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NEWS | July 8, 2020

Carderock Team Uses Talents to Manufacture COVID-Fighting Tools

By Todd Hurley, NSWCCD Public Affairs

The Materials and Manufacturing Technology Division at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division has been instrumental in supporting local COVID-19 pandemic response efforts, from hand sanitizer production to critical supplies. Four members of Carderock’s Additive Manufacturing Project Office have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in a unique manner – with the use of 3D printers.

Since March, Justin Artis, mechanical engineer, Josh Duck, technician, Zach Heinkel, composite materials engineer and Scott Ziv, mechanical engineer, have been using 3D printers to create three separate tools to be use during the worldwide pandemic – facemasks, visors and a flattened, hook-shaped door opener to be used in place of physically touching door handles.

With the majority of the prioritization for health-related supplies being given to hospitals and other medical facilities, these four individuals decided to put their advanced manufacturing talents to use in the best way they knew how.

“One of the biggest challenges during this pandemic is protecting yourself, and it’s made harder since you can’t effectively buy the supplies needed anymore. We looked to answer the COVID needs very quickly, and determined what we thought to be the most efficient way to help out,” Heinkel said. “We didn’t want to mass produce items, though. We just wanted to step up and do our part and make quality items, and I think that’s really unique.”

The process began in March when they received a request from the Marine Corps for face shields. This kicked off their efforts, and it did not go unseen. After the success of the face shields, Larry Tarasek, Carderock’s technical director, requested 3,000 facemasks. By early May, the idea for the door opener had been formed. To date, they have created roughly 1,500 of their door openers, with a goal of 3,000. These door openers, and the facemasks, will be part of a personal protection kit to protect employees working on site.

“The door openers are interesting because the end products we’re making are not actually printed, they’re casted out of urethane, but we use 3D printing as a tool to aid the process.” Ziv said. “We 3D printed the original ‘blanks,’ used them to make a silicone mold, then poured urethane in to make the final part. This lets us keep the turn-on-a-dime agility of 3D printing, while having the capacity and consistency of mass production.”

They were assisted by materials and manufacturing subject-matter experts, including Anna Bernal and Joe Korczynski of Carderock’s Non-Metallic Research and Engineering Branch, who produced 125 units and provided valuable insight into the urethane casting process.

The door opener, which can be used to open most doors, including handicap accessible doors, is flattened, with a much lower contact area than a person’s hand, and helps reduce transmission and contact exposure when opening a door. They also have a feature for pushing buttons on keypads, elevators or other high-touch locations.

“While it doesn’t eliminate the risk, it considerably lowers it, and every little bit counts.” Ziv said.

The group spent two full weeks working on the door openers, while creating approximately 250 per day. The entire process to make a set took anywhere from 20-30 minutes, while 10-15 of those minutes revolved around waiting for the urethane resin to cure while filling up another set. Each set consists of nine door openers.

They also spent most of April producing, packaging and preparing the facemasks, and collaborating with Carderock’s warehouse for distribution. In June, they created 75 visors in a 72-hour timeframe at Carderock’s Manufacturing Knowledge and Education (MAKE) Lab, to deliver to Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) headquarters for COVID-related testing.

While the four of them are relatively new to Carderock – Ziv having the most seniority at just over two-and-a-half years – they all come from more than capable backgrounds. Ziv and Artis have bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland, respectively. Artis also worked at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River for nearly four years before transferring to Carderock. Duck has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology from the State University of New York at Farmingdale; and Heinkel has bachelor’s degrees in physics and composite material engineering from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Winona State University in Minnesota, respectively. Heinkel also served in the Air National Guard for six years.

In their spare time, Ziv enjoys working with his personal 3D printer farm and doing hobbyist electronics projects. Heinkel enjoys learning musical instruments, such as the guitar, bass and piano. Duck rides and builds electrical bicycles, and Artis enjoys photography.

“I like to photograph anything I see,” Artis said. “Landscapes, people, anything.”

The group made sure to put him in charge of taking artistic photographs of the door opener tool.