PolyUnity steps up to support essential workers

May 5th, 2020

Ian Coultas

essential workers
PolyUnity steps up to support essential workers

This COVID-19 pandemic is teaching many of us to be the best versions of ourselves and to focus on the good. Several companies and individuals have shifted their focus, time and energy to help in these uncertain times.

PolyUnity is a two-year-old medical technology start-up that has risen to the occasion and started three-dimensional (3D) printing valuable components of personal protective equipment (PPE) for Newfoundland and Labrador’s essential workers. The company was built by three young entrepreneurial medical students, Dr. Michael Bartellas (MD’19), Dr. Stephen Ryan (MD’18) and Travis Pickett (4th year). It has now grown to a company of six employees and several volunteers who come from various faculties and departments within MUN such as medicine, engineering, geology and technical services. They have recently partnered with the Department of Research and Innovation in Eastern Health and other private and public organizations – including TaskForce NL, MUNMed 3D, Brilliant Labs NL, and the Genesis Centre.

A month ago, an empty warehouse in St. John’s was quickly filled with 3D printers and soon after the first plastic prototypes were developed and printed. Today they are working around the clock to print 3000 face shields a week. PolyUnity is producing headbands for face shields while the visor is sourced from the Department of Technical Services. PolyUnity’s face shield is “designed for providers who are performing procedures at high-risk for aerosol or fluid contamination”. Mr. Pickett says the company is working with about 25 printers now and each printer can produce two headbands every 25 minutes.

In addition to building and providing this key piece of equipment, PolyUnity has manufactured adaptations for liquor bottles to dispense hand sanitizer created by the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation. More than 100 of these units have shipped and installed in health care facilities around the province.

HKR Connection

Nicole Bishop, an HKR Lab Instructor and an MSc (Kin) graduate has stepped up to do her part for the community and is currently volunteering at PolyUnity during the evenings.

“I immediately volunteered to help because I wanted to support essential workers who are working tirelessly to keep us all healthy and safe.”

Nicole’s connection to PolyUnity is that she previously worked with many of the team members at MUN MED 3D and is familiar with the 3D printing equipment.

“PolyUnity has a small, but mighty, dedicated team who work long hours to meet their production requirements. I am just a very small piece of the puzzle and I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside them.” – said Bishop.

This unique connection is a great opportunity to showcase the benefits and versatility of an HKR degree. “When I was a student with the SHKR I would have never imagined I would be working in the field of medical 3D printing. My advice to the students in HKR is to explore where your academic and personal interests meet.” Nicole also recommends that students keep their minds open to new ideas and possibilities. There is a diverse range of career opportunities for you. Career fields today are more interconnected then you may think.

Nicole was invited to help a young group of people who thought that technology can do many good things. Her part is very small, as she said, but if everyone gave just a little, we can give a lot together.

In signing off, the School of HKR and PolyUnity would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who are giving their time to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly to all the essential workers who work daily to building a stronger NL.