ProtoCAM: Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping.

Production for Protection: How ProtoCAM Helped During the COVID-19 Pandemic

January 20, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a life-altering event, and most of us were caught off-guard by the swift spread of the virus. Here at ProtoCAM, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, we quickly assessed the situation and made appropriate adjustments to our facility in order to continue operations and protect our staff and customers. Once our facility was secure, we turned to helping others during the pandemic with an initiative to begin developing and producing protective equipment to slow the spread.

Response to an Unexpected Pandemic

3D-printed mask

At ProtoCAM, our number one priority during the pandemic was and continues to be the welfare and safety of our associates, customers, and staff. Though ProtoCAM utilizes a digital manufacturing and ordering process and thus requires no face-to-face human contact in order to deliver our high-quality products to our customers, we still implemented a system which emphasizes exercising an abundance of caution during this current epidemic.

To combat the spread of COVID-19, we implemented increased health and safety measures at our facility, including additional deep-cleaning and preventative safety measures for all staff. We feel that these measures were necessary in order to preserve the well-being of all contacts, customers, and staff along our supply chain. By exercising these cautions, we were able to keep unexpected delays in production or delivery at bay and maintain our continuous production status.

We also launched our instant quoting platform near the beginning of the pandemic in order to allow our customers and prospective customers to have 24/7 access to our services from any location.

Looking to Help Beyond our Facility

Face shield in-action

As we continued to offer the highest quality service and parts possible, we looked to how we could help others outside of our facility by utilizing our additive manufacturing technologies, as other additive manufacturers around the world were striving to do. In March, ProtoCAM quickly began working to develop and produce 3D-printed masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The process for producing the protective devices involved the design of 3D files, 3D printing, testing, and final manufacturing. Ed Graham, ProtoCAM’s Vice President of Additive Manufacturing, was involved in every step of the design and production process. “We recognized ProtoCAM’s ability to provide this desperately needed equipment, and being a life-sustaining business enabled to stay open through the crisis, we wanted to help any way we could,” Graham said of the project.

Ensuring High Safety Standards for Production

Because of the the desperate need for supplies and particularly protective equipment during the COVID-19 crisis, ProtoCAM began work quickly, while taking all appropriate safety measures, in our attempt to create safe and effective PPE.

3D-printed face shield

HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology was chosen to prototype and produce the protective equipment due to the technology’s high production output and material availability, as well as its compatibility with design for additive manufacturing (DFAM) techniques. The PA Nylon 12 material (a non-porous, biocompatible, and skin-safe material) used in the MJF process is biocompatible and can be sterilized, and the technology itself allows for the production of thin-walled features, which helped in the production of effective equipment.

Distribution to Those in Need

Ear saver in-action

Ultimately, our goal to create an effective, protective mask was successful, but we hit difficulties in fitting a reliable filter media. This was a limiting factor to our mask design as we could not source the necessary filter media due to world shortages, and thus we were unable to produce our design on a larger production scale for the public. We still hope to continue work on this project in the future.

Our focus turned to creating PPE that we felt we could more safely and quickly produce, and which could easily be distributed to staff at local medical care centers and essential workers. Using our rapid manufacturing services, we produced hundreds of 3D-printed ear savers and distributed them to both local medical facilities as well as to our customers with every order that left our facility. Our goal in producing the ear savers was to make it as easy and as simple as possible for everyone to follow the appropriate mask-wearing mandates and remain safe.

We also worked on producing face shields that could be worn alongside a protective mask to ensure better protection for both medical care staff and essential workers. Both the ear savers and the face shields we distributed received very positive feedback from those who utilized them, and more importantly, helped people feel and be safe. We continue to give out ear savers with each order leaving our facility, and will continue to do so until the pandemic is effectively over.

Maintaining High-Quality Standards & Looking Forward

Throughout the processes of created each piece of PPE, ProtoCAM strived to adhere to the particular specifications we felt were necessary in order to ensure that the equipment we produced was as safe to use as possible. As a professional industrial additive manufacturing facility that maintains ISO 9001:2015 certification, ProtoCAM always strives to adhere to the highest standards of quality for all products coming out of our facility. As the pandemic persists, we will continue to refine our methods to ensure we’re producing the safest equipment possible, while always entrusting final assessment to medical professionals.

As we continue to offer the highest quality service and parts possible, and we look forward to serving our customers well past the COVID-19 pandemic. ProtoCAM has capacity in multiple technologies to ensure quick-response manufacturing and delivery for any in-demand/out-of-stock parts with minimal human interaction. We are following and adhering to the best practices and guidelines from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and our state and federal governments in offering our 3D additive manufacturing services 24/7 to help in the quick-response manufacturing of urgent-need service and production parts.

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