Northrop Grumman’s ability to expedite funding to its supply base has proved critical, especially to small businesses...
3-D Printing for a Cause
When members of Northrop Grumman’s Fabrication Laboratories (FabLabs) in California began recognizing a standout need for personal protective equipment for those on the COVID-19 frontlines, they put their engineering skills to good use: using 3-D additive manufacturing to help produce face shields.
Northrop Grumman quickly committed funding for labor and materials. What began as a local effort benefiting local hospitals has now expanded to a companywide initiative.
Using designs approved by the National Institutes of Health, the Northrop Grumman team is producing 3D-printed plastic headbands, procuring materials for the face shields (including clear plastic transparencies similar to those used on an overhead projector and rubber band), assembling them and shipping them to local hospitals.
Although it may sound like a straightforward project, before they could begin work, the team persisted through design changes, legal requirements, material acquisition and partnership building. They ramped up production quickly, making 1,600 face shields across all FabLabs within two weeks, and have now created approximately 7,000 shields total.
“The number of people who have gone the extra mile on this has been amazing,” said Tony Long, manager, Project Management, and FabLab lead in Redondo Beach, Calif. “Everyone understands the gravity of the situation.”
The company has already delivered face shields to Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Texas and Virginia, and manufacturing efforts are continuing. In addition, employees have been working to support requests from the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to match its face shield supply and production with FEMA’s most critical needs.
Silvia Bouchard, director, Quality, is overseeing the ongoing manufacturing effort for the company, ensuring the teams across the country are well coordinated and helping to facilitate issues as they arise.
“This has been an amazing group effort that broke through various barriers to make this happen all within a very short time period,” Bouchard said.
“The drive to get critically needed equipment into the hands of those who need it most certainly speaks to our values as a company.”
April 21, 2020