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3D printing to help in ventilator shortage

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Many with 3D printers are stepping up to help address the critical need for ventilators in areas most hit by the COVD-19 strain of coronavirus.

Devices have been created to attach to the ventilator and allow it to be used for two patients or four patients depending on the design.

LeCroy Career Technical Center instructor Jay LeCroy, with the help of instructor Jason Sosa and permission from LCTC director Dara Norman and Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin, has joined the group of those printing devices.

“We are just trying to do our part,” LeCroy said.

A shortage of ventilators in hospitals that are receiving a large number of coronavirus patients has become a concern.

“They are figuring out that they can split a ventilator and put two people on it, put four people on one ventilator,” LeCroy said. “This is the device that splits it. “Engineers working with hospitals and medical personnel around the nation have been looking at this and developing this.”

The tube from the ventilator machine is connected to one end of the device, and tubes going to each of the patients are connected to the multiple ports on the other side.

LeCroy heard about the opportunity from a few sources, but it was an email from the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association that prompted him to look into getting involved.

Plans for the device are being shared with those who have 3D printers. The organization doing this that ITEEA shared with LeCroy is Colorado Makers Unite. According to the group’s website, “Kevin Low of Gecko Robotics has designed two ventilator splitters that allow one ventilator to be used by two or four patients. The ICU teams at Rose Medical has put this design to the test and given it the green light.”

The site includes steps for finishing and packing the devices to ensure they arrive at their destination unharmed. Makers are then directed to send them to a Project C.U.R.E. location that will get them to a hospital in need.

LeCroy also plans on asking St. Vincent’s Chilton if there is a local need for these devices when he has some finished.

There are people with 3D printers throughout the nation taking part in the project.

Since LCTC is closed right now, Norman and Griffin gave LeCroy permission to move the STEM Academy’s 3D printer to his home. LeCroy said he wished this was something he could have students get involved with, but he cannot because of classes not meeting for the rest of the school year.

“It takes about three hours to make one,” LeCroy said.

The printer is usually used for Sosa’s Introduction to Engineering Design class. LeCroy said the fact that those with non-industrial grade printers are being asked to get involved shows how great the need is.

LeCroy and Sosa will also be attempting to print components used for face shields that were designed by a professor from the University of Alabama.