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Working Together to Help Combat COVID-19

June 22, 2020 News

3D printing has been instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic in bridging medical supply chain gaps and bringing new products designed to protect the lives of frontline workers to market faster. AdvancedTek is particularly fortunate during this pandemic to be able to use our industry expertise and additive solutions to assist local organizations in the production of these critical products.

Our first endeavor was joining Stratasys’ COVID Coalition, a global effort of partners and customers to donate their time and materials to 3D print disposable face shield visors for medical personnel. AdvancedTek was happy to support the cause and use our TekCenter printers to contribute to the coalition’s 275,000 face shields distributed to health care facilities around the U.S.

Stratasys’ Coalition illustrated the power of additive manufacturing with locally distributed manufacturing while maintaining some design freedom and flexibility that is not obtainable with traditional manufacturing methods that require tooling.  According to Matt Havekost, VP of Sales at AdvancedTek, “We were able to improve on designs in the early stages without stopping production.  We were able to get feedback from key clinicians and implement the changes by simply distributing the modified CAD files as needed through the Coalition.”

3D printed face shield visors

Another project AdvancedTek has been fortunate to be involved with is printing prototypes for local a start-up Breathe99. Breathe99 is a company that designs efficient, lightweight, reusable B2 mask. Due to the sudden high-demand of these types of devices, founder Max Bock-Aronson wanted to produce his latest prototypes much faster than his traditional cast urethane and silicone method allowed for. Max reached out to AdvancedTek for assistance and our team quickly provided him with a few 3D printed iterations for testing.

“One of the biggest prototyping and development challenges is creating looks-like, works-like prototypes that feature flexible components,” Max explained. “We were really excited to try the Stratasys Agilus30 material because of its flexibility and improved tear-resistance. Using this 3D printing process and bringing the parts as overmolded assemblies, we were able to cut down our lead times from 2 weeks to 2 days.”

Breathe99’s first production run is planned for this month, and will donate more than 1,000 masks to those in need of high-quality protection who can’t afford the product. The goal of the business it to eventually donate one mask for every mask sold.

“AdvancedTek was excited to partner with Breathe99,” commented Havekost. “This project demonstrates the value of high-fidelity, high-resolution, multi-material capabilities of PolyJet technology.  We were able to quickly mimic flexible and rigid mechanical properties all printed in one very complex assembly that worked well for Max to present to his key customers as well as functionally test the seal of the mask for performance.”

Breathe99 B2 mask prototypes 3D printed on the Stratasys J850.

B2 Mask prototype

B2 Mask prototype with cover

B2 Mask prototype in packaging

Long-time AdvancedTek customer Cirrus Aircraft also turned to additive manufacturing in their efforts to support health care workers during the pandemic. The Duluth aircraft manufacturer was approached by local hospitals looking for assistance in producing short-supplied critical protective equipment for their staff. Cirrus leveraged their design expertise to devise their own Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR). This PAPR, consisting of an aircraft fan, 3M filters, Milwaukee batteries, a hood made by another Duluth-based business and a 3D printed assembly, is a great alternative for front-line workers while waiting for traditional manufacturing methods to become viable.

Once the hospitals tested and approved a PAPR prototype, Cirrus enlisted a handful of their vendors who also have Stratasys 3D printers – AdvancedTek included – to help produce the assembly parts and reach their goal of 200 PAPR units donated as quick as possible. “AdvancedTek was pleased to partner with Cirrus to meet their time frame and help with cost constraints, Havekost commented. “We were able to build 70 sets of PAPR components in a short amount of time by utilizing 24/7 “lights out” production on our Fortus 450mc and Stratasys F900 systems in our St. Paul TekCenter.”

Cirrus’ Executive Director of Experimental Engineering Dick Showalter expressed that, “Additive manufacturing was a natural choice when developing the PAPR units due to the low volume of units being targeted, a packaging solution that required complex geometry, a timeline that would not support conventional tooling, materials that were compliant with the hospitals user and cleaning requirements, and having an existing vendor network that could be efficiently leveraged for a short production run.”

Cirrus PAPR 3D printed parts.

Cirrus 3D Printed PAPR

Assembled Cirrus PAPR unit.

Cirrus PAPR being tested by an anesthesiologist.

With so much divisiveness in the world today, we are grateful to see so many customers joining the collective efforts in making a difference in the fight against COVID. AdvancedTek is proud to support our customers and have the opportunity to invest time and resources to help where we are able.

Posted by Heather Adams