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Using 3-D Printing to Meet Critical Needs of Front Line Workers
To meet the extraordinary challenge presented by COVID-19, Northrop Grumman employees have found creative ways to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for local community healthcare workers. Starting with a few employees using their own 3-D printers to make face shields, headbands, and mask extenders, the effort recently expanded to include Northrop Grumman’s Fabrication Labs (FabLabs) at multiple sites around the country.
Under the leadership of Anne Stockdale, manager, Material Process Engineering and Tony Long, manager, Project Management, employees from every sector have banded together to tackle the increasing demand for PPE.
“What I love most about this,” Ann explained, “is that it was a grassroots effort started by employees doing this on their own time. They brought their ideas to the company to get more people involved.”
Employees Volunteer Time and Technical Talent from Coast to Coast
When Daniel Hubert, a design engineer in Melbourne, Florida, started 3-D printing five years ago, he planned to use it for drone components and equipment. However, when Karissa, an acquaintance of Daniel’s who is a nurse at a local Intensive Care Unit (ICU), asked if he would make 3-D face masks for her department, he readily agreed.
After work, Daniel researched face shields and found two viable design options. He waited anxiously for the printer to deliver the first three headbands. Using a hole-punch, he carefully attached clear overhead transparencies to them. He immediately went to the hospital to have Karissa try them on. After getting hospital approval, she asked Daniel to print enough for her whole department, a staff of 85 ICU workers.
Daniel’s personal 3-D printer delivered only two headbands every two hours, so he recruited fellow Northrop Grumman engineers who are also 3-D printing enthusiasts: Harry Allen, Tyler Thrall, Mike Smick, Iwan Broodryk, and Bob Geiger. While these engineers worked during the day, their wives kept a watchful eye on the in-home process until their husbands took over the night shift. The result? Production of 150 face shields with the required insert in just three days.
But Daniel and crew didn’t stop there. They expanded production and distributed not only more than 160 face shields to other local clinics, but even sent some to an elderly care facility in Texas.
Meanwhile, in San Diego, California, CJ Nesbitt, an engineering manager in Test Engineering, put his 20 years of 3-D printing experience to excellent use and connected with several area hospitals. Using his at-home equipment, CJ has donated more than 300 3D-printed headbands to the Scripps Ranch Civic Association, an organization with more than 70 volunteers fighting COVID-19.
As a manager of our company’s San Diego FabLab, CJ recognized the production potential of six lab printers. While his home printer produced two headbands per hour, with all six FabLab printers running, he and his team have produced dozens hourly. Together, they have produced hundreds of headbands for distribution to hospitals in need.
And in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, Charlie Mann, a Northrop Grumman Computer Systems analyst, has been printing custom 3-D models since 2018. He has produced items ranging from business card holders to fully customized Thor-style hammers. With the outbreak of COVID-19, Charlie quickly changed production to face shields and mask extenders for hospitals in his local community.
Using his seven at-home 3-D printers, Charlie has already contributed 40 face shields and more than 200 mask extenders. He plans to expand his operations to aid five more hospitals. With an output of 60-100 mask extenders per day, he hopes his efforts demonstrate to his children the importance of helping others in need.
These are just a few stories of Northrop Grumman employees stepping up to meet an unprecedented challenge, using their skills and creative thinking to support a greater good.
As Anne noted, “While Northrop has a great presence as a corporation, the personal connections we’ve made with our communities on an individual level have been amazing. We get photos and emails from local healthcare workers and employees’ family members showing their appreciation.”
April 21, 2020