Autocam Medical, with headquarters in Kentwood, Michigan, is a global contract manufacturer of orthopedic implants, spinal implants, precision instruments and orthopedic cutting tools. Like all of us, they have watched the coronavirus crisis unfold over the past few months. But unlike most of us, they were provided with an opportunity to make a life-saving difference. The company was asked to take on a challenge that could double the capacity of vitally needed ventilators.
Dr. Kyle VanKoevering of MakeMedical, LLC, approached Autocam Medical with a drawing of a “splitter” device that could enable one ventilator to assist two patients at the same time. Dr. VanKoevering is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. He has broad experience in the application of 3D Printing for diagnostic and surgical applications, having played a key role in several groundbreaking and novel uses of additive manufacturing in medicine. His work continues in this field while he continues to provide excellent care and leadership at the University of Michigan.
The “splitter” device is called VentMI™ (Ventilate Multiple Individuals) and its purpose is to help provide mechanical ventilation to two patients from a single ventilator. “We know that individualized pressure control and the addition of other components is the key to effective ventilation,” said Dr. VanKoevering. “Combining custom pressure regulators and one-way valves, this system has been tested in simulated lung and animal environments, and has Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from FDA.”
When asked if Autocam Medical could use their manufacturing skills and experience to rapidly develop prototypes of several components for the piece, the answer was a resounding, “Yes!”
Although ventilator parts are not in their current product line, Autocam Medical is fully certified to manufacture medical components. Their knowledge and experience in the medical industry, combined with their manufacturing expertise, made them a perfect choice for the assignment.
When the engineers at Autocam Medical studied the prints provided by Dr. VanKoevering, they realized that special tooling, specifically end mills and chamfer mills, would be needed to machine the components. Luckily, GWS Tool Group was right around the corner (quite literally). Justin Pickerd, Manufacturing Quality Engineer, had worked with Fred Edmonson, General Manager at GWS-MI, before and had always received excellent turnaround times. Justin said the company hadn’t had time to set up a purchase order and explained what the tooling was for. Fred just replied “What do you need and when do you want it?” Tool design and manufacturing prints were put into motion immediately, without an order, and within 24 hours Autocam Medical had the 6 different custom tools they needed from GWS.
Custom tooling from GWS Tool Group used by Autocam Medical to manufacture the VentMI™ (Ventilate Multiple Individuals) "splitter" device.
With the proper tooling in place, Autocam Medical proceeded to do what they do best, but in record time. It can take months to develop a prototype like this. Autocam Medical had the parts ready for assembly within days. Meanwhile, a sister facility in Tennessee was tapped to manufacture other components for the splitter device, which were then shipped to Michigan. The assembled parts were presented to MakeMedical, LLC within the week.
Granted, Autocam Medical’s specialty is medical components, but, even so, the turnaround on this project was amazing. From a doctor’s innovative idea to the power of a professional manufacturer to our own commitment to provide the tooling, this team cut months off the usual delivery timeframe! It sounds like a story out of World War II, when America was known as the “Arsenal of Democracy.” This story shows that a “Can Do” attitude is alive and well within the latest generation of manufacturing companies like Autocam Medical.
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