Mar 29, 2021
The three finalists in the Business Innovation | COVID-19 Response category at the 2021 Colorado Manufacturing Awards -- LightDeck Diagnostics, OraLabs, and Titan Robotics -- have worked through the pandemic to make a big impact.
The result of the 2020 merger of MBio Diagnostics and Brava Diagnostics, LightDeck has tripled its head count to about 100 employees since the deal closed.
"As the pandemic hit us at the beginning of last calendar year, it just became very clear that we needed to be working together," says Chris Myatt, CEO of LightDeck after holding the same position at MBio. "Together, we've been making COVID tests and are beginning to sell them."
The pandemic proved an accelerant for the combined company: Its five-minute test for COVID-19 antibodies, now under evaluation in a lab setting, is due to arrive on the commercial market later in 2021. "To be able to get results in five minutes is a game changer," says Myatt, noting that the pandemic "changed the market dynamics."
The COVID-19 test will be the first of several LightDeck tests aimed at the point-of-care market. The company manufactures in-house, and Myatt plans to start working with contract partners for instrumentation in mid-2021 while maintaining control over the testing cartridges. "I expect we will double again in 12 months," he forecasts.
When shortages of hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment (PPE) first arose in spring 2020, Noel Ginsgurg of Intertech Plastics reached out to OraLabs to help with Energize Colorado, a nonprofit initiative that aimed to make up for the shortfalls.
"We've been in the hand sanitizer business for many years, 15 years at least," says Gary Schlatter, president and CEO of the 300-employee manufacturer. "We manufacture private-label products for all of the major retailers in the country."
That capability made the company indispensable with the onset of the pandemic. "At the time, everything was in short supply," sasy Schlatter. "Sanitizer was in extreme short supply, masks were in short supply."
OraLabs provided Energize Colorado with e-commerce infrastructure that became the hub for PPE and hand sanitizer. The company supplied more than 1.25 million ounces of hand sanitizer for the effort as Energize Colorado delivered more than 1 million masks and nearly 200 gloves to healthcare facilities and other essential operations. The company also supplied about 7,000 kits with PPE and hand sanitizer for the City and County of Denver to ship to small businesses and nonprofits. "We just pivoted from our regular business to be able to jump in and supply all of the local entities," says Schlatter. "When I look back on all the moving parts, it was a lot."
When the PPE shortage struck in spring 2020, the leaders of Titan Robotics found its 3D printers and pellet extruder technology were perfect for face shield production.
The company printed 4,000 shields at a sub-50 cent materials cost per unit at a rate of less than five minutes each. "A traditional 3D printer was taking two to three hours to print one face shield," says Chief Marketing Officer Maddie Guillory, "It was a real end-use 3D-printed part we were able to make fast enough and at a low enough cost. It highlighted how 3D printing and pellet-extrusion 3D printing . . . can be used for a production application."
Titan Robotics gave the shields to healthcare workers here in Colorado Springs and across the state. "Then we helped our customers across North America to also utilize the work that we did with the design and the printing process to print a couple thousand face shields for their areas as well," adds Guillory. "It was really making a difference, and continues to make a difference.."
Titan Robotics' contract manufacturing capabilities allowed it to scale production up immediately. "It was actually a team-building motivator for us," says CEO Rahul Kasat. "Our employees started seeing that Titan is actually making an impact during this pandemic."
CompanyWeek profile (January 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/titan-robotics