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Fast Retooling Helps Factories Fight COVID-19

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

It wasn’t exactly a sneak attack, but the coronavirus hit the U.S. in March with a force not unlike what happened during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which prompted the U.S. to enter World War II. As in the previous event, the country was not prepared for the scale and severity of the attack. However, the response since then has brought out the best in some quarters, including the manufacturing industry.

With a dire need for medical devices and personal protective equipment, U.S. manufacturers are quickly retooling to make the needed equipment, as you can read in our News Desk section on page 20. Also, manufacturers are adapting to the economic crisis created by the virus while remaining optimistic about a post-pandemic recovery, according to brand new SME research.

It’s heartening to see what individual manufacturers and their workers are doing to help out in this crisis. In addition to the news about Ford and GM helping to make ventilators in our News Desk column, consider these examples:

America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing, with the National Institutes of Health, launched the NIH 3D Print Exchange, a national repository of 3D print designs for medical supplies to be reviewed, approved and shared with additive manufacturers around the country.

Delta Air Lines has redeployed an internal manufacturing unit usually used to explore ways to make the airline run more efficiently to make face shields for hospital workers battling COVID-19. Delta Flight Products is working with a non-profit group affiliated with Georgia Institute of Technology to make the shields.

Abbott Laboratories is producing equipment, after emergency approval by the U.S. FDA, for new five-minute coronavirus tests.

Sencorp Thermoforming modified two of its thermoforming machines to form face masks for medical professionals; each one can produce about three million face masks per week.

Buffalo Manufacturing Works is spearheading an effort to design and test a prototype medical mask for workers on the front lines.

A coalition of companies and universities assembled by Stratasys Ltd. to produce face shields leveraging 3D printers numbered more than 150 as of March 27. The list includes Boeing, Toyota Motor Co., Medtronic, Dunwoody College of Technology, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Minnesota.

I’m sure there are thousands of other ways manufacturers are helping to fight World War Covid against an unseen enemy, and we will highlight more of the them on the SME website. In addition, SME will be rolling out more digital platforms to maintain its mission of providing manufacturers with vital information during this difficult time.

We sincerely hope that you, your families and your co-workers stay safe as we navigate the uncharted waters ahead.

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