MMS Blog

Manufacturing Association Aids Shop’s Pivot to Ventilator Parts

Wolfram Manufacturing in Austin, Texas usually uses its multitasking machines to produce parts for oil and gas and heavy industry, but the coronavirus pandemic had the company wondering if it could produce parts for much-needed ventilators. It started reaching out to different organizations, including the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association (ARMA), to see if it could help. “I don't even know if there are parts that we can make in ventilators,” Wolfram Manufacturing President Nathan Byman said to ARMA Executive Director Ed Latson. “But if somebody has a need, please let us know. Pass it on to us.’” Within three days, the shop had an order for ventilator parts that needed to be complete by the next evening.

Wolfram got the call on a Sunday afternoon, and the parts needed to be ready to meet a critical shipping deadline at midnight on Monday. The order for 60 of these parts (which are roughly the size of a cell phone) came from SISU, an engineering firm that is helping to design a ventilator. Wolfram quickly mobilized five employees to open up the shop and start setting up to run the parts. “We got our setup done, we worked with raw material that we had in the shop, brought the part online and worked through the day and then hand delivered them to them Monday night,” Mr. Byman says.

Team Thinking Helps Donson Machine with Nickel Alloy Ventilator Part Production

The picture here might look ordinary: a bunch of guys standing around. Not so. The setting is the concrete apron to the high-bay loading area near the front entrance of Donson Machine, a contract manufacturer in Alsip, Illinois. The picture shows the company’s management team considering their options to meet the urgent needs of its customers for ventilator components to respond to COVID-19. Normally, the group would huddle indoors, but meeting in fresh air to obtain as much distance as the group practically could was the appropriate alternative.

Leading the meeting seen here are brothers Joe and Jim Bettinardi, president and CEO respectively, but only Joe is visible with his back to the rollup door. Donson Machine was a recent MMS Top Shops winner in the category of machining technology. Joe Bettinardi says the times right now reinforce an important point about technology and this shop’s application of it:

Metalworking Activity Collapses as Coronavirus Forces Broad Economic Contraction

With a reading of 41.0, the Gardner Business Index (GBI): Metalworking reported the lowest reading in its more than eight-year history. Gardner Intelligence’s review of the six underlying industry components — whose average is calculated for the reading — observed all-time lows for new orders, exports and employment.

It is important to remember that these readings represent the breadth of change occurring within the metalworking industry, not the rate of decline. As such, these low readings indicate only that a large proportion of metalworking manufacturers reported some decreased level of business activity. The reading does not quantify the magnitude of the downward change. 

Aerospace Machine Shop Uses Past Prototype for Quick Ventilator Part Turnaround


Win-Tech Inc. of Kennesaw, Georgia, is a build-to-print AS9100-certified aerospace manufacturer that is busy churning out medical parts. This is the new norm for select manufacturers across the country. If they have the capacity and can meet production requirements (most importantly tolerance and time), they are shifting their focus to quickly produce life-saving medical equipment to help combat the coronavirus.

Shop Starts Work on Custom Drill for Ventilators Before Purchase Order Came

It’s not every day that the shopfloor workers decide to run a job before the owner has gotten the purchase order, but the coronavirus pandemic makes for interesting times. “My guys had started putting the job together before I finished filling out the quote,” says Mark Delaney, operations manager at Nicholas Precision Works (NPW), an Indiana toolmaking shop. “I just said, ‘Okay, I guess we’re making the parts whether we get paid or not.’”

Mr. Delaney has been a toolmaker since 1984, working for numerous companies for years before coming to NPW. In the past, he’s made cutting tools or stealth bombers and nuclear submarines. An old hat in the toolmaking world, Mr. Delaney feels his experience complements the programming skills of his younger employees. “We butt heads a lot,” he says. “Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re just making more work for themselves.” The give-and-take between the different approaches helps the shop perform at its best, he says. However, in early April, he let his younger workers take the lead for a job.