Rapid manufacturing is an important part of the business plan at Diversified Plastics Inc., a custom injection molder based in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
That specialty paid off in 2020, as DPI was able to quickly take on new projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. And that helped DPI qualify as a repeat finalist for the Plastics News Processor of the Year award and win of our PN Excellence Award for customer relations.
DPI joined the Carbon Production Network in 2018, using 3D printers to quickly bring new products to market as well as making impossible-to-mold items. The company branded the area the Acceleration Station.
In March 2020, as the pandemic started to impact business, CEO Kevin Hogan said DPI decided to prioritize employee safety and business continuity. That meant keeping workers on the payroll, keeping them safe and using whatever spare capacity was available to help in the battle against COVID.
Right from the beginning, that created an opportunity to use its capabilities to make some much-needed face shields.
"We jumped into things quickly with an attitude where we could literally be making products within hours," Hogan said. DPI connected with a company that wanted to produce 2 million face shields. DPI used its Carbon Digital Light Synthesis printers to make the halos that wrapped around users' heads and is attached to the clear shield.
When even additive manufacturing couldn't make product fast enough, it decided to build a tool for making injection molded parts. Typically building a tool would take weeks. But with hospitals and first responders reporting dangerous shortages of personal protective equipment, that wasn't fast enough.
"We started to work on a tool on a Thursday. And I challenged him to do it in a week. And everybody said that was crazy. And these guys took it upon themselves and said: 'Dammit, we're gonna show that Hogan.' And you know, by Saturday it was done and we were producing product on Monday," Hogan said.
DPI also produced ventilator parts and splitters, which are components that allow one ventilator to support two patients.