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Ziehl-Abegg’s 3D printers create emergency face masks

Hohenlohe district administrator Dr Matthias Neth tries out a face mask which consists of a 3D-printed frame, an overhead projector foil and rubber band

GERMANY: Fan manufacturer Ziehl-Abegg has used 3D printing to produce face masks to protect those fighting the coronavirus pandemic. 

An employee of the Künzelsau-based company was sent a set of build instructions via WhatsApp one evening and the following morning a photo of the first face mask was sent to the crisis team in the local administration office. Given an immediate go-ahead, both 3D printers at Ziehl-Abegg went to work at its InVent Development Centre.

“Our employees and their families work and live here – so naturally we provide them with as much support as we can, particularly during a crisis such as this” said CEO Peter Fenkl.

The first 70 shields have been handed over to the area’s district administrator Dr Matthias Neth. The 3D printers are now running 24/7, producing 40 shields per day.

Ziehl-Abegg has been using 3D printing technology since 2010, a second 3D printer being added the following year. 

Dr Mathias Neth (left) taking receipt of the face masks from Ziehl-Abegg CEO Peter Fenkl (centre) and laboratory director Achim Kärcher

“We normally use this to create prototypes for implementing new ideas from our engineers,” explained laboratory director Achim Kärcher. “As a technology leader in biomimetic-based fan design we need to be able to trial new shapes quickly and easily.” 

The frame is printed in layers at a thickness of 0.16mm. The visor is a foil for an overhead projector, a standard perforator punches the openings, with rubber bands used for fastening. 

“We’re pleased about being able to help employees in the health and care sector in this way,” commented Fenkl. 

The medical sector is also part of the company’s normal area of business. For years now, Ziehl-Abegg has been producing large fans for both operating theatres and quarantine stations. The company supplied special fans for Chinese hospitals that were built in the cities of Wuhan, Shandong and Shenzhen within just a few days. The German company also manufactured the core equipment for negative or positive pressure in clinics in Italy and other countries. It is also currently still working at full speed manufacturing these fans in Hohenlohe and worldwide.

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