MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Northern Michigan University human-centered design professor Peter Pless is putting his expertise and studio’s resources to work developing plexiglass canopies that will encase patients being intubated in the ER, helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He is working on the project in collaboration with UPHS-Marquette emergency medicine specialist Dr. Scott Hagle.
“Scott explained to me that even though patients may be sedated, they can still have a cough reflex that disperses particulates into the air and onto surfaces,” Pless said. “The system we’re making is like a shield that protects patients and those doing the intubation procedure. It also uses a walled vacuum to pull away the air underneath the canopy so it’s not sitting stagnant in there, and a filtration system to prevent the virus from spreading.”
After an initial phone call, Pless developed a prototype that was used and evaluated by Hagle and other UPHS medical personnel. They gave him constructive feedback so he could fine-tune the design. The revised version got the green light for production on Tuesday. Pless plans to turn out 25 of the canopies, with assistance from his NMU School of Art & Design colleague Jason Schneider.
“We cut the raw material to stock size and Jason is running the CNC router to cut out the arm holes,” Pless said. “I’m using a laser cutter for the openings where the components attach and taking care of the assembly. We’re really trying to ramp things up and beat the clock so we can be proactive in supplying UPHS with these units before they’re potentially in dire need of them. It’s rewarding to know that we have the resources to assist with larger-scale projects like this.”
Pless said Marquette-based Champion Glass and Wilder’s Glass both made generous donations of raw materials, and financial support has been generated through a GoFundMe campaign.