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With over 100 countries worldwide now dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, significant pressure has been placed on critical medical supplies (masks, gear, ventilators and more), healthcare facilities and hospital staff.

In response, a host of international designers, manufacturers, maker networks and incubators (like America Makes, ConquerCOVID19 in Canada and CECIMO, the European organization for additive manufacturing and machine tool production) and producers have leveraged their collective resources to offer innovative solutions that alleviate the strains on medical equipment as well as to ensure front line workers stay safe. Here are some of the most striking initiatives, many of which are accepting donations:

Medical Facilities

Opposite Office Converts Empty Airport into a Superhospital

Though in construction since 2006, Berlin’s new airport, like many across the world, sits dormant as the global pandemic has dramatically halted air travel. COVID-19 Superhospital BER, a proposal by München-based practice Opposite Office, looks to convert the 220,000-square-metre structure into an emergency medical facility with rapidly deployable, modular, circular “cabins” arranged in a serpentine formation.

Jupe Health Crafts a Flat-Pack Intensive Care Unit

Jupe Health’s Mobile Recovery Units Aim to Treat COVID-19 Anywhere
Currently being tested, the sophisticated care and containment modules are designed especially for rural and remote zones.

To combat the severe shortage of not only patient beds but space for isolation, recovery and medical staff to rest, start-up Jupe Health has developed three deployable, tent-like shelters that can be easily transported on the back of a standard flat-bed trailer and hauled by a heavy pickup truck.

Carlo Ratti Associati Transform Shipping Containers into an Intensive Care Unit

Short for Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments, CURA by Carlo Ratti Associati (in collaboration with a host of designers, engineers, medical professionals, and military experts) repurposes shipping containers to create rapidly deployable “plug-in biocontainment pods” that can support a variety of functions to aid overwhelmed intensive care units across the world.

ASTOUND Aids Hospitals with Deployable Screening Facilities

Design/Build Company ASTOUND Helps Hospitals Hit Hard by COVID-19
The Ontario firm has partnered with a number of the province’s hospital networks to deliver scalable solutions for screening facilities.

On March 16, local architectural fabricators ASTOUND completed a full-scale prototype for temporary assessment centre across from Toronto’s St. Michaels Hospital. Designed to alleviate the potential stress on the institution’s emergency room and featuring self-screening registration tables or kiosks (shown), testing rooms and more, the innovative scheme has spurred further work with medical facilities across the province of Ontario and beyond.

MASS Design Group Releases COVID-19 Design Guides

“The design of our spaces has the power to hurt us or to keep us safe,” says American studio MASS Design Group. “From floor layouts, to the choice of materials, to the circulation of air, every decision we make matters.” In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm has release two design guides – “Designing Spaces for Infection Control” and “Guidelines for Limiting Contagion in COVID-19 Tent Clinics” – that consolidate its over 10 years practice with building spaces for patient care. The team also expects to release additional information and compendiums in the weeks to come.

SITU Prototypes Patient Screening Booths

“We are prototyping a Patient Screening Booth that keeps medical practitioners protected while examining a large number of patients,” explain New York-based practice SITU. Consisting of a transparent partition equipped with sealed gloves, the design builds on similar testing centres deployed in South Korea that maximize healthcare professional’s ability to examine patients while reducing exposure and limiting the need for PPE.

CannonDesign Unveils Walk-In Testing Booth

“Healthcare workers are extremely concerned about their personal safety and the safety of their families,” says architect Albert Rhee of global studio CannonDesign. “The current strain on PPE supplies adds enormous stress on an already difficult situation.” Led by Rhee with Buffalo-based mechanical engineer Raymond Shultz, the firm has devised a walk-in testing booth that intends to keep healthcare professionals safe and limit exposure to the virus during patient screenings.

The firm’s Chicago outpost has also conceived a smaller-scale prototype of a “modular, scalable, customizable testing solution,” dubbed COVID Shield. The proposal looks to provide safe, pop-up testing for both patients and healthcare workers as the world begins to live alongside the virus. “The COVID Shield can be assembled as a single unit or connected to others, to form a modular pavilion of testing stations,” says CannonDesign. “Its flexibility, easy alteration allow it to adapt to fast-changing testing protocols and a variety of site footprints.”

Tye Farrow produces deployable ICU design

The Hospital of Today – and Tomorrow – is Rapidly Deployable
Toronto architect Tye Farrow has developed an ICU design with a striking, fast-assembly innovation at its core.

Building on his extensive experience in healthcare design, Toronto-based architect Tye Farrow has designed the Solace Rapid Assembly – High Performance Covid-19 Inpatient Bed Solutions system to battle staff burnout and to elevate patients’ moods and capacity for healing. Currently, Farrow is in discussions with health authorities in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to apply the rapidly deployable concept.

Grimshaw Architects Devise Prefabricated Health Facilities

Global studio Grimshaw Architects have designed a suite of prefabricated health facilities for rapid COVID-19 testing. Dubbed D-TEC, the deployable structures made of up-cycled shipping containers were made in collaboration SG Blocks and Osang Healthcare. “Medical staff are inside the facility, separated from patients who approach the exterior,” studio says of the conceot. “Testing can be done without contact between staff and patient.” Initial prototypes of the project are slated to be completed in June.

WZMH Architects Conceptualize a Prefabricated Testing Centre

Toronto-based WZMH Architects in collaboration a number of local engineering and consulting groups have produced a concept for a portables, prefabricated, low-cost and energy efficient virus testing centre. While still a concept, the designers have reached out to Microsoft to test the feasibility of integrating sensors that monitor body temperature, patient count and more.

DLR Group Transforms Existing Hotels and Warehouses into Quarantine Spaces for the Homeless

The integrated design firm DLR Group and King County, Washington, which have been working together for 18 months to build housing solutions for the nearly 11,200 homeless population, have shifted their project focus – entering an emergency contract to transform facilities for quarantine patients who are unable to self-isolate because they are homeless. These rapid-response quarantine sites are located in converted hotels and warehouses and temporary structures built on parking lots and sports fields. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Eventscape Donates PPE to Frontline Workers and Develops Line of Protective Products

In response the shortage of equipment for medical workers, Toronto-, New York- and Detroit-based architectural fabricator Eventscape has donated over $50,000 worth of face shield distribution kits to facilities and essential businesses across Canada and the U.S. “Our mission during this difficult moment is to use our team’s expertise to protect those on the frontline of fighting the pandemic,” says founder and president Gareth Brennan. Due to their efforts, PPE has been delivered to New York’s Winthrop University Hospital as well as Ontario’s Trillium Hospital, Peel Regional Police, Richmond Hill Retirement Residence and the Daily Bread Food Bank, among many others.

The company has also introduced a new line of protective products including modular protective acrylic screen dividers, protective acrylic screen dividers, countertop screens, reception screens, mobile screen dividers, clean boxes, face shields and a UV light phone sanitation station.

Myant Introduces Textile Masks with Copper and Silver

Myant PPE, by Toronto-based Myant, which makes smart textiles, has created a trio of masks (two of which allow for insertion of disposable N95 equivalent filters) knitted with textiles such as copper or silver. These elements are “known to maximize protection against bacterial and viral threats,” notes the company, which “adds that traditional textiles can provide a hosting surface for viruses and bacteria and contribute to the risk of contamination and transmission.” Their masks are not intended for medical use.

Tokujin Yoshioka Debuts Open-Source Face Shields

The Japanese designer released a “quick and simple face shield idea” for emergency situations, which can be downloaded here. “It only takes three steps to create this face shield: put the template on top of a clear plastic sheet, cut along the guideline, and attach it to your glasses.”

Flash Prints More Than Just Magazines

When Etobicoke-based Flash Reproductions – which prints, among many other things, Azure magazine – were deemed an essential service by the provincial government, the company decided to do something essential. Flash’s team devised a simple, affordable (only two dollars each) and rapidly producible face shield for front line COVID-19 workers in need. With the capacity to manufacture thousands a day for medical staff, the company initiated Operation Canadian Shield to support the production of these critical pieces of protective equipment.

American Architects and Universities Leverage Open-Source Design

Using a file created by Erik Cederberg (of Swedish manufacturer 3DVerkstan), a host of American architecture studios (BIG, Brooks + Scarpa, Höweler + Yoon, Jenny Sabin, Edg, Weiss/Manfredi, Kohn Pedersen Fox and Handel Architects, to name a few) alongside the faculty in the Architecture, Art and Planning Department of Cornell University have begun leveraging their facilities, mass producing personal protective equipment to help combat the nation-wide shortage. A majority of their output has already been donated to Weill Cornell Medical Centre.

The University of South Florida (USF) Health, in collaboration with 3D printing company Formlabs and Northwell Health, a New York healthcare provider, have produced and tested a 3D printed nasal swab to “address emergency shortages that hospitals and health care teams may face as testing for COVID-19 increases.”

On the other side of the country, a team from USC School of Architecture in Los Angeles, led by professor Alvin Huang, has begun working with USC Viterbi Engineering and USC Keck Medicine to print much-needed “pseudo N95 masks.”

So Are Canadian Universities

The Creative Technology Lab at Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communication & Design is collaborating with hospitals in Toronto and the medical innovation network The Glia Project – founded by Dr. Tarek Loubani – to develop two types of medical supplies, for professionals and the public: plastic face shields and handmade, sustainable face masks. The face shields are being prototyped with laser cutters and 3D printers, while Ryerson’s School of Fashion is developing preliminary prototypes for a hand-made sustainable face mask.

At the University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty, the school’s fabrication team is working to establish the Toronto Emergency Devise Accelerator (TEDA) to produce protective gear as well as other medical devices.

Kitchener-based Inksmith Helps Flatten the Curve

Though focusing primarily on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning through such methods as 3D printing, Inksmith has pivoted to mass producing Health Canada–certified face shields. Originally able to manufacture only a handful at a time, the Kitchener-based company now estimates their capacity at 8,000 per day.

Nagami Design Pivots From Furniture to Face Shields

While Spanish brand Nagami Design‘s robotic arm once 3D-printed high-end furnishings by the likes of Zaha Hadid, it now helps produce 500 PPEs per day to help combat the significant shortage across the country – and to ensure healthcare professionals are safe while treating patients. “With the COVID-19 emergency,” says the company, “this technology provides the opportunity to efficiently produce affordable tools, which are now essential to help save lives.”

Bednark Studio Inc. Turns its Factory Floor into Protective Gear Assembly Line

As New York City has quickly become the epicentre of America’s outbreak, Brooklyn-based Bednark Studio Inc. has transformed its factory (which typically manufactures custom architectural solutions from display to lighting and more) into a personal protective gear assembly line that has already shipped 50,000 units to local facilities. The team is now preparing to distribute another 70,000 by the end of March.

NYU’s Face Shields Can Be Built in Under One Minute

New York University (NYU) has developed an open-source face shield design that can be printed in under one minute and combined with flexible plexiglass as well as an elastic band to protect front line works from exposure to droplets containing the virus. The design is freely available, with the face shields simply requiring access to flat-material fabrication equipment to produce.

Prusa Research Devises Open-Source Face Shield

Have access to a 3D printer and fabrication equipment? Prusa Research wants your help. The Czech company has already produced over 12,000 shields for local medical facilities using their open-source design – with corresponding easy-to-use instructions – and is looking to fill the demand for 90,000 more.

Batch.works Fabricates Face Shields for UK’s Front Line Workers

In the U.K, Batch.works, a design company that 3D prints fetching housewares, is now dedicating its factory to producing face shields. Batch.works hopes to soon send out 1,000 units a day through a partnership with local delivery company Pedal Me.

Stylex Shifts From Furniture to Protective Masks

New Jersey-based furniture manufacture Stylex has enlisted its roster of highly seamstresses and craftspeople to produce washable, protective masks for local healthcare workers. “We are honoured to serve our community in this time of crisis,” says Bruce Golden, co-CEO,” and put our amazing artisans to work on this task is a labour of love and solidarity.”

Massimo Iosa Ghini Designs Protective Mask

Italian architect Massimo Iosa Ghini has released the conceptual designs of protective mask akin to a transparent helmet. The adjustable product has been prepared to be readily produced and can be worn repeatedly, unlike other disposable equipment.

Designtex and West Elm Join Forces to Mass Produce Face Masks

Material manufacturer Designtex and furniture retailer West Elm have partnered to both design as well as produce 13,000 breathable cotton face masks in Portland, Maine. 500 masks have already been sent to support COVID-19 frontline workers as efforts continue to fabricate additional PPE.

Harvard GSD Develops Patient Isolation Hoods

In collaboration with clinicians at Mass General Brigham and Boston Children’s Hospital, a team at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design‘s Fabrication Laboratory has conceptualized and produced four flexible, lightweight prototypes for Patient Isolation Hoods. Consisting of PETG plastic sheets with minimal joinery, the open-source, the easily constructed device is “designed to function across hospital settings, whether emergency room, intensive care unit, or otherwise, and to allow ease of assembly, use, and disposal.”

Guardian G-Volt Mask Is a Reusable Face Covering Featuring an Integrated Filtre

New York-based Technology company LIGC Applications has released a new face covering dubbed Guardian G-Volt, which features graphene filtration system. The mask is also designed to accommodate a low-level electrical charge when connected to a portable battery pack to help sterilize, and repel, particles trapped in the filtre.

Partisans Establishes a Creators Network to Create Face Shields

Toronto architecture firm Partisans is welcoming architects and designers with access to 3D printers to contribute to the Canadian COVID Creators Network (CCCn) — an initiative to create and distribute face shields that will protect front-line community workers from COVID-19. Along with Puncture design studio, the firm has created a website from which anyone can download a 3D file/pattern and printing specs that meet Canadian government requirements, and also access a video with step-by-step instructions for assembly. WoodGreen, a registered charity, is also accepting donations to cover hard costs.

Furniture Manufacturers Mass Produce PPE

Furniture manufacturer Teknion is converting its manufacturing facilities across North America into assembly spaces for producing isolation gowns, and for preparing fabric for other companies working to combat the virus. The Canadian company explains that, in order to fast-track production of isolation gowns, “Neil Jones, VP & General Manager of Teknion, made a trip to London, Ontario, home to North America’s leading manufacturer of reusable surgical products. Jones was able to collect samples, identify required materials, review production data, and work with the seating engineering and manufacturing teams to reverse engineer samples to align with Teknion’s manufacturing processes, while meeting medical standards.”

Leading textile manufacturers Schumacher and Kravet have donated hundreds of yards of fabric to furniture producer Woodard, who have converted a portion of their Michigan-based production facility to transform the supplies into face masks for medical staff. Seating manufacturer Dauphin has also began producing masks in their Boonton, New Jersey factory to distribute in the Tri-State Area.

HBF & HBF Textiles are also shifting gears to support the fight against COVID-19. Their parent company, HNI, is utilizing its factories in Iowa, New York, as well as its HBF Hickory, North Carolina, facility to meet local needs, including the manufacture of washable masks, washable mask covers and protective gowns (both washable and disposable) “for use in hospitals that are facing unprecedented levels of protective gown usage and limited ability to acquire more.”

In Italy, high-end furniture manufacturer Natuzzi has started production on surgical masks in its facilities in Ginosa, Taranto. The medical devices are “effective in containing the virus thanks to their ability to filter 99.7 per cent of pathogens while offering high transpiration.”

Wilkhahn Protects its Workers by Innovating Face Shields

The north-German office furniture manufacturer Wilkhahn is producing its own PPE to protect its employees while keeping operations running. “In addition to upholstery covers for its seating, Wilkhahn’s sewing department’s also making around 200 face masks for its workforce every day. And its product developers aren’t just producing prototypes and concept studies but 3D-printed face shields too,” the brand states. Designed to provide plenty of “breathing space,” the comfortable shields are printed with a lignin-based biopolymer that can be recycled organically.

A New Study Tests If N95 Masks Can Be Re-Usable

Peter Tsai – credited with inventing the N95 mask used by healthcare workers the world over during the pandemic – is currently studying how high-temperatures might be used to sanitize the single-use product, extending its lifespan and helping to alleviate their severe shortage.

The MET Mobilizes Textile Conservators

Though currently closed, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has mobilized its team of skilled textile conservators who are now volunteering to produce masks for healthcare workers.

Dystil Establishes Health Offshoot to Fabricate NewNormal Mask

Toronto-based product designers Dystil has established a medical offshoot called Dystil Health to aid in producing their latest prototype: the NewNormal Mask. The modular, reusable product is intended for both healthcare workers and the general public, and can use N95 filters as well as regular cloth.

Medical Equipment

Dyson Prepares to Produce 15,000 Custom Ventilators

Ten days after the British company Dyson was contacted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to assist the country in meeting the expected demand for ventilators, CoVent was born. Designed to be mounted on patient beds, the portable, battery-powered unit adapts to a wide range of settings. Dyson expects to produce 15,000 CoVents in the coming weeks, 10,000 of which will be sent to England’s National Health Service while 4,000 are slated to be shipped abroad.

Baylis Medical’s New V4C–560 Ventilator for Canadian Hospitals

On April 7, Baylis Medical, a Canadian medical device company, announced that it was partnering with Ventilators for Canadians, a consortium of Canadian manufacturers (founded by Jim Estill, a noted philanthropist and CEO of Danby, Rick Jamieson, CEO of ABS Friction, Scott Shawyer of JMP Solutions and Paul L’Heureux of Crystal Fountains) to make ventilators for hospitals across the country. The compact, lightweight and portable Baylis V4C–560 ventilator will be based on Medtronic’s PB 560 ventilator design, made publicly available.

A Low-Cost Ventilator Courtesy of Rice University Meets the Increasing Demand

With a fabrication cost of under US$300, a new ventilator prototype conceived by students, professors and researchers at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen is currently being finalized in collaboration with physicians to ensure the product meets the required standards. Intended to be mass-produced in maker spaces across the world, the ApolloBVM: Automated Bag Valve Mask not only helps to solve the shortage of much-needed equipment but is also designed to free up larger, more powerful ventilators for those most in need.

ISINNOVA Converts Snorkeling Gear into Ventilator Masks

Designers at Italian engineering company ISINNOVA, with the assistance of Doctor Renato Favero, have responded to the COVID-19 crisis in their country by converting standard Decathlon International snorkeling gear into emergency ventilator masks via custom 3D printed components. The patent has been made available for use throughout Italy and beyond.

MIT Revisits E-Vent, its Open-Source Emergency Ventilator

The MIT Emergency Ventilator (E-Vent) Project is a new venture by a volunteer team of engineers, physicians, computer scientists and more – all based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The initiative builds on work done at the prestigious institution over a decade ago, which saw students, faculty and local physicians come together to produce a cost-effective (then only US$100) ventilator solution. Though still in the works, the existing toolkit is being revisited and reimagined to support the growing need for such devices in hospitals across the US.

Virgin Orbit Pauses Rocket Manufacturing for Emergency Ventilators

Richard Branson’s California-based space offshoot Virgin Orbit has halted production on its rockets to partner with medical researchers in developing a ventilator prototype. Currently waiting for FDA approval, once certified the company projects its capacity to fabricate approximately 1,000 units per week for hospitals across America.

Mask Architects Devise Emergency Medical Apparatus

Breathe-Just – an adjustable 3D-printed apparatus by Frankfurt- and Istanbul-based Mask Architects – is designed to double the capacity of pulmonary ventilators. By splitting the oxygen output, the device is intended to aid severe cases of COVID-19.

Design Can Help: Code Life Ventilator Challenge
A new competition announced by the Montreal General Hospital Foundation and the RI-MUHC is collecting the best ideas from around the world to create or design life-saving ventilators.

Code Life Challenge Announces Finalists

After almost 2600 submissions to the Montreal General Hospital Foundation’s Code Life Ventilator Challenge, an international competition to “design a low-cost, simple, easy-to-use and easy-to-build ventilator,” three finalists have been announced. The proposals — IFPR (devised by a team in Brazil) as well as Haply OpenSource Ventilator and Lung Carburetor (both conceived by teams in Quebec) — are currently being developed further for deployment during the ongoing pandemic.

Fuseproject Shortlisted in CoVent-19 Competition

Fuseproject, in collaboration with Cionic and Accenture, is one of seven teams selected as finalists for the CoVent-19 competition for their InVent device. “We delivered a pneumatically-driven ventilator, optimized for a COVID-19 health care context and can be assembled in under 4 hours,” they explain. “The concept leverages the ubiquitous IV pole to enable speedy manufacturability, adjustable placement in use, easy transport and simple storage.” The team will now move on to the second phase of the competition where, with the assistance of medical experts, they will produce a functioning prototype.

This post will be updated as new innovative solutions that tackle the global pandemic emerge.

More information about the COVID-19 outbreak – and how to best protect yourself – is available via the World Health Organization at this link.

Design Takes Action: Innovations for the COVID-19 Crisis

Responding to strains on medical supplies, spaces and staff, these initiatives tackle the coronavirus pandemic design-first.

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