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Bags of prototyping equipment

Amway’s prototyping lab builds frames for face shields

Think back four weeks ago…we went places, we met with people and we were considerably less stressed when looking for groceries. It was also just four weeks ago that Randy Betz assumed his role as manager of a newly organized team of innovators, creators, scientists and problem solvers. Together, they are the Rapid Prototyping team of Betz, Scott Anderson and Kenny Ly.

Anderson, Betz and Ly live and breathe the power of “yes” on a daily basis. “We like to call it going from art to part,” explains Betz. “You create an idea and we’ll leverage incredible people and technology to give you something you can hold, sometimes in a matter of hours.” The team uses powders and liquids, laser cutting and engraving, a fully functioning model shop and a professional grade paint booth to craft product elements and functioning prototypes. They partner with any team in the organization who may have a need, and often work closely with the Durables division to create nearly fully functioning prototypes.

It’s this type of innovation that allows Amway to be nimble when trying new concepts. Teams can iterate on designs multiple times without the expense of custom tooling.

“It’s all about speed,” says Betz. “We can take your vision or concept, then design, build and iterate to get something in your hands very quickly.”

The Rapid Prototyping team uses an Objet system – UV cured liquid technology – for jobs that can be done in as little as two to four hours. Selective Laser Sintering, where powder is fused together by heat from a high-power laser to form a solid, three-dimensional object, can be done in about 48 hours.

It’s this kind of small-batch quick-turn ingenuity that energizes the team. They are equal parts science and magic and say “yes we can help” to nearly any project request. It’s precisely this power of “yes” that brought them a new assignment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like many in our Amway family, Betz, Anderson and Ly saw what was happening in our health care community and offered to help in any way. Betz reached out to key partners in Corporate Social Responsibility, Legal and Durables to help create a way for Amway to address this critical need.

The Amway team partnered with Velocity Research, a local engineering firm, to design and build frames for face shields, a vital part of any health care worker’s personal protective equipment (PPE). “I’m so proud of what we do at Amway,” said Betz. “The whole company just thinks outside themselves and asks absolutely nothing in return.” That philanthropic spirit flows from all corners of the organization. Teams reaching out to other teams and communities saying “Yes, I can help. What do you need?”

“No one’s ever gone through anything like this, and we have the right people with the right equipment in the right place to do the best job we can for our community,” said Betz. “You never know, one of us or a family member could be in a hospital bed, so we are honored to volunteer talent and resources to help.”

And speaking of speed… the Amway team went from face shield frame ideation at noon last Thursday, to producing the initial batch of frames by 2 p.m. the same day. They personally delivered the first 100 frames to Dugan Karnazes of Velocity Research on Saturday to ensure assembly operations could begin as quickly as possible.  The teams picked a mutually convenient location and took great care to observe the recommended six feet of social distance during the drop, feeling very much like part of a clandestine movie scene.

Two-hundred more face shield frames have been delivered since Saturday with another 100 on the way. In total, the team plans to build/print about 600 frames.

Not only is there power in yes, but it’s also empowering to our teams. “It’s something everyone can be proud of,” said Betz. “With everything going on it can be hard to work on “work”, but it’s easy to work on something together that’s innovative and that we know will help people in a time of need.”

And the power of “yes” doesn’t stop there. The team has found a new open-sourced face shield design that will allow them to laser cut all components and build complete face shields in-house. They are also working to understand how Amway could assist with ventilator support and finding additional ways to spend their strength on others.