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To understand manufacturing, you must know not only what companies and products are accomplishing technologically but also who is making it all happen – and how our industry fosters and rewards ongoing learning and development. Today’s manufacturing is a highly valued industry that demands both advanced technology and creative, innovative people with revolutionary ideas.

SME’s Humans of Manufacturing aims to capture the stories of such groundbreakers in a unique light. The series showcases individuals from all walks of the manufacturing industry who’ve made a lasting impact. Whether they are using 3D printing to create leg coverings for prosthetic legs for soldiers and children, raising money for an impoverished village or helping students design and construct guitars, these industry leaders are completely changing the game.



In times of need, manufacturing is driven by a philosophy John Lennon said best, “There are no problems, only solutions.” Today, manufacturers have pivoted to produce the critical supplies and equipment necessary to battle COVID-19 at a rate never seen before. SME’s Humans of Manufacturing Heroes Edition tells the stories of the teams, companies and partnerships adapting to produce the tools needed to fight this global pandemic. Going behind the scenes to share how these once-in-a-lifetime transformations are happening and the people making it all possible.

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Humans of Manufacturing


The Nonwovens Institute Playing ‘A Completely Different Ballgame’ to Save Lives

It’s not every day that the 30 women and men at The Nonwovens Institute at North Carolina State University find themselves working 12-hour shifts, six days a week and sometimes overnight to manufacture a product. In fact, it was never the case prior to mid-March 2020.
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Arkadeep Kumar

Eclectic Group of Volunteers Produces PPE for Hard-hit Regions

What happens when a group of former schoolmates, doctors, and artisans come together amid a global pandemic? Their collaboration becomes vital to protecting those on the frontlines.
Students at the University of Detroit Mercy Dental School with their Promess-provided face shields. (Provided by Promess Inc.)

Industrial Assembly Systems Manufacturer’s Shift to PPE Restores Dental School Services

As COVID-19 drove stay at home orders, at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry more than just future dentists enrolled in their dental education programs felt the impact. The Detroit-based school is dedicated to serving the City of Detroit and surrounding communities through their clinic and outreach programs.
The extendable face shield developed by mouthguard manufacturer ATI. (Provided by Akervall Technologies Inc.)

How Mouthguards Became Face Shields

When the COVID-19 pandemic ended spring athletic seasons around the world and orders dried up for Michigan-based mouthguard manufacturer Akervall Technologies Inc., the company found a way to help frontline workers while preserving employment.
Part of the team at Cadillac Products Automotive Company who switched to making gowns to protect healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Provided by Cadillac Products Automotive Company)

Auto Supplier Goes from Door Liners to PPE

Cadillac Products Automotive Co., like many manufacturers, stepped up to provide assistance as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the U.S. and globe. But manufacturing PPE was a new experience for the Troy, Mich.-based auto supplier who usually makes vehicle door watershields for automakers.
NRL & Associates President & CEO Jim Smith with his dedicated and hard working team of employees. (Provided by Nathan Eakins)

A New Type of Precision Ventilator

When the nation called, NRL & Associates stepped up to deliver critical components for a life-saving form of ventilators needed for desperately ill COVID patients.
A fleet of Essentium HSEs produced 60,000 mask kit in 90 days. (Provided by Essentium Inc.)

Essentium’s 3D Printing Helps Texas With Curbing COVID-19

While the pandemic was starting to gain a foothold in the U.S., a call from the Texas National Guard seeking assistance lead Essentium Inc., a Texas-based manufacturer of 3D printers and engineering-grade material, to develop a 3D-printed mask for to help solve the shortage.
The UVAER device has two electric powered fans that push air through two filters, one of which is activated by UV light to kill pathogens via superoxides. (Provided by NurturEnergy)

Engineering Incubator Develops New Respirator Protection

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis, a company known for developing cooling devices develops a novel approach to protecting workers from aerosol pathogens.
Juan Aparicio and his research team at Siemens Technology helped build a partnership to increase the speed and scale at which the United States can diagnose COVID-19. (Provided by Siemens)

Removing Barriers to Help Protect Americans

Siemens Technology, Maxim BioMedical and Siemens Healthineers built a partnership and proposal in "record time" to help increase the speed and scale at which the United States can diagnose COVID-19--cutting what normally takes six months to a year down to just six weeks.
Members of the Flowfold team wearing face shields. Since their pivot, the company has grown from seven to a group of over 20. (Provided by Flowfold)

From Wallets to Face Shields

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic it became clear how important community was. And it was that sense of commitment to their community that led Flowfold, an accessories manufacturer that got its start making wallets out of recycled sailcloth, to suspend production of their usual products and shift to making face shields.
The sewing team at Envision Dallas consists of 48 people. Other products the organization produces include writing instruments, eyeglass cases, and textiles. (Photo/Envision, Inc.)

How a Volunteer Side Project Became a Vital Product Offering

As the current health crisis threatens the livelihood of manufacturers around the country, an idea for masks from a team member at Envision Dallas, which predominantly employs people with blindness or visual impairments, has helped the organization flourish.
Claudia Contreras , plant manager of ScottsMiracle-Gro’s Temecula manufacturing facility, led the company's shift to manufacturing PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Provided by ScottsMiracle-Gro)

Spreaders to Shields: ScottsMiracle-Gro Shifts Production to PPE

The next time you’re out fertilizing the lawn or spraying for weeds, stop for a moment to think about Claudia Contreras. She deserves a round of applause. So do her coworkers. Contreras and her team have produced nearly 600,000 face shields for COVID-19 first responders over the past five months, with more in the works.

Car Cover Manufacturer Pivots to Gowns and Masks

Masks may get all the attention during the current COVID-19 crisis, however for healthcare workers on the front lines critical PPE means more than just masks. Need, opportunity and ingenuity combined when some healthcare workers in Pauls Valley, Okla., told their spouses—who worked at Covercraft Industries LLC—that they couldn’t get the medical gowns necessary for protection from COVID-19.

Repurposing in the Buckeye State

As COVID-19 spread across the United States, states found themselves in need of producing and sourcing critically needed supplies. In Ohio, that was aided by the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19 - leveraging Ohio’s tremendous manufacturing capabilities for the production of everything from mechanical ventilators to disposable gowns.
PPE Shortages Push West Texas Volunteers to Get Creative

PPE Shortages Push West Texas Volunteers to Get Creative

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a surging need for medical and personal protective equipment. But it’s not just enough to make the needed equipment and supplies, you also have to get it to where it’s needed most. For rural America, resources are limited, medical facilities are few and far between, and the infrastructure to supply them is lacking.
Oklahoma State University Students Tackle PPE Shortage

Oklahoma State University Students Tackle PPE Shortage

With an urgent shortage of PPE caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of faculty, staff and students from Oklahoma State University College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology’s (CEAT) ENDEAVOR lab quickly worked to prototype and manufacture protective masks and face shields that were donated throughout the state of Oklahoma.
Autocam Medical and GWS Tool Group

Time Crunch: One Becomes Two

When it comes to shifting production to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges can exist even if the product isn’t a sharp deviation from products you normally manufacture. That’s what Kentwood, Mich.-based Autocam Medical discovered.
Snorkels Become Critical COVID-19 Protection

Snorkels Become Critical COVID-19 Protection

As personal protective equipment became scarce for hospitals at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, two doctors had an idea to convert snorkeling masks to be used as emergency filtering face masks. PTC and others helped bring their vision to reality.
From Good Times to Good Hygiene

From Good Times to Good Hygiene

For many people, it would be a dream job. Spending your days making small batch artisanal whiskey, gin and vodka. But as COVID-19 swept across the country, J.P. Jerome, co-owner and founder of Detroit City Distillery, and his team became an integral part of the nation’s defense.
Charles Boyce

Riding the Wave

Driving into work one Tuesday morning in late March, Charles Boyce grew tired of hearing about the ventilator crisis in New York City. The president of Long Island City-based Boyce Technologies Inc. and a lifelong resident of the Empire State, he decided to do something about it.
Unused Sleep Apnea Machines Come Out of the Closet to Provide Respiratory Support to COVID-19 Patients

Unused Sleep Apnea Machines Come Out of the Closet to Provide Respiratory Support to COVID-19 Patients

It started with a sleep apnea machine and a group of dedicated engineers at UC Berkeley looking to help in the battle against COVID-19. The result? A makeshift device that can safely provide respiratory support to those experiencing breathing difficulties.
Auto Parts Makers 'Jump Into the Fire' of Medical Gear Production As Canada Faces Shortages

Auto Parts Makers 'Jump Into the Fire' of Medical Gear Production As Canada Faces Shortages

Last month, when Flavio Volpe put out a call to auto parts makers to assist in the production of medical supplies, he wasn’t convinced that the industry would be able to pull it off. Yet, in the past three weeks more than 165 companies stepped up to volunteer.
Engineers in Boston Building Low-Cost  ‘Robotic Lung’ to Help  Tackle Ventilator Crunch

Engineers in Boston Building Low-Cost ‘Robotic Lung’ to Help Tackle Ventilator Crunch

Just a few weeks ago, Alex Frost was looking to disrupt the floral industry, building a robotic arm to arrange roses, tulips and hyacinths. Today, he’s trying to solve a more dire problem: how to design and rapidly mass produce an inexpensive ventilator to help ease shortages due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Springing Into Action to 3D Print COVID-19 Swabs

In response to a pandemic-related plea from a Florida hospital, a newly formed team at Formlabs, a manufacturer of SLA 3D printers and high-end resins, needed only one week to begin printing its very first parts for customers: swabs used to test people for COVID-19.
Amy Doroff

Learning to Be a Leader

Combining leadership development with technical know-how is how this materials planning leader at Whirlpool is defining her career
Montez King

Changing Lives, One Credential at a Time

Instinct to follow positive people led to leadership role
Tom Singer

Teaching STEM with Guitars

Chance to build guitars is music to some students’ ears
Kim Taylor

Designing the Future of Work

Young firm focuses intently on existing workers
Eric Miller

A Stronger Team

3D-Generation Company Owner Trains to Retain
Matt Erbach

Teaching Duty Calls

Engineering Instructor Introduces Millennials to Manufacturing
Jennifer Baur and Mike Blackburn

Shutter Success

Entrepreneur Fulfills Lifelong Dream of Owning a Manufacturing Business
Wade Moore

Taking the Challenge

Wade Moore Opens His Own Shop, Plus Starts the MooreCNC YouTube Channel
Frank Rybicki

The Artist Within

Designing, Building Medical Parts Goes Far Beyond Manufacturing
The Power of Design

The Power of Design

Professor Uses 3D Printing to Help Children
Greg Burns

Gifts From Kenya

Mechanical Engineer, Business Owner Greg Burns Discovers that Helping Others is His Purpose
Humans of Manufacturing

In the Driver’s Seat

Carlo Cruz and Fellow Engineers use Advanced Technology to Develop, Define Culture of Innovation
Ann Kirkwood-Hall

Looking Forward to Monday

Business Owner Works Past Tragedy, Takes Over Manufacturing Business
John Stoneback

Manufacturing is in Entrepreneur’s DNA

With a Systematic Approach, a Tooling Flaw is Turned into Six Patents
The Power of Positivity

The Power of Positivity

Manufacturing Gives Young Man the Drive to Begin Career in Trades
Carol Peters

‘Design & Manufacturing are Shaping the Future’

Executive Learns Early On that Manufacturing Career is Lucrative and Fun
It’s Like Riding a Bike

It’s Like Riding a Bike

Engineering Class Designs Bike Adapter for Girl with Prosthetic Forearm
Barb Dorumsgaard and Cynthia Blue

Lessons from Mom

For The Thielen Family, Manufacturing is a Proud Legacy

After the Final Breath

Owner of Full-Service Design & Fabrication Firm Lives Every Day to its Fullest
Printing Life

Printing Life

Doctor Pioneers Novel Use for Additive Manufacturing to Save Lives
Nicole Wolter

Diving into Manufacturing

Nicole Wolter Changes Career to Help Keep Family’s Manufacturing Business Open, Becomes President/CEO
Albert Manero

Limbitless Opportunities

Albert Manero Designs World’s First Iron Man Prosthetic Arm
Chris O'Rourke

Addicted to Fabrication

Turning a Love of Metal Fabrication into a Fine Art
Meredith McLinn

Astrophysicist Becomes Manufacturing Software Developer

Meredith McLinn Helps Refine Software Used for Medical Devices
Alfred Lyon

From Machinist to Instagram Star

Teaching Craftsmanship of Machining is Alfred Lyon’s Passion
Vicky Jandreau

Raising the Bar on Excellence

Thirst of Curiosity Leads Engineer to a Career in Lean Manufacturing
David Zopf

Revolutionary Learning Tool

Doctor Develops High Fidelity Simulators to Enhance Surgical Education
Adam Genei

Enjoying the Journey

Mobsteel Owner Believes in Hard Work & Virtue
Alysa Darrencamp

Bridging an Interest in Science with Manufacturing

Engineer Credits Mentor for Her Success in Auto Industry
Dave Kuehl

Limitations are Opportunities

Nothing is Impossible in Dave Kuehl’s Quiet World
Amanda Hutchings

From the Ground Up

Job Shop’s President Continues Legacy of Giving Back
Andrew Hanegmon

A Community of Innovators

Entrepreneur Encourages Creativity Via Manufacturing Makerspace
David Johnson

A Purposeful Life

Stroke Survivor Finds Strength in a Manufacturing Career
Fran Barker

Career as a Machinist is Challenging, Rewarding for Mother of Three

Machinist Embarks on a Lucrative, Rewarding Career at Specials Metals Co.
Fried Vancraen

Struck by Simplicity

Materialise Founder Says 3D Printing Industry Should Pride Itself on Helping People
Gene Sherman

An Olympic Training Center for Hands-On Skills

Immigrant Turns His Love of Making Things Into Unique Makerspace Facility
John Winzeler

Art Imitates Manufacturing

President of Gear Company Creates Positive Image for Industry Via the Arts
Lexy Schlemer

‘On a Wing and a Prayer’

Standing Behind Alexis Schlemer’s Success is Her Family, Passion for Metalworking
Joshua Mook

A Love Affair with Flying

Engineer Credits Grandfather for Introducing Him to Aviation
Manufacturing Hope

Manufacturing Hope

University Students Manufacture Devices to Help People with Disabilities
Lynette Gideon

Seamstress Applies Her Fashion Passion to Designing Robot Covers

Student Studies Fashion Design, Becomes Technical Field Specialist
Ken Church

Inspired by Love

Entrepreneur Ken Church Strives to Print the Impossible
Martin Bocks

Developing Hearts

Doctor Seeks to Solve Big Cardiology Problems in Small Children
Scott Hollister

Building Better Tissue

Doctor Leverages Engineering Tools to Save, Enrich Lives
Scott Rix

Paying it Forward

VP of Operations Mentors Employees, Helps Them Become Leaders
Sean Petterson

Helping ‘Industrial Athletes’ Avoid Injuries

CEO Puts Workers’ Safety First & Foremost with Wearable Tech Products
Titan Gilroy

Fighting for Change

Titan Gilroy’s Mission is to Teach Young People the Joy of Manufacturing
Whitney Sample

Whitney Sample empowers disabled children to live normal lives

Self-Professed Techno Geek Helps Design, Build Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton

Have a Story to Share?

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