COVID-19 Flow v5

The America Makes institute has created an online repository of healthcare providers in need of medical PPE, manufacturers with 3D printing capabilities and designers willing to share 3D print designs with the aim of connecting manufacturers with medical caregivers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The institute has launched the “Pandemic Additive Manufacturing Design Innovation Program,” which connects the additive manufacturing industry with the healthcare provider community to accelerate design and clinical review of 3D-printed PPE medical devices.

The initiative is one of several in the Manufacturing USA network being funded through the CARES Act with a focus on mapping the supply chain. Others include:

  • AFFOA and partners are mapping the PPE supply chain by capabilities — documenting, for example, which manufacturers make gowns and masks.
  • BioFabUSA is working on a “Demand Forecasting Dashboard for Medical Supplies.” This project will implement an inventory forecasting dashboard to reflect PPE product demand and response time for requisitions.
  • The Supply Chain Risk Alert Project, which was launched by MxD and partners prior to the pandemic, is developing machine learning/artificial intelligence capabilities to provide end-to-end visibility into a manufacturer’s supply chain. It will help expand U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity while improving risk management.

Next-Generation Masks Are in the Pipeline

Another institute, the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), tapped into the Nonwovens Institute’s newly developed “spunbond” technology to help develop next generation materials and manufacturing processes for face masks. While these masks have not yet been certified as N95 equivalent in filtration, they are already in use by students, faculty, and staff at North Carolina State University as they provide a significant level of protection and can be manufactured easily at industrial scale. Researchers also are determining if this new spun-bound mask can be sterilized for re-use.

NIIMBL also is testing ways to produce disposable inserts for reusable surgical masks, extending the life of those products.

Additionally, another institute, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM), is leveraging its ecosystem to enable 10 fast-start projects to manufacture diagnostic, medical care, medical countermeasure, non-medical PPE, and other supplies.

PPE Supply Chain Work Shows Promise of Advanced Manufacturing

We have learned there is a clear ROI in manufacturing PPE in the U.S., economically and for society as a whole. Manufacturers already were dealing with risks of cost-driven outsourcing — such as poor quality, theft of IP, shipping delays and a lack of control — so the pandemic may prove to be a tipping point for reshoring. Emerging technologies are converging with this demand to create new possibilities for domestic manufacturing.

The work on reinventing the PPE supply chain demonstrates the value of the large-scale support for innovation that Manufacturing USA is providing to the U.S manufacturing sector. Through public-private partnerships, last year the institutes leveraged $133M in federal funds to attract $355M in state and private investment, worked with 1,900 member organizations to collaborate on over 560 major research and development projects, and partnered with educational organizations to teach thousands of people advanced manufacturing technologies via workshops, courses, internships, and apprenticeships.

This work is so important because advanced manufacturing increasingly plays a critical role in the U.S. innovation ecosystem, supporting U.S. technological competitiveness and driving product and process improvements that advance the U.S. economy.

To join the innovation revolution, visit the institutes page and learn more about the advanced manufacturing technologies they accelerate.