IIT Madras Startups Develop PPEs made from 3D Printers and Common Stationery Materials

Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras-supported start-ups have developed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face shields and intubation boxes from 3D Printers as well as commonly available stationery materials besides to protect doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals fighting COVID-19.

Initial batches of these innovations have already been supplied to frontline healthcare workers and are in the process of being scaled-up for mass production for deployment to hospitals and clinics in need across the country at affordable rates.

The 3D-printed Face Shields and Intubation Boxes were developed by Fabheads Automation, an IIT Madras-incubated start-up that specializes in manufacturing parts from plastics and fiber reinforced plastics. They have been supported by the IIT Madras Incubation Cell.

Face Shields made using simple stationery items have been developed by Axis Defence Labs, an IIT Madras Student Start-up founded by Mr. Sathvik Batte, a 2nd Year Student, Dept of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras. It is supported by ‘Nirmaan,’ the IIT Madras pre-incubator which helps convert students’ ideas into products through mentorship. In association with ‘CY4,’ an automotive start-up based in Chennai, and other start-ups across India, Axis Defence Labs plans to distribute their faces held across the country.

Highlighting the role of IIT Madras Incubation Cell in supporting such startups, its Chief Executive Officer Dr. Tamaswati Ghosh said, “We are very proud of our startups who are working on a range of products that are vital to India’s fight against COVID-19, from N95 masks to intubation boxes and ventilators to affordable testing kits. They have quickly mobilized and repurposed their offerings in response to the situation and are striving to make a positive contribution to the nation’s anti-virus efforts. IITM Incubation Cell continues to assist its startups through these challenging times and hopes that industry support will help them ramp up their efforts in a more meaningful way.”

Weighing less than 50 gm, the 3D-printed Face Shields developed by Fabheads Automation use a flexible plastic frame to fit individuals without requirement of elastic bands and are perfect to be worn for long hours. It uses a replaceable transparent sheet, which is inexpensive and can be easily taken off.

Highlighting its ‘market ready’ aspect, Mr. Dhinesh Kanagaraj, Founder and CEO, Fabheads Automation, said, “We have already supplied a few hundred face shields to various users such as police personnel and hospitals in Chennai and received excellent feedback. We are currently manufacturing a few hundred face shields per week using our 3D printing technology. In the next stage, we are getting ready to produce 5,000 pieces per day, with a significant decrease in per piece cost.”

The face shields are fabricated using Fabheads’ in-house developed 3D printers called ‘Fibrbot.’ The holes and shape are laser cut with precision. The face shield design is also Injection Molding-compatible, hence suitable for small to large scale production.

Speaking about the product from Axis Defence Labs, Dr. Satyanarayanan Seshadri, Faculty Advisor, Nirmaan-IIT Madras, said, “This effort started out as a challenge to all our student entrepreneurs to come out with cost-effective solutions for a face shield. Mr. Sathvik Batte quickly formed a group to brainstorm various options and a ‘proof-of-concept’ prototype was developed within 24 hours. His team came up with a finished product within about 3 weeks of posting the challenge, which is incredible given the difficulties in logistics and planning in view of the lock down. This product is now available pan-India at a price point like a disposable face mask.”

The low-cost Face Shield that can be manufactured using conventional stationery materials, developed by Axis Defence Labs, can be procured at less than Rs. 30 a piece in large volumes, and the team also has developed the capacity to supply up to 50,000 visors and 5,000 headgear a day.

Highlighting the efficiency of this innovation, Mr. Sathvik Batte, Founder, Axis Defence Labs Start-up, said, “When I first started work on this project, I did some cost analysis and searched the market for similarly priced products. To my astonishment, I found the prices were too high, and these were being resold to the end users at an even higher price. We wanted to solve this problem by providing the shields in packs to reduce overall costs of production. To procure our face shields, please fill up the form at adls.in or send an email to covid19@adls.in.”

To keep the costs down, the team used a design through which the visors can be made with regular stationery items, without the need for costly equipment while keeping international standards in practice. The headgears are made using injection moulding, with materials which can withstand 160 degrees Celsius temperature, for sanitising using heat. The visors are made with 400 gsm skin safe virgin PET sheets, to prevent irritation from long usage.

The seven-day Axis Defence Labs face shields pack, which consists of one headgear and one visor, costs just Rs. 210. The 15-day pack at Rs. 400, and costs less than Rs. 27 rupees per day and the 30 days pack at 750, just 25 rupees per day. Axis Defence Labs is using most of the profits for providing these face shield packs to those with limited resources. For every three packs sold, they are looking to provide at least on pack to those who need them but cannot afford them.

Fabheads Automation has also fabricated an Intubation box to reduce the transmission risk to doctors during intubation. Intubation box is a transparent box covering four sides of a patient during the intubation process. The doctor can put his/her hands through two big holes in the box and operate on the patient. This reduces the risk of infection significantly from the splashes/aerosols by up to 95% (as per a study by the Boston Medical Center, published in The New England Journal of Medicine). Almost all the liquid and aerosols spewed out from the patient’s body are contained within the Intubation box, and do not get on the doctor’s mask or face shield anywhere.

Features of the Fabheads Intubation Box include:

Ø The Intubation Box is made up of Acrylic / Polycarbonate material, which provides excellent transparency and durability for the procedure

Ø The Intubation box is easy to sanitize, hence can be reused

Ø It is light to carry, and provides doctors easy access to patients via two big holes

Ø The box has a three-degree slant on side edges, making it stackable, hence easy to transport and store

Ø The box size is slightly bigger than other designs. This allows the box usage on a wider variety of patients who may be taller or broader

Ø The box provides a clear view from all sides of the patient with minimum glare

Ø The Intubation box holes can even be fitted with attached gloves, which minimize doctor’s contact with the patient further.