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Stephen Chininis- Local Hero, Part of Five Stories to Brighten Our Spirits

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Stephen Chininis, Photo by George Hunter

The Bright Side of Lockdown in Peachtree Corners

We can all relate to the surreal feeling brought on by the coronavirus as we struggled with being caught in this bizarre new world that was difficult to believe yet impossible to ignore. We couldn’t help but feel shocked as it unfolded — it was unprecedented — although there had been a dreadful buzz in the air heading straight for us from miles away.

As our nation is sieged with controversy, climbing death rates, trepidation and uncertainty, I wanted to find some uplifting, local COVID-19 stories that would serve to brighten our spirits. This is part 1 of 5 stories to be posted.

Stephen Chininis — Local Hero

Industrial Designer and Inventor at Chininis Product Development Group — Chininis Designs, Georgia Tech educator, Curiosity Lab mentor and Peachtree Corners resident Stephen Chininis wondered what he could do to help during the crisis. “We all got the sudden shock that the world was changing. I suppose if you’re a poet, you write poems about it. I’m not a poet. I make things. I’m an inventor,” he said.

Behind Every Great Man…

In early March, his wife, former Assistant Principal of Norcross High School, Maria Chininis, suggested he make face shields when she realized her colleagues were in desperately short supply. Mrs. Chininis currently works with a sports medicine group at Northside Hospital.

Equipped with a 3D printer and a laser cutter, her husband got to work in the garage, creating a model to be vetted by the infectious disease staff at Northside. A few modifications later and Chininis was ready to go, well before most. Some were producing one-time-use face shields, but Chininis had specifically received requests for shields that could be cleaned daily and reused.

Steve Chininis’ medical face shield being worn in the ICU, on the front lines. Photo courtesy of Stephen Chininis.

Left, Inventor and Industrial Designer- Stephen Chininis Top right, Stephen Chininis and his wife Maria Middle right, 3D printer Bottom right, Stephen in the work space where he created 3D printed PPE to put in the hands of U.S. hospital and medical staff when they needed it most.

Photos by George Hunter

The Power of 3D Printers

“The companies who produce face shields couldn’t meet the immediate demand. They were ramping up production the same time we were. We beat them; the 3D printers of the world beat them, we got… [face shields] into the ICUs. It’s just a get ‘er done attitude,” Chininis stated.

Regarding his problem-solving approach to life Chininis said, “I’ve always had that attitude; it came from my parents and my upbringing. I think that’s something we need more of. I’m really glad to see my students acting that way. They’re asking how they can help. It’s very infectious. Everybody wants to be a part of making things better.”

He provided over 300 face shields to hospitals all over the U.S. “3D printing has some weaknesses but the strength is, if there’s a problem and you need to solve it, you need a prototype, I can design something, print it overnight, and the next day, I can have the answer,” Chininis said of the low-run production solution he made use of so ingeniously.

“What’s cool is you save the files of all these different things you make, and you can reproduce them again whenever necessary,” Chininis beamed.

Trial and Error

An injection mold is a better way to produce face shields, but it’s a much more expensive endeavor. The mold alone could cost $30,000. It requires special equipment and machines, so the tooling price is prohibitive if you’re only looking to produce a few hundred of them.

With a long-spanning career of 30-plus patents and licenses for over 100 inventions under his belt, Chininis found himself Googling and talking to doctors, trying to find out what kind of plastic other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) products were made of so he could use that same grade for his shields.

“It wasn’t as smooth as it sounds,” he recounted, and told of misadventures with industrial plastic companies that would suddenly cancel orders due to COVID-19.

He modified his designs several times to be able to continue making the visors with whatever plastic he could find, often with variations in thickness. The downside: “Sometimes the plastic was heavy, so it wasn’t as comfortable to wear, but better that than not having a visor,” Chininis offered.

An initial model made of acrylic crazed after sitting overnight, forming tiny cracks all over the surface of the shield. Two of his face shields melted when left in direct sunlight for too long but they were returned and easily replaced.

“3D printed plastic is susceptible to high heat. At 150 degrees it will start to bend and melt,” Chininis explained.

Then it was a matter of finding someone who stocked the right plastic in the thickness needed. “It’s all very tedious. Thankfully, my wife helped me,” he noted.

PTC resident, Steve Chininis, makes face shields in his garage. Photo courtesy of Stephen Chininis.
The Cost of 3D Printed PPE

Materials for one medical grade shield run about $10, and the two-hour time frame needed to print it, $50. Yet Chininis offered his products for free to hospital staff. Some recipients offered to help defray the cost of materials for the production of subsequent shields.

Ratted-Out by the Neighbors

“I’d like to point out how lucky I feel to live in Peachtree Corners,” added Chininis, a resident since 1986. When neighbors saw him toiling in the garage in response to the needs of medical staff, the news soon reached CBS who rushed to cover the story in March.

The design that got him recognition was a sturdy yet comfortable mask, made of high-quality plastic that was resistant to chemicals and could easily be washed and reused for several months.

“Everybody wanted one from San Francisco, Louisiana, Atlanta, to Chicago and New York,” he said. His Instagram and Facebook posts resulted in requests pouring in.

When a Community Pulls Together

During the busiest time, he turned to Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners for an extra printer to ramp up production. Chininis had helped set up the 3D printers there when it was still Prototype Prime, and he has been instrumental in the printers’ maintenance ever since.

He also enlisted the help of a former student in Marietta who could make a batch of 10 masks per week to help fulfill the orders.

An ICU hospital employee wears a face shield produced in Chininis’ garage in PTC. Photo courtesy of Stephen Chininis.
Face Shields of the Future

The demand from hospitals started to taper off in early May. It has shifted from PPE for hospital staff use to mask for use by everybody else. Chininis explained, “We’re starting to see a second wave of PPE coming along, not designed for the ICU but for other people. We never really thought about this. How do we protect everybody?”

Chininis is now producing made-to-order shields: “Tell me what you need, I’ll make it.”    People don’t want to take medical grade visor shields away from the ICU, but they do want something to make visiting their parents safer. He’s created a simpler design that can be fastened to a baseball cap.

Chininis meets these challenges with enthusiasm; it’s part of why he loves design so much. Effective design is the result of knowledge, and he has a passion for learning about each new need.

“I try to anticipate what may happen. It’s hard because there’s a lot of conflicting information,” he said.

“People are getting restless. It’s not safe yet and it won’t be for a good while. I’m inclined to listen to doctors and medical people. We did have a great effect on COVID-19 already, we did flatten the curve. I don’t think relaxing [Stay at Home Orders] to a great extent is going to be helpful. It’s going to come back. There are going to be hot spots. The question is how big and where will they be, in our backyard or someone else’s?”

We all Need to get Back to Work — Safely

Chininis was working with dentist Emily Chen, DDS, MA Prosthodontist, the day of our interview, custom designing a visor that would allow for the dental loupes to fit underneath with a headlight affixed to the top. “She’s going to use it over the weekend and let me know on Monday what we should change,” he explained.

He’s also gotten a request from a turkey factory in Minnesota that has asked for face shields that they can attach to their hardhats.

A Humble Hero

When I thanked him for everything that he and his wife have done to make things a little better during this frightening time, Chininis replied: “Honestly, it’s nothing. You do what you do. If you’re a doctor or a nurse, you go to the hospital and you help there. If you drive trucks, then you help with the food supply.”

“I’m really proud of the folks I know who have not been whiney in the face of this crisis. They’ve taken on a ‘We can figure this out’ mindset.”

His unpretentiousness had me on the Coronacoaster of emotions. Eyes welling with tears, I needed him to know that his ingenuity and generosity are everything, especially to those who have loved ones on the front lines.

At this point a blubbering mess, I managed to choke out, “Most of us feel helpless — like there’s nothing we can do.” To which he replied, “But that’s not true. By writing an article, you’re doing something. Right? It’s just a matter of everyone figuring out what they’re good at.” That’s when I would’ve hugged him if I could, but alas, distanced Zoom interviews are the new normal.

To learn more about our local hero, a man you want on your side when the chips are down, visit ChininisDesign.com.

Photos by Photographer George Hunter

Patrizia hails from Toronto, Canada where she earned an Honors B.A. in French and Italian studies at York University, and a B.Ed. at the University of Toronto. This trilingual former French teacher has called Georgia home since 1998. She and her family have enjoyed living, working and playing in Peachtree Corners since 2013.

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Community

Traffic Shift Planned on Spalding Drive from Winters Chapel Road to Holcomb Bridge Road

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The Gwinnett Department of Transportation will shift traffic on Spalding Drive Tuesday as part of the widening project that extends from Winters Chapel Road to State Route 140/Holcomb Bridge Road.

The shift is to occur along the full length of the project. Flaggers will be on site to direct drivers safely through the construction zone.

Multiple jurisdictions are working on the project to widen Spalding Drive to four lanes with a center lane. Along with the widening, the project includes the replacement of the existing bridge over Crooked Creek with a new bridge and addition of sidewalks and a multi-use path on Spalding Drive. Curb and gutter and associated drainage improvements also will be installed.

This project is funded by the 2014 and 2017 SPLOST programs, the cities of Sandy Springs and Peachtree Corners, and the state of Georgia.

More information about this project and others is available on the County’s website, GwinnettCounty.com, under Transportation in the Departments menu.

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Community

New Electrical Requirements for Residential Homes

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electric code

Every three years a new edition of the National Electrical code is adopted by the State of Georgia. In 2021 the 2020 version of the NEC (National Electric Code) was adopted starting January 1st. There could be a noticeable change if you make changes in your electrical service outside.

Most homes have a disconnect at the meter outside the home. However, some older homes and a few new homes could at one time be code compliant without the outside disconnect. This has changed.

If you make changes to your electrical service outside your home, or to your service entrance conductors (the wiring that leaves the meter and runs to your electrical panel) you will be required to install a full service disconnect on the outside of your home. This disconnect will have a circuit breaker (or fuse) rated for the amperage load of the house, giving the ability for the system to trip the breaker disconnecting the power at the location outside of your home. This will also give access to emergency personnel such as a fire department, utilities representatives, or electricians to disconnect the power service completely before it enters your home.

In conjunction with the new disconnect requirement, surge protection for the electrical service is now required in all dwelling units at the service equipment. This requirement is intended to address the recognized need for surge protection to protect sensitive electronics found in most modern appliances, safety devices such as AFCI’s (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter), GFCI’s (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) and smoke alarms. The expanded use of the above listed equipment within electrical systems often results in greater exposure for the introduction of surges into the electrical system.

These are the two changes that will impact most citizens, of course there have been many other changes that will be enforced moving forward. Electrical contractors should be aware of all changes made by the NEC through continuing education requirements.

I hope this information has been helpful.

Source:
Mark Mitchell
Chief Building Official
mmitchell@peachtreecornersga.gov

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Volunteers Pam Glick and Nanette Freiman Recognized by the City

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Pam Glick and Nanette Freiman recognized for their volunteer efforts during the 2020 Census drive. Photo from City of Peachtree Corners

At its Feb. 23 meeting, Mayor Mike Mason and Peachtree Corners City Council presented proclamations to residents Pam Glick and Nanette Freiman in recognition of their volunteer efforts during the 2020 Census drive.

“Our city is fortunate to have citizens willing to step up and volunteer their time for the betterment of our city,” said Mayor Mike Mason.

Source: City of Peachtree Corners Newsletter

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