Using 3D printing to accelerate production of protective gear during COVID-19

Research partnership between University of Windsor and Ontario company helps to reduce production time and costs in the Canadian supply chain of PPE

With the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, CAMufacturing Solutions Inc. knew they needed to bring their expertise in additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, to support the rising demand for quick production of personnel protective equipment (PPE) for the health care community.

Prior to the pandemic, Bob Hedrick, President of CAMufacturing Solutions, had sponsored other research grants with students at the University of Windsor (UWindsor) — a connection that was established through his wife, Jill Urbanic, a Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Automotive, and Materials Engineering. Engaging UWindsor and the Mitacs Accelerate program on the COVID-19 project was an obvious solution.

“We see immense value in partnering with the university,” Hedrick shared. “We are a small company and our competitors are multi-million/billion-dollar companies with huge research budgets. Working with the university allows us to conduct ‘smart’ research that will eventually give us a competitive edge on these companies.” According to Hedrick, it’s also a way to recruit future talent. In fact, one of the interns from this project in 2020 has since been hired onto his team.

Research as the key to addressing industrial challenges

Through Mitacs, Urbanic brought her graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to assist with the design challenges and material acquisition. She looked for interns who were capable of designing robust solutions, testing without bias, and had the ability to engage with the community at large to collect important feedback.

The team focused on developing rapid response manufacturing solutions for PPE, which included face shield head bands, face masks, and hands-free door handles. Some of these products can be used by health care personnel, while others can be used by the community; all are intended to help in reducing transmission of the coronavirus. The team is currently exploring options to commercialize these products.

As current methods for fabricating plastic injection molds for trial runs are relatively slow and costly, the researchers proposed to investigate how to leverage 3D printing and hard, high-temperature epoxy resins to address both issues. This rapid mold manufacturing strategy provides a solution to strengthen the Canadian supply chain and address the urgent and ongoing demand.

Developing both technical manufacturing skills and professional experience

The Mitacs interns brought into the project — Morteza Alebooyeh, PhD candidate, Alireza Pasha, master’s student, and Hamed Kalami, PhD — gained valuable experience for their professional development. They learned how to turn their concepts into the design and manufacture of necessary products and provide solutions during a time of need.

“We began working on the project when the pandemic was getting worse and worse every day while concerns were rising rapidly among people nationally and globally,” said Alebooyeh. “We were determined to contribute to the design and fabrication of influential products to carry out our responsibility to the local and national community.”

The collaboration had a broad reach, engaging multiple academic and industrial partners. It included working with colleagues from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and the Office of Research and Innovation Services at UWindsor, community members such as Glenn Strome from Valiant TMS, and Paul Larsen, from Sault College, who was introduced to the research team by Mitacs and brought his epoxy molding expertise to provide feedback on manufacturing and assembly issues.

According to the Office of Research and Innovation Services, another benefit of the funding secured through the Mitacs Accelerate program was in providing salary stipends for students who were facing financial challenges throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

The collaboration between the staff at CAMufacturing and the expert research team has contributed to addressing an urgent societal need. With the possibility of a second or even a third wave ahead, everyone involved in the project knew that Canada and the world needed to be prepared.

Urbanic shared that “the interns have learned to use advanced design and manufacturing tools to develop innovative solutions, be responsive to community needs, overcome obstacles, and get the job done.”

Knowing that they are turning concepts into much-needed solutions and are contributing to supporting the community has been a key takeaway for all.

Mitacs’s programs receive funding from multiple partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us in fostering innovation and economic growth throughout the country.

For information on partnering with Mitacs to manage innovation, visit Mitacs’s small business enterprise page.


Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems. By driving economic growth and productivity, we create meaningful change to improve quality of life for all Canadians.