Alumni Feature - Rob Fell '00

After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, alumnus Rob Fell ‘00 and his team at IRIS Factory Automation decided to take action. They quickly joined forces with their partners to help fight the current public health crisis and create face shields to protect those serving on the frontline.

“Let’s flip the script!” says Rob. “We all know this is serious and scary, so let’s do something about it and help the people who don’t have a choice but to face it head on. This is the time to be productive and think of creative ways to get involved.  We use this same creative approach in our own business every day, and now we have the chance to use it to protect people which is even better.”

Thanks to the help of Unilever, a transnational consumer goods company, IRIS was able to purchase 12 new 3D printers, in addition to the 10 they currently have. Rob’s team has focused on creating the frames, while their partner, Prismier, uses a technique called water jetting to produce the plastic shield.

“Our goal is to produce 1,400 face shields and donate them to those in need. We want to help encourage other companies to do this too. At this point no deed is too small. There’s no time in history where the affordability of technology enabled so many people to contribute.  It’s true that we’re trying to produce 1,400 pieces here at IRIS, but what if 1,400 other people produced just 10 pieces? That is how we need to approach this. We need to flex as a society to use the tools at our disposal to serve those plagued by equipment shortage. Every little thing counts when it comes to protecting the people who protect us!”

Rob graduated from Lewis with a bachelor’s degree in Physics and two minors in Math and Business Administration. After several years of working in technical sales, he found his true calling with IRIS Factory Automation, a manufacturing facility focused on Packaging Automation and In Line Inspection. In June 2013, Robert founded IRIS with the intent of focusing on applying automation increase quality and decreasing manufacturing costs.

Since then, this small firm in Woodridge has continuously grown and is now home to a team of 15 employees.

“We have a great staff of young engineers who are very creative,” adds Rob. “Our dynamic team strives to push technology in order to better serve our clients and the community.”

According to Rob, an overriding theme in chaos is character, and it takes character to go above and beyond to do things that will impact anyone besides themselves. He feels that he was surrounded by people that had character and strong ethics during his time at Lewis. This is what shaped him into the person he is today and gave him the ability to lead a selfless team of innovators during a difficult time like this.

Aside from work, Rob enjoys spending extra time with his wife and five kids playing outside, riding ATV’s and just enjoying the love a big family offers.

“It is so easy to get caught up in everything right now, so it is important to take a step back, enjoy, and make the best of it all. It is scary and things are uncertain, but we need to focus on controlling the things we can control and being an example to one another. The pandemic is temporary, but continuing to serve each other can be permanent.  Let’s do this!”


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