April 17, 2020

RI Arsenal making ventilator and face shield parts

Source: Quad-City Times


The Rock Island Arsenal is playing a critical role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturing parts for respirators and frames for face shields desperately needed as medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies across the country are depleted.

The loud hum of Fortus 900 printers and smaller 3-D printers filled the massive warehouse of the Arsenal's Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center (JMTC) Friday afternoon, as U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, toured the facility with U.S. Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.

The group was shadowed by a camera crew from CBS' 60 Minutes as JMTC Commander Col. Martin "Jimmy" Hendrix gave them a tour, explaining the facility's capabilities and how machinery was adapted to manufacture the much-needed parts.

McCarthy credited Duckworth, Durbin and Bustos for their role in passing the CARES Act, the largest recovery bill in the history of the country.

"There was critical funding in there related to the COVID response by the U.S. Army," McCarthy said. "It wouldn't have happened without their leadership. This building is going to be full years from now; it is a big part of our future."

Edward Flinn, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, said the facility began 3-D printing face shield frames nearly four weeks ago.

"Right when things started getting (bad), the colonel said, 'alright, take the gloves off and see what's possible,'" Flinn said. "We printed some half-face masks and reverse-engineered to make the ventilator (parts)."

Durbin said although the Arsenal was built during the Civil War, it is solving current problems with advanced technology.

"This arsenal has been a facility that America has counted on time and again," Durbin said. "In times of war and times of need, it's this arsenal that (rose) to the occasion. What you see behind me is evidence that the Rock Island Arsenal isn't about yesterday; it's about tomorrow. What you see here is 3-D printing — some of the most sophisticated, advanced manufacturing technology in the world. And it's right here in this room."

Durbin said his visit to the Arsenal on Friday was the first time he'd left his Springfield home in three weeks.

"I came here because I thought it was important," he said. "The reason is this: we believe the current challenge to the United States of America of this national health emergency really focuses on the Rock Island Arsenal. We have the production capacity here to meet America's needs.

"When we talk about the needs to keep America safe and ready for the next challenge, whether it's a terrorist or whether it's a virus, we need to have the capacity to move quickly with the most modern technology. The Rock Island Arsenal, opened over 160 years ago, is ready for the challenges of the 21st Century."

Duckworth said when she and Bustos were both freshmen legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, Bustos convinced Duckworth to visit the Rock Island Arsenal to see the capabilities of the Army base in person. Duckworth noted she sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Bustos is on the House Appropriations Committee and Durbin is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Duckworth said this makes them a powerful trio.

"You're looking at a one-two-three knockout punch when it comes to getting resources back to this arsenal," she said. "This is about the future of our country and our role as a leader of the free world.

"We couldn't be more proud of the folks who work here. We are so grateful they are here every single day to be our warriors."

Bustos said this is the second time McCarthy has visited the Arsenal since she's been in office.

"We are in a position to get things done," Bustos said, reminding everyone the progress JMTC has made since it opened less than two years ago. "We are going from the factory floor to the foxhole during the coronavirus pandemic. There's more we can do. We want to make sure Advanced Manufacturing, where we're standing right now, is a big part of our future."

By:  Sarah Hyden