Kalamazoo company makes ‘cube’ to protect hospital staff from COVID-19

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo company is working to manufacture an acrylic box that would give doctors and nurses an extra layer of protection against COVID-19.

Schupan Aluminum and Plastic Sales is making the boxes, which are meant to shield virus droplets from medical professionals as they put in breathing tubes.

Brady Beauchamp, a nurse anesthetist with Kalamazoo Anesthesiology, saw a cube made by a Taiwanese doctor online and started working with Andy Bornhorst, a friend and mechanical engineer. Bornhorst created a new interlocking design that provides a significant advantage over previous versions of similar shields, which were glued together.

“Which gives us the ability to ship that box flat rather than having to ship it assembled,” Bornhorst explained.

The cube can also be disassembled for easy storage and cleaning.

A disassembled shield. (April 6, 2020)

The cube is open at the base and the side facing the patient’s body. Hospital staff can slide it around the patient, over their head and upper torso. Two oval-shaped holes above the head allow for the doctor to reach in and perform the intubation.

The new design also has reversible sides so the opening for the breathing tubes will be in the right spot regardless of where the ventilator machine is placed.

“An additional layer of personal protection equipment can keep myself safe and also keep the other ones in the operating room safe as well,” Beauchamp, the nurse anesthetist, said. “We started using this about a week ago. Several other nurse anesthetists and I have been using it and kind of seeing what works and what doesn’t work and what we need to change in the design.”

Bornhorst contacted Schupan Aluminum and Plastic Sales for the materials to make the boxes. The company ended up becoming a manufacturing partner. The initial plan was to provide some of the cubes to the hospitals in Kalamazoo.

“I thought I’d maybe have one or two of these and the fact that we can get 20 or 30 of these to each hospital and if providers want to use them, they have an extra layer of protection, that’s great,” Beauchamp said.

Schupan Aluminum and Plastic Sales President John Barry sad the company has the material in stock along with the machinery to make the boxes. The business has been eager to help in the fight against COVID-19.

“All of our employees have been so fired up to come into work to work on a project like this that they know is having a direct impact,” Barry said.

The interlocking design received a provisional patent Friday.

Schupan can make up to 4,000 a week and could ramp up production even more working with other partners.