EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—A 150-member and growing global coalition led by Stratasys Ltd. is facing the coronavirus pandemic head on, quite literally, producing hundreds of thousands of face shields for front-line workers in the health care and medical industries.
The international manufacturer of 3D printers began the charge late last month, and the COVID Coalition, as it's now called, shipped out 30,000 face shields in one week in mid-April alone, with 20,000 of those produced by Eden Prairie-based Stratasys Direct, a division of Israel-based Stratasys Ltd.
The medical industry demand, according to Stratasys, is upwards of 350,000 face shields required per month, which could not be produced by any one 3D printing manufacturer alone. As such, coalition members will look to bring injection molding on line soon to produce the disposable face shields at a more rapid clip.
"This is what 3D printing is for," said Scott Drikakis, Stratasys Healthcare Segments leader, Americas. "When you need to iterate designs rapidly, when you need to distribute the manufacturing load and get started fast, 3D printing is especially valuable.
"And this is a life or death moment for so many people."
Besides Minnesota, the face shields are being manufactured by Stratasys in Israel; Austin, Texas; and Valencia, Calif., as well as by many other locations around the world by COVID Coalition members, the firm said.
While the frames and visors are being 3D printed, Stratasys said medical technology company Medtronic and Minneapolis-based Dunwoody College of Technology, among other companies and institutions, will provide support for the plastic shield. Medtronic has paid for a number of plastic shields and is cutting the polyacrylic shields, while Dunwoody is machining polyacrylic build trays into face shields, Stratasys said.
Some coalition members are choosing to do the entire assembly themselves, from the shield to the frame to the rubber bands that hold it all together, in what Stratasys is calling the "DIY Model," available at stratasys.com/covid-19. There, organizations can join the coalition by requesting 3D printed products to help with the crisis, offer 3D printing capacity or request 3D printers or material for medical- or safety-related purposes.
"We have over 100 organizations in our GrabCAD Shop system to assign out orders to our partners," Drikakis said. "They generally ship visors in batches of 100, which we match up with the clear plastic face shields and rubber bands to hold it all together, and then we ship them to their final destinations."