Before the coronavirus pandemic rocked the world, Carbon used its printing technology to crank out midsoles for Adidas shoes, helmets for Ridell and dental dentures.
In late March, the Redwood City-based designer and 3D printer made a sharp pivot to assist the region in responding to COVID-19: it has designed and is preparing to manufacture thousands of face shields that hospital workers need to test and treat coronavirus patients.
Within weeks, the company expects to produce more than 15,000 face shields through its 3D printers, with the goal of distributing to area hospitals based on demand.
According to the company, Carbon has already received positive feedback on its product from Stanford Health Care and Kaiser Permanente.
"We are focused on how we can support the first responders and medical professionals who are on the frontline, tirelessly working to save those lives threatened by this pandemic," Carbon's President and CEO Ellen Kullman said in an emailed statement. "We are grateful to all of the partners, customers, and institutions who are working alongside us, leveraging the power of additive manufacturing to combat COVID-19."
With the move, Carbon has joined a growing roster of companies, both in the region and across the nation, that are revamping their operations to assist health care workers. The list includes Bloom Energy, which has been revamping old ventilators to make them functional, and Ford Motors, which is manufacturing new ventilators in partnership with GE Healthcare.
Carbon's operations in California are now focusing exclusively on products related to the pandemic. In addition to making the face shields, Carbon is leveraging its network of customers to encourage others to step up. Shortly after deciding to shift to face shields, the company had a webinar with more than 300 customers and partners to discuss the project. It has made the design open-source and available on its website. One of its dental customers, Candid, has already diverted its manufacturing operation to make face shields, with the goal of protecting thousands of them in the next few weeks.
The effort by Carbon and its partners is accelerating at a time when the Bay Area is preparing for a surge of COVID-19 cases and when other parts of the nations, including New York and Michigan, have seen their hospitals overwhelmed by a wave of coronavirus patients. In some cases, hospitals have reported a critical shortage of personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, gowns and face shields.
While the Bay Area hasn't reached its hospital capacity yet, hospitals and health care systems are growing concerned about the national shortage of personal protective equipment and have recently requested donations from residents and companies in anticipation of possible shortages down the road.
Carbon believes it can help. Across its global network of manufacturing partners, it plans to make more than 18,000 face shields in the first week – a number it expects to "grow considerably as production scales," according to a company statement.
In addition to making face shields, Carbon is also trying to increase the testing capacity for COVID-19 by creating patient sampling swabs. The company has already produced at least 10 different swab designs, some of which are now undergoing clinical evaluation, according to the company's statement. It is working with various medical institutions, including Stanford Medical Center and the Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, to evaluate these designs, according to the company.
• Are you a tech worker whose company is readapting operations in response to the coronavirus crisis? Tell us how over an email to email@example.com.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.