In early 2020, the MIIs immediately activated their multidisciplinary networks of companies and innovators to fill gaps in the PPE supply chain. For example, America Makes, the National Additive MII in Youngstown, Ohio, partnered with several federal agencies to connect the additive manufacturing community with health care providers and communities in need of PPE. Through the National Institutes of Health’s 3D Print Exchange (owned and operated by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), America Makes connects manufacturers with free PPE designs that manufacturers can download. As of February, 624 published designs were available on the exchange — 34 designs were optimized for clinical use and 28 were optimized for community use. The designs have been downloaded more than 200,000 times. Through the effort, America Makes assisted front-line workers in obtaining hundreds of thousands of pieces of critical PPE supplies from quality manufacturers across the country.
As a result of America Makes’ proactive support in energizing its U.S. community, the DOD subsequently awarded $4.7 million to the institute to enhance and expand its design innovation program, increasing the DOD’s ability to rapidly vet, certify and field PPE designs to quickly match supply with demand and recommend improvements. This is one of 13 MII COVID-19 response projects that the DOD sponsored through $60.7 million in funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and is a prominent example of how the MIIs provide innovative and accelerated production approaches.