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Planning and Economic Development

Macomb County businesses assist with Project DIAMOnD effort to help Ukraine

-Posted on May 17, 2022


When Project DIAMOnD was formed in October 2020 to provide small- to medium-sized businesses with free 3D printers, it was done with the understanding that, in case of an emergency, those companies would drop everything to use those printers to provide aid. So when the urgent call came from Ukraine that supplies were needed to produce 100,000 tourniquets for wounded soldiers and civilians, Project DIAMOnd stepped up.


Project DIAMOnD (Digital, Independent, Agile, Manufacturing on Demand) was established with the help of Automation Alley through the CARES Act, with funding from Oakland ($10 million) and Macomb ($1.7 million) counties to create the country’s largest 3D printer network on a blockchain technology platform. Its dual purpose at startup was not only to accelerate digital transformation among Michigan manufacturers and strengthen supply chains but also to develop PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.


More than 300 businesses, 50 of them located in Macomb County, are part of Project DIAMOnd. And when Ukraine’s defense ministry sent out the call for help, Automation Alley and the two counties got the plans for tourniquet clips and sent out the word to member businesses that emergency action would be coming.


Each company was given a Markforged 3D printer and an emergency spool of Markforged Onyx micro carbon fiber filled with nylon that would be used for projects like this one. In early April, the companies were notified that the request for tourniquet clips would be coming. The companies were asked to free up the printers or prepare to make the clips once an existing printing job was complete. On April 8, within an hour, all businesses were sent their printing instructions, and the automated printing began. ​​​​​​


Project Diamond - Adaptive Manufacturing



Marketing Strategist Jackson Moreland of Automation Alley said each business was expected to make 50 clips (the maximum each emergency spool can create). All printing was expected to be completed by April 22, and about 15,000 clips will be delivered to Automation Alley. Some production may be lower than that number, but Automation Alley is estimating it will have something between 10,000-15,000 clips to send to Denmark and eventually Ukraine. But there may be even more coming, as several companies have offered to print more than their required allotment.


“There is an urgent need for this. You’d hope that everyone would want to help, but I was honestly shocked at how enthusiastic everyone was,” Moreland said. “Some had issues, and they were right on the phone with us. When they were done, they asked how they could do more. We’re really impressed with the passion of our community and the desire to help people in need.”


Moreland is one of many employees at Automation Alley utilizing an all-hands-on-deck approach to prepare the clips for shipping and labeling and sealing boxes. Once the clips arrive overseas, they will be assembled with other parts into the tourniquets. “This idea came down from the counties,” Moreland said. “We were looking at different ways to help out with the crisis in Ukraine. We’d seen that Denmark had set out a call for tourniquet clips. It just so happens that the clips are made by the materials that we provided to the businesses. So it just lined up perfectly.”​​​​​​




Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Director Vicky Rowinski said the best part about Project DIAMOnd is that it created a 3D printing network. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a supply chain gap in making the parts for face shields. We couldn’t find producers who were making these parts readily on the fly,” Rowinski said. “But with these 3D printers, especially if there is an emergency, they can make those parts once the network is activated. It’s really about how we can mitigate and prevent supply chain gaps in the time of emergency. The need for tourniquet components for Ukraine was a great pilot for how the program is designed to work.”


Pierre Viaud-Murat, the technical and commercialization lead for Project DIAMOnd and a consultant for Automation Alley, said some companies that haven’t completed their clip allotment, are switching to producing handles for the tourniquets. 


Steve Michon is the owner of Zero Tolerance, a plastic injection mold machine shop in Clinton Township, a growing 10-year-old company with about 12 employees. He completed his allotment of clips on April 14 and delivered them to Automation Alley. When he asked if he could do any more to help, Automation Alley told him tourniquet handles were needed. He began printing the handles April 20, using his own Onyx source material and will donate the handles. “We know the need, and the situation in our mind is horrible, so anything we can do, we want to help,” Michon said. “We are just heartbroken by the whole war going on over there in Ukraine. It just makes sense to do whatever we can with what we have.” ​​​​​​


Another Project DIAMOnd partner, Ultimatum Industries in Roseville, a conveyor manufacturer for industrial conveyor systems, was also happy to answer the call for aid. “As a manufacturer, Project DIAMOnD has allowed us to aid in humanitarian efforts when called upon while experimenting with 3D printing and innovating for our own business,” said Richard Canny, president of Ultimation. The 3D printers are the ideal technology to produce needed parts during times of crisis due to their flexibility and speed. And the designs for parts can also be shared digitally among multiple locations and producers. “The Project DIAMOnD network has many printers that can be available at short notice,” Canny added. “This means manufacturers like Ultimation and our network partners can produce a high number of parts in a very short time, with no wasted time for tooling. This humanitarian effort is one great example of how additive manufacturing technologies can respond to a need quickly.”


A group called Makers Help in Denmark is assembling the tourniquets. With parts coming in from all over the world, Makers Help has told Project DIAMOnd and others it is running low on handles. Others are making buckles. Viaud-Murat said Makers Help contacted assisting agencies April 20 that it needed more velcro to stitch onto the nylon straps. Viaud-Murat said he’d send that request to Project DIAMOnd members to see if they can help.


The clips and handles will be moved to Denmark within a couple of weeks with donated shipping. And Project DIAMOnd will stand guard, waiting to help with the next project. Viaud-Murat said the group was fortunate to have the Markforged printers and the super-strong Markforged Onyx spools ready to go. “It was a perfect case of the right machines to go with the right materials,” Viaud-Murat said.

Don Gardner is a communications specialist for Macomb County Planning and Economic Development.