Covid-19

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CAPPA Researchers Part of CIT Team to Receive SFI Funding for Research on Barrier Masks

The Centre for Advanced Photonics and Process Analysis (CAPPA) is delighted to announce they are part of the Cork Institute of Technology Team to receive funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) for research into barrier masks to tackle the ongoing COVID – 19 pandemic. This is one of 41 projects funded under the SFI led COVID – 19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Programme. CIT and CAPPA staff have already conducted initial research on the effectiveness of barrier masks in conjunction with the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI). As a result of this work were then appointed part of the Irish Delegation for the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

The project titled MASK focuses on Making Aerosol Safety Known. The aim of the project is to quantitatively determine how well commonly available face – mask materials supress the transmission of exhaled droplets. Given that the reproduction rate of COVID-19 is linearly related to both the efficacy of a mask and the percentage of a population wearing masks, a small change in either makes a large change in disease transmission rates. It is therefore critical that large-scale mask usage, will involve optimally suppressive materials that are comfortable to wear for extended periods, can be produced in large quantities and are re-usable and inexpensive. Importantly such masks will not negatively affect medical supplies.

The project will use imaging techniques to directly measure the range of droplet sizes that penetrate the materials under examination. This direct imaging approach improves upon many other studies and is capable of single – droplet detection and sizing from at least the five-micron threshold level and with no physiologically significant upper threshold. The project approach will measure the brightness of each droplet exhaled by participants through face masks composed of different materials as they pass through a light curtain generated by a laser. Using high-speed photon-counting imagers and a photometry reduction pipeline, previously developed for an astrophysics context, the team will be able to deal with overlapping and non-spherical point sources and extend the dynamic range of brightness’s which can be analysed. By repeating the experiment for different materials, we will rapidly obtain an accurate estimate of the differential absorption of these materials as a function of droplet volume.

This research involves a multidisciplinary approach and brings together researchers from a variety of research departments in Cork Institute of Technology including the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Process Analysis (CAPPA), Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO) BioExplore Research Centre and the MEDIC Design Group.  Andor Technologies, Belfast, are sponsoring a state-of-the-art high-speed imaging camera, continuing a long association with BCO and CAPPA. Dr Niall Smith, CIT Head of Research and Head of BCO who is leading the project says, “The team are delighted to take a technique developed at the Blackrock Castle Observatory to measure the brightness of stars with ultra-high-precision and apply it to a completely new domain. This is an excellent example of a transfer of knowledge originally developed to improve our fundamental understanding of our universe to a practical understanding of the effectiveness of different mask materials and designs. The results will be useful not only during COVID-19 but also to assist with suppressing other airborne transmitted diseases. The project is truly multidisciplinary, involving astrophysicists, physicists, optical engineers, designers and biological scientists. It has an aggressive timeline, which should quickly add to the current body of knowledge regarding mask efficacy.”

You can learn more about the research CAPPA has conducted around COVID – 19 here or you can contact CAPPA directly here for more information.

This post was originally published on the CAPPA website.

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TSSG Post-COVID 19 Industry Insights Report

Since March 2020 we have all been faced with an unprecedented level of challenges and obstacles, we must, and will overcome. This article covers an overview of a recent Industry Insights report highlighting the opportunities for those who are willing to be progressive and inventive, who recognise that innovation is at the core of adapting to the current climate.

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on everyday life and that effect looks like it will be felt for a long time to come. Although the economic effects of COVID-19 has been detrimental to many, the ’08 recession taught us to embrace every opportunity and, as a result, household names such as Uber and AirBnB were formed. Furthermore, according to the Irish Times, our economy is predicted to grow by 6.3% in 2021 after a predicted fall of 6.8% in 2020.

At TSSG we have always seen the importance of supporting businesses in developing the technological capabilities they need to grow and succeed. Now, more than ever, we are taking the risk out of innovation for organisations of all sizes by guiding them through funding channels and supporting them when taking the innovative leap and hopefully become the next household name in technology. The recently published Post-COVID19 Industry Insights Report, created by Carol Faughnan in the TSSG Technology Gateway, investigates market trends, consumer shifts and innovative opportunities across multiple sectors such as a rising trend in hom etainment, wellbeing and healthcare and the desire for supporting local causes and products. The aim of the report is to breakdown the markets, identify the gaps and to assist in developing a vision for Irish companies to continue to grow and flourish during the pandemic.

Agriculture, Food & Nutrition
TSSG is recognised as a leader in agri-tech both in Ireland and across Europe. Our network of farmers, influential stakeholders and technological expertise helps us to develop technological solutions in the agricultural sector; a sector that has been severely affected since the beginning of the pandemic. Exports in the Irish food industry dropped by almost €2.2billion since February while CSO figures how goods exports fell by €11.6billion. There has, however been some positives:

– Increase in desire for locally sourced, high quality produce
– Consumers are turning towards immune boosting products
– Tracking and tracing solutions are more important than ever
– The demand for mobile apps has increased

Telecommunications Services
The seismic change in huge number employees working remotely posed its own set of challenges for the global telecommunications infrastructure. The digital divide became apparent very quickly 45% of the global population is without access to the internet. In Ireland, this has highlighted the need for faster internet across the country whilst also putting the national broadband plan in the spotlight. As telecommunications specialists in the area of next generational internet, TSSG are in a prime position to support companies in creating solutions which encompass technologies such as 5G and 6G, ensuring businesses are on the cutting edge of communication technology.

Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals
In a global pandemic healthcare is most crucial. We have seen massive strains on public health systems globally with huge amounts of appointment cancellations, mental health issues, and general health and well-being taking a back seat during COVID-19. To sub event these issues the implementation of over 200 COVID-19 related innovations has proven successful to in many areas of Ireland’s healthcare system. The most recognised solution to the contact tracing issue was developed by Waterford based Nearform. The team of experts quickly have paved the way with their contact tracing app that has been implemented in a number of countries including Ireland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, with a high degree of success.

Manufacturing & Supply Chain
Although many consumers changed their buying habits and shopped online a lot more often, the supply chain was severely affected as capacity constraints, border delivery costs and high delivery costs became apparent. There are significant opportunities for companies to maximise on these issues by creating a digital strategy to upgrade antiquated systems, with a focus on areas such as:
– Align service offerings with customer expectations
– Strengthen links through collaborations
– Implement a product tracking service to engage with your customer

Augmented and Virtual Reality
Retail welcomed a massive increase in online shopping, entertainment and learning when the stay-at-home order came into effect across the world. Much of this was made possible by the use of AR/VR technologies. AR (Augmented Reality) has been widely used by online e-commerce websites for some time giving consumers the opportunity to visualise products, such as shoes, on their feet or furniture in their home. The increased demand for online shopping AR technology become the norm as many companies adopted this strategy. VR has also seen a welcomed boost as people adopt a healthier lifestyle in new environments by immersing themselves in VR experiences while running on a treadmill, for example.

Blockchain
We have always seen the value within blockchain technology and some of our researchers have been implementing it across a variety of projects for some time. Blockchain could now be the way forward in a variety of sectors, particularly supply chain management where it can provide transparency on the transaction process and the overall flexibility in order management, an area which has become much more apparent since March 2020. The agri and beef supply chain are two use cases identified by the IFA and Deloitte respectively with a multitude of opportunities for blockchain innovations in areas such as:
– Improve data sharing and trust
– Recording management of certificates
– Tracking and tracing for improved logistics
– End-to-end traceability
– Trade Finance
– Consumer Engagement

Key Takeaways
TSSG want to be the enabler to businesses and industry in creating the innovation and technology needed to grow and thrive. Our expert team of researchers and industry professionals will work with you on an agile business solution to meet dynamic demands brought about by disruptions and rapidly changing consumer needs and habits. Contact the Technology Gateway team on techgateway@tssg.org

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CAPPA Collaborating on Mission to Detect Covid in Real Time in Wastewater

In response to the COVID – 19 pandemic CAPPA has been evaluating its projects and processes to see how the centre could help contribute against the fight against COVID – 19. CAPPA is involved in a project with Labskin, which has been adapted to focus on detecting COVID – 19 in real time in wastewater after previously developing methods to monitoring pathogens such as E.coli in wastewater.

Five years ago, Labskin started talking about how microfluidics, photonics and artificial intelligence could be blended together in a platform that had the potential to identify pathogens in fluids in real time. Labskin began this project gathering a team of physicists, engineers and microbiologists to begin work on three main pathogenic targets: Malaria in blood, mastitis in milk and E.coli in water. Labskin received funding provided by Enterprise Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and began work with the University of Cambridge, whose input focused on engineering, the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Process Analysis (CAPPA), whose input focused on photonics and Rinocloud whose input focused on artificial intelligence. The remote automated water (RAW) test was then launched successfully. This project involved international cooperation from partners in Ireland, UK, China and the US.

The knowledge that was accumulated on this project is now being amplified and focused on a new mission to identify SARS – CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID – 19. The project consortium is now aiming to adapt the RAW test platform to detect and identify the virus in wastewater in real time. The team of physicists at CAPPA is adapting the RAW test platform to generate a greatly enhanced photonics signal to constantly monitor the chips. As soon as the virus binds, the data generated is being picked up immediately by the artificial intelligence to signal that COVID – 19 is present in the sample and to predict the size of the cluster.

You can learn more about how CAPPA is contributing to research around COVID – 19 here  and about the research projects CAPPA are involved in here.

This post was originally published on the CAPPA website

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CAPPA Contributing to COVID 19 Research

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic CAPPA researchers have been exploring ways in which they can provide their services and expertise to help the fight against the virus. CAPPA researcher Dr Steven Darby has been involved in the development of the definition of the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) standards for barrier masks and as part of the Irish Delegation for the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

The NSAI standard for barrier masks was recently published and provides important information for manufacturers and consumers in relation to barrier masks. The specification was developed in response to a request from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and with the view that many Irish manufacturing companies are trying to change their production lines in response to the current pandemic. Cork Institute of Technology staff, including Dr Darby, contributed as experts to the development of this document.

As a result of his significant contribution to the document, Dr Steven Darby was appointed to the Irish delegation to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), to assist with developing the CEN Workshop Agreement for Community Face Coverings. In most European countries, community masks have become a fundamental element of national strategies guiding the gradual lifting of restrictions across different countries. For this reasons, the European Commission developed a document in order to guide a harmonised and consistent degree of safety in community face coverings. On 17 June 2020, CEN published a free document on the workshop agreement on community face coverings. This document provides the minimum requirements for the design, production and performance assessment of community face coverings intended for consumers, single or reusable. The full agreement can be found here.

 CAPPA is committed to providing its facilities and research expertise in every possible aspect to help with the fight against COVID-19. Even though we are restricted with what we can do, we are still available to speak with you regarding research projects, proposals and product solutions. If you wish to speak with a member of our team contact us here or email cappa@cit.ie.

This post was originally published on the CAPPA website

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An Innovative Face-shield Response to COVID-19 by LYIT

In March 2020, at the very beginning of the impact awareness that COVID-19 would have on Ireland, the WiSAR Technology Gateway was contacted by a consultant anaesthetist in Letterkenny University Hospital, Dr Erik Korba who was concerned about a shortage of PPE used by healthcare staff caring for Covid-19 patients.  He had discovered an open source visor design known as the RC3 which was developed by Czech 3D printing company, Prusa. WiSAR worked together with engineers from the Dept. of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering to confirm the design feasibility against other such designs with Dr Korba and his team and immediately went into production.

Anticipating the shutdown of the LYIT Campus, they set up a 3D printing facility in a business premises in Donegal Town which was vacant due to the restrictions and transferred production. LYIT’s engineers collaborated with a group of local secondary school teachers and private individuals who had access to 3D printing to coordinate a massive production effort across the county. This combined effort meant that they were able to deliver 520 RC3 face shields within the first week of production, with over 2,000 units of the design manufactured and delivered to the hospital and other healthcare facilities in Donegal by the end of April.

However, the 3D printed RC3 represented a significant bottleneck in the manufacturing process with each 3D printed piece having a 4-hour print time to ensure the required quality and strength. Additionally, the porous nature of the 3D printed RC3 made sanitisation very difficult and consequently could only be used once in a health care environment before disposal.

Chris Roulston and Johnny Morrow from the Dept. of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering set about optimising a design to eliminate the material intensive and time-consuming 3D printing process. The LC1 face shield developed by engineers at LYIT transforms a 2D laser cut flat pattern from modified laminated acrylic to a 3D part using a thermoforming process. The thermoforming process, the most significant manufacturing process for the new LC1 design can be completed at a rate of 1 unit every 4 minutes, meaning that the manufacturing could be increased tenfold satisfying the unprecedented amount of requests received for the PPE.

Furthermore, the new design is reusable as the new material can be sanitised.  It retains the same geometric features as the original, this ensures comfort for the user and ensures that other component parts including the transparent face shield are interchangeable.

 

The team collaborated with local companies for the initiative, including; The Veneerist and Soniphorm who volunteered their laser cutting facilities and both whose studios are located in Donegal, CSI Manufacturing Ltd, Dublin, who supplied the material, Morna’s Patch, Donegal Town, who supplied the elastic head bands and Rory’s Auto Spares, Donegal Town, who provided the business premises. As a result of this collaborative effort they have been able to supply much needed face shields for free to healthcare professionals in numerous settings both locally and nationally.  Currently, there is capacity among the current group to produce 120 face-shields per day.

John Andy Bonar, VP of Research, Equality and External Affairs at LYIT commented, “It was a privilege to be able to contribute in some way to the fight against this pandemic.  I am proud of the initiative, creativity and terrific team effort made by the Department of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering under the leadership of Dr Jim Morrison during the lockdown period.  I hope that the LC1 design can be made open source so that others nationally and internationally can benefit from it.”

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Virtual Reality: The Modern Education Method

The Virtual and Augmented Reality team in TSSG have combined visual and kinaesthetic learning tools to raise awareness of COVID-19. Aimed at children aged 8 and up, this interactive experience is also ASD friendly and can be used as a tool to educate children in a fun and engaging environment. Using the HSE COVID-19 safety guidelines, this informative and interactive experience demonstrates how to effectively wash hands using a sequence of cards and how to successfully practice social distancing in a supermarket or retail environment.

The ARVR team were successful in an Enterprise Ireland capital funding call last year to develop a Mixed Reality Lab in TSSG however, due to COVID-19, the finishing touches have been put on hold. Rather than allow the new equipment to go unused, the team utilised the materials in their respective homes and came together online to create this learning tool.

Stills from the VR experience

To access this virtual experience, users require an Oculus Quest with Oculus Touch controllers, which are available online. Download the VR experience from SideQuest.

This informative experience is just one of many projects the AR/VR team in TSSG are developing. The equipment in the Mixed Reality Lab will be used to advance research into a variety of areas including the benefits of virtual reality for people with ASD; how virtual reality experiences can give more accurate results in consumer experiences; how virtual reality can improve learning and development training in companies and the use of augmented reality in retail and tourism to enhance customers experience. The latter two are becoming more relevant in the current pandemic.

For more information on this experience or to learn more about how our ARVR team can assist your company develop an augmented or virtual reality experience contact Miguel Ponce de Leon, Technology Gateway Manager, at miguelpdl@tssg.org.

This post was originally published on the TSSG website

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Nimbus Launch Webinar Series to Assist Business Community

The Covid 19 outbreak has caused businesses across the globe to rethink their business model. We have seen how Irish businesses have responded to increasing challenges such as working remotely, moving operations online and diversifying how they deliver their products and services. At the Nimbus Research Centre we are fortunate that we can continue to operate with little disruption in how we deliver our projects to clients. Naturally there has been some change in how we do this with a significant increase in video calls, online workshops and digital marketing efforts.

Many businesses may have had to furlough staff, close up shop and rely on savings to ride out the storm, this could however put a business at risk if the spread of the virus cannot be contained in the coming months. Moreover, many businesses could see themselves leapfrogged by innovative competitors. To assist companies throughout this difficult and challenging period, Nimbus and Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways continue to provide innovation and business supports through a range of different measures.

One way we are doing this is ensuring we communicate with our clients effectively, and we have found this is best done through our Webinar Series which launched on the 6th of May. Currently, more than 60% of organisations are using webinars as part of their content marketing strategies. Webinars have exploded in growth over the past few months.

The first in our series focused in on how Nimbus is continuing “business as usual” even through remote work. Our panellist from the Nimbus Business Development Team, Brain Cahill, Stephen Collins and Alex Joyce highlighted, Enterprise Ireland and other government funding supports, that are available to companies during this time and how these supports can be used within Nimbus to develop and innovate organisations to survive and flourish during this unusual time.

The webinar also placed emphasis on previous and on-going projects that we have developed within the centre. We have focused experts in software, hardware, UI/UX and Machine Learning & AI who work on over seventy projects a year. These projects assisted companies with integrating IoT technologies into their business without a need of prior understanding.

Upcoming webinars will include introducing our Mixed Reality Lab which consists of the latest Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies to support and grow our innovation capacity to service the needs of Industry 4.0 client requirements. We will also conduct webinars for specific sectors such as the Food and Hospitality industry, who may need technical support and innovative solutions as they move their offerings online.

For more information how the Nimbus Technology Gateway can help your business please visit nimbus.cit.ie or contact brian.cahill@nimbus.ie.

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PEM Support Businesses Online with Consultations and Facilitated Innovation / Planning Sessions

The Precision Engineering and Manufacturing (PEM) Technology Gateway offers supports to Irish companies through various funding and applied research projects.

We are also available to help our existing and potential new clients to restart their businesses and get to the next stage post Covid-19. PEM can offer facilitated innovation sessions on business’s long-term planning, innovation planning, guidance on your development journey and to facilitate you in your marketing strategy.

If you are a Company having technical, engineering, manufacturing, materials, process optimisation problems you are trying to solve, then we are here to support your work on those projects through accessing the extensive expertise within the PEM Technology Gateway.

We provide a bridge between industry and IT Sligo, enabling access to the right academic expertise and equipment, we can provide testing facilities you may need and support you in your product/process innovation projects. We also assist in navigating potential funding sources available through the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway – our website gives more detail on how we can benefit your businesses.

More about us:

The aim of the PEM Centre is twofold:

  • To service the needs of industry – working with companies to provide solutions to engineering and technical problems across their value chain.
  • To contribute to the technical and academic body of knowledge within Precision Engineering & Manufacturing, and to transfer that knowledge to Industry.

The PEM Technology Gateway.

Building on the Institute of Technology Sligo’s research strengths in precision engineering, mechanical engineering, material science, micro-machining, polymer processing, rapid prototyping, general manufacturing process control and statistical process analysis, we provide engineering/technical solutions and process improvements across the full product lifecycle, with particular specialisation in Product design & development and Manufacturing

PEM strategic Research Centre

The PEM SRC structure provides our Principal Investigators, who have all individually demonstrated notable research achievements through engagement with industry, a platform to consolidate our experience, expertise, and resources. The PEM Research Development and Innovation themes are complementary and provide opportunities for convergence towards a unique single industry R&D support offering in precision engineering and manufacturing. In addition they complement and leverage of a number of Enterprise Ireland  and SFI funded research centres that we have formed strategic collaborations with.

Contact us to find out more about how we in PEM can help you with your business’s long-term planning in research, development & innovation, guidance on your development journey and developing your marketing strategy. Our Business Development team, R&D Engineers and Researchers are here to help you, we can provide online consultations to discuss your areas of need and facilitate group workshops to help with planning the next steps of your innovation journey or projects.

The Team

For more information or for support in your funding application contact any of the PEM Technology Gateway team below.

 

Finola Howe
PEM Technology Gateway Manager
Area of Expertise: Business Development, Quality,
Manufacturing & Operational Excellence
Email: howe.finola@itsligo.ie

 

Clíodhna Carroll
PEM Technology Gateway
Business Development Lead
Email: carroll.cliodhna@itsligo.ie

 

 

Mark McLoughlin
PEM Technology Gateway Research
& Development Engineer
Area of Expertise: Precision Engineering & Design
Email:  mcloughlin.mark@itsligo.ie

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CAPPA Assisting with Defining NSAI Standards for Barrier Masks

CAPPA Technology Gateway are delighted to announce that Researcher Dr Steven Darby was recently part of the team, which worked to define The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) standards for barrier masks. The NSAI standard for barrier masks was recently published and provides important information for manufacturers and consumers in relation to barrier masks. The specification was developed in response to a request from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and with the view that many Irish manufacturing companies are trying to change their production lines in response to the current pandemic.

The NSAI developed this Specification Written in Fast Track (SWiFT) to address an urgent need for a consensus – based specification for non – medical and non – PPE masks (barrier masks) for the general public. Used in conjunction with relevant public health advice, these barrier masks may contribute to the prevention of the spreading viral (e.g. COVID – 19) infections. This work had to be completed within a very tight timeline due to the urgency of the project. This specification was developed using existing specifications from NSAI colleagues in France, Belgium and Spain.

Cork Institute of Technology staff, Dr Steven Darby, (CAPPA) Dr Niall Smith (Head of Research, CIT), Professor Roy Sleator, Alan Giltinan, CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, along with contributed as experts in the development of the document. Commenting on the publication, Dr Niall Smith said: “It is gratifying to see members of the CIT research community playing a thought-leading role during the Covid-19 emergency. Further developments in the manufacture and use of masks can be anticipated as we gain a better understanding of the transmission pathways for the virus.”

CAPPA is committed to providing its facilities and expertise in every possible aspect to help with the fight against COVID – 19. Even though we are restricted with what we can do, we are still available to speak with you regarding research projects, proposals and product solutions. If you wish to speak with a member of the team contact them here or email cappa@cit.ie.

This post was originally published on the CAPPA website

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Proactive Response by SEAM & 3DWIT to Current Global Public Health Crisis

SEAM & 3DWIT delivering 3D printed face shields to National Ambulance Service (Dublin)

SEAM Technology Gateway have responded to the current global public health crisis by offering their unique skills and experience to companies and those working on the front line. From its Waterford IT base, SEAM provides engineering material solutions in sectors such as biomedical devices, pharmaceuticals, micro-electronics, precision engineering & construction sectors. In recent weeks it has come together with its Additive Manufacturing training centre 3DWIT to provide a range of services to those who need it most.

True to its dedicated commitment of providing continued service to industries, SEAM laboratories has remained open throughout the lock down period,  with its team of researchers and engineers providing vital assistance, support and expertise to companies in the Medical Device and Pharma industry who may require assistance at this time. Whilst the team at 3DWIT have developed a supply line of much needed face shields, necessary to protect our frontline workers. To date SEAM-3DWIT have printed numerous face shields and have delivered to National Ambulance Service in Dublin, various nursing homes and health centres in Waterford and its surroundings, GP surgeries, UHW (University Hospital Waterford) consultants, etc.

SEAM & 3DWIT delivering 3D printed face shields to Nursing homes, health centres & clinicians in Waterford

Focus has now been turned into design & mass producing of HME (Humidity Moisture Exchanger) integrated full face mask for consultants who deal with Covid patients and also for other frontline medical staff.  A consortium headed by SEAM and comprising UHW consultants and few companies are looking to mass produce this face mask locally.

On the importance of providing vital services to the medical and pharma industry as well as those working on the frontline, Technology Gateway Manager Dr. Ramesh Raghavendra said ‘it has been very gratifying to be able to assist who needed most during these unprecedented pandemic times and I am grateful to my staff for their assistance and commitment’.

To find out more about SEAM Technology Gateway check out their website and follow them on Twitter for all the latest news.