ROE laboratories uses 3D printers to fight Coronavirus

ROE laboratories uses 3D printers to fight Coronavirus

Dental lab earns government contract and a high-profile shout-out.

  • Name: B.J. Kowalski
  • Title: President
  • Company: ROE Dental Laboratory
  • Region: Independence, OH
  • Industry: Medical Device
  • Vistage Chair: Cheryl McMillan

ROE Dental Laboratory did a booming business fabricating crowns, bridges, dental implants and other facial surgery products. As an FDA-registered facility with 3D-printing manufacturing capability, ROE kept its staff busy with more than 400 orders a day for its specialty dental products. That dropped down to about 20 per day almost overnight as social distancing and shelter-in-place protocols were established.

The Challenge: Faced with having to furlough many of his 200 team members, CEO B.J. Kowalski strategized to put his 3D printers to work on an alternative -- and much-in-demand -- product: the brackets used to fasten face shields, which would soon become ubiquitous among health care workers and other essential professionals.

Leadership Solution: Face shield brackets were going to help ROE, but it was not going to help Kowalski bring back furloughed workers. For that, he needed a bigger solution. The solution came - as it frequently does - by addressing another need. State governments faced desperate shortages of the crucial coronavirus tests, stalling efforts to gain a clear picture of the pandemic's reach and a foothold in the struggle to contain it. Already registered with the FDA, ROE fired up its 3D printers to produce the long, flexible nasopharyngeal swabs used to cultivate samples from deep in the nasal passage.

As a result, Kowalski ramped up production capacity with additional 3D printers and brought back much of ROE's furloughed workforce, allowing them to produce 10-15K swabs per day. ROE's ability to respond rapidly to the pandemic crisis earned the company an order for a million swabs from its home state of Ohio and a shout-out from Governor Mike Dewine.

"We made a few really good decisions when we realized the impact of the pandemic on our business. But the best decision was to get in the fight and contribute what we could to the effort."

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