April 30, 2020

Hoosier health care workers to receive PPE and medical supplies manufactured at Purdue

gupta-ppe Purdue University faculty, staff, and students are manufacturing PPE for health care workers across Indiana. Here, Kshitiz Gupta, graduate research assistant in mechanical engineering, assembles safety glasses in Purdue's Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center. The team has already delivered face masks, glasses, gowns, caps, and shoe covers. (Purdue University photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A volunteer team of faculty and staff members at Purdue University has spent the past two weeks manufacturing, assembling and delivering medical supplies to hospitals, emergency management organizations, nursing homes, and hospice care organizations.

Nathan Hartman, Purdue's Dauch Family Professor of Advanced Manufacturing and head of the Department of Computer Graphics Technology, as well as co-executive director of the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC), said the effort is now in full swing.

“We have produced and donated approximately 350 face shields and 600 glasses so far,” Hartman said. “In the next 10 days we will manufacture and deliver approximately more 6,000 face shields, and we hope to soon be able to deliver 1,000 sets of gowns, caps, and foot covers per week.

“Ventilator connectors/fittings will likely be next based on feedback from the health care community. If we can get enough raw materials, we can produce high hundreds or more of these items per day.”

The maker team has been working with staff from Franciscan Health, Parkview Health, Indiana University Health, Lutheran Health Network, Witham Hospital and Saint Anthony Rehabilitation and Nursing Center to distribute supplies throughout Indiana.

There have been many recent outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes, and Hartman says nurses and health care workers at these facilities, as well as other non-hospital health care workers, will benefit from the Purdue effort.

“We have received requests from nursing home facilities, hospice care facilities, and dental offices,” Hartman said. “This part of our community is often overlooked in favor of hospitals and clinics, but we are looking at ways to support them as well, if possible.”

The effort has been facilitated through an arrangement between Tippecanoe County health officials and the Purdue University Fire Department under Indiana’s mutual aid program. Purdue is partnering with these institutions to augment their supplies. Purdue will be centrally supporting the material and items needed to support the Maker effort, until such time as resources become available for the state and federal stimulus funds to reimburse the university for these efforts.

Eastman Chemical of Kingsport, Tennessee, has donated more than 100,000 pounds of plastic film to be used in the eye shields and masks.

Because Purdue conducts research and teaches a variety of classes in manufacturing, technology and engineering, the university has several small manufacturing facilities. Capabilities include injection molding, vacuum forming, roll-to-roll manufacturing, machining, 3D printing, laser scanning and assembly operations.

The volunteer Makers group has approximately 40 faculty and staff members participating, representing Purdue Polytechnic Institute, the College of Engineering, the College of Pharmacy and the School of Nursing, as well as Birck Nanotechnology CenterRay W. Herrick Laboratories, the Bechtel Innovation Design Center and the Envision Center for Data Perceptualization.

A subgroup composed of faculty and staff from Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences and the Department of Theatre within Purdue’s Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance is producing soft goods for health care workers to wear.

“The soft PPE group is ramping up production. They have volunteers sewing across the local community, and we have a reasonable logistics mechanism worked out,” Hartman said.

Joan Goetz, a laboratory technician for the textile and apparel laboratories, has for years trained teaching assistants and students on how to use the apparel equipment — now she is working with a large volunteer team, including students in Purdue's EPICS team, to produce isolation gowns and caps.

“The hardest part was locating fabric that is a good barrier for the medical PPE and that is available in the United States," she said. "We are using Tyvek housing cover. Our team of students cuts out the fabric, and then we pass them along to local seamstresses for assembly."

Anthony "Tony" Sirk, costume shop manager in the Purdue Theatre, is a part of this effort.

“As a theater artist, whose craft hasn’t changed much over the last century, I always jump at the chance to use my skills for something that is bigger than the stage, and I can’t think of anything bigger than helping out the medical community during this pandemic," Sirk said. "Vince Lobello, who supervises the Scene Shop for the Theatre Department, and I have been working together on patterning mock-up prototypes for different PPE elements."

In addition to producing supplies, Hartman's team is working to develop a new design for N95 face masks that can be sanitiezed and reused, which would use filters commonly found in hospitals and clinics.

“We have a working prototype,” he said. “We are working on a fit test for the prototype, and we are investigating dimensions on commercially made filter cartridges that will fit this geometry.”

Writer and media contact: Steve Tally, 765-494-9809, steve@purdue.edu, @sciencewriter

Sources: Nathan "Nate" Hartman, nhartman@purdue.edu

Joan Goetz, jgoetz@purdue.edu 

Anthony "Tony" Sirk, asirk@purdue.edu


Note to Journalists: Video b-roll of Purdue individuals creating personal protective equipment and a photo are available here.

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