New Hamburg 3D print firm aims to join the government’s COVID-19 fight

3D Prototype Design’s invention, the Clip 19 face shield, has captured the attention of local MP, Tim Louis.

Amid warnings of a possible shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line medical professionals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, New Hamburg’s 3D Prototype Design thinks it has a solution.

Company president Tim Deutschmann has created the Clip19, named after the COVID-19 coronavirus that is currently wreaking havoc across the globe. The clip fits on the arms of spectacles or safety eyewear, allowing a flexible sheet of clear plastic to be attached, creating a protective face shield. The shield helps health-care workers avoid contamination while treating patients.

When it was founded in 1996, 3D Prototype Design was the first prototype manufacturer in Canada to offer 3D printing services. It now produces parts for designers, engineers, product development teams and inventors.

Deutschmann said the company could mass-produce the Clip19 in-house and outsource the transparent sheets – overhead projector slides – and then punch holes along the side to make the shield adjustable.

3D Prototype Design gave PPE samples to a handful of doctors, nurses and health practitioners for testing. The feedback so far has been positive.

“We’ve been told that these are very lightweight, effective, and easy to assemble,” said Annette Kalbhenn, who handles the company’s sales and operations. “The problem is, some face shields are too heavy to wear all day, especially in the medical profession. This one is super lightweight, like nine ounces.”

The shields are supple, not rigid, so they allow for more freedom of movement than other designs.

At a time when governments are having to act quickly, Kalbhenn highlights the speed that the Clip19 system can be manufactured at as a big advantage. However, help is needed to ramp up operations to meet demand, and the clock is ticking.

“If we were working at full capacity, we could produce up to 10,000 sets in a week. We would have to acquire new technology, and that doesn’t come cheap. We need a little bit of help and direction from the government.”

“We want to see this happen. We have the space, and we have the idea. We really think this could help a lot of people.”

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis intends to contact 3D Prototype Design.

“It’s amazing to see how many companies are stepping up. I’m so proud to say there are people calling my office to say, ‘I have a company, and I want to help,'" he said.

Anita Anand, the federal minister of public services and procurement, told Louis that over 16,000 companies from across Canada have expressed interest in supporting the response to COVID-19.

“This is unprecedented, so it’s difficult. The ministry has been working 24 hours a day to reach out to companies,” he said.

The government has a procurement website at https://buyandsell.gc.ca/.

“I’m passing this information on, not only at a national level, but also at a local level. There are physicians and surgeons (in Kitchener-Conestoga) that know what the needs are, where the needs are, and they’re starting to connect the dots on the ground.”

“We’re trying to do this on a local level because we can get it to the ground quicker.”

Louis said people in his riding are donating medical gloves, masks and gowns, and a local distillery has switched production to manufacture hand sanitizer.

“It’s amazing to see the community come together, and inspiring to see Canadians rally and support each other. It encapsulates our region and the barn-raising mentality.”