In 2017, adidas and 3D-printing technology company Carbon partnered to create the world’s first shoe with a high-performance 4D midsole. Fast forward three years and adidas and Carbon are teaming up again, only this time to help tackle the medical safety equipment shortage caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Carbon CEO Ellen Kullman talked to GamePlan A about how creativity and collaboration led them to reimagine Carbon’s purpose during a time of crisis.
Ellen explains, “Our purpose at Carbon is to improve lives with science, technology and creativity. We’re on a mission to help with the design and delivery of products that the world truly needs. As the medical supply shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent, we put creation in motion and started to work to help address this.”
Remove the guardrails
So how did Carbon, create, test and prepare 3D-printed personal protection equipment (PPE) face shields in just six days?
1. Brainstorm solutions
Noting the massive shortage of PPE for first responders and healthcare professionals, Carbon regrouped with over 300 members of its global network, including Marco Kormann Director of Platform Innovation, adidas Future, to discuss how they could help.
“There’s nothing like the innovative spirit in a place like Carbon, and the team really stepped up and figured it out. We really made it a rallying point within the company. I think that all of us getting into a virtual room and really being creative enabled us to get where we are.”
2. Welcome challenges
Solving for the disruption caused by a pandemic is a major challenge. Because 3D-printing is adaptable and diversified, Carbon worked quickly with its network to address the challenges caused by the medical supply shortage without any real lead time.
Carbon was able to create a face shield design, iterate to ensure it worked for healthcare workers and first responders, make it accessible to anyone via its website, and activate its global network of partners to start printing and manufacturing immediately in their local communities.
“We came up with a design and iterated on it with clinicians at Stanford Hospital and Kaiser Permanente. We asked them what they would feel comfortable in and if the design provided the necessary protection. We iterated in real-time until we had a solid design and then we worked with our network of customers and partners to figure out the logistics and create the supply chain that could help those on the frontlines of COVID-19.”
3. Multiply your impact
Open source collaboration enables like-minded companies to come together, leverage their unique strengths and learn from each other to make a difference in the world today.
“In a situation like this, open source allows the industry to step up and that’s good for all of us in the long run. We held a webinar with over 300 of our customers and partners. We said, ‘This is what we’re doing to address the medical supply shortage for face shields and test swabs, this is how we’re doing it, and maybe you want to do the same thing in your communities.’ It’s been inspiring to see so many of our customers and partners, like adidas, come together to do something to help. Together, we will get through this pandemic and emerge stronger on the other side.”
What started as an innovative partnership to create footwear has evolved into something much larger.
With adidas’ support, Carbon is rapidly producing these face shields for U.S. healthcare workers, first responders and underserved communities that have the greatest need and don’t have access to adequate supply. Carbon is already producing over 18,000 PPE face shields each week with the capacity to print more than 50,000 face shields per week across its global network of partners.