Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Helps Industry in COVID-19 Fight

Composites, COVID-19, Materials

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 healthcare workers with life-saving equipment such as face shields, masks and test kits.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and Carbon Fiber Technology Facility 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 healthcare supplies in record time.

It’s what Lonnie Love, lead scientist for ORNL’s COVID-related advanced manufacturing initiatives, describes as “catalyzing industry.”

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.