Boeing announced it is activating its additive manufacturing network to 3D-print face shields for health care workers and is offering up the Dreamlifter to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boeing employees will 3D-print the personal protective equipment (PPE) using additive manufacturing machines in St. Louis, Missouri; El Segundo, California; Mesa, Arizona; Huntsville, Alabama, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – as long as those facilities remain in operation, consistent with federal, state and local health orders.
Depending on the size of the machine, up to 24 face shield frames can be 3D-printed each day. The company announced it is targeting an initial production rate of several thousand a week.
“We have the open capacity, goodwill and a multitude of eager employees waiting and wanting to help in this crisis,” said Melissa Orme, vice president of Boeing Additive Manufacturing (BAM).
The design includes a 3D printed frame with an adjustable headband that allows a clear plastic face shield to be easily snapped onto the frame. Boeing is evaluating the best way to quickly cut the plastic needed for the face shields, leveraging advanced cutting technology used for aircraft parts.
Face shields and other PPE have been in such short supply that some doctors and nurses have turned to swim goggles and other homemade options.
“This is a first-step solution to do what we can right now to help,” said Carlton Washburn, a program manager in BAM. “I’ve only seen positive behaviour and amazing support from people – both inside of Boeing and externally – trying to offer help. It makes Boeing’s mission to protect people very real to me.”
The 3D printed face shields solution was developed by employees from Boeing Additive Manufacturing; Boeing Research & Technology; Boeing Defense, Space & Security; Supply Chain and HorizonX; along with support from Accenture, hospitals and universities.
“Boeing employees are always ready and willing to step up and help in times of need, and this is just another incredible example of that,” said Tim Keating, executive vice president of Government Operations. “I’m proud of all the work being done to support our communities during this challenging time. We hear you, we’re listening, and keep the ideas coming.”
The company also announced its intent to offer the use of the Boeing Dreamlifter, one of the largest cargo carriers in the world, to help transport critical and urgently needed supplies to health care professionals.
The Dreamlifter fleet consists of four specially adapted Boeing 747s with a max cargo weight of 63,000 pounds per plane. Boeing is coordinating closely with government officials on how best to provide support.
To date, Boeing has donated tens of thousands of masks, gloves and other equipment to hospitals in need.
The company is also analyzing several other ways it can engage its engineering, manufacturing and logistics expertise to help the cause. Additional details, including ways in which Boeing employees can continue to give back, will be communicated soon.