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Travis AFB innovates PPE, helps DGMC fight spread of coronavirus

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Robert Lee Prankard, 60th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician, monitors a water jet as it cuts through old aircraft material to create parts for face shields March 31, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The 60th Air Mobility Wing Phoenix Spark innovation cell, 60th MXS and 60th Bioenvironmental Engineering Squadron collaborated to come up with easy-to-manufacture PPE for David Grant USAF Medical Center personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Keller)

Senior Airman Robert Lee Prankard, 60th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician, monitors a water jet as it cuts through old aircraft material to create parts for face shields March 31, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The 60th Air Mobility Wing Phoenix Spark innovation cell, 60th MXS and 60th Bioenvironmental Engineering Squadron collaborated to come up with easy-to-manufacture PPE for David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Keller)

Jeffrey Bruns, 60th Maintenance Squadron sheet metal section chief, assembles a face shield prototype March 31, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The 60th Air Mobility Wing Phoenix Spark innovation cell, 60th MXS and 60th Bioenvironmental Engineer Squadron collaborated to come up with easy-to-manufacture PPE for David Grant USAF Medical Center personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Keller)

Jeffrey Bruns, 60th Maintenance Squadron sheet metal section chief, assembles a face shield prototype March 31, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The 60th Air Mobility Wing Phoenix Spark innovation cell, 60th MXS and 60th Bioenvironmental Engineer Squadron collaborated to come up with easy-to-manufacture PPE for David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Keller)

U.S. Air Force Staff. Sgt. Maximilion Estrada, Phoenix Spark noncommissioned officer in charge of agile manufacturing, assembles a face shield, April 6, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The 60th Air Mobility Wing Phoenix Spark innovation cell has been working with other base organizations, the 60th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering flight and the 60th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight, since the beginning of March to deliver innovative personal protective equipment to Airmen amidst COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathon Carnell)

Staff. Sgt. Maximilion Estrada, Phoenix Spark noncommissioned officer in charge of agile manufacturing, assembles a face shield, April 6, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The 60th Air Mobility Wing Phoenix Spark innovation cell has been working with other base organizations, the 60th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering flight and the 60th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight, since the beginning of March to deliver innovative personal protective equipment to Airmen amidst COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathon Carnell)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) --

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stressed that wearing the proper personal protective equipment was the key to keeping medical personnel safe.

Medical professionals across the United States quickly realized that maintaining a healthy supply of PPE posed a challenge.

This concern was no different for the healthcare providers at Travis Air Force Base, but innovative solutions from Airmen would soon help tackle the problem.

David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center medics at Travis AFB contacted the base’s 60th Air Mobility Wing Phoenix Spark innovation cell, which quickly sprang into action prototyping and developing N95 mask covers and face shields for 3D printing to prolong the life cycle of certified N95 masks.

Phoenix Spark is modeled to bridge the gap between rapid, innovative solutions and challenges at the unit level.

In this case, the focus was on finding a way for medical professionals at DGMC to remain fully equipped to handle the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We worked with the bioenvironmental engineering and fabrication flights to come up with a design that could work for DGMC,” said Staff Sgt. Maximilion Estrada, Phoenix Spark noncommissioned officer in charge of agile manufacturing. “The current designs are very simplistic to enhance our ability to mass produce them.”

As the nation works to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, there is a proactive, team effort here to deliver a local solution to the Travis AFB community. While Phoenix Spark is prototyping the designs, other base units are assembling and testing the products. The 60th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight is helping produce the mask covers and face shields, and the bioenvironmental engineering flight is testing their effectiveness.

“We are the experts who advise what PPE and respirator equipment should be used,” said Lt. Col Aaron Weaver, 60th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering flight commander.

As the collective teams work for a local, ready-made solution to a real-time problem, leadership continues to work closely with the 60th Medical Group to determine requirements and ensure that solutions are safe and adequate for medical and non-medical personnel at DGMC.

“Our goal is to come up with techniques in optimizing PPE usage,” Weaver said. “It all depends on what area of the hospital is requesting PPE. Some medical units require much more PPE than others.”

This entire effort is about Airmen stepping up at the local level to help the Travis AFB community, Estrada said.

“Our primary goal is to make sure they are well taken care of,” Estrada said. “That’s what we do – attack individual and base problems because it’s our duty to assist wherever we can.”

The team can currently make 12 face shields a day; however, through rapid innovation, they are working on a process that will increase their production to 400 shields a day, Edwards said.

Medical professionals at DGMC received the first batch of face shields April 6, and more will soon be on the way.

Within the next couple of weeks, the shield production team should be able to generate the equipment at a much more rapid rate, Edwards said.

Anyone looking to contribute their ideas or follow Phoenix Spark please visit https://travisspark.org/.

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