. The group sought input, feedback, and support from medical professionals from virtually every local hospital. During their discussions, they discovered that the need for these face shields is “acute and dire.”

“I’ve been into 3D printing for many years, but as a fun hobby. I never expected it to be of use in this kind of circumstance. But this is the first time for all of us in a situation such as this, and we are all bringing our capabilities into use however we can. It’s important to move quickly because exponential growth can be a real monster. And this virus is spreading aggressively in many parts of the world right now.”

James continues, “These shields not only prevent direct exposure but may also extend the lifetime of the underlying N95 masks, which are in short supply. With plan A and even plan B behind us, our shields are meant to provide an option where none other may exist.”

James, Omer, and Vikram worked together to find a design that was the right balance of safety and coverage, material usage, speed, and scalability. They settled on an open-source effort out of Sweden, a design that uses materials like PLA and PTEG for the 3D printed parts and acetate or vinyl for the shield itself.

The production of so many face shields is undoubtedly no small undertaking. James, Omer, and Vikram aren’t taking this on alone. The team is supported by the efforts of their families and a group of dedicated local volunteers, who are involved in various aspects of the effort including fundraising, production, assembly, and distribution of the finished face shields.

With the support of so many others behind them and wanting to take their efforts one step further, the team has been exploring a face shield that does not require the use of a 3D printer. The idea behind the Open Source Face Shield was that it could be “very easily constructed by anyone with a pair of scissors.”

“As we certify this design as scalable, we are considering how to get it and the necessary materials into the hands of our [Cognizant Softvision] studios for constructing shields locally to support their medical workers. We are doing this already with 3D printing, which requires specialized equipment and experience. But real scale requires simplicity and elegance,” says James.

The Open Source Face Shield is a low cost, medical face shield designed to be quickly made using almost any flat material fabrication equipment (laser cutters, rule dies, drag knife, CNC punch, or even scissors and an office hole punch) from almost any clear flexible material. It requires no hardware or 3D printed parts, just two pieces of flexible clear plastic and an elastic band.

While the group is focusing mainly on shields in the near-term to extend the lifetimes of the masks that are already in service, the team is also looking at actual mask production, with a prototype under assessment by Lankenau Hospital, just outside Philadelphia.

When asked if he had anything else he’d like to share, James offered a few words of advice and inspiration.

“We live in a world where we are accustomed to one person or group or corporation having tremendous power and influence. This situation with COVID-19 is different, one in which we cannot wait for a cure or vaccine that some superpower is going to figure out someday. Every single person can contribute right now by isolating, by being careful and responsible, by doing what you can locally, and by just helping. Our families have been incredibly supportive, and even when my children handle their household chores, it allows my wife and me to work on other things. The sum of all of these little efforts is exactly what we need to take the sharp edge off the COVID-19 outbreak, and we can only do it together.”

“I would encourage everyone to find a way to support their local medical professionals. They are the real heroes here, thrust into service unprepared, and they are going to be under tremendous strain in the coming weeks. Feed them, thank them, remember their effort.”

Interested in making the Open Source Face Shield design for the medical professionals in your community? Visit https://open-face-website.now.sh/

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