Protection with touchless tech

3D printing, waterjets produce a device to help avoid touching surfaces amid pandemic

The coronavirus can live on surfaces for up to 72 hours, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes door handles. After repeated exposure, touching a door handle can increase risk of transmission.

“In the face of this invisible and still mysterious threat, it's vital we take extra precautions,” said Mark Mittlestadt, a senior principal engineer in the Additive Manufacturing Center at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, one of four businesses that form Raytheon Technologies.

The company is producing a touchless door opener and keypad pusher with its 3D printing and waterjet cutting technologies. It's one of many initiatives Raytheon Missiles & Defense has undertaken to help protect employees, including providing masks and producing hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in its labs for sanitizing kits.

“Combating the virus is part of our new normal, and this device gives people an extra measure of safety,” said Mittlestadt, who is helping lead the company’s efforts.

This touch-free door opener plastic device is three inches long, two inches wide and fits on a keychain or lanyard.

The plastic device is three inches long, two inches wide and fits on a keychain or lanyard.

When the pandemic started, Mittlestadt was getting 50-60 emails a day from employees offering ideas and help. Among those was the design for a touchless door opener and keypad pusher. The design was approved by National Institutes for Health, and the company started 3D-printing prototypes.

“We looked at how we could repurpose our manufacturing to produce them,” said Curt Thompson, who manages the Manufacturing Mechanical Design and Support team at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Thompson started by collaborating with Jeff Layton, manager of the company's "Bike Shop," a fabrication facility named for the bicycle shop where Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane. A lot of the company's high-tech innovations are brought to life there. 

The pair worked together to convert the 3D-printed model to a waterjet cutting model. Waterjet cutting is a computer-controlled program that uses a high-pressure bead of water to rapidly cut plastic. Similar to a cookie cutter, it slices through the design periphery of parts.

Modifying the process gives the company the ability to produce up to 600 per day and cuts costs by more than 80%.

“We’re optimizing our manufacturing capabilities to produce the most cost-effective solutions,” Thompson said. 

As states begin to reopen, Raytheon Missiles & Defense is prepared to ramp up production to meet demand. It’s using 3D printing to supplement existing manufacturing.

“We’re all doing our part during the pandemic to protect our families and ourselves,” Mittlestadt said. “It’s all in the name of safety.”

Raytheon Missiles & Defense is part of Raytheon Technologies, which is using its manufacturing capacity, and engineering, logistics and finance expertise, to carry out initiatives that serve our communities, deliver on our commitments to our customers and protect our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about our efforts.