From IBM to Spoonflower: NC innovators join fight against coronavirus
As big name brands – from IBM to Honeywell – sign on to help with the fight against COVID-19, they’re not alone.
Smaller innovators, too, are trying to get in on the action.
Over the weekend, Durham fabric printer and e-commerce firm Spoonflower announced it would start producing masks for health care workers – an idea born from its customers, says CEO Michael Jones.
“We have fabric, and we can cut and we can sew,” he says.
Over the past few days, the firm has designed prototypes and has engaged with health care workers to make sure what they’re putting out meets the need.
“We’ve been hearing from different parts of the United States, asking if we would have templates or something they could use,” says Jones. “We started thinking about it.”
In addition to putting out a downloadable template for masks, Spoonflower has already pumped out a few dozen prototypes. This week, it will engage with its operations team and figure out if tweaks are needed. Then, the plan is to go into full production for break-even prices.
Jones hopes Spoonflower’s mask project inspires other innovators to look how they could contribute.
“This is such a special community,” he says.
The fabric masks can be used to cover medical-grade masks – helping them last longer through the crisis.
3D printing technology firm Carbon, too, is looking at ways to address medical shortages. The company, founded in the Triangle off UNC-Chapel Hill technology, is now based in California. Over the weekend, the team was already working to address the shortage of personal protective equipment. Specifically, it’s printing swabs that could one day be used for COVID-19 tests.
Founder and former UNC Professor Joseph DeSimone tweeted that designs were being tested at places such as Stanford, Harvard and UNC.
“Plan is to select final design, then scale,” he tweeted.
As for IBM (NYSE: IBM), Sunday, Big Blue, which has a major campus in RTP and a subsidiary in Raleigh-based Red Hat, announced it would deploy supercomputers to help find a cure for the coronavirus.
IBM, through what it’s calling the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, is working with other big name firms such as Amazon and Microsoft.
And Honeywel (NYSE: HON), which is based in Charlotte, is expanding face mask production to respond to a nationwide shortage.