Pandemic Sparks Innovation: August 2020

PANDEMIC SPARKS INNOVATION
THINC Team Continues to Rise to the Occasion
by Denise Sullivan
HURLEYVILLE, August 2020– Necessity is the mother of invention. The need for protective equipment is ever-increasing as regions of the country reopen. The demand for this equipment has created opportunities for businesses that may have stalled during COVID shutdown.
Design and fabrication companies that normally produce automotive components are now marketing desk accessories with antimicrobial protection and touchless had sanitizing stations, in addition to social distancing floor graphics and disposable face shields. Flexibility and adaptation of production and work flow have been the keys to quickly producing personal protective equipment in response to the reopening guidelines for schools from state and federal agencies.
At THINC, the production and work flow is focused on protective barriers, both the free-standing type and the table divider, for seven different educational locations at The Center for Discovery (TCFD).
After consulting with educational leaders at TCFD to choose from a number of designs created by Design and Fabrication Coordinator Mark McNamara, the THINC team is now elbow deep in the fabrication and installation of close to 200 table dividers. A significant cost savings was realized by making the dividers at THINC rather than buying them from a fabrication company that has shifted gears to make protective equipment.
The design that was chosen by administrators has a unique modular system that includes easy to use C-clamps that are tightened securely to the table without marring its surface. Clear thermoplastic sheets are cut to custom sizes and fit like puzzle pieces into the C-clamps creating a secure barrier that can’t be knocked down and has no sharp edges or visible fasteners. It is adaptable to the popular U–shaped tables used in many TCFD classrooms. These tables seat up to four students around a semi-circle with a teacher sitting in the middle and support staff nearby.
The primary parts of the barrier are cut on a computer numeric controlled (CNC) router, which is a computer controlled cutting machine that can perform the tasks of many different carpentry shop machines. The CNC router produces consistent, high quality parts for any project, and has been used for many THINC designs, including many of the business signs seen on Hurleyville’s Main Street.
Standing barriers are another necessity for the reopening of TCFD classrooms. Much like a standing sneeze guard, these barriers can be used to divide a room, or simply to block airborne germs and droplets. Jason Kean, THINC Director of Innovation, found that there were plenty of reasonably priced standing barriers to choose from, and there was no cost advantage in designing and building the barriers in – house. The problem to solve with ready – made barriers is that they can be easily knocked over, or they have bases that create tripping hazards for students and staff. Adapting or modifying the barriers to make them safer became the design challenge. Custom rounded wooden bases were designed and cut on the CNC router, creating more stability and reducing tipping and tripping.
Empathizing and knowing the user’s needs is the first step in design thinking when creating a product or solution to a problem. The team at THINC, combined with TCFD educators, are extremely well versed in knowledge about their students, always putting safety first, and employing care and concern as they move to reopen their schools together.