How 2K Tool in Grand Rapids, Michigan is helping to protect citizens, while helping save medical masks for health care workers…
These are trying times for many of us in manufacturing. With the Corona virus still rampant, many plants are being held under siege to protect their workers as directed by government stay-at-home directives. Many companies are suffering financially, while its employees are forced to stay home.
Kevin Smith recently had an idea as he sat in his living room watching the news. A request had been made for tool makers to develop tooling for facemasks, and Kevin seen it as an opportunity for his business to help. His own business had seen a drop in sales due to many of his customers being automotive suppliers. He finds himself blessed to have customers that are considered, “essentials”. His business is still in operation, while many operations are closed due to Michigan’s current “stay-at-home” Executive order.
Kevin through online research found that a 3D Printing Science Center in Montana had provided a basic CAD file for building a mask mold. He took some aluminum stock he had, and began the mold making process. Lead time on this project was brisk. From design, build and then starting molding trials ..only 1 week had passed. Kevin stated, “I have already had companies asking me about my design, and what materials I am using.”
There were of course obstacles during the design stage. His first version was with the insert being held in from the outside of the mask. It was determined pretty quickly that as the mask bent, the insert and filter would fall out. Kevin points out, “It takes trial and error to determine what set up works best. We were able to quickly redesign the mold and the new design functions very well”.
Part of what helped Kevin to turn this project around so quickly was his new plastic injection plant, “2Gen”. Although both plants aren’t under the same roof, one is only a 5 minute drive from one to the other. Many tools in the building are production runs for Magna, but he also has machine time available for trial runs. In fact, the plant started as a sampling facility.
The mask material is a TPE, while the insert that holds in the filter is a Polypropylene that is compressed fit, to hold the Hepa filter in. He initially was having problems finding the Hepa filter material, but local furniture manufacturer Steelcase, INC stepped in and was able to help him with obtaining these.
Cycle time on this mold is 30 seconds. The mold for the insert is around the same part-to-part production time frame. Kevin expects to produce 2-3000 masks per week. When asked if he would be producing these in different colors, he stated, “No. The masks will be available in natural only, in case medical personnel will need to see what is happening inside the mask”.
It is businesses like this that give us hope. It can be easy to find stress and be worried about what the future holds. In America, we are creatures of habit. It is important that we remember we are versatile. American businesses can easily convert a bad situation into potential profits. The future holds great things in store for all of us.
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or email Kevin Smith: [email protected]
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