Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Facility for Mass Roll-to-Roll 3D Printing to Be Opened by MIT Spinout

ST Medical Devices

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Massachusetts manufacturing startup OPT Industries uses automation engineering, computational design, and materials science to develop and manufacture customizable functional materials for 3D printing. The MIT spinout company became well-known for its dedicated medical product line called InstaSwab, which uses its own patented 3D printer to fabricate nasal swabs that are extremely effective during COVID-19 testing. Now, the startup has announced that it’s opening a 24/7 continuous additive manufacturing facility in Medford, about 6.5 miles northwest of Boston, to scale market access to its flagship RAMP printer in order to create products for the consumer and medical industries.

“OPT will be continuously enhancing new capabilities from our technologies to introduce new product lines for the industries we serve. We work with our customers as a one-shop stop partner to design, develop and manufacture end products to meet their exact needs,” said OPT founder Jifei Ou. “Whether you’re a distributor or a brand interested in co-inventing a new product, OPT’s collaborative business model offers a new paradigm for product creation from inception to manufacturing.”

The company got its start with the RAMP system, which Ou developed over years of R&D at MIT and allows for the automated printing of continuous 3D printed microstructures with no length limitations. Last year, OPT scaled its technology to meet pandemic demands for nasal swabs and came up with the novel InstaSwab, which has been found to be far better at viral sample elution—extracting one material from another by washing with a solvent—and 20 times more effective in bacterial sample elution, than conventional swabs are for COVID-19 testing.

OPT has since supplied more than 800,000 high efficacy 3D printed InstaSwabs nationwide to healthcare and at-home testing organizations, and it’s all due to the RAMP,  which it calls the first roll-to-roll AM platform for “continuous materials production at unlimited lengths.”

“Our proprietary additive manufacturing system specializes in making microstructures at a massive scale. We’re unique in precision microfabrication that can create rolls of materials and designs with no limitation in length,” Ou explained. “Our technology stack currently provides material solutions for medical, cosmetic, and consumer product applications.”

The startup calls its RAMP the first 3D printer in the world to be powered by roll-to-roll-based digital photolithography. Featuring automation and micron-level precision, the system enables 3D printing of continuous products and materials for functional, end-use parts. In order to quickly design and mass produce these materials and products from the micro to the macro scale, OPT has organized its “technology stack” as an all-in-one digital manufacturing system, consisting first and foremost of the RAMP.

The system also includes generative software, featuring custom algorithms that can improve the design of dense microstructures in order to achieve ultra-fine, customized, freeform features. The final piece of the system is the company’s engineered polymers, which can be designed to include advanced properties, such as biological, mechanical, and thermal.

Now that OPT is expanding and building its first manufacturing facility in Medford, the startup is hoping to majorly increase its fulfillment, manufacturing, and R&D capabilities.

“New and emerging technology industries recognize that Medford is an ideal place to start a business and access our incredible talent pool, robust City resources and top level restaurants and shops. I am thrilled that OPT Industries is choosing to call Medford home and it was an honor to cut the ribbon on their new headquarters in the City. This innovative company is hard at work perfecting a revolutionary 3D-printed nasal swab that can detect trace amounts of the COVID-19 virus, enabling people to get diagnosed and treated faster,” stated Medford’s Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn.

Medford’s Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn cutting a ceremonial ribbon made by OPT’s 3D printing system.

The 14,000-square-foot facility, which adheres to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines, is a fully equipped manufacturing site and research lab, and is also ISO 13485:2016 certified for making medical devices. As such, and also to meet the demand from Fortune 500 companies, OPT will gear its first product line towards the medical sector, rather than focusing on consumer products.

(Source/Images: OPT Industries)

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