Houston Manufacturers Work Together to Respond to Urgent COVID-19 Product Requests
Jeff founded Texas Injection Molding and was the co-founder and Chairman of the (GHMA) Greater Houston Manufacturers Association.
Many companies across the country have responded to the urgent call for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for hospitals, first-responders, pharmacists and health-care workers.
Texas Injection Molding, like many, pivoted to turn injection molding production resources to improve the design and manufacture high volumes of cost-effective protective face shields.
The story here is the collaboration between the hospital staff, the local makerspace and the local community of manufacturers.
Almost immediately, the shortage of supply for PPE became a crisis to protect front-line healthcare workers.
An “Open-Source” design was quickly shared across the country and every hobbyist, makerspace, educational institution or anyone with a 3D printer began making face shields to help meet the call.
It was no different in Houston, where the 5 CEOs from the world’s largest medical center made the call to the community. TXRX, a makerspace located in the emerging east end of downtown Houston, began coordinating volunteers, purchasing supplies, printing headgear, assembling face shields, and sewing face masks.
The word spread rapidly and other organizations and individuals with access to 3D printers started to send supplies to be assembled. The demand also quickly grew and local medical institutions were placing orders for tens of thousands of face shields making it apparent that the manufacturing technology needed to scale.
Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States and has been ranked as the largest manufacturing community with over 5,000 manufacturing companies employing over 250,000 workers.
Mush Kahn, President of APS – a local plastic machining company, and Chairman of the non-profit makerspace TXRX made the call to the Greater Houston Manufacturing Association.
Within a couple of days, multiple local manufacturers were identified, the design was modified for injection molding and a product was launched. Production tooling was expedited and production of injection molded facemasks began at a rate of 5,000 units per day within 4 weeks.
“The spirit of collaboration and cooperation across the manufacturing ecosystem has been a key aspect of our success.”
Marcus Wilkins, President GHMA
Texas Injection Molding has spearheaded the manufacturing effort to mold the headbands and procure the die-cut face shields, foam protective tape, bags, and boxes from other local manufacturing companies to ship in bulk quantities to regional healthcare providers.
The key to this was a healthy manufacturing ecosystem that was agile enough to quickly utilize open-source design and 3D printing/additive manufacturing, but also able to transition from low-volume to high volume manufacturing with injection molding as the demand required.
I write this article as a case study of a situation that utilized the best of additive manufacturing to prove out the design and scale up to meet urgent needs and seamlessly transition to high volume manufacturing within only a few weeks. “The spirit of collaboration and cooperation across the manufacturing ecosystem has been a key aspect of our success.” Marcus Wilkins, President Greater Houston Manufacturing Association.
In the midst of the challenges to protect employees, preserve our business and navigate all of the uncertainties, Scott Kelley President of Texas Injection Molding says:
“This has been a welcome challenge to bring a new product to market in an accelerated time that will help so many people. It is encouraging to see the Houston manufacturing community come together in a time of need.”