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Opening Doors in a Pandemic
A Simple Invention Impacts Safety
Looking to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among on-site employees, Megan Cooney, Northrop Grumman manufacturing engineer, wanted to eliminate hand-to-door-handle contact across the company’s Baltimore, Maryland campus (also known as the BWI campus) and at other company locations.
“In response to this need, we brainstormed ideas to fabricate a tool that would prevent multiple people’s hands from touching the same surface or same handle and spreading bacteria. The idea kind of developed into this mobile tool that employees can carry with them,” she said.
A cross-sector team of engineers took this concept and began designing an innovative, everyday door-opening hook that serves as a simple barrier to spreading germs. The opener’s small, sleek design makes it easy for employees to carry it at all times and use it to not only open doors, but press elevator buttons or perform other similar tasks.
After the idea was formulated, Megan enlisted the help of her colleague, Dan Ditzel, staff engineer, manufacturing, to quickly bring the product to life. After careful analysis and several design reviews, Megan and Dan were ready to manufacture the door-opening hooks out of sheet metal.
“We were able to make 100 hooks with one sheet,” said Dan. “We then deburred the rough edges using a tumbler machine to smooth out the edges, in order to make the tool more ergonomic and comfortable to use.”
The manufacturing team successfully completed the pilot phase of 100 door opener hooks and has now completed more than 1,000 for use at the company’s BWI campus. The team is looking into producing more in the coming weeks.
Across the corporation, others have used a similar design and are manufacturing their own door-opener hooks. Radha Patel, tool engineer, and his team were eager to jump into this project. They have dedicated four 3D printers to manufacturing the hooks. To date, his manufacturing team has printed close to 500 openers and plan to even print more. In coordination with the Palmdale facilities team, Radha and his team are planning to distribute these high-demand tools to all Palmdale campuses.
Shawn Chokshi, manufacturing engineer, began using a 3D printer to print door-hook openers for the company’s St. Augustine campus. After trial and error, Shawn began mass producing door openers for the St. Augustine site and other sites in need. Shawn has successfully produced 54 openers a day, bringing his total to more than 1,000 openers produced, and counting.
Megan, who joined her team last August, described this project as one of the best she’s worked on thus far. “It’s really been so rewarding to see our efforts being put in place to make a difference in such a difficult time.”