WYOMISSING, Pa. — Coronavirus infections are continuing to rise dramatically throughout the country and the state of Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Along with the rising number of cases comes an increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPEs), and that’s one issue that Penn State Berks alumnus and entrepreneur Joe Sinclair is helping with through his Reading-based, 3D-printer manufacturing business, Verde Mantis.
Sinclair and his brother, Dan, had been monitoring and tracking the spread of COVID-19 in Berks County and Pennsylvania for some time when Sinclair's company began prototyping and producing personal protective equipment in mid-March. Specifically, the company has created a design that is being used to print the component of face shields that holds the translucent shield in place. The 3D-printed part, shaped like a semi-circle, is wrapped around the forehead of the user and secured in the rear by a rubber band or piece of elastic. Nearly 150 shields have already been assembled to date.
“We’re working with our partners across Pennsylvania to ramp up production,” said Sinclair, who added that his goal is to see a few hundred face shields produced every week.
As an early member of the Berks LaunchBox initiative, Sinclair launched Verde Mantis, the first company in the area to be focused on making 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, easy to use. He has been able to invite local students to participate in the design and fabrication process of the company's Mantis 3D printer, and now he is working with community organizations to use that same technology to create face shield components to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Using a template created by Sinclair, a virtual reality training company joined the initiative and began creating the face mask component.
"This is definitely one of the most important things we've printed here," said Kris Jackson, co-founder of CrossTrainer Mixed Reality LLC. The company was an early partner with Verde Mantis. The relationship formed organically as both CrossTrainer and Verde Mantis are located within the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading, with Verde Mantis utilizing co-working space within the Penn State Berks LaunchBox.
The professional staff at the Berks LaunchBox played an important role in getting the production process started. Michelle Hnath and Patricia Leshinskie, both facility coordinators at the LaunchBox, printed the original prototypes of the shield component and ordered or supplied many of the initial supplies required for CrossTrainer to get the project started.
In addition to CrossTrainer, several local organizations have joined the initiative, including Albright College, Alvernia University, the Science Research Institute, the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, the O'Pake Institute, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The group is looking for companies or individuals with 3D printers who are interested in helping and ask that they email Adelle Schade at [email protected].
With two undergraduate engineering degrees, multiple 3D-printing startups, and a full-time director position for a high-tech advanced manufacturing company’s metal additive manufacturing division, Sinclair has invested thousands of hours studying, using, and investigating ways to improve 3D printers. In addition, he is the first graduate of the Master of Engineering in Additive Manufacturing and Design (AMD) program offered through the Penn State World Campus.
Sinclair is also proud to say the Mantis is designed and built in the United States. “'Made in America' is something we take pride in and hang our hats on," he said. "From the laser-cut sheet metal, to each individual rivet, the Mantis embodies the passion and spirit of American manufacturing. In that same vein, it is no mistake we’ve decided to set up shop here: Reading’s rich manufacturing legacy is a worthy foundation from which the Mantis can grow and prosper. With the help of the Penn State Berks LaunchBox, we’ve created a product that the Reading community can rally around to continue making manufacturing history.”
To learn more about Verde Mantis and ways to help, visit www.Mantis3DPrinter.com/help.
'We Are' stories
The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment — and we want to hear your “We Are” stories.
Visit news.psu.edu/WeAre to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other to overcome the collective challenges presented by the novel coronavirus. We are!