The Bridge - Issue 1, 2021 - 12

Feature

Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Helps Industry in COVID-19 Fight

Feature

Figure 1: ORNL researchers in advanced manufacturing, materials science, and engineering collaborated to produce face shields and reusable mask
molds that industry can quickly mass produce. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Figure 2: Researchers at ORNL's MDF developed a reusable face mask prototype with injection molding that will enable industry to rapidly
manufacture masks. The injection-molded reusable mask includes five parts, and with five sets of tools, industry can potentially make 300,000
reusable masks per week. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Advanced Manufacturing Innovation
Helps Industry in COVID-19 Fight

According to Love, face shields can be 3D printed, but
the only way to achieve production volume is through
injection molding. " To do injection molding, you need
tooling, " Love said (Figure 2). " We're creating tools in
days instead of months. Our efforts make it possible
for industry to scale up production. "

In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,
it's a race against the clock not only to find a
vaccine but also to supply health care workers
with life-saving equipment such as face
shields, masks, and test kits.
Researchers at the Department of Energy's (DOE)
Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) and
Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF) at Oak Ridge
National Laboratory are using their materials science,
fiber production, and additive manufacturing expertise
and capabilities to produce tooling such as custom
molds for injection molding to provide U.S. industry
with the necessary resources to mass produce health
care supplies in record time (Figure 1).
It's what Lonnie Love of ORNL's COVID-related
advanced manufacturing initiatives describes as
" catalyzing industry. "
" This is what national laboratories and user
facilities like the MDF and CFTF were made to do, "
Love said. " We do the scientific research, overcome
the challenges, and then provide industry a turnkey
solution that allows them to take our tools and
rapidly manufacture critical equipment to meet
U.S. demand. "

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In partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense
(DOD) Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment
program from the Office of Industrial Policy and the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
ORNL has mobilized advanced manufacturing
researchers at the MDF to develop tooling such
as molds that will enable the production of face
masks, shields, and test collection tubes in quantities
estimated from hundreds of thousands to millions.
These efforts are at the heart of a collaboration
between DOE and DOD called the America's Cutting
Edge (ACE) program, a national initiative for machine
tools technology development and advancement.
" ACE is intended to help the United States recover
the technical and manufacturing leadership position
and enable our ability to design and make the
machine tools required to produce so many of
the products that are used in modern society, "
said Adele Ratcliff, director of the Industrial Base
Analysis and Sustainment program. " We are proud
that this partnership was able to pivot its formidable
capabilities toward helping relieve the COVID-19
pandemic. Efforts like prototyping tooling to enable
industry to be more responsive to economic
opportunities and when national security issues arise
are central to ACE's continuing mission. "

Face shield production
Health care workers depend on face shields to
protect the entire face from hazards such as infectious
diseases like COVID-19. A method commonly used to
manufacture face shields is injection molding, which
works by filling a metal mold with molten plastics to
produce large volumes of shields.
At the MDF, researchers worked with Uday Vaidya-
ORNL/University of Tennessee Governor's Chair
in advanced composites manufacturing and chief
technology officer for the Institute for Advanced
Composites and Manufacturing Innovation-to
design molds for the mass production of face
shields. Working with industry partner DeRoyal
Industries, a global manufacturer of medical supplies
headquartered in East Tennessee, Vaidya and team
produced a mold for use in making the plastic band
that fits to the head and holds the shield in place.
" We needed a mold that could be used to
exponentially increase the production of face
shields, and we didn't have the time to research
and determine the best way to do this on our own, "
said DeRoyal Chief Executive Officer Brian DeBusk.
" Working with ORNL, we were able to find an
immediate solution. "

ORNL's research team designed, printed, and
machined a mold ready for industry production within
three days.
" We're driving unparalleled speed to market for
important health science materials desperately
needed during this crisis, " Vaidya said. " Our team of
internationally recognized academic and business
leaders, scientists, and students have the flexibility, full
support, and forward-thinking leadership to remove
typical barriers and catalyze the rapid innovation that
will help millions of people. "
DeRoyal is using the ORNL-made molds on their
injection molding machines.
" We're making 30,000 shields per day on a single
shift working six days per week and using a manual
process, " DeBusk said. " However, we're in the process
of automating that process to make them faster and
less expensive. "
DeBusk said these shields will be used in thousands
of medical facilities throughout the United States.

Millions of masks
In addition to face shields, ORNL developed a
reusable face mask prototype for DeRoyal to deploy.
Vaidya designed the tooling for the prototype,
and ORNL collaborated with heavy equipment
manufacturer John Deere on the initial mold design.
The mask is made of five parts and includes a
retention ring band, a hard outer shell, filter material,
a softer inner shell, and an inner retention ring

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The Bridge - Issue 1, 2021

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