SparkCognition Combats COVID-19 With In-House PPE

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8 min read

Five years ago during his highly watched TED Talk, Bill Gates stated that the world was not ready for the next epidemic. “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes,” Gates warned. And now we’ve found ourselves in the throes of a pandemic.

Front-line healthcare workers, in particular, are facing dire circumstances as COVID-19 continues to spread and hospitals quickly fill their available beds with sick patients. On top of overwhelming shortages of medical supplies required to treat patients, U.S. hospitals have been grappling with the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) workers need to do their jobs safely.

A surge of individuals and companies across the country are stepping up to help their communities amid the growing pandemic. SparkCognition, an industrial AI company based in Austin, Texas, and the publisher of Cognitive Times, recently joined the fight against COVID-19 as well.

Guillaume Herve, a mechanical engineer on the SparkCognition Labs team, wondered, “What can we do at SparkCognition to contribute to our local community and help out against this virus?” That led the Labs team to take home industrial 3D printers from the office and start manufacturing N95 guards, a critical piece of equipment that prolongs the life of an N95 mask, which protects the wearer from airborne particles and liquids contaminating their face. The team got up and running quickly and are able to crank out roughly 75 N95 guards per day, or several thousand per month!

Here’s a snapshot of what the team has accomplished:

PPE from SparkCognition

They took it to the next level by manufacturing a face shield that can be worn over one’s gear. According to Dr. Nishi Viswanathan, Director of Texas Health Catalyst at Dell Medical School, these visors further increase protection and can extend the life of other personal protective equipment. SparkCognition responded to Dell Medical’s call for face shields on the school’s COVID-19 ATX Exchange website, which calls for creative solutions and materials to support local communities in need of PPE. It wasn’t long before people started personally reaching out to Herve and the Labs team about the initiative, including ER nurses, one noting that they had been using their N95 for an entire week when they normally wear one for four to six hours before disposing.

But what if you don’t have access to 3D-printing equipment to make guards or face shields? How can someone lend a hand in producing much-needed PPE to support those on the front lines? Josh Young, Lead Mechanical Engineer of SparkCognition Labs, assured everyone, “Even if you don’t have a 3D printer, if you have a sewing machine and you know how to sew masks, there’s a great need for masks and medical gowns.”

If individuals and businesses don’t have any sort of equipment to assist the initiative, Dr. Viswanathan further explained that they can donate to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. This fund will provide volunteer manufacturers with the necessary materials to make more personal protective equipment.

Now more than ever, it’s important for individuals, companies, and other organizations to join together as a force for good to improve the situation in their local communities. It’s especially inspiring to see employees come to leadership with solutions based on their resources at hand, and even more so to see businesses get the ball rolling on company-wide initiatives that get everyone involved. As volunteers continue to ramp up efforts, it’s also important to encourage others who have the capability to join and help out.

Together, we as a community will beat this and emerge stronger than before.

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