Protolabs tooling boost for Covid-19 CPAP machines

Protolabs is manufacturing three new tools to help produce thousands of critical parts for a new breathing aid designed in response to Covid-19.

A mould tool for one of the CPAP parts being prepared in the mill at Protolabs (Image: Protolabs)

A 20-strong Protolabs team worked with Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains to develop injection mould tooling in three days.


The company is helping the F1 team and partner University College London ramp up production of its CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) system that delivers oxygen into the lungs without the need for an invasive ventilator.

The first two tools are for moulding the bracket that will hold the device next to the bed, whilst the third tool is for the production of a cap that prevents air escaping from the machine.

Initial sample parts, made in nylon 30% glass fibre and Acetal co-polymer respectively, are due for inspection and, if successful, the company will set about run rates of 1100 parts per day until 10,000 of each component are manufactured.

The final devices and equipment will then be sent to 250 hospitals across the UK to help frontline staff provide the best possible care for Covid-19 patients.

In a statement, Baninder Kaur, Strategic Account Manager at Protolabs, said: “Speed is of the essence for this project, as we need to get the CPAP systems to UCL as soon as possible.

“Within a few hours of the call, we had mobilised a dedicated design and manufacturing team to review the bracket’s design for manufacturability. This led to four quick iterations and the decision to make the bracket using two tools, allowing us to reduce lead times by running production simultaneously.

“There were also some slight adaptions to the cap, with our engineers exploring the possibility of using one tool with two cavity moulds that would hit the 1100 daily required parts as well as keeping the accuracy in place.”

Protolabs in Telford is using its 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding expertise in other efforts to support the frontline response to Covid-19. The company said it has played a key role in supporting Italian engineers Isinnova in the conversion of ‘Easybreath’ snorkelling equipment into ventilator masks.

3D printed ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Dave’ valves are being produced and shipped for the assembly of kits that can be used to create a non-invasive ventilator mask that will help save lives.

The company said it is working also with a highly multiplexed molecular diagnostics specialist to produce a series of plastic cassettes that will help house a critical medical solution used in testing for Covid-19.