COVID-19 / Health / Manufacturing

Under Armour is making ‘no-sew’ face masks for Maryland hospitals treating COVID-19

At its Port Covington innovation hub, the apparel brand is designing and manufacturing personal protective equipment like face shields and fanny packs for the University of Maryland Medical System.

Making masks at UA Lighthouse. (Courtesy photo)

When Under Armour’s Lighthouse opened in 2016, the Port Covington innovation hub has been exploring new approaches to manufacturing, with a focus on keeping local. Now, with a dire need for medical supplies at local hospitals, the center is the scene of medical mask production.

The Tide Point-based brand is bringing its tools and apparel knowledge to the effort to get personal protective equipment to clinicians who are treating patients with COVID-19 on the front lines.

Under Armour said Tuesday that it is manufacturing and assembling face masks, face shields and fanny packs that carry key supplies for the statewide University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS).

“When the call came in from our local medical providers for more masks, gowns and supply kits, we just went straight to work,” said Randy Harward, SVP of advanced material and manufacturing innovation at Under Armour, in a statement. “More than 50 Under Armour teammates from materials scientists to footwear and apparel designers from laboratories in Baltimore and Portland quickly came together in search of solutions.”

For the mask, the team set out to create a mask that could be produced quickly, and Harward described design as “nonstop iteration for a week.” They arrived at a design that does not require sewing, thanks to “origami-style” folds, and — in true Under Armour fashion — is made of a “breathable yet moisture resistant” fabric, the company said. The team is using the Lighthouse’s knife cutter, which can cut 100 pieces at once. The cutouts are then passed to volunteers and hospitals for folding and distribution. Under Armour said it could make as many as 100,000 masks a week.

The company already delivered 1,300 face shields to UMMS, which operates Baltimore’s University of Maryland Medical Center and other campuses. It plans on more than 500,000 masks and 50,000 fanny packs that are stocked with needed supplies. The company is also exploring manufacturing gowns in Port Covington, as well as exploring 3D printing N95 and N80 masks.

Along with UMMS, Under Armour expects to begin providing masks to LifeBridge Health, which operates three hospitals, and is in conversation with Johns Hopkins, MedStar and others.

UA Lighthouse shifted from shirts and shoes to masks and gowns. (Photo courtesy of Under Armour)

With the shortage of supplies becoming a crisis within the crisis as hospitals fill up during the pandemic, nurses and doctors around the country have sent urgent calls to #getmePPE. Organizations with manufacturing capabilities of all sizes — from the Open Works makerspace with a volunteer network of 3D printers, to an Elkridge company that makes trade show booths, to a nanofiber electrospinning company in Pigtown — have turned their tools toward medical masks and gowns, alongside theatre companies and volunteers sewers and assemblers.

Under Armour’s entrance brings a local corporate leader to the mission, with plenty of reinforcements in the form of talent and tools.

“Their willingness and ability to immediately pivot their manufacturing focus to help meet our personal protective equipment (PPE) needs will save lives,” said UMMS CEO Mohan Suntha in a statement. “Under Armour is a model for corporate responsibility and their partnership is instrumental in Maryland’s success during this most critical time.”

Companies: University of Maryland Medical System / Under Armour
Series: Coronavirus

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