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Article: ‘Desperation is pretty intense,’ company president says of creating N95 mask-sanitizer

April 2020

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JACKSON, MI – Five days after Orbitform owner Mike Shirkey had the idea of creating a machine to sanitize N95 masks, a prototype was made. Six days after that, an updated version of the sanitizer was created by the Jackson-based manufacturer and ready for use, Orbitform President Phil Sponsler said. “One major health system has purchased and taken delivery of one,” Sponsler said. “They’re going to be running it through its paces and giving us feedback.”

The stainless steel cabinet sanitizes 10 masks with an ultraviolet light for 15 minutes, Sponsler said. This allows the masks to be reused, especially while there’s a shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Orbitform, and it's newly formed independent subsidiary, Orbitform Medical, LLC, heard of a hospital in Colorado that put N95 masks on a clothesline in a room with a UV light and rotated them after 30 minutes, Sponsler said. He thought Orbitform Medical could do better. “The desperation is pretty intense,” Sponsler said. “We think we have an answer that is a piece of the puzzle for certain organizations that might be further down the list of priority for getting N95 masks now and into the future.”

Orbitform Medical, LLC has submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for certification under the emergency rules, Sponsler said.

“It’s ‘Do I wear a mask for seven days and not have something like this in place? Or is this better than that?’ We’re looking at it from that aspect. We’re being cautious. Anybody that wants to purchase this, there’s acknowledgment of our disclaimers on it.” Orbitform Medical plans to fulfill local orders first and then extend nationally, Sponsler said. Healthcare systems from California to the East Coast have shown interest in the sanitizer, he said. “At some point the mask production is going to catch up,” Sponsler said. “We think this system fits into places where you sit there and you go, ‘Well it happened once, it can happen again.’ They may look at having these units accessible. Small towns, small municipalities, small fire departments, first responders, nursing homes, extended care units, things like that. They’re going to say, ‘We need something just in case.’” Orbitform Medical is also 3D printing face masks and frames for medical face shields, Sponsler said.

About the Mask-Sanitizer:

The Mask-Sanitizer is a Portable On-Site Face Mask Disinfection Chamber for disposable face masks. The disinfection method is eight (8) germicidal UV-C bulbs positioned in front of and behind the N95 face masks. 10 face masks can be disinfected during each 15-minute cycle. The Mask-Sanitizer can be used at hospitals, fire stations, police stations, nursing homes, etc., and can be located near the actual point of use. One or more mask-sanitizers can be located at each station, department, wing, hallway or emergency room, so there is no need to handle and disinfect mass numbers of masks at a central or off-site location. The Mask-Sanitizer is simple to operate, easy to roll around, and versatile enough to be transported in the back of a minivan or SUV.

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