Steve Clark of Addieville is busy working on big things at Highland Machine where he is the sheet metal shop supervisor. “I’m lucky to work at a company that makes a variety of custom products for the power and medical industries, making us essential workers during a time many companies have had to close,” said Clark.
Hair dryers wouldn’t typically be considered crucial medical equipment. The only manufacturer of salon hooded hair dryers remaining in the U.S., Highland Machine has been working to adapt the machine to help protect caregivers of COVID-19 patients.
Highland Machine entered the coronavirus effort about a month ago when New York University contacted the company, said Highland Machine president Bill Sullivan. NYU was looking for a way to intake air emitted by COVID-19 patients, contain, and filter it to protect caregivers.
Highland Machine engineers developed a reverse engineering process for the dryers to suck in instead of blow out air. The air is then heated and passed through a thick filter before being released. The hood was made air tight, with a curtain surrounding it to drape around the patient. The model was also fitted with small legs, so it could be used in ambulances.
Within three days, a prototype was sent to NYU. Air flow trials were conducted and NYU requested some modifications. The Highland Machine team made the changes and sent it back to New York. So far, they have sent ten machines to NYU, which are already used in ambulances. FDA approval is required for use in hospitals.
Company president Sullivan said that there is a possibility that making hooded air purification systems could be a long-term contract.
“We are excited and honored to be called on to help in the battle with corona virus,” said Sullivan.