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Covid-19 update: 04 June 2020

04 Jun 2020

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

The Colorado Photonics community comprises high technology companies serving diverse industries such as aerospace, defense, bioscience, semiconductors, and automotive. Most companies are small, employing less than 50 people and are located primarily on the Front Range (region of Colorado). A Covid-19 Assessment Survey was emailed to CPIA members and 67 responses were collected through April 28th, 2020.

The report states, “This pandemic has had a significant impact on our constituency. Almost half the respondents have experienced a decline in business due to reduced access to clients, decreased employee productivity, supply chain disruptions and a drop in customers. Half the respondents expects to return to ‘normal’ quickly while the other half expects a slow, or even partial, recovery.

“The greatest need currently, is access to capital with a close second being tax relief. Over 40% of the respondents have applied to the US Paycheck Protection Program. Luckily in our industry, there is a fair amount of funding obtained through SBIRs from various federal sources (such as NIH, DoD, NASA, etc). In the long term, the greatest need remains access to a qualified workforce.

Some ways that CPIA companies are dealing with current environment include:

  • Remote working though the technology to support that can sometimes be problematic.
  • Creativity with working shifts and shorter weeks when in the work environment.
  • Social distancing, checking temperatures checks, wearing face masks, applying anti bacterial lotions.
  • Aggressive quarantining for those that have traveled (photonics is a travel-heavy industry) .
  • Strengthening virtual marketing and sales presence.
  • Focusing on consulting work that its more compatible with remote working

The CPIA, within a limited budget, is serving this constituency during this time. According to the survey, the most valued offerings include communicating Covid-19 information and holding virtual technical courses. More on the survey and CPIA activities is on the association website. Similar surveys have been conducted and results generated by the Florida Photonics and the Rochester, NY Photonics clusters.

Widely reported: Laser 3D-printing of masks.

Widely reported: Laser 3D-printing of masks.

Rapid response: laser 3D-printing benefits

Photonics components and systems distributor Laser Lines describes how 3D printers are being deployed in various innovative ways in the battle against Covid-19. “Manufacturing companies, schools and even hobbyists are using their 3D printers to bridge the gap in PPE equipment shortages in order to help protect front line workers,” the company states.

“In Spain, medically-approved 3D printed ventilators have gone into production, with an original design that can be replicated by anyone in the world with access to a 3D printer. Home enthusiasts in the USA are also printing vital components to help supply manufacturing chains during these unprecedented global shortages.”

Laser Lines also describes how an Italian hospital has started using 3D-printed oxygen valves as their breathing machines had recently run out of respirator valves: “Cristian Fracassi, CEO of Isinnova, stepped in to mass-produce the valve using 3D printing and saved countless lives of Coronavirus victims in the Brescia hospital.”

The global shortage of PPE has been dominating the news headlines since the pandemic began. Following requests for help by governments across the world, manufacturing teams have come up with unique and incredible 3D printed equipment that is no doubt, saving lives.

Chilean-US company Copper 3D has created a completely 3D printed face mask design, the file for which can be downloaded and printed by anyone with a 3D printer. The developers say, “this design could lead the way for mass production of masks post-pandemic to ensure medical facilities are never again short of PPE. This additional medical equipment is key in helping to cut down future transmissions of the virus and prevent a second outbreak.”

In the UK, a collaboration between Laser Lines and 3D printing companies including Brunel University London, has delivered Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust deliveries of face shields created in a specially-developed 3D printing farm. Laser Lines states that, “with over 200 printers working day and night, this collaboration is producing 1,500 face shields every day.”

In Germany, optics giant Zeiss has donated more than 250,000 masks of different types to healthcare institutions. The masks were allocated to places with greatest need: hospitals, doctors' surgeries, and healthcare establishments. In collaboration with the respective German regions, Zeiss has also helped out those in the immediate surroundings of its locations, e.g. through donations to hospitals at the ZEISS locations in the Ostalb region, Jena and Berlin.

In addition to the donations, Zeiss is utilizing its expertise and presence in China to continue supporting the state of Thuringia and the Ostalb region by procuring large quantities of masks and then supplying them and other PPE to hospitals in China and Germany. This includes highly specific PPE, like a newly developed "slit lamp breath shield" for medical staff and ophthalmologists that lowers the risk of infection during necessary medical exams.

Additionally, Zeiss is helping out with research efforts into the coronavirus by: supplying microscopes and software; company employees in France have offered laptops to help disadvantaged school students attend virtual lessons; and the company has supplied medical technology segment customers with breath shields for ophthalmic slit lamps.

Temperature testing of passers-by

Viral diseases, such as Covid-19, lead to an increased need to determine body temperature quickly and reliably – such as by using infrared measurement technology. Non contact temperature measurement company Optris has launched a new system based on its PI 450i infrared camera, which has an optical resolution of 382 x 288 pixels. Together with the associated PIX Connect Software, the surface temperature of a person’s face can be measured remotely as they pass by.

The new system can be used with two different methods: The temperature of people in a crowd can be recorded, or people can be checked individually for an elevated temperature.

The second method provides more reliable results because the temperature measurement can be taken at the eyelid where the temperature has the strongest correlation to the body’s core temperature. Optris provides the appropriate optics to perform the measurements at an optimal distance using both methods.

Temperature thresholds for example can also be preset, which automatically trigger an alarm if they are exceeded. The system can be used wherever contactless checking of many people for an elevated body temperature is necessary to prevent a virus from spreading further.

Possible places of application of the system include airports and railway stations as well as hospitals, schools, offices, shopping centers and more.

TRIOPTICS GmbHABTechCeNing Optics Co LtdIDS Imaging Development SystemsOmicron-Laserage Laserprodukte GmbHIridian Spectral TechnologiesUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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