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How GoProto Partnered with Function Foundry to Design a 3D Printed Solution to Protect High-Risk Bus Drivers at Seattle Children’s
The Covid-19 virus has had an unprecedented impact on society. The healthcare system has borne a disproportionately large share of this disruption and has had to change its protocols and standard operating procedures on-the-fly as providers seek solutions to address new requirements for safety. At Seattle Children’s, efforts began promptly to address the implications for faculty and staff using the shared shuttle program; and GoProto and Function Foundry were brought in to help.
The Bus Stops Here
Recognized as one of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals, Seattle Children’s has been providing quality health care and services for over 100 years, and its faculty and staff are key to serving the health care needs of the region’s children. With one of the earliest US Covid-19 outbreaks occurring in nearby Kirkland, Washington, Seattle Children’s promptly examined its shared shuttle program, which transports a significant percentage of its workforce to and from work, to support appropriate distancing during transport.
They quickly decided that it made good sense to install a protective barrier to serve as a shield for the shuttle bus drivers and their riders, and Seattle Children’s Innovation team set to work, utilizing both in-house engineering and private-sector partners to develop a solution.
After some initial fact finding and engineering, they brought in GoProto an on-demand, custom manufacturing services provider. GoProto in turn, partnered with Function Foundry, an industrial design and fabrication company to design the parts GoProto then 3D printed for the project. Together this new group identified the challenges faced by this build, as well as the best solutions with the given cost and time constraints.
Drew Fletcher, owner of Function Foundry, realized the project would require customization. The interior of a shuttle bus means that any barriers or guards will need to be secured to differing surface materials such as fiberglass, fabric covered roof liners, metal tubing, and molded plastic. On top of this, they will also need to securely fit the contours of those surfaces as well. Drew quickly realized that the solution would need to be custom made to provide a proper protective environment.
As soon as Drew reached out to GoProto, they visited Seattle Children’s and reviewed the scope with the customer to come up with a design that addressed their concerns. They prototyped the design concept using cardboard cutouts and then did some proof of concept plastic inserts. Drew wanted the design to be durable and to look as though it belonged in the shuttle bus, and GoProto saw an opportunity to utilize 3D printing to not only accelerate the process but also produce parts that were robust and aesthetically pleasing.
In transport vehicles, the combination of parts, surface variations, and constant movement creates a lot of shifting and movement that needs to be accounted for. GoProto was able produce a design that fit the flow and contour of the buses, which allowed them to address another concern – noise reduction due to vibration. By leveraging the power of 3D printing design, the design geometry allowed them to control gaps between different surfaces while dampening vibration and noise.
Stuck in Traffic
Because of the recent dramatic increase in demand for parts to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), there is a bottleneck in the supply chain as many people rush to seek solutions. As a result, the supply chain for sheeting, clamps, fasteners, vibration abatement material, and other raw materials has been severely stressed. Drew Fletcher of Function Foundry said:
“This pandemic has created a bit of a traffic jam where everyone is doing custom applications, and they are turning to the same vendors for parts and materials. So, ordering specialty off-the-shelf hardware could have required a longer lead-time than simply 3D printing the exact parts we’d need”.
And, although the project could have been completed using clamps and “off-the-shelf” components, in theory, he felt that using 3D printed parts would likely not only be cost competitive, but perhaps more cost effective. As the response to Covid-19 has seen an increase in demand of common parts, an off-the-shelf solution ran the risk of adding premium dollars to a “good enough” application. Costs for “hurry-up” projects for temporary protection run into problems such as sheet stock thickness, scarcity, unexpected vibrational issues and more. So, why do that when a custom solution was available that was durable, cost-effective, and aesthetically pleasing?
As a result, Function Foundry was able to design and GoProto was able to print and deliver custom parts with a shorter lead-time, and at a lower cost, than traditional channels. They were able to deliver prototypes within days, and finished parts soon after, in the exact quantity needed. These 3D printed parts were custom designed and fit to address the unique mechanical challenges such as vibration concerns, interior contours, and differential surfaces, all of which would’ve been much more difficult to address using traditionally manufactured parts. The result was a faster, more cost-effective solution using additive manufacturing.
A Process Built for Speed
By using GoProto’s HP Multi-Jet Fusion printers, parts produced by Function Foundry could be combined with 3D printed parts to provide rigidity and shock-absorption. The partnership between Function Foundry and GoProto was fast, customized to the specific application, addressed the protection concerns that were required to mitigate exposure, and looked like they were designed to be part of the shuttle bus structure from the start.
Jason Woodrow of GoProto said:
“MJF was the ideal fit for this project because of the durability of the parts and the unique requirement of dealing with vibration. For the project scope, nothing on the market could compete in terms of price, speed, and reliability.”
The entire process from design to finished prototype was approximately ten days. This allowed Function Foundry to compete the install in an additional two-week time frame. By utilizing the advantages of 3D printing design, and 3D printing on GoProto’s HP Multi-Jet Fusion printers, the process and approach allowed Function Foundry to do a crafted high-end approach that blended form with function.
During the install, a representative for the sales group representing bus sales was there and was so impressed with the custom application that they might consider developing protective barrier kits for retrofitting future buses. With so many people and organizations looking to traditional sources for barrier protection, using 3D printing for future kits can reduce the turnaround time and offer solutions that many would not have thought of otherwise.
Jason feels that this partnership between Function Foundry and GoProto highlights that there are different ways beyond traditional PPE to help in response to Covid-19. And as the agility and flexibility of 3D printing from providers such as GoProto become more evident, those ideas could add significant ammunition to the fight against the virus.
GoProto specializes in quick-turn, on-demand, custom manufacturing. Offering end-to-end solutions for additive manufacturing, CNC machining, sheet metal, cast urethane, injection molding, and finishing. They are a rapid manufacturing company with customer service at their core. They help manufacture parts for product development customers in medical, aerospace, industrial, automotive, and many other industries. They utilize cutting edge technologies, methods, and the very best professionals to deliver 3D printed and conventionally manufactured parts fast, with world-class quality, and at a great value. GoProto’s manufacturing facilities are based in San Diego, California and Melbourne, Australia.
For more information, please visit: www.GoProto.com.
About Function Foundry
Function Foundry specializes in end-to-end development of small-batch, high end products ranging from custom furniture and fixtures, to promotional vehicles, to experiential entertainment and interactive games. They utilize a unique combination of old-school craftsmanship and new technologies to solve complex problems for their clients. They have built an in-house fabrication facility that allows Function Foundry to create new products from 3D CAD through to prototyping and final production.