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Franklin business makes small connectors to provide big help to hospital workers in the fight against COVID-19

The small plastic connector allows clean air to flow to health care workers who work under a protective hood while treating patients with COVID-19.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WTHR) — At Johnson Memorial Health in Franklin, health care workers in the COVID-19 unit suit up in powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) for the best protection against the coronavirus. But the hospital needed replacement parts that were not available to keep 10 of the older units in service. A small business in town put its 3D printer to work to provide the solution.

The small plastic connector allows clean air to flow to health care workers who work under a protective hood while treating patients with COVID-19.


"We want to use the PAPRs because they provide our staff with the best protection possible,” said William Mink, Johnson Memorial Health Quality Manager. “So, we really didn't want to even think about going down to the N-95 masks for those people who were working with positive COVID-19 patients."

But replacement connectors are simply not available in the supply chain. The hospital contacted local business Innovative 3D Manufacturing. The company specializes in metal additive manufacturing. Most of its work is done with 3D metal printers for projects in the aerospace, defense and medical industries.

"We're used to making jet engine parts and all kinds of crazy, wild stuff and implants and everything from a prototype standpoint,” said co-owner Chris Beck. “So, to make some plastic fittings, which are really easy for us to do, it's nice to be able to do offer that service and help them out really quick."

(WTHR Staff)

A digital model and prototype were ready in 24 hours. In just a few days, the shop produced about 40 connectors that fit both ends of the air hose, connecting to the hood and the power filter.

"It's said all the time, we're all in this together,” said Johnson Memorial Health CEO & President Dr. David Dunkle. “This is a great example of someone from the local community stepping up to help a hospital in need. So, I can't express my gratitude enough."

Innovative 3D Manufacturing was producing another set of nine connectors on a plastic 3D printer Tuesday afternoon. The process takes about six hours.

"These have really saved us,” said Mink. “They help us refit the tubing to make it so it'll fit to the older hoods. So, in effect, Innovative 3D Manufacturing has put ten of these devices back into service."
"We've never felt more loved from the local community,” Dunkle said. “I think sometimes we work in the hospital and you forget how much the community does depend on you but also how much we depend on the community."

Innovative 3D Manufacturing donated the connectors to the hospital. They are also making face shields for a Bloomington dental office preparing to reopen with additional protective gear for workers.

"We would want to do our part for the local people," Beck said.

A small part makes a big difference in the fight against COVID-19.

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