Coronavirus help: Oakland-based 3D printing company helping with PPE supply shortage

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Hospitals are running dangerously low on personal protective equipment, so an Oakland-based 3D printing company is stepping in to help the medical community with the PPE shortage amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

FATHOM, is an advanced manufacturing and 3D printing company. Since the shelter-in-place mandate they went from a staff of 50 to a handful of four to five people.

For the last week and a half, co-founder Rich Stump said they have completely shifted their efforts to help the need to medical supplies.

"We're trying to connect people that need PPE to people that have PPE and try and bring those two communities together in a very short amount of time," Stump said.

FATHOM has three initiatives.

The first is to get critical PPE supplies through their supply chain in China.

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"We've been able to connect with our colleagues in Asia to find PPE supplies," Stump said.

Derek Roedel, strategic account manager for FATHOM, never thought he would be sourcing medical supplies like this.

"We have everyone from individual doctors and nurses reaching out including hospitals, community centers," Roedel said. "Everybody is reaching out to us right now."

To date they've been able to supply senior homes and hospital staffing groups thousands of masks and other PPE supplies.

They're running into road blocks with hospitals.

"We are asking that hospitals get a little more creative and get some emergency procedures to approve vendors," Roedel said. "The things that we are offering are produced currently at FDA facilities. These are not changed in production line, these are not 3D printed masks, these are not homemade masks, these are approved items."

Peter Allen, a program manager for a physician group called Vituity, operates 140 emergency rooms in 17 states. Roughly 20 are in the Bay Area.

Allen said FATHOM has been an incredible team to work with.

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"They're friends that have really done everything possible to help our providers," Allen said. "They're trying to identify PPE that's out there and really just working around the clock. A hospital in the Bay Area was down to maybe a day left of masks at their site. Fathom had a supply of hundreds of masks and handed those off directly to our medical director."

Unfortunately, Allen said price gauging is happening for masks.

"You know we have people coming out of the woodworks trying to charge anywhere from $4 to $13 for an N95 mask," Allen said. "And they're just taking advantage of the situation when we have our physicians, nurses that are on the front lines putting themselves in danger and they don't have the supplies that they need."

FATHOM registered under the FDA on Friday.

The second initiative they're working on is designing and manufacturing 3D printed nasal swab.

Goutam Reddy, a client of FATHOM, is a founder of a company called Abiogenix.

Reddy brought a sample of the 3D printed Nasopharyngeal swab for COVID-19 test kits. He's hoping they could print hundreds of thousands of them once they get the clearance. It's a joint effort that himself, FATHOM, HP, and other companies are trying to design.

Reddy said Dr. Ramy Arnaout from Harvard Medical School came up with the idea.

The third initiative is to collaborate with several universities and laboratories in designing and manufacturing parts to produce ventilators.

"How can we use that technology in a time of need to help our country," Stump said.

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