Using technology to get a handle on protecting others
Andrew Jarvie is no different than you, especially during this new normal of COVID-19. He wears a mask in public. He remembers the last time he washed his hands. And, he thinks about what he touches.
It’s that last one that carried a little extra anxiety for Jarvie, especially as he reached to open doors at John Deere’s Accelerated Design Verification (ADV) test lab in Milan, Illinois. Jarvie, a senior engineer, is part of the nearly two-thirds of Americans who cannot work from home.
“We’re a relatively small office and practicing social distancing and good hygiene is not difficult,” Jarvie said of the ADV lab. “But we really can’t keep our doors wedged open because of the testing we do and because we are located on (Quad City International) airport grounds and fall under TSA and homeland security regulations.”
Jarvie said although Deere is providing its employees with all the necessary protection, he realized both the frequency and number of on-site visitors (delivery drivers, for example) to the ADV lab was beyond his control. “And they were touching all those door handles,” he said, after explaining how COVID-19 made him ultra-aware of everyone’s movements.
Eventually, for Jarvie, necessity became the mother of innovation.
A solution at hand
“The news around the pandemic can be overwhelming,” Jarvie said. “I deal with data all day. I understand how trends and models are created. What’s real and what isn’t. Most engineers gravitate to trying to solve problems. I wanted to use what my skills and talent are to address this issue.”
Those skills involved getting up to speed on a recent interest in 3D printing. At the end of March, he ordered his first 3D printer with no real knowledge or experience of using one and with no real first project to try. Then he went to work.
“And it all clicked,” he said.
Jarvie would use the 3D printer to make a device that would open “probably 98 percent” of the doors at John Deere.
The small, plastic tool allows the user to “grasp” a door handle with an angled hook without touching the handle. It is meant to be clipped to an employee’s retractable ID badge holder. Jarvie had seen similar models online designed to be attached to key rings.
“I never understood why you’d put something like that (key chain) in your pocket where your hands are constantly going. It made no sense,” he said.
At first there was plenty of trial and error, going through seven iterations of the design in the first 36 hours. 3D printers are not known for speed, and Jarvie’s first batch of 10 door openers took nine hours to produce. After adjusting settings, he cut the time down to less than four hours.
From there he received “great” support from his supervisor and co-workers. He also started using an ADV lab 3D printer to start making the opener. “I couldn’t have done this without the help of (co-worker) Kevin Whitcomb,” Jarvie said. “He’s making them at home, too, and he helped me get going on the ADV lab’s printer.”
A good idea spreads
Jarvie started producing the tool April 4 and has made more than 500 openers with a near-even split in production between both his home 3D printer and Deere’s. He’s given the door opening tool to Deere employees, including security and Occupational Health, and several organizations outside of the company, including University of Iowa Hospitals and an assisted-living facility.
Jarvie shared his invention on Yammer where it caught the attention of Pete Thompson, business unit manager at Deere’s Ottumwa Works factory in Ottumwa, Iowa. The Ottumwa engineering team was using its 3D printers to support a Deere employee face shield project and decided to modify Jarvie’s design so it could be produced on Ottumwa’s laser cutting machines. Thompson said 900 door opener tools were made within the first few hours. Because they are metal and can damage door handle surfaces, the Ottumwa team uses a rubber coating on the tool.
The Ottumwa engineers then shared the design with fellow engineers at Deere’s Davenport Works factory in Davenport, Iowa. “It’s such a great idea from Andrew,” Thompson said. “When things are so simple and effective you have to share. That’s why we passed it on to Davenport.”
The face shield project has kept Davenport Works busy as well, Tracy Schrauben, quality manager, said. But they are producing the openers on a limited basis and will ramp up that production once the face shield project is complete. Schrauben said Davenport employees also are printing them on their home 3D printers.
In that spirit of sharing, Davenport Works has now forwarded the design to engineers at Deere’s Indaiatuba facility in Brazil, Schrauben added.
Jarvie also has forwarded the design to colleagues in Deere’s Augusta, Georgia, factory, and he has 400 additional requests for the tool from friends and family. To meet the demand, he set up his own assembly line of sorts at home, even running multiple shifts.
“Yeah, I’ve recruited my wife (Alisa) to help out so we can maximize the hours,” he said with a laugh. “She works in internal auditing for Deere and can work from home. She swaps out a set and starts another while I’m at work.”
Jarvie sets an alarm in the middle of the night to keep production going, allowing him to make 50 a day from home.
“This has been such a healthy outlet for me to do my small part to make a difference,” he said. “It’s taken my mind off what’s going on, even for just a brief moment. It’s certainly been therapeutic.”
To get a copy of Jarvie’s open-source door opener design, click here.