End Markets | 2 MINUTE READ

Custom Molder Enhances Disinfection Equipment With Novel Nozzle Design

Responding to the coronavirus pandemic, Protolabs' innovative nozzle protector successfully augments Foam-iT's flagship fog-mist disinfectant units.


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A unique nozzle protector designed and manufactured by Protolabs, Maple Plain, Minn., has enhanced two flagship products of foam cleaning and disinfectant equipment manufacturer Foam-iT, Grand Rapids, Mich. With increased demand for this equipment brought on by COVID-19, Foam-iT needed to update them in order to make them less prone to damage.

Protolabs injection molded this two-piece HDPE nozzle protector.

Protolabs injection molded this two-piece HDPE nozzle protector with an undercut that snaps them onto the disinfecting spray wand.

Foam-iT turned to Protolabs, a 21-yr-old global custom injection molder and additive manufacturer for prototyping and on-demand short-run production. One of Foam-iT’s engineers had previously worked with Protolabs and saw an opportunity to team up again, given Protolabs’ reputation for speed and reliability.  By using Protolabs' on-demand molding service, Foam-iT took advantage of their design analysis and easy online ordering, along with a helping hand from its in-house manufacturing experts to avoid delays.


Protolabs has 12 manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and serves a diverse range of  industries including medical devices, automotive, lighting, technology, consumer products, and electronics. It currently has more than 1000 mills, lathes, 3D printers, presses, press brakes and other manufacturing equipment for injection molding, 3D printing, CNC machining and sheet-metal fabrication.

Protolabs designed and injection molded the new HDPE nozzle protectors for Foam-iT’s electric fog-mist disinfectant units. Two identical parts wrap around the nozzle’s mount, protruding just enough to protect the nozzle. The two parts are joined using two screws on the mist side and a clever undercut snaps the protector to the body of the wand. All new units are now available with a Protolabs-manufactured nozzle protector, and existing units can be retrofitted.

COVID-19 proved the trigger for Foam-iT to improve its equipment. Demand for the two electric fog/mist units sharply climbed and Foam-iT’s customers—cleaning teams all over the country—were pressed to finish their work more quickly and efficiently than previously to keep workplaces safe. The Foam-iT disinfectant equipment’s PVdF nozzles, which spray disinfecting agents, are very sensitive to damage. Due to their greater use during the pandemic, the nozzles were being banged around and began malfunctioning.

Protolab’s innovative HDPE nozzle protector proved to be the solution. In just five days (three business days), Protolabs delivered the initial 250 prototype parts to Foam-iT. Before COVID, misting equipment accounted for 20% of Foam-iT’s commercial sales, and after the pandemic hit in March, that surged to 80%. By onshoring its manufacturing through Protolabs, Foam-iT had the parts they needed in days, instead of months from an overseas suppliers.

Leveraging a U.S.-based digital manufacturing company like Protolabs allowed Foam-iT to ramp-up its product supply very quickly to address the sudden shift in market demand. The Foam-iT team found the Protolabs experts exceptionally easy to work with and helpful with design suggestions to speed up Protolabs’ already fast manufacturing processes. This enabled Foam-iT to sent out the new part to companies quickly to improve the lifespan of their products.

Foam-iT's fog/mist disinfection unit in action with new nozzle protector that makes it less prone to damage.

Foam-iT's fog/mist disinfection unit in action with new nozzle protector that makes it less prone to damage.

Protolabs’ industrial 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, and injection molding services provide parts made directly from a customer’s 3D CAD model. An interactive quote is provided within hours with free design feedback. If there are problem areas in the submitted design, Protolabs’ quoting engine provides detailed information on the potential manufacturing issues and suggests possible solutions. Proprietary software automates toolpath generation to decrease mold manufacturing times and costs.