Sears think[box] adapts in response to COVID-19

Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] is providing targeted prototyping, design and fabrication support for Case Western Reserve researchers and local medical professionals working on projects to address needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff from Sears think[box] set up an online form (think[box] Services Request) to capture contact information and brief details of the proposed project. The Sears think[box] taskforce team and professional staff will assess the project requests and communicate decisions to the requestor. Not all projects will be accepted, as only a limited number of staff will be available for physical fabrication. 

Projects will be prioritized according to the following guidelines: 

  • Service of innovative responses to COVID-19: Individuals and/or teams pursuing projects to support direct responses to dealing with COVID-19 and who can benefit from remote access to equipment. 
  • Research tools or specimens: As other on-campus and some off-campus service centers become unavailable, Sears think[box] may be able to offer (assessed on a case-by-case basis) custom-part production. 
  • Prototyping and limited production: The third- and fourth-floor facilities are focused on prototyping and very limited production and are not suitable for medium- to large-batch or mass production. 
  • Existing engagement: For parts aimed at medical settings, we expect researchers to show existing engagement with, and support from, relevant medical professionals and/or researchers. 

A 3D printing, fabrication or other prototyping request takes two steps: 

  1. Complete the think[box] Service Request form to provide contact information, a brief description of the project and expected timeline. 
  2. Sears think[box] staff will assess requests, and if the project satisfies the above criteria, the requestor will be contacted to discuss the scope, details, feasibility and timeline of their request.

Sears think[box] is already engaged in projects with multiple partners, as a result of organic interaction and the outreach of motivated individuals. In addition, many people have reached out to offer their assistance, and information on how they can help. By systematizing, staff hopes to assist in matching needs to skills by acting as a focal point. 

Please note: Because of an imminent shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), there is significant public interest in repurposing makerspaces for fabrication of PPE and other medical equipment at scale. The leadership of the Sears think[box] has consulted with local medical professionals and the principals of the Higher Education Makerspace Initiative (HEMI), recognizing that makerspaces are not sterile or configured to operate at production speeds. Therefore, Sears think[box] cannot serve as an actual production site for parts meant to go directly into medical settings. 

However, Sears think[box] staff are actively prototyping solutions for emergency health care and working with local companies to transition those prototypes to manufacture for scale-up after they are validated by health care professionals.