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SFU engineering students use 3D printing skills to develop COVID-19 supplies

April 30, 2020
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When the call went out that local hospital staff needed COVID-19 supplies, SFU Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE) students were eager to help using the high-tech skills they’ve been learning.

MSE Professor Woo Soo Kim and 60 students worked from home, designing and developing medical mask savers, using their personal 3D printers. Five hundred medical mask ear-savers, which help to eliminate pressure and discomfort, were given to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) staff.

Kim says that engineers within the 3D printing community are looking for opportunities to give back during the pandemic. “COVID-19 is quite tragic, but because of this we can see how we can contribute to the community from the engineering perspective,” says Kim.

Now that SFU’s Additive Manufacturing Lab in Surrey has been cleared to open for essential work, Kim and graduate students, while following strict health protocols, are developing special door handles that allow people to open a door without using their hands. These supplies will be given to City of Surrey municipal workers.

“The City of Surrey has long recognized the expertise of SFU Surrey’s 3D printing capabilities,” says Mayor Doug McCallum. “When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we already had earlier discussions with SFU Surrey’s engineering professors on the department’s ability to utilize its 3D printing technology to produce critical personal protective equipment and other devices in response to COVID-19.

“I want to commend the SFU Mechatronics Systems Engineering students and professors for the innovative and critical work they are accomplishing. We look forward to future collaborations on other 3D printed innovations that could protect our health-care workers and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This project provides an opportunity for students to collaborate and put what they’ve learned in class to practice.

“I really wanted to help out in some other way, apart from the physical distancing,” says Nina Lin, VP of Internal Relations for the MSE Student Society. “Many other students had friends and family from other parts of the world, who are facing a bigger crisis, so they really wanted to help out. We’re all eager to assist our community and use our talents, skills, and knowledge to give back.”

Students will be able to apply their work to a directed study course for credit. Students also determined a way to cut down the time it takes to print the mask straps, from 33 minutes to nine.

“COVID-19 is quite tragic, but because of this we can see how we can contribute to the community from the engineering perspective,” says Kim. “This is a good opportunity to push forward.”

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