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Tobyhanna Army Depot repairing PPE for Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre

Tobyhanna Army Depot in Monroe County is doing its part to help the Department of Veterans Affairs during the coronavirus pandemic.

TOBYHANNA, Pa. — Mechanical engineers at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Coolbaugh Township are working to make sure COVID-19 frontline workers are protected.

The depot is making parts for Power Air Purifier Respirators for staff members at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Luzerne County.

"Everyone has been looking for a way to help out here. It was nice to be able to find someone that we could help out in a real quick turnaround time, and it ended up being the VA just down the road," said Michael Vivlemore, Development and Fabrication engineering division.

The respirators or PAPR's are used to protect health care workers when they treat patients with airborne illnesses, such as COVID-19.

Because the equipment is not intended for long-term use, parts need to be replaced more often.

The depot is using a 3-D printer to create needed parts in two days. Replacement by supply chains would otherwise take weeks.

"We reverse-engineered the broken parts that they gave us and created 3-D models which in turn are sent to the printer to produce the part," said Robert VanBrunt, mechanical engineering technician.

"They use these powered air-purifying respirators to clean rooms between patients, and without that, the folks who clean the rooms don't have the required protective equipment," said Vivlemore.

In a statement sent to Newswatch 16, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Director, Russell Lloyd said:

"Our partnership with Tobyhanna Army Depot has enhanced the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center's ability to sustain the efficient delivery of safe and reliable care to our Veterans in these uncertain times."

Tobyhanna Army Depot has repaired about 30 PAPRs since the partnership began earlier this month.