Manufacturers Re-Tool to Address Pandemic

Companies across the country are shifting production capacity to help address medical equipment shortages.

Companies across the country are shifting production capacity to help address medical equipment shortages.

Superfeet has shifted part of its production to create protective gear for medical professionals. Image courtesy of Superfeet.

As healthcare providers scramble to obtain needed personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies needed for treating COVID-19 patients, 3D printer companies, on-demand manufacturing services, and other organizations are stepping up to help. Several manufacturing firms have also turned over part of their production capacity to address these shortages.

Texas-based Waples Manufacturing, Inc., a CNC precision machining manufacturer for the medical and aerospace industries, has reconfigured its capacity to support manufacturing parts for the medical device manufacturing supply chain. “How manufacturers respond to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak will ultimately demonstrate their resiliency. At Waples we're using our expertise in CNC Precision Machining to work with medical device manufacturers to help build safety products and equipment necessary to combat the coronavirus,” said Kerry Parker, Waples Manufacturing COO.

Waples will be focused on making parts for ventilators such as the PB560 Ventilator System as well as CTs, mobile X-ray systems, hospital beds, and ultrasound equipment.

In Salt Lake City, O.C. Tanner has converted a portion of its manufacturing space to develop and produce medical equipment, and will be donating this equipment to hospitals that are in need of resources.

The company has worked in partnership with local hospitals and other experts to develop prototypes for face shields for doctors and nurses, ventilator parts and adapters for powered air purifying respirators (PAPR). The first order of PAPR adapters was donated to the University of Utah hospital on March 30, providing medical professionals with needed protective gear. 

“This is a humbling project to be part of,” says Josh McEwan, O.C. Tanner's director of product development. “The hospital staff are amazing people who are currently facing uniquely hazardous conditions while they serve our communities. This is a difficult time for everyone across the world, but it's also a unique opportunity for us to help people thrive in a different way, and to be part of something so vitally important to saving lives.”

“There is a global need for this equipment, and we are a global company intensely focused on helping companies create healthy and thriving environments where employees can do their best work,” says CEO Dave Petersen. “This is what the critical frontline needs to do their jobs — these hospitals and their healthcare heroes are our clients. We care about them. It seems perfectly natural that our people would help their people now, when it matters most. And we want to make this part of our contribution to battling COVID-19.” 

O.C. Tanner plans to continue creating and distributing PAPR and other equipment for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Washington-based insole manufacturer Superfeet and its sister company, Flowbuilt Manufacturing, have shifted production to PPE masks with 3D-printed elements. 

According to the company, it took less than a week for Superfeet employee-owners to mobilize their product development and operations departments to pivot from insole production to making life-saving equipment using their Ferndale 3D printing and manufacturing facilities. Approximately 30,000 of these PPE masks will be produced and distributed to hospitals in the Pacific Northwest immediately.

“We started conversations with local hospitals and healthcare workers last week and discovered a massive need for PPE, as demand has skyrocketed over the past few weeks,” says John Rauvola, CEO and President at Superfeet. “You can feel the pride our team of employee-owners takes in being able to create something tangible to help combat this pandemic and better protect our community's first line of defense.”

Another Washington-based company, Pioneer Aerofab, which manufactures airplane interiors has also pitched in and is supplying the mask's hood portion. Tim Williamson, Pioneer Aerofab's Owner and CEO explains, “It's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of COVID-19 and its effect on our daily lives and those around the world. Looking at how you can make an impact on a local level is the best place to start. That's precisely what we did when we heard about Superfeet's plan.”

Medical facilities in need of personal protective equipment, can reach out to [email protected] to see if Superfeet can be of assistance.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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