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Photo Information

HM1 Michael McNett discusses the medical refrigerator on display May 1 during a Limited Military User Assessment and Engineering Technical Review at the Gruntworks Squad Integration Facility aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Marine Corps Systems Command expanded an existing contract with Rini Technologies, Inc. to procure lighter, more compact medical refrigeration units that will replace the legacy system. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Photo by Courtesy photograph

A SBIR success: smaller, lighter refrigerators to hit fleet in 2021

8 Oct 2019 | Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication Marine Corps Systems Command

On Sept. 20, Marine Corps Systems Command expanded an existing contract with Rini Technologies, Inc. to procure additional medical refrigeration units for use on the battlefield.

The previous version of the contract involved acquiring one refrigerator and one freezer unit. However, MCSC’s Small Business Innovation Research program awarded about $250,000 to the company for four additional units each of the refrigerator and freezer variants after the technology received positive feedback during a SBIR-led user assessment event.

“These units put a life-saving product as close to point-of-injury as possible,” said David Keeler, an advanced technology integrator for Logistics Combat Elements Systems at MCSC. “These systems will help save lives.”

Navy Corpsmen can employ the systems to store blood, medicines, vaccines or other medical necessities that require refrigeration. The units are smaller, lighter and more energy-efficient than the legacy systems the Corps currently uses.

The technology can be used in a battalion aid station or placed on various platforms, including a V-22 Osprey.

“These refrigeration units enable Corpsmen to provide better care to Marines and sailors,” said Keeler.

In May, the SBIR office hosted a user assessment event that allowed Marines to evaluate, demonstrate and provide feedback for promising SBIR prototype technologies, including the medical refrigeration units. A group of Navy Corpsmen were universal in their opinion that the refrigeration system was an improvement over the legacy version.

According to the Corpsmen, the newer version is user-friendly, maintains its temperature when run on batteries and fills a capability gap. In a survey, all were “extremely satisfied” with the technology.

In response to the feedback, the SBIR program decided to invest in additional units.

“The fleet said this system is an improvement over the current one,” said Jeff Kent, program manager at MCSC’s SBIR office. “Because we received such positive feedback, we wanted to get this project out to the fleet as soon as we can.”

The Corpsmen were particularly impressed by the refrigeration unit’s size, which is comparable to a small filing cabinet. Despite being significantly smaller than the legacy system, the newer technology contains nearly as much space for storage and runs on a battery that can last several days, said Keeler.

“We wanted to push the envelope on how long a refrigerator can run without power,” said Keeler. “We needed the refrigeration unit to run without power and maintain blood at its temperature requirements.”

Jack Philpott, an LCES engineer at MCSC, said the primary purpose of the refrigeration system is for Corpsmen in a battalion aid station to provide blood to injured Marines or sailors. He said the system is also cost-effective in that it keeps medicines at a cool temperature for reuse.

Prior to procurement, the program office must ensure the refrigeration units are certified by the Food and Drug Administration. Keeler estimates the program office should receive prototypes by the second quarter of 2020, and operational units should be fielded during the fiscal year of 2021.

Kent views the acquisition of the refrigeration system as a testament to the SBIR office’s efforts. The program hosted a user evaluation event, solicited feedback from Marines and sailors, and then purchased additional units of a technology to support the warfighter.

“We’re not doing science projects for the sake of doing science projects,” said Kent. “We’re doing science projects to improve existing products.”