Retooling to make protective devices

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Fire Farm owner Adam Pollock wears the face shield he has designed for mass production.

By Pam Reinig, Register Editor

An Elkader business is shifting gears to make equipment to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Fire Farm Lighting, a custom lighting design and manufacturing company, is ramping up to make intubation boxes and face shields for use by frontline healthcare workers and others who are at high risk for exposure to the virus. The design, development and approval process took less than a week to accomplish.

“For the intubation boxes, we’ve formed a partnership with Cope Plastics out of Cedar Rapids,” said Fire Farm owner Adam Pollock. “They’ll take orders and provide materials, and we’ll deliver the finished product.”

Cope Plastics turned to Fire Farm after realizing they didn’t have the capacity to fill requests for intubation boxes from Iowa City’s Mercy Hospital and other customers. Ethan Soliday, who oversees the Cedar Rapids facility, was familiar with Fire Farm’s capabilities. Soliday’s mother is Julie Kane, who with her husband, Dr. Tim Kane, owns and operates the Jailhouse Bed and Breakfast. Soliday met Pollock on one of his visits here.

“There’s a (Taiwanese) design for intubation enclosures circulating on the Internet,” said Pollock. “Basically, it’s an acrylic box that’s glued together. It’s fragile, difficult to ship and once it’s assembled, it’s difficult to store. I knew there had to be a better solution.”

And it appears there was: Pollock created a laser-cut acrylic product that uses pins and tabs instead of glue. His design takes less time to make than the glued version and it can be shipped flat, which is less costly. It can also be easily disassembled when not in use and after proper cleaning it can be stored flat.

An intubation box, which fits over a patient’s head and shoulders, provides a barrier between healthcare workers and someone who needs a tube placed in their airway. Intubation is done so a patient can be placed on a ventilator.

Working on the intubation boxes inspired Pollock to look at applying the same design principles to face shields. He’d heard stories of people using 3-D printers to create the shields, a process that takes about three hours per device. Again, he thought there should be a more efficient and less costly way to do the work—and again, he was right. Pollock created a design that can be laser-cut from acrylic, just like the intubation boxes. His design, which took eight versions to perfect, is strong, lightweight and comfortable—and best of all, he can make about 1,000 face shields per day.

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