Eaton Applies Additive Manufacturing to Help Frontline Workers
Covid-19 sparks innovation for power management company
It’s essential for the health care system to be able to respond to the crisis at hand, and making that possible is a collaborative effort. In a recent interview with Mission Critical, Michael Regelski, senior vice president and chief technology officer for the Electrical Sector at Eaton, discussed a few of the ways the company is contributing to the fight against COVID-19. From delivering critical supplies to ensuring always-on power for electrical systems, Eaton is supporting communities across the country, the health care industry, and its customers.
Mission Critical: How is Eaton helping customers — data centers in particular — during this pandemic?
Eaton is a power management company. That means we help customers around the world effectively use power. Our electrical solutions form the backbone of safe, reliable electricity supply, and our mission critical support is foundational across essential services. In data centers around the world, our electrical equipment supports safe, efficient power distribution and around-the-clock reliability.
We’ve made the important decision to maintain operations during the COVID-19 crisis because our products are critical to our global infrastructure. We’re continuing to operate and to help our communities maintain essential operations with uninterrupted power.
For example, back in February, China built two field hospitals in Wuhan in just 10 days, and our team in China provided key support. Together with our partner electrical contractors and distributors, we helped the new Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals rapidly connect to utility power while providing the equipment needed to safely power sensitive medical equipment.
As part of that work, we delivered uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) and batteries that support emergency backup systems. When our engineers had difficulties getting on-site for UPS commissioning, the team improvised and instructed successful commissioning via video conference.
Eaton employees and our partners worked closely together, demonstrating highly efficient and effective teamwork. This is one real-life example of our brand promise: We make what matters work.
Beyond the typical work that Eaton does, what else are you doing to help?
I’m very proud of the work our teams are doing — we’re making a real difference in our communities. One of our core values is supporting our communities, and we know our solutions and manufacturing capabilities can help combat this global pandemic. We’re applying our design engineering and manufacturing expertise to help address critical needs for health care workers on the frontline.
The ability to respond rapidly and deliver the highest level of care possible is essential in the global fight against COVID-19. To achieve this, medical workers need immediate access to personal protective equipment (PPE). So, we’ve activated our additive manufacturing expertise to rapidly address PPE shortages and help protect medical workers.
For example, we’ve worked with hospitals and Cleveland’s Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) to optimize face shield designs for production. By applying digital design, additive manufacturing (otherwise known as 3-D printing), and traditional manufacturing technologies, we developed face shields that can be sanitized and reused. Best of all, they’re comfortable.
Now, we’re fulfilling a JobsOhio order for rapid production of 360,000 face shields to strengthen the state’s fight against COVID-19. We also donated face shields to hospitals in Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio, and we are looking for additional distributions.
A recent study in JAMA indicates that one of the best defenses of health care workers is through barrier protection from surfaces that become contaminated. At our additive manufacturing research and development site in Southfield, Michigan, we developed a 4-inch touchless tool that resembles a plastic wrench and is designed to help medical workers avoid contact with surfaces and slow the spread of the novel virus. The tool can be used to grab door handles, turn faucets, and push buttons on phones and other devices, all without touching surfaces.
What do you see as the power of additive manufacturing? How do you use it during normal times?
Our additive manufacturing capabilities are instrumental to fast-paced design incorporating customer feedback and the ability to easily scale production to meet the immediate needs of customers and communities around the world.
For years, we’ve used additive manufacturing across our business. It enables our teams to quickly refine designs to meet the most specific customer requirements with the ability to scale production as needed — delivering cost, performance, and lead time benefits.
Additive manufacturing also opens up new opportunities to combine novel materials, designs, and process innovations at a much faster pace than traditional manufacturing.
For example, inside of 10 business days, we went from concept to production at scale for the face shields that we’re delivering in Ohio and to hospitals around the country. We’re applying our advanced manufacturing capabilities as well as our strong network of partners to help every day — and especially during times of crisis.
As the tool and the face shields demonstrate, we’re able to use our additive manufacturing capabilities, along with a healthy dose of innovation, to compress product development timelines and rapidly deliver solutions for our customers.