Companies in Colorado, Michigan, and Georgia are providing 3D printing, design for manufacturability, agile product design, and retrofitting or retooling of operations.
By Mark Shortt
Doug Collins, a mechanical engineer and owner of Avid Product Development, reacted quickly. Shortly after Colorado reported its first cases of COVID-19 in March, Avid pulled its engineers from the projects they were working on. Their new goal was to find a way to efficiently make personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies sorely needed by medical personnel.
“We said, ‘What can we do, and what can we come up with? How can we make something more efficiently?’” said Collins in an interview with D2P. “We did a bunch of brainstorming, and one of our engineers came up with a design for a face shield frame.”
The key to the new design is that the face shield frame can be 3D printed more efficiently in powder bed fusion printers—and, more specifically, the HP Multi Jet Fusion printers that Avid uses. Avid can print 290 of the frames in one build, translating to about 350 to 400 per day, Collins said. But he and his team knew that sharing the design would have a much greater impact, so they decided to make it available to the digital manufacturing partnership of HP users throughout the country.
“We connected with HP, told them what we were doing, and had meetings with all of the other [users] around the country,” Collins said. “We gave the design away and said, ‘Here it is! Go help your communities!’”
The designs are publicly available and can be downloaded here:
The face shield frame is constructed of Nylon PA 12, a flexible material with excellent chemical resistance. It can be sterilized by autoclave, bleach, or alcohol, and is part of an assembly that includes a clear, replaceable plastic shield. “We see the frame as being something you can use over and over again,” Collins said.
The frame attaches to two types of plastic shields. One is a standard design that covers the face up to the top of the forehead; the other design provides additional protection in the form of a crown-shaped shield above the forehead.
Avid Product Development, in Loveland, Colorado, is an engineering company and a 3D printing service bureau that also offers injection molding. Collins started the firm in 2012, doing consulting and engineering design work. His longtime friend and fellow mechanical engineer, Ryann Billson, joined him as a business partner in 2016.
“That’s when we really started growing the company,” Collins said. “We bought more technology, and started getting HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printers, which really helped us scale. Now we have three of those, and three different materials that we print with in them.”
Today, Avid’s 3D printing capabilities include Origin Programmable Photopolymerization (P3), stereolithography (SLA), fused deposition modeling (FDM), and selective laser sintering (SLS), in addition to Multi Jet Fusion. The firm employs 20 people, including five mechanical engineers and a design engineer.
“We’re certainly not the only ones that have engineering, but we started as an engineering company,” Collins said. “When somebody comes to us with a design, we can print for them as is, if that’s what they want. We can also suggest solutions to make it print better, or help them with design for manufacturability—either for additive or traditional manufacturing.”
Although its deep engineering staff helps Avid stand out from other service bureaus, Collins said the company’s most significant differentiator is a blend of different strengths.
“I think it’s the combination of our robust engineering skills, along with our manufacturing capabilities and 3D printing production resources in house,” he said. “I think combining those is our secret sauce.”
Collins said most of the face shields that Avid is making are going to local hospitals in Colorado. The company is also seeing demand from medical practitioners that have been closed during the COVID-19 crisis except for emergencies—professionals such as dentists, dermatologists, and podiatrists. Collins said he anticipates demand for PPE to rise significantly when these professionals begin reopening their offices.
Retail is another space where demand is strong, and expected to remain strong. “As the country starts to open up, retail is really going to need more PPE to be able to consistently stay open and not have that second spike hit,” he said.
As an engineer and a product developer, Collins is well aware that the COVID-19 is spurring new ideas for innovative products in the medical space, and will continue to do so.
“Currently, [innovation] is all around PPE because that’s the immediate need,” he said. “But we’re already seeing it with people trying to solve the ventilator and the respirator challenges. I’m sure that as we move through this space and continue to understand what the implications are, there are going to be other engineering feats that will need to be tackled for the components that will become our new normal in our daily lives. What those are, I don’t think we even know yet, but it’s going to be a changed landscape for us. Those solutions will come from ingenious people who work in all kinds of different fields.”
Assembly instructions for the standard plastic face shield are available here.
Assembly instructions for the crowned plastic face shield can be found here.
Avid Product Development can be reached at 970-744-4274.
Michigan Firm Offers 3D Printing, Design for Manufacturing
Another company that can help bring designs to life is Broadview Product Development, a product engineering and prototyping firm in Zeeland, Michigan. The company produces prototypes, jigs, fixtures, and low-volume parts via CNC machining, urethane casting, and 3D printing.
“As an essential business support company, we are currently open and can take on additional work,” wrote Kevin Schulte, Broadview’s director of sales, in response to an emailed survey. “Most of our work is custom order-related, so we are extremely adaptable.”
Broadview has a 30-person team of designers, mechanical engineers, manufacturing engineers, quality engineers, machinists, lab technicians, and model makers. It also boasts a 30-year track record of successfully applying design for manufacturability (DFM) services. “Design for manufacturing (DFM) is exactly what we do,” Schulte added.
To support critical medical needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Broadview is providing 3D printed parts for face shields in collaboration with 3dc19, a West Michigan collaboration of businesses working to bring personal protective equipment to the medical community, the company said on its website. To donate and learn more, visit https://3dc19.com/.
To contact Kevin Schulte at Broadview Product Development, call 616-772-4560, or email him at KevinS@broadviewproduct.com.
Consultants Offer Help with Agile Product Design, Retooling, Process Improvement
Implementation Partners, a consulting firm in Alpharetta, Georgia, has led product development and process improvement efforts for two publicly held medical device manufacturers in the past four years, according to Dodd Starbird, the firm’s managing partner. The firm’s consultants are available to augment product development teams and help them iterate faster.
“Because of our experience in developing medical device products, improving manufacturing processes, and optimizing supply chains, we can help manufacturers deliver ventilators, critical equipment, and other critical components more quickly where they’re needed,” Starbird wrote in response to an emailed survey. “We don’t make these parts ourselves, but we have significant capacity to help manufacturers do the retooling and product and process changes necessary to adapt to producing new parts or devices.”
Implementation Partners’ team includes experts in agile product design of medical devices, manufacturing process design and streamlining, and supply chain optimization. The company is particularly adept at applying agile product development techniques to the design of medical devices.
“We are one of the few companies that has modified that process for medical device development,” Starbird said.
Implementation Partners is specifically looking to help companies that are trying to retrofit and scale manufacturing of critical medical devices; healthcare providers that need to improve and control operational processes; and government organizations that need coordination and program management, the company said on its website.
Dodd Starbird can be reached at 303-809-5054; email: email@example.com.