Faced with news reports about shortages of personal protection equipment, Patrick Minyard wanted to help. Now his company, All-State Plastics in City of Industry, Calif., is churning out molded parts designed to make face masks more comfortable.
"We initially thought we'd try to make face shields. That was about four weeks ago. But the problem became trying to source plastic film. I looked into it, and I was getting two- to three-week lead times and more, and they couldn't really guarantee that I could get it," Minyard said.
So he looked around for an alternative problem that his injection molding and mold making shop could manufacture, and he discovered an open-source project that 3D printers were doing, making ear savers for face masks.
"They're basically to keep the elastic bands from putting pressure on the ears, which can be a problem when masks are worn all day. I thought we could do this pretty quickly, build a mold and get it up and running," he said.
Minyard liked the idea of helping health care workers because his father, who founded All-State Plastics in 1972, has been ill. He checked with suppliers to source enough resin to make 100,000 ear savers, and distributor Calsak Corp. in Gardena, Calif., agreed to donate 1,000 pounds.
All-State repurposed an old tool and was molding the ear savers within two weeks.
The company was already considered an essential business and was running, in part because it molds some ventilator parts for a medical customer. But business has been slow, and the company has four employees, down from 10 before the pandemic. All-State has seven presses, ranging between 15-400 tons of clamping force, and a full tool room.
Minyard saluted the 3D printing companies who started making the ear savers.
"You know, the 3D printing community is great. They jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly and started printing these and giving them to hospitals and clinics and things like that. But I felt that the quantities that they could produce and the amount of time that's needed was really slow. So I felt that I could build a mold and make 5,000 or 6,000 of these a day," he said.
Right now All-State has one press dedicated to running the two-cavity mold, and he plans to run it for about four weeks. All of the ear savers are being donated to health care providers and first responders.
"We just started putting the word out there, and we have a Facebook page, and we've been tweeting about it. Plus, friends and family have helped get the word out. And we're shipping them to people in California and Hawaii and as far away as New York," he said.
Minyard grew up in the family molding business and officially joined in 1991. He took over the company in 1995. The company primarily molds for industrial and aerospace customers.