If you’ve heard of OPT Industries (and odds are you haven’t), it’s due to the MIT spinoff’s roll in printing a novel nasal swab. It’s the kind of thing that might not have gotten much play during a normal year, but made the rounds courtesy of that whole global pandemic thing.
InstaSwab got some good ink in the design world due to its complex geometrical build constructed from ultra-thin polymer fibers measuring less than the width of a human hair.
OPT’s 3D printing system was seven years in the making, but its timing was certainly fortuitous, with the creation of a swab it says is “up to 20 times more effective in bacterial sample elution.” The need for such devices predates COVID-19, of course, and will certainly live on once the pandemic is (knock on wood) in the rearview.
It was, no doubt, precisely the manner of press an early-stage startup dreams of when time comes to start raising some major funding. Today, the company is making headlines again courtesy of a healthy $15 million Series A. Northpond Ventures leads this round, joining existing investors Crosslink Capital and E14 Fund, which is tied to MIT.
InstaSwap will remain an integral part of the company’s offering for now, with the firm planning to ramp up production on the cotton swab alternative. Along with the funding, OPT confirmed that LumiraDx has added it to its list of approved swabs — the first 3D-printed product to earn that distinction.
“As an advanced manufacturing company, we see the value in building micro-scale technologies that solve macro-scale challenges,” says founder and CEO Jifei Ou. “OPT works with customers to design and manufacture a novel range of metamaterials and products for the healthcare, automotive, cosmetics, consumer goods industries and beyond. We will use the new financing to address the demand for InstaSwab, fuel product development, scale operations and grow the team.”
From that standpoint, the swab is certainly more than proof of concept here. But it’s also a kind of launching pad for the underlying technology that powers OPT’s additive manufacturing offering. RAMP 3D prints edge-to-edge rolls, allowing the system to produce high-resolution prints at a much faster scale than traditional methods. With the ability to print around the clock, the firm also believes it can play a pivotal role in addressing supply chain concerns — a long-time goal for additive manufacturing. Though it’s traditionally had issues at scale.
Toward the end of 2021, OPT moved into a 14,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Medford, Massachusetts, near its initial headquarters of Bedford, in an effort to meet growing InstaSwab demand.