For 24 years, Under Armour has pushed the limits of the world of sports performance with product innovations developed to make all athletes better. Last week, the brand began putting that experience to work helping health care systems defend against the coronavirus pandemic.
To support the University of Maryland Medical System’s (UMMS) 28,000 health care providers and staff, Under Armour has begun to manufacture and assemble face masks, face shields and specially equipped fanny packs, and is also exploring fabricating hospital gowns for the statewide medical system. The brand will also begin providing face masks to LifeBridge, a regional health care organization based in Baltimore. Additionally, Under Armour is currently discussing the needs for supplies with Johns Hopkins Medicine, MedStar and other local medical institutions.
"When the call came in from our local medical providers for more masks, gowns and supply kits, we just went straight to work," said Randy Harward, SVP of Advanced Material and Manufacturing Innovation at Under Armour. “More than 50 Under Armour teammates from materials scientists to footwear and apparel designers from laboratories in Baltimore and Portland quickly came together in search of solutions.”
Under Armour teammates at the UA Lighthouse on March 30 in Baltimore, Maryland.
The team focused on designing a protective mask that could be produced very quickly, in mass volumes, and could provide a barrier between the wearer and those around them. Harward introduced this challenge to the team after hearing an interview with an Italian doctor who reported that if more masks had been available in his country—even simple face masks—spread of the virus could have been significantly reduced.
The team settled on a one-piece mask design that does not require sewing. Its origami-style folds mold the specially chosen, breathable yet moisture-resistant fabric into the desired mask shape.
“I call it the magic of conflict,” Harward said of the mask design process. “This was a high-pressure situation in which a group of people were debating the best solution in a very dynamic environment. It was a nonstop iteration for a week until we finally got to where we are today.”
Mask production is taking place now at the Lighthouse, UA's innovation hub in Baltimore. Harward and his team are utilizing the lab’s knife cutter—one of the world’s most efficient, high-speed fabric cutting machines — to carve nearly 100 pieces of fabric at once. The mask cutouts will then be passed off to a group of Under Armour teammate volunteers and hospitals for folding and distribution. With this combination of machine power and manpower, Harward predicts the team could generate as many as 100,000 masks a week moving forward.
Under Armour has already delivered 1,300 face shields to UMMS, and anticipates manufacturing and distributing more than 500,000 fabric face masks and assembling 50,000 specially equipped fanny packs with much needed supplies for personal preparedness kits. The Brand is also exploring the manufacturing of gowns at its Lighthouse facility.
These supplies will allow UMMS to distribute critical personal protective equipment to clinicians, and masks to staff and visitors. This initiative exemplifies the commitment of both the System and Under Armour to the health and well-being of the local community.
The Under Armour team is also now exploring 3-D printing N95 and N80 masks for medical professionals.
Beyond this effort, Under Armour has lent support to various groups, including Feeding America and Good Sports Inc. As the fight against COVID-19 progresses, Under Armour will continue to seek ways to be of service across the country.