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Covid-19 update: 14 May 2020

14 May 2020

A round-up of this week's coronavirus-related news and countermeasures from the photonics industry.

Engineering technology giant Honeywell has this week announced a new temperature monitoring solution that incorporates advanced, infrared imaging technology and artificial intelligence algorithms to conduct non-invasive, preliminary screening of personnel entering a facility. The ThermoRebellion system uses thermal cameras and AI to detect elevated body temperature and can validate if an individual is wearing proper PPE.

The company says that this temperature monitoring solution can be rapidly deployed at the entry to a factory, airport, distribution center, stadium or other commercial buildings to quickly and efficiently identify whether personnel exhibit an elevated facial temperature. As individuals pass in front of a high-resolution, thermal imaging camera, their skin temperature is automatically detected within two seconds and displayed on an accompanying monitor.

This can alert a person with an elevated temperature to seek additional screening. In addition, operators gain reliable, real-time information about personnel entering their facilities enabling them to take measures to keep their premises safe and secure. The system can also identify if individuals are wearing the required personal protective equipment needed for entering the building.

"Protecting worker safety is the top priority for any building operator and today, more than ever, managers are looking for innovative solutions to enhance their health screening processes," said Renaud Mazarguil, president of Honeywell's Gas Analysis and Safety business. "We've developed this breakthrough technology to automate and streamline the monitoring of an individual's temperature and reduce the need for invasive monitoring. Honeywell is committed to developing new solutions to help workers, families and communities stay safe."

Honeywell is piloting its new temperature monitoring solution at two of its U.S. production facilities, including the company's new N95 face mask manufacturing center in Phoenix, AZ.

UV light-based research shows how PPE training cuts Covid-19 contamination risk

Despite the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), reports show that many health care workers contracted Covid-19, which raises substantial concerns about the effectiveness of the PPE. Highly sought after PPE used in hospitals and other health care settings is critical in ensuring the safety of those on the frontline of Covid-19, but only if they are used properly.

A physician from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine and collaborators from the University of Arizona College of Medicine –Tucson and Indiana University School of Medicine conducted a novel training technique to reinforce the importance of using proper procedures when changing PPE during the pandemic. Researchers were able to vividly demonstrate how aerosol-generating procedures can lead to exposure of the contagion with improper use of PPE.

To detect contamination, Patrick G. Hughes, D.O., lead author, director of FAU’s emergency medicine simulation program and an assistant professor of Integrated Medical Science, FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, and collaborators, used a nontoxic fluorescent solution during a PPE training session for health care staff. They placed a highlighter refill in a warm water bath for 15 minutes to create a fluorescent solution, only visible under UV light.

For the experiment, published in Medical Education, the researchers instructed health care staff to put on PPE, which included a cap, gown, surgical gloves, eye protection, face shield and N95 mask. In order to conserve vital PPE, supplies were wiped off and reused for multiple trainings. After health care staff in the study put on their PPE, they went in to a room to care for a simulated patient sprayed down with the invisible simulated contagion. In addition, the researchers added the fluorescent solution to a simulated albuterol nebulizer treatment, which was given to the mannequins during the scenario.

Results from the experiment revealed that the most common error made by the health care staff was contaminating the face or forearms during PPE removal. In contrast, those who put on and took off their PPE according to guidelines had no signs of the fluorescent contagion on their skin or face. “This training method allows educators and learners to easily visualize any contamination on themselves after they fully remove their personal protective equipment,” said Hughes.

Biolase, a developer of dental lasers, has announced its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2020. The negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is clear from the numbers, but the firm has taken corrective actions. Net revenue for the first quarter of 2020 was $4.7 million, a decrease of 54%, compared to net revenue of $10.3 million for first quarter of 2019. U.S. laser revenue was $1.0 million for Q1, 2020, a 62% decrease compared to Q1, 2019.

After the end of this year's first quarter, BIiolase applied for and received a $3.0 million loan from the Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP"). The PPP was initiated to help small businesses defined as those businesses in the US with under 500 employees. Biolase has approximately 150 employees and is well under the 500 employee defined maximum.

"Our go-to-market strategy was demonstrating meaningful progress prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, reflecting the changes we made throughout 2019 to better align our business and operating infrastructure," said Todd Norbe, President and CEO. "However, we had to adjust our operations in response to the closure of most dental offices during the second half of the quarter, and this disruption had a significant negative impact on our financial results, as we sold a limited number of lasers in March, which is historically our strongest month of the quarter.

Intensive care partnership

“In an effort to maintain our presence with key constituencies to preserve these revenue opportunities, we quickly pivoted to increasing the number of online educational forums to showcase our industry-leading products, which have been extremely well attended. Based on the enthusiasm and positive feedback received, we are hopeful that these educational events will result in additional sales leads that we can capitalize on once dentists resume their normal business practices.

"Additionally, we recently announced a partnership with an intensive care unit (ICU) equipment manufacturer to supply ICU-grade portable ventilators through our FDA-registered manufacturing facility. We have experienced a steady rate of activity and to date we have received over $14 million in orders."

Two recent PPE-related projects completed by NVision, Southlake, TX, USA, demonstrate the growing role that non-contact scanning/measurement technologies are taking in the race to create new products and designs to minimize exposure to Covid-19.

NVision, a 3D measurement and engineering services provider, has provided engineering services to a Texas-based PPE manufacturer, helping accelerate the client’s production of protective masks for medical personnel. NVision engineers 3D-scanned plaster models of the mask, using the resulting data to create a CAD file which was used to build the special tooling necessary for production.

The company had only handmade plaster models of the mask; no previous computer models or designs existed. “We had done work for this customer earlier on a Peterbilt Truck Project and they came to us with the mask project,” said Steve Kersen, president of NVision. “The plaster molds for the mask had extremely challenging contours and to hand-measure its complex curvatures using calipers and other tools would have taken the manufacturer months, postponing production significantly.”

The mask will be made of vacuum-formed plastic with replaceable filter material. SolidWorks CAD models were required to facilitate the machining of suitable dies/molds, as the vacuum-forming process requires dies made from a more durable material, often wood or a metal.

AUREA TECHNOLOGYDeposition Sciences, Inc. (DSI)AFLart Photonics GmbHBristol Instruments, Inc.EKSMA OpticsSpectrum Scientific Inc. -  SSI Optics
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