bioCool Technologies: A cooling hood for head-trauma treatment

Bill Elkins has been called the “true father of the space suit” – an apt label as he began working on them before NASA was even born. Using his decades of expertise as an engineer and entrepreneur Bill decided to apply his expertise to medical therapy. He had created pressurized and temperature controlled suits for the aerospace industry and now wanted to create partial suits to treat or alleviate disease and trauma.

Elkins hired Precision Technical Sewing to create a cooling hood to treat head injuries resulting from multiple sclerosis, stroke and head trauma. The cooling hood would help reduce inflammation, slow brain cell degeneration and accelerate recovery.

Bill and Josh Orkin (co-owner of PTS) worked together to develop the prototype – which involved making the hood fit differently sized and shaped heads.

“To make it fit, we had to re-think how we cut the patterns for the liner of the hood,” says Orkin. Elkins and Orkin spent hours adjusting the design.

“After four iterations, we came up with something that worked,” Elkins confirmed. “It was a real cooperative effort. PTS does just fabulous work.”

The hood (and a subsequently developed vest) has had significant success. Elkins’ devices have been used on more than 1,000 multiple sclerosis patients in the US, Sweden, Canada, England, Germany and Italy.

The hood is also transforming head-trauma treatment. Working with Dr. John Wang, a neurosurgeon at the Order of St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, Illinois, the hood has been tested successfully on head-trauma patients.

Elkins continues to come up with new applications for his cooling suits, and Orkin is happy to help.

“It’s quite gratifying to me,” says Orkin, “to be involved in something so medically significant.”

LabCommerce: An insulating blanket with unforgiving material

LabCommerce came to Precision Technical Sewing with a problem: they needed a blanket to wrap a gas cylinder and contain and expel gases at a constant, specified temperature.

Sewing a blanket sounds simple enough, but the specifications were challenging.

“The blanket had four layers: a layer of high-temperature aluminized fabric, a continuous-tape heating element (with wiring), a polyamide fire proof foam insulation, and then a skin of silicon-coated fiberglass fabric,” recalls Precision Technical Sewing’s Josh Orkin.

“One of the fabrics was difficult to work with because it was aluminized silica about an eighth of an inch thick, so it was extremely tough to sew through” Orkin says. “Another fabric was difficult because it was so fragile it broke every time we had to crease it to make a seam.”

In addition, Precision Technical Sewing also had to construct the blanket without sewing through the heater-tape or the wiring, and build it so that the temperature sensor opening never moved in relationship to the sensor. If it did, the temperature data would be inaccurate, defeating the whole purpose of the project.

This combination of tight tolerances and incredibly unforgiving material made it impossible to recover from even slight errors in construction.

“If we screwed up, we had to disassemble the whole thing and start over,” says Orkin. “Most of the time with sewing, if you make a mistake you can fix it. In this case, we were working with limited recovery options. If we stuck the needle in the wrong place, it compromised the material too much to be salvaged.”

In the end, the four-layer gas cylinder blanket was another Precision Technical Sewing success story. “We built it and built it right,” Orkin says. “The customer was very pleased, and that’s what counts.”