Chase Plastic Services Inc. and many other firms have stepped up their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chase, a resin distributor based in Clarkston, Mich., donated and sold resin and 3D filament to companies, individuals and organizations for use in making face shields, protective shields, mask frames and ear savers for disposable masks, officials said.
The firm also printed face shields and face shield head straps using its own 3D printer and donated to local hospitals and clinics, Sherry Cudd, advertising and marketing manager, said in an interview with Plastics News.
Chase installed a 3D printer in Clarkston last year for developmental and testing work with its 3D filament customers. Employee Chris Johnston took the printer to his home to make the parts for the shields.
"It was an application we hadn't done before, but we were able to," Cudd said. Michigan hospitals receiving 3D printed parts from Chase include Ascension Genesys, DMC Commerce and the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Clarkston.
The firm also donated 1,300 pounds of resin to injection molder Robson Co. of Vinemont, Ala., which used the material to make face shield frames on 3D printers.
"I can't say enough for what Chase has done for us," co-owner Chris Robson said.
Colonial Plastics of Shelby Township, Mich., used material donated by Chase to make 140,000 ear guards — flexible plastic straps to hold masks in places and give the sensitive skin behind the ears a break. Chase also donated 20 spools of 3D filament to Amherst Parks and Recreation in Amherst, N.H., which then supplied the filament to a local 3D printing community that was making face masks.
Earlier this year, Chase completed a major expansion of its distribution center in South Bend, Ind. The $4 million expansion added 80,000 square feet for additional storage of more than 9 million pounds of material. Cudd said the center was classified as an essential business and has been able to stay open during the pandemic.
Many other firms in the materials market have responded to the challenges of the pandemic with a range of solutions, including:
• In the compounding market, Shuman Plastics Inc. maintained normal operating hours even with the state of New York implementing strong safety measures. Shuman is based in Depew, N.Y.
"It's a delicate balancing act," President Ken Shuman said. "It's imperative that we participate and contribute our share to this nationwide [and global] effort for humanity."
• Like many compounders, Star Plastics of Ravenswood, W.Va., put safety procedures in place. Those steps include limiting nonessential business travel and face-to-face meetings, restricting facility access to company personnel only and implementing remote work among its sales and customer service teams.
"As COVID-19 is changing the world around us, we believe as long as we all pull together, we will get through and come out stronger," President and CEO Doug Ritchie said.
• M. Holland Co. of Northbrook, Ill., in March transformed a common area at its headquarters into a production room for face masks during the COVID-19 crisis. The firm is using three 3D printers to make clear face masks from glycol-modified PET filament.
After the skin-safe masks are printed, they're assembled once a week by a shift of eight employees who have volunteered to do the work. Volunteers wear full-protection suits while assembling the masks.
The volunteers attach filters and seals to the masks. M. Holland now can make 200 per week. Once completed, the masks are donated to local hospitals and other organizations.
• Materials giant Dow Inc.'s efforts to assist with COVID-19 relief have included $3 million in donations and the conversion of a German plant to make hand sanitizer. Officials with Midland, Mich.-based Dow said in March that the firm will donate $3 million to global relief organizations, as well as nonprofits in communities where Dow operates.
The donation will include $2 million for immediate support of impacts caused by COVID-19, including donations to support World Health Organization efforts around the world. Funds also will go to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization distributing medical supplies, as well as to local and regional nonprofit organizations in Dow communities around the world. Dow also will give $1 million to build community resilience in the recovery phase.
Hand sanitizer production was started at Dow plants in Michigan, West Virginia, Germany, Belgium and Brazil. Dow doesn't typically produce hand sanitizer, officials said, but most of the needed raw materials are available at company sites. When all locations are at full production, Dow's collective output is expected to be more than 440,000 pounds, equal to more than 880,000 8-ounce bottles. The sanitizer will be donated to hospitals and governments near the production sites.
"Safety is our top priority at Dow," CEO Jim Fitterling said in a news release in March. "With the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 impacting our world, we are committed to helping protect the health and safety of our employees and communities, while deploying our business solutions where they are needed most."
• Over a four-day period in late March, Eastman Chemical Co. made enough plastic film to make 10,000 face shields for medical workers treating the COVID-19 crisis. Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman — a maker of specialty plastics and chemicals — made and donated glycol-modified PET sheet to make the shields at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City and at colleges and universities across the state.
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission coordinated the effort to make 10,000 face shields in two weeks using 3D printers. Eastman officials said that especially in Nashville, medical personnel face a shortage of protective face masks. Austin Peay State University in Clarksville had been buying acetate sheet to make the face mask for the shields. But Eastman officials said that became a project bottleneck when local supplies of acetate sheet ran out.
On March 21, Eastman was asked to produce and donate emergency material. By March 23, a unit of the Eastman Polymer Technology Division — led by operators Jill Cline and Patsy Barton — was turning out rolls of PETG film for the face shields. Group Leader Chad Frazier also played a key role in detailed planning work.
Eastman's PETG is commonly used for rigid medical packaging and medical devices. By March 24, 1,000 feet of PETG film was at Austin Peay. Eastman continued running the film and by March 25 had produced enough rolls to make 10,000 face shields.
"Rising to the occasion like this is a great sign of how we will weather this storm by working together," Specialty Plastics Vice President Brendan Boyd said in a news release.
• Eastman also has teamed with Rotuba Extruders Inc. to make face shields for medical personnel at a plant originally designed to produce pens. Linden, N.J.-based Rotuba used Eastman's cellulose acetate material to make up to 100,000 splash guards per week to protect health care workers, small-business owners and consumers during the pandemic.
Rotuba transitioned its Pen Co. of America unit in Garwood, N.J., to make face shields by using an existing material in a new application. The shields will be sold across the U.S. and supplied to first responders at the cost to produce them.
Eastman and Rotuba "have had a long relationship spanning over five decades of developing items consumers buy every day," Rotuba and Pen Co. President Adam Bell said in a news release.
Eastman cellulose acetate provides optical quality, chemical resistance and the ability to be easily shaped for the splash guards. Bell added that the face shield work allowed Rotuba to keep 35 workers employed in Garwood. Pen Co. of America is the only producer still making pens in the U.S.
• Materials giant LyondellBasell Industries made a $1.3 million donation to COVID-19 response efforts. The donation supported response efforts of the Global FoodBanking Network and United States local food banks. LBI's donation supported food banks in 17 countries and communities where the company has major operations.
"Even in the best of times, hunger and food insecurity is a challenge," CEO Bob Patel said in an April news release. "The COVID-19 pandemic has made this need even more severe, as food banks around the world have experienced an increase in demand and a decline in food donations.
LBI also donated isopropyl alcohol to Huntsman Corp. for production of 5 tons of hand sanitizer to help protect health care workers treating COVID-19 patients. Materials made by LBI, including polyethylene and polypropylene, are found in many applications used for protecting health and safety, such as medical devices, protective equipment, cleaning products and pharmaceuticals.
• BASF Corp. began making hand sanitizer at its specialty plastics site in Wyandotte, Mich., to assist during the COVID-19 crisis. The firm donated the first 1,000 gallons of HandClasp-brand sanitizer to the Henry Ford Health System. The sanitizing product will help meet the increased demands needed to safely combat the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
The Wyandotte site is one of BASF's largest in North America, with more than 1,200 employees in production and R&D. The firm doesn't regularly make hand sanitizer there, but the facility received authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to temporarily produce it.
BASF Wyandotte made hand sanitizer for the Henry Ford Health System and other health care systems in Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Mexico and Canada, as well as other BASF locations in the U.S.
"When we learned of the supply shortage of disinfectants for health care systems and hospitals, our technical experts in Wyandotte displayed amazing resourcefulness and collaboration to develop and produce a beneficial antimicrobial product within a few days," Midwest Hub General Manager Greg Pflum said in the release.
• Covestro's polycarbonate film plant in South Deerfield, Mass., saw as many orders for medical film in March and April as it usually does in a whole year. The film is needed for medical face shields used by health care workers.
"Film for medical typically isn't a big market for us," Plant Manager Jim Boehm said April 28. "But we saw a big demand reach from customers, including some who couldn't get PETG film."
Covestro's response in South Deerfield was helped by the fact that it already was making the medical film and did not need to change any of its machinery. The firm also has benefited from a decision last year to move the plant to 24/7 production. The plant also has seen increased orders for its thermoplastic polyurethane film, which is used in surgical gowns and drapes.
• Global plastics and chemicals maker Indorama Ventures provided aid to relief efforts in eight countries worldwide. "Our contributions help relieve suffering by managing access to resources that are urgently needed until the gradual unwinding of this pandemic," Senior Vice President Richard Jones said in a news release.
Bangkok-based Indorama, one of the world's largest suppliers of PET resin and related products, has donated to efforts in Thailand, United States, France, India, Brazil, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic.
In Thailand, Indorama has donated financially in support of COVID-19 medical treatment to the Ramathibodi Foundation and King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital. These funds will contribute to treating patients and the purchase of supplies, including medicine, medical equipment and utilities that help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
The company also gave hygiene items to five hospitals in the region that are key institutions handling the COVID-19 outbreak. Donated items include personal protective equipment, liquid soap and shampoo, nanozinc fabric masks and hand sanitizer.
• Geon Performance Solutions, a major compounder based in Westlake, Ohio, donated 60,000 face shields to hospitals, first responders, schools and businesses in Ohio. The shields were made by extrusion firm Goex Corp. of Janesville, Wis., a Geon customer that used the firm's clear PVC to make the shields. Geon donated 40,000 pounds of material to Goex for the project.
Chief Commercial Officer Larry Shaw said in July that the donation was part of Project Collaboration, a Geon initiative that's providing some services free of charge to small and midsized companies during the pandemic.
• Materials maker Selenis saw a rise in imports of its specialty polyesters from Europe to the U.S. for uses related to fighting the spread of COVID-19. Glycol-modified PET (PETG) and other specialty polyester resins made by Selenis are imported to the U.S. from production sites in Portugal and Italy.
The materials then are used in applications including medical face shields, retail protective barriers and hand sanitizer labels, U.S. Business Development Manager Scott Sergel said in May. Heavy-gauge sheet made from Selenis materials is used in point-of-sale protective barriers, while thin-gauge sheet is used in face shields, he added. Shrink-sleeve labels on bottles of hand sanitizer also use Selenis materials.
• Additives supplier Milliken & Co. made materials for protective face shields. In a news release, officials with Milliken in Spartanburg, S.C., said that the shortage in plastic materials used for the shields is leading manufacturers to offer standard polypropylene.
PP is naturally hazy, so processors used Milliken's NX UltraClear-brand PP concentrate to make materials with clarity levels suitable for the shields, which are being used in personal protection equipment by the health care industry. Impact Plastics of Putnam, Conn., and German processor Mezger are both using the Milliken material to make clear PP for face shields.
• Materials maker Ineos Styrolution is meeting medical market needs during the pandemic. "Our materials touch a lot of subsegments in medical," Global Healthcare Director Alexander Silvestre said in an interview. ABS resins made by Ineos Styrolution are used in cartridges for medical masks and respirators. Clear resins made by the firm, including polystyrene and styrenic block copolymers (SBCs), are used in face shields.
COVID test kits use PS made by Ineos Styrolution in multiple ways. Other materials made by the firm are used in injection molded parts for ventilators. In some cases, Ineos Styrolution was working with OEMs that had never made face shields before and automotive customers that were new to making ventilator parts. "We made ourselves readily available and helped our customers as much as we could," Silvestre said.
• PolySource of Independence, Mo., donated glass-filled polypropylene resin for a plastic door opener called the Handle Me Not, which is designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. The openers were created by entrepreneurs Deric Powell and Craig Hanna of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Powell and Hanna contacted PolySource with the idea. PolySource then put them in touch with injection molder Bruin Manufacturing Co. of Marshalltown, Iowa. Bruin made the first 2,000 parts free of charge.
• Ravago Americas said earlier this year that the firm and its business units are positioned to meet the challenge of materials demand related to COVID-19.
Orlando, Fla.-based Ravago's distribution units include Amco Polymers, Burcham International, Channel Prime Alliance, Entec Polymers, Genesis Polymers and Muehlstein, as well as its own chemicals and manufacturing units. Officials said that all of these businesses "are helping to meet the urgent demand for polymers and chemicals used in critical products for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 for protection of those on the front lines."
Products using materials distributed by Ravago include test kits, diagnostic consumables, ventilator components and personal protective equipment, including face shields. Ravago's chemicals unit also is providing ingredients used in hand sanitizers and other critical products to help slow the spread of the virus.
• The distribution unit of Avient Corp. — formerly PolyOne — donated masterbatch concentrates to injection molding firm Westfall Technik Inc. to make medical masks and mask straps. The masks and straps then were donated to the health care industry.
Las Vegas-based Westfall is making the reusable masks at its Extreme Tool & Engineering plant in Wakefield, Mich. The straps went from design to molded parts in four days and are being molded at Westfall's 10 Day Parts plant in Corona, Calif.
Plastics firms have stepped up their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.