The Temple University COVID-19 Assistance Team, or TUCAT for short, is a collection of students, faculty, and administrators from all across Temple’s Campus, all working together to fight back against this pandemic.
TUCAT members are hard at work putting together PPE for people in need. What makes this group different from others working to create personal protective equipment is the method they’ve chosen. Instead of trying to pump out 3-D shields and equipment, the members of TUCAT enlisted the help of architecture and sculpture professors to try and create a mold that would be more efficient than before.
Previously, the group had planned on creating around 200 or 300 a week, based on the head of the program, Mike Kala’i’s predictions. However, once they realized that they could instead work under this strategy, they noticed a significant uptick in production.
“So, once we decided we were going to go to this mold, we started running the numbers, and we could really output numbers in a week by a factor of ten. Um, and quite frankly I think it’s gonna be much higher than that. This was our first week of production and we’re finishing the week with just over 2000 shields.”
These numbers were so much higher compared to what was expected that it just didn’t make sense for them to continue the practice. One of the reasons this is so much more effective is the change from transparency paper, the material usually used in 3-D printed models, to a sturdier material Mike referred to as shield plastic. As of the interview, they had around eighteen rolls of the plastic in house, and an additional twenty rolls down in the loading dock, which could produce roughly 40,000 shields.
Looking back at their production ability now, it’s clear their work has been sped up significantly by the switch. After only working for around four days in the past week, they created around 2,000 shields, at an average of 500 per day.
As of right now, the program is working closely with Temple Hospital to drop off shields as often as they are able. Originally, the program had only planned on being a stopgap between orders, filling in when they were needed. However, according to Mike, the hospital has been unable to get new shields.
“We were just going to fill the gaps between the lulls in supply, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems like they’re just going to use ours.”
As of the 13th of April, the FDA required compliance for the shields, something that very easily could have halted production. However, before the program had delivered a single shield, they already had that compliance handled. Mike credits the partnership of all of the moving parts for why this program has been able to get off the ground so quickly.
“It’s such a partnership, university council had to get involved and people, you’re telling people to basically clear their schedule and work on this right now.”
Temple is not alone in their work towards creating PPE for hospital workers, as similar efforts are taking place over on Drexel’s Campus. According to Kala’i, TUCAT planned on publishing their findings as early as the 20th of this month. They would be publishing the full how-to guides on their website so that everyone can “fight the same fight”.
That fight extends even further than university labs, as TUCAT has been looking for volunteers to help out. For people with access to a 3-D printer, Kala’i explained that TUCAT is having them print clips for the masks they’re producing. The clips can be used to pull the mask off the ear, allowing it to be worn longer with less physical discomfort for medical practitioners.
“Someone at home could print hundreds of those a day, and it’s a bigger lift than someone giving us sixteen shield holders, where it took them an hour to just print two. We want to make sure their time and effort is useful to the first responders, and that they’re really involved in helping us out.”
If you have access to a printer that can print the material they need, PETG, a chemical resistant plastic used in the face masks, then the group has been providing some material to individuals to help with speeding up production as much as possible.
For those with no access to a printer capable of these tasks, there is still a lot of work that can be done, the group still needs more volunteers to help out.
“We need drivers, we need packers, and we need cleaners you know? Someone’s offering to bring in lunch you know there are lots of ways to get into the fight.”
The group is made up of around fifteen people working in the engineering building currently, and for all of the pieces to move together, they do need more hands-on deck. If you’re interested in getting involved, then there are waivers to fill out if you’re not a Temple employee.
As of now, the website for TUCAT is not up, and the best source for more information about the program would be here.
Universities across the country are trying to help out with the fight against Coronavirus, and the work being done at Temple may be a step forward for all of them.
“Who knows what New Mexico is doing, who knows, so if someone could spin up out there and start providing their hospitals with this, it’s just one less thing to worry about.”