Traverse City News and Events

More Traverse City-Grown Innovations To Help The Coronavirus Fight

By Craig Manning | March 27, 2020

Local businesses are continuing to pivot operations and focus on aiding the fight against COVID-19 (coronavirus). The latest developments include products to minimize face touching and keep front desk workers at hospitals and clinics safer, a campaign to start 3D printing surgical masks, and a pledge from a local business to offer free temporary storage for medical manufacturers.

Anti-face-touching bracelets
Last week, local entrepreneur Brigham Ricks developed a technology called “Good Vibes,” which alerts users if they are about to touch their faces. The product is available in two default designs: a bracelet worn on the wrist and a pin worn near the shirt collar. The bracelets and pins are designed to vibrate when a user moves their hand within two inches of their face. Ricks, also a co-founder of the local peer-to-peer construction equipment rental service Burly, says the technology could also be incorporated into necklaces, earrings, watchbands, and more. He tells The Ticker that he and his business partners are “moving at light speed” to start mass production and distribution of Good Vibes products.

3D-printed surgical masks
As with other orthodontists and dentists throughout the state, Dr. Spencer Crouch of Up North Orthodontics has been forced by a state executive order to close his practices. He’s using the downtime to collaborate with other dental and orthodontic professionals throughout the state on a project aimed at fabricating “reusable 3D printed masks with interchangeable filters.”

“Our 3D printer is sitting idle for now and that got me thinking about how I can better use it to help those on the front lines,” Crouch says. He adds that, if successful, the project will provide doctors and nurses with masks they can wipe down between patients and swap out filters, rather than throwing out the entire mask.

Crouch says he’s communicating with project partners via a Facebook group, where everyone is working together to test and tweak designs options. He’s waiting on the necessary materials to be delivered before he can start printing his own masks, but expects to start making prototypes by next week. In the meantime, other orthodontists from throughout the state are already printing and testing 3D-printed masks.

“Right now, an orthodontist friend of mine is connected with the Beaumont hospital COVID-19 team and pulmonologists, getting [the masks] tested,” Crouch says. Beaumont, in Detroit, is at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in Michigan and is nearing capacity. Crouch hopes these tests will be able to inform his first prototypes. “We still have about a week before I get my materials, so hopefully more details come back and a second iteration of the mask is designed by then,” he says. “If I'm able to print out a couple good masks, we will figure out how to get more materials ordered and chat with others in the area that have printers, including dental labs and other private practices. My printer can only do a few masks per day, so we will need a fleet of printers to make an impact.”

If printing surgical masks proves successful, Crouch says he would consider branching out to print ventilator parts as well.

Portable cough and sneeze shields
Britten has developed a new product called CoughGuard, intended to protect receptionists, cashiers, bank tellers, store clerks, office administrators, and other workers from the risk of inhalation exposure or surface contamination. Essentially a transparent collapsible plastic shield, the product is portable, lightweight, and easy to set up on any counter space. It allows essential workers to speak with customers or patients from behind a protective barrier that blocks coughs, sneezes, and potentially infectious airborne particles.

Free storage for medical manufacturers
eFulfillment Service announced on Thursday that it would begin offering free storage to “any producer of medical supplies” that are vital for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The company – which provides inventory storage, order processing, and shipping fulfillment services to e-commerce businesses – has more than 250,000 square feet of warehouse space throughout northern Michigan. Of that space, more than 10,000 square feet is currently vacant. eFulfillment is offering medical manufacturers to store and ship their products – with all standard client service fees and inventory storage fees waived – as long as space remains available. Medical manufacturers can learn more by emailing Medical@eFulfillmentService.com.

These companies' innovations come on the heels of other Traverse City efforts in recent days and weeks.

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