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CUT using innovation to fight COVID-19

Staff Reporter

The Central University of Technology (CUT) is using its 3-D printing technology to make non-invasive ventilation masks used by COVID-19 patients as part of efforts to contain the deadly disease which has claimed five lives in South Africa.

CUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Henk de Jager said in a statement that the university has availabled a grant of R1 million to the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM) to assist in the production of the vital medical devices.

The CRPM is working together with the Product Development Technology Station (PDTS), the Centre on Quality of Health and Living as well as the CUT Innovation Services (CUTIS) and are all currently involved with the government in different processes related to challenges associated with COVID-19.

“A COVID-19 research and innovation grant of R1 million has been made available by CUT to support these entities in their endeavours,” De Jager said.

“Our rapid research and innovative response to assist government with the COVID-19 pandemic is proof of our commitment to work together in solidarity and unity to restrain the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and reduce the risk related to the community transmission phase,” he said.

The university said two major problems resulting from the outbreak have been identified, namely the lack of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital staff in the hot zones and the need for non-invasive ventilation helmets/masks that provide patients with positive pressure and reduce the spread of the coronavirus in hospitals.

The 3-D printed masks work on the concept of continuous positive airway pressure or bi-level positive airway pressure systems.

The PDTS and CRPM are also assisting in manufacturing much-needed hospital equipment, such as oxygen connectors and splitters, to increase the capacity of the hospitals.

CUT said some hospitals have requested assistance with some spare parts they may need, and several old ventilators have been sourced from Universitas and Grootte Schuur hospitals, which will be used to reverse-engineer, and attempt to develop and manufacture ventilators to support hospitals nationally in light of the severe shortage of ventilators.

“Several other hospital items (such as connectors, splitters and mouthpieces/masks) have been developed and manufactured by the CRPM and PDTS teams. Many of these items were manufactured through a novel approach of rapid tooling for injection moulding in appropriate polymers, which is not possible in additive manufacturing either because of the material or quantities needed,” said the university.

The university’s Centre for Applied Food Security and Biotechnology, ACS Promotions and Pro Ocre are also collaborating in the production of sanitisers for the Free State Department of Education.

The team consists of experts within the field of Environmental Health, together with partners from business. ACS Promotions will be issuing 10 000 litres of ethanol, whilst CUTIS is providing the team with the required one thousand 500-ml bottles required for packaging.

CUT said it is currently participating in a number of virtual research discussion groups which include: medical supplies, rapid manufacturing, ventilator development and the COVID agile rapid manufacturing team.

The research groups bring together participants from the North-West University, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Vaal University of Technology, Aerosud and Progressus Digital.

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