Maryland manufacturers pivot to help fight COVID-19

Adcor created Anasa, which automates the operation of a standard resuscitator, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The device uses readily available materials for a speedy production acceleration. (Adcor submitted photo)

Adcor created Anasa, which automates the operation of a standard resuscitator, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The device uses readily available materials for a speedy production acceleration. (Adcor submitted photo)

Many of the state’s manufacturing firms have responded quickly and decisively to the COVID-19 crisis, according to Mike Galiazzo, president of the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland.

Baltimore’s Adcor Industries can make ventilators that are cheaper and faster to produce than conventional models, said Antonia Stavrakis, the company’s president. Adcor finished building a prototype on April 3 — within a week.

In response to shortages, disposable face shields are being manufactured, and mostly donated, by Maryland Thermoform Corp., Vice President Carl Livesay said.

“We are distributing them to first responders and hospital workers where there is an immediate need,” Livesay said.

Aerosol intubation boxes are another Thermoform contribution, Livesay said, adding that they were being sold “at substantially lower cost because it is the right thing to do.”

The clear plastic boxes fit over an infected patient in a hospital bed and have holes located to allow medical staff to reach the patient but not be sprayed or breathed on.

In a press release, Thermoform CEO Scott Macdonald said: “We learned that many of our first responders are forced to re-use potentially contaminated PPE (personal protective equipment) due to shortages. … We had to do something. We checked with several police departments, fire departments, the National Guard and emergency rooms and we discovered in many cases, they were unable to purchase products directly.”

Hand sanitizer shortages have led at least 15 Maryland distilleries to focus on a solution, according to the Maryland Distillers Guild. In a week, Ryan Vierheller and Walter Dunbar, who make whiskey, rum and gin at their BlueDyer Distilling Co. in Waldorf, got more than 100 gallons of hand sanitizer into the hands of first responders free of charge.

“As retired police officers, we have an intimate understanding of being sent out to the front lines and not having the right equipment all the time, so we are very happy to be doing this,” Vierheller said.

The BlueDyer website states: “We have used all of our previously purchased ingredients to start active fermentations, and furthermore, we have also purchased all additional necessary ingredients to comply with the World Health Organization’s guidelines on hand sanitizer production, in order to expedite the dissemination of hand sanitizer to the high-risk population. Because of the nature of this crisis and public need we have committed ourselves to meet the ever-increasing demand for hand sanitizer.”

Shortages of face masks and other PPE items prompted Baltimore’s Under Armour Inc. early in the pandemic to partner with hospital systems in the state.

Susan J. Ganz, CEO of apparel firm Lion Brothers in Owings Mills, coordinated resources within the textile industry to work with officials at LifeBridge Health and Under Armour to help plan and set up a “sewing factory” for PPE at LifeBridge Health’s Randallstown location. The large space was empty the last week in March but within a week was filled with 50-plus volunteers, Ganz said.

“They called me and asked what do you know about sewing,” she said. Ganz, in turn, hooked up other leaders in the textile and apparel business on conference calls to help LifeBridge set up a production line. “It was simply a series of people just raising their hands to say how can I help,” she said.

Fine-filtering material for the highest-possible-quality face masks is a critical item being created by DiPole Materials of Baltimore, Chairman Ken Malone said. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the electrospinning company retooled its production line to make the necessary nano- or ultra-fine-level material that is required 24/7. Electrospinning is a fiber production method that uses electrostatic forces to produce ultra-fine fibers from polymers.

“We’re eager to deploy our electrospinning manufacturing to join in accelerating production of critically needed medical masks,” Malone said.

PAPR hoods, respirators used by first responders to filter out contaminants in the air, are unusable when various models can’t properly interconnect with air hoses. That was the case at a local hospital when the COVID-19 crisis hit hard.

Michael Raphael, president of Direct Dimensions in Owings Mills, was able to come to the rescue. By 3D-scanning all the different makes of PAPRs at the hospital, Raphael and a team of engineers made prototype files of all varieties of PAPRs to create a universal adapter.

“They will have interchangeability of all the PAPRs that they have,” Raphael said. “Our initial hundreds may turn into many thousands for other hospitals too.”

Meanwhile, Adcor’s Stavrakis said the company’s rapidly designed “Anasa” ventilator — anasa is Greek for breath — is ready for state and federal officials to review and is ready for production.

Mike Hyatt, the company’s vice president, said: “We are utilizing the hand-held ventilator used in emergencies that has a rubber bladder with a face mask on the patient when there is no ventilator available at the time. Building on that, the Anasa ventilator blows air into the mouth to inflate the lungs by mechanical means, freeing medical personnel from pumping by hand.”


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