Innovation during COVID-19: Digi-Key’s ultraviolet sanitisation tunnel

Innovation during COVID-19: Digi-Key’s ultraviolet sanitisation tunnel

Feature articles |
By Julien Happich

Now, more than ever, we’re committed to doing a thousand things right – and developing innovations and protocols designed to protect those who matter most – our employees, our customers and our community. One of those innovations is an ultraviolet sanitisation tunnel invention. As COVID-19 uneasiness moved to the forefront of everyone’s minds, we identified an opportunity to sanitise the 8,000 plus totes that travel through our intelligent conveyor system each day.

To ensure warehouse employees were kept as safe as possible, Digi-Key quickly assembled a six-person team dedicated to solving this uniquely COVID era problem. At first, the team looked into machines that spray sanitising chemicals. These are typically found in schools, medical settings, etc. With schools being closed, the team was able to borrow the machine from a local school.

The team quickly discovered they would need more machines for all of the totes to be properly sanitised, but unfortunately, these machines were all on backorder. That didn’t hinder them from quickly developing a brand-new design – one that effectively sanitised the totes, while also having the portability needed for the warehouse environment.

In addition to spraying a sanitising chemical, the team wanted to incorporate the added security of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) – a technique used by many businesses to kill and deactivate microorganisms by destroying nucleic acids and disrupting their DNA. The team began discussing the UV tunnel concept on 26 March. After several Digi-Key employees spent the weekend double-checking the math and design concept, they were ordering parts by the following Monday.

The result was a 4.5-metre ultraviolet sanitisation tunnel built into the curve of the conveyor belt in record time. By using UV light, the invention sanitises the 8,000 plus totes that travel throughout our warehouse every day – drastically reducing potential virus contact for our employees.

We have been quick to share this potentially life-saving invention with others in the industry. In addition to sharing the design, Digi-Key president Dave Doherty is actively working with other distributors on the Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA) distribution council to share other ideas and best practices for helping to protect the safety of employees and customers. We’re all in this together, and by sharing innovations that will help businesses protect their employees and communities, we all gain.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a global crisis in every sense of the word, but there’s no denying there have also been some bright spots. People are coming together even when they’re forced to be apart – and the electronics components industry is no exception. We’ve all needed to adapt quickly to this continually evolving crisis, and respond by doing what we do best: innovating.

The ultraviolet sanitisation tunnel is just one of many projects our company has been involved in during this crisis; we’ve also supplied components necessary for other medical devices used on the frontlines of diagnosing and treating COVID-19 such as a first-of-its-kind, low-cost ventilator, forehead thermometers and touchless Purell sanitiser dispensers.

Like so many, our employees have embraced their status as essential workers and risen to the occasion to adapt, adjust, continue to thrive and meet customers’ needs, even in challenging circumstances. We’ve never been prouder of our employees and customers, who have pivoted to implement fast-changing safety protocols, and also helped distribute the essential products and services for fighting against COVID-19.

About the author:

Ian Wallace is Director, EMEA Business Development at Digi-Key Electronics where he leads the company’s global expansion by supporting new and existing customers and supplier partners in the region –

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