Anticipating a scarcity of medical devices and a lack of treatment options for COVID-19, engineering researchers at the University of California, Davis, are investigating innovative technology to manufacture masks, ventilators and other critical equipment.
In collaboration with the UC Davis School of Medicine, development engineer Steven Lucero, who leads the Department of Biomedical Engineering’s Translating Engineering Advances to Medicine (TEAM) lab, has been working to create 3D printed alternatives to N95 masks, as they are in short supply.
“We are looking to adapt existing, commercially available devices to serve in their place, and/or develop a 3D printed mask that can properly conform to a user’s face using compliant, flexible surfaces,” said Lucero.
Lucero is also working with James Kovach, chief innovation officer at Aggie Square and director of translational entrepreneurship and industry research relationships at UC Davis Health. Lucero and Kovach are working with ICU personnel at UC Davis Health to understand which components in a ventilator are likely to fail first. Although it’s unlikely an entire ventilator could be 3D printed, replacement parts could help extend the life of a ventilator.
In a similar effort to help address the nationwide shortage of ventilators, the college’s Engineering Student Design Center will use their 3D printers as part of a grassroots academic consortia to 3D print ventilator parts.
Engineers uniquely positioned to help
“The College of Engineering is uniquely positioned to try and help in this crisis. By partnering with School of Medicine researchers, our faculty and students can bring their 3D printing expertise to help solve these medical instrumentation issues,” said Cristina Davis, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “At such a challenging time in the world, we are grateful our skill sets in engineering can help our medical partners and collaborators.”
Engineering researchers are collaborating with colleagues across campus to streamline their COVID-19-related research efforts. Led by Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research and distinguished professor of computer science, the Office of Research has launched a COVID-19 Research Working Group to help faculty, postdocs and students connect with collaborators and funding opportunities.
A website, Slack channel, Sympa email list and curated list of funding opportunities have been set up. There are also weekly teleconferences. Campus researchers who are interested in contributing to the knowledge and containment of COVID-19 are invited to join the working group.
“Aggie engineers are working on solving society’s most pressing problems,” said Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, dean of the College of Engineering. “These promising early efforts show how engineers, scientists and medical professionals can work together to create innovative solutions in a time of need.”