“We knew that we could help out”
“The need was urgent. The orders were flying in! I have never done anything of this scale so fast before. Niclas Lövgren, Customer Developer at PostNord Strålfors 3D Solutions in Rosersberg, tells about how he and his colleagues produced 36,000 protective visors for the healthcare sector in just a few weeks.
How they changed over their usual production and created a completely new supply chain and production line in just three days. Even as he describes these unique efforts, he does so almost as if it were any job. Maybe that’s a trait needed to take a project like this across the finish line. A kind of calm that transforms the extraordinary into something normal.
“We knew that we could help out. That made it easy to come in on the weekends, work longer days, and take shorter lunches. It’s no fun to stand and blast parts over and over again. But everyone felt the drive to do something good,” says Niclas.
So what exactly did they do in Rosersberg, just north of Stockholm, in February 2020? When the pandemic reached Europe, Italy started to make 3D-printed ventilator valves. Tomas Lundström, Head of 3D at PostNord Strålfors, heard about this and immediately started investigating whether they could do something similar in Sweden. The team in Rosersberg contacted healthcare professionals and asked “What do you need?”. The answer was “A lot, and we need it fast.”
“We said that we could help with different types of protection. We could even 3D-print portable ventilators using drawings we got from Spain. But new government rules for procurement during the pandemic brought everything to a halt. We didn’t get a real response. So, we asked our customers directly instead and kind of went in through the back door,” says Tomas. He continues:
“We turned to eldercare, both private and municipal actors. PostNord’s sales people contacted them, since at Strålfors we did not have them as 3D customers. The need was enormous. They had nothing. They took action immediately when we got in touch with them. We could start the same day. Finally we got to help!”
Due to regulations regarding hospital equipment in Sweden, the orders ended up being for protective visors only. Industry colleagues at the 3D company Prototal shared their drawing of a visor that was already in use in the healthcare sector. It was a 3D-printed holder with a transparent overhead sheet for the face. The material was the biocompatible nylon plastic Pa12, which can be sterilized.
An order came in for 7,600 holders and 36,000 visors. Delivery date – preferably yesterday.
“I was put in charge of the 3D production, with a team to help me out. We can produce just about anything as long as there is a digital file. But, due to the enormous demand, we ended up having to restructure production,” says Niclas.
Then the next problem arose. Niclas had sent out a request for overhead sheets within PostNord and received a huge response. Everyone from interns to the CEO had searched offices, warehouses and their own homes. They had sent over 6,000 sheets to Rosersberg by mail, many with small notes of encouragement included in the parcels. But 30,000 sheets of a specific quality were needed, and they were sold out. There were none to be found in all of Sweden.
In stepped colleagues in Denmark, who had found a Danish supplier. The supplier could not ship to Sweden due to the pandemic, but delivered everything to PostNord’s premises in Denmark, which could then ship it to Rosersberg.
There, Niclas Lövgren and his colleagues had built a production line with stations. All of PostNord Stålfors was helping in shifts. A Strålfors printer in Tandsbyn reused an old machine to punch holes in the overhead sheets.
“Everyone was very quick in setting up a completely new chain to get this to work. From nothing to full-scale production in two or three days. The sales team, with Anders Trawén at the helm, took care of all customer contact and follow-up so we could focus on production. It was an absolutely fantastic job by our colleagues,” states Niclas.
The team behind the initiative
Thomas Reinelöv, Anders Trawén, Pontus Gellerbrink, Mathias Filipsson, Arto Kuorilehto, Jimmy Ohlsson, Hossein Arkan, Henok Kiros, Diana Hjelte, Derin Sarwat, Bekir Aslan and Anne-Marie Andersson.