- HP and Ricoh are using 3D printing to produce in-demand face shields.
- Xerox has moved into two new areas of manufacturing: ventilators and hand sanitizer.
- Businesses like HP and Kyocera are donating money or providing free services to enable individuals to work or learn from home.
By Christine Dunne
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the past two months have been crazy for us all. Vendors in the office technology space as well as firms with office equipment have adjusted their businesses to handle the rapid changes that our industry has experienced on a global scale. These measures have included:
- Implementing more remote work arrangements
- Exploring virtual reality technology for meetings
- Delaying decision-making and purchase order submission
- Postponing or cancelling equipment purchases
- Working to secure home networks, including printers
- Providing masks and gloves for workers
- Cutting jobs, which is leading to less printing
- Cancelling or postponing events
- Researching and implementing telehealth platforms
- Providing increased flexibility for challenged customers
- Considering moving manufacturing out of China
- Putting sustainability initiatives on hold
A Shift Toward 3D Printing
HP and Ricoh are using 3D printing to produce in-demand personal protective gear. HP is manufacturing face shields, hands-free door openers, and mask adjusters. As of mid-April, more than 50,000 of these parts had been distributed to local hospitals. The company plans to begin producing face masks and field ventilators soon.
Meanwhile, Ricoh is producing about 40,000 face shields per week for National Health Service workers in the United Kingdom. These shields use a polypropylene material that is flexible, lightweight, watertight, and fatigue-resistant. Local suppliers have provided materials like foam and elastic straps to enhance the comfort of the shields; they were tested by a range of emergency department staff members at The Royal London Hospital. Ricohhas also offered to make vital components for ventilators with 3D printing (in the United Kingdom) techniques, but no updates on this effort have been issued recently.
Lexmark and Sharp are also manufacturing face shields. After developing, testing, and fine-tuning a face shield prototype, Lexmark began producing 100–150 face shields per day to donate to a local hospital. Each shield consists of inner and outer portions that protect the face from airborne particles and liquid contamination.
In Japan, Sharp is making surgical masks for healthcare workers and the general public. The company soon plans to expand this effort to sites in Europe, India, and China. Although the start dates and scales of operation have yet to be determined, Sharp Chairman and President Tai Jeng-Wu reported that this initiative could become a sustainable, long-term business.
Of course, Lexmark and Sharp are not the only businesses that are involved with producing, donating, supplying, and/or enabling the creation of face protection. Other industry players that have implemented similar initiatives include Brother,DocuWare,Global Office, and Y Soft.
Ventilators and Hand Sanitizer
In response to the pandemic, Xerox has moved into two new areas of manufacturing: ventilators and hand sanitizer. For ventilators, the company is joining forces with Vortran Medical Technology to produce Vortran’s GO2Vent disposable ventilator and related Airway Pressure Monitor (APM-PLUS) for hospitals and emergency response units that are treating COVID-19 patients. By June, the companies expect to have manufactured between 150,000 and 200,000 ventilators in total.
Xerox has also begun producing hospital-grade hand sanitizer, with the goal of making about 140,000 gallons of the product by June. It will be distributed to resellers who are approved vendors to frontline healthcare organizations.
Easing the Transition to Remote Work and Education
A variety of businesses are donating money or providing free services to enable individuals to work or learn from home. For example, HPhas created a consortium to provide immediate relief and printed curriculum to U.S. school districts. The company has committed to donate $8 million in products and grants for learning and local communities worldwide, and has already supplied a variety of free online courses and resources on a global basis.
Meanwhile, Kyocera Document Solutions America has launched a free eBook for professionals, managers, and employers to ease the transition to remote working. In addition, Sharp Business USA has a new Work from Home page offering various tips and tricks and Y Soft is providing 3D printing lesson plans (including free standard lessons).
Keypoint Intelligence has also seen a wide range of other technological and philanthropical efforts in response to COVID-19. Here are a few examples:
- Canon’s medical division announced the availability of a rapid genetic testing system for COVID-19.
- Gordon Flesch’s Charitable Foundation donated $14,000 to various food banks across the Midwest to help with increased demand for services due to COVID-19.
- HP deployed BioPrinters and associated supply cassettes, free of charge, to agencies and companies conducting relevant drug and vaccine research.
- Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. launched its MOBOTIX thermal cameras, which make it easier to monitor elevated body temperatures among employees and visitors.
- Xerox is assisting the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy as they deploy in New York City and Los Angeles to help with COVID-19 relief efforts.
The Bottom Line
As discussed in this article, businesses across a variety of sectors are rapidly altering their daily operations, production lines, and/or philanthropy efforts in response to COVID-19. In addition to helping members of society navigate their way through the pandemic, these organizations are feeding their profit margins. The fact that so many organizations can quickly mobilize in the face of a situation that became a crisis almost overnight speaks to their agility and resourcefulness during difficult times. Our industry will no doubt continue to act in new and innovative ways as we move into the future, and hopefully closers toward recovery.
Christine Dunne is a Consultant for Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Office Technology & Services Group. Her responsibilities include responding to client inquiries, conducting market research and analysis, and providing coverage of industry events. Prior to joining InfoTrends, Ms. Dunne wrote extensively about search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.