As converters, we focus on the conversion of materials into manufactured products. But if you take a step back, we’re actually converting innovative ideas into reality, as ATL Corp. has done with KelCor’s Airway Taping System.
KelCor is the brainchild of Cory Allison and Kelly Good. They formed the company with a simple goal: To provide a solution to an often overlooked potential source of infection — medical tape.
To make it happen, they reached out to the converting expertise of ATL, who in turn relied on the converting machinery from Delta ModTech. The result was an initial print run of 5,000 airway taping system kits, and the promise of safer surgical procedures.
Addressing a potential source of infection
The idea behind KelCor started with Kelly Good, who has been a practicing nurse anesthetist for nearly 20 years. Throughout her career, Kelly has used surgical tape in the operating room to secure breathing tubes and other applications.
But in 2015, she started to look at standard operating procedures in a very different way.
“I thought about how many people handle surgical tape, and I thought it could be a potential vector for disease spread between patients,” Kelly said. “I wondered if this was a validated concern.”
After conducting extensive research that confirmed her suspicion, Kelly honed in on one specific practice: Securing airways for short-term intubations.
When a person is intubated, surgical tape is used to secure the tube through a standard methodology. The tape has typically been sitting on a shelf, where it’s open to the air and can be subject to airborne particulates and splash. It is also often handled by multiple care providers.
KelCor wanted to remove these risks of tape from the patient care equation by producing a single adhesive piece that could be removed from clean packaging and affixed into place.
In addition, Kelly saw the potential to include eye coverings, also used when a patient is sedated. The two eye patches and the surgical tape could be packaged into one, single-use package.
A start-up veteran’s first experience in manufacturing
Cory Allison of KelCor had experience with software start-ups in the past. She knew KelCor had to start with a minimum viable product. For two and a half years, they received feedback from fellow medical practitioners on the idea and how it would best work in practice.
Now it was time to make the product. Cory and Kelly knew they would have to find a way to not only produce the single piece of tape, but also adhere to regulatory guidelines.
They launched an extensive search, speaking with a variety of vendors. They finally found a partner they knew could help convert their vision into reality: ATL.
Investing in more than just materials
ATL specializes in flexographic and digital printing, material converting, and contract manufacturing. Founded in 1954 and based in Menomonee Falls, WI, they manufacture custom converted parts, using medical grade tapes and foams.
Jason Hynes, Vice-President for ATL, said their team was up to KelCor’s challenge, primarily because of their extensive experience in the medical industry and their ongoing partnership with Delta ModTech.
ATL uses Delta ModTech Crusaders. The machines’ capabilities are a perfect fit for KelCor’s product.
“We had to produce a multi-layer, multi-material device with adhesive on it,” Jason said. The contour of the die cut required precise registration, and it had multiple materials to fabricate. It also needed to be packaged in a kit with the eye patches.
After an initial trial run, KelCor had a prototype, and ordered their first die.
“Tape is tough”
Overall, it was a lengthy process, and “ATL really invested a lot in us,” Cory said.
KelCor leaned on ATL to provide guidance with not only the manufacturing of the multi-product kit, but also selecting the raw materials. They quickly learned just how difficult a proposition their product was.
“Tape is tough, and we had to deal with the properties of adhesives,” Cory said. “There’s a reason why this product is the first of its kind.”
However, the prototype soon proved viable, and now ATL recently completed the first 5,000-part order.
Now the hard work begins
With a viable product in tow, KelCor now switches its focus to increasing awareness of the product. “Our goal is to get people’s attention,” Kelly said. “We’re open and eager to have conversations and feedback.”
Using the kit will require a change in behavior on the part of nurse anesthetists, and Kelly knows that will be a challenge. “We knew our product had to be very well designed to translate into practice, and we also had to honor past behaviors.” she said.
This attention to detail, which has been inherent through KelCor’s process, bodes well for the future of the product. Kelly notes that their ultimate goal is to “have a positive impact in patient care.”
It’s a noble goal, but one that might not have seen the light of day without some help from experts in the manufacturing world. Innovators like KelCor are what keep our world moving forward, but its partnerships with companies like ATL that really turn these dreams into reality.