UC Davis engineering team to make thousands of medical devices

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DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) — During this pandemic there is fear there may not be enough medical devices, such as masks and ventilators.

UC Davis engineers say if certain medical supplies run out, they have a plan.

“Retrofitting commercially available objects,” said Steve Lucero, who is the manager of UC Davis’ Translating Engineering Advances to Medicine, or TEAM.

Lucero said because the UC Davis Medical Center may run out of N95 masks his team is working to crank out thousands of adaptors that would allow nurses and other hospital staff to use filters they already have as a replacement mask.

“Manufacture about 2,000 of these mask devices for substitutes within about two weeks,” Lucero told FOX40.

TEAM will do that by using 3D printers, laser cutting and computer numerical control machines, which they already have plenty of in labs on campus.

“This is not just at this lab effort, this is the entire campus and greater community effort,” Lucero said.

Lucero said they are also working on building plastic face splash shields, which doctors and nurses can wear, and replacement parts for ventilators.

While he said building the same medical ventilators, which are in short supply, from the ground up is far too complicated, they can build a very basic model.

“It is not as feature-rich,” Lucero explained. “But if it comes down to having this primitive ventilator or having no ventilator at all, I think the decision is pretty easy there.”

These efforts will ensure the hospital gets some of the equipment it needs fast. However, it will only use the campus-made gear if there is no other option.

“The devices that we’re developing and manufacturing are considered more of a fallback plan,” Lucero told FOX40.

Lucero knows there are a lot of 3D printing enthusiasts out there but he warned they should not be getting involved in making masks for hospital workers, or really anyone. That is because at-home 3D printers may not meet the same medical standards the printers on campus do.

“I’m hesitant, definitely, to suggest that somebody just go out and buy a printer, fire it up on their benchtop, print out masks and hand those around,” he said. “They’re potentially providing a false sense of security and, ultimately, could do more harm than good.”

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