Eastman Chemical Co. is teaming with Rotuba Extruders Inc. to make face shields for medical personnel at a plant originally designed to produce pens.
Linden, N.J.-based Rotuba is using 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 COVID-19 crisis, officials said in a news release.
Rotuba transitioned its Pen Co. of America unit in Garwood, N.J., to making face shields by using an existing material in a new application, they added. The shields will be sold across the U.S. and supplied to first responders at the cost to produce them.
Kingsport, Tenn.-based 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 the release. "When we needed a reliable supply of cellulose acetate for these face shields, we turned to Eastman," he added.
Eastman cellulose acetate provides optical quality, chemical resistance and the ability to be easily shaped for the splash guards. Rotuba's guards are comfortable and reusable, officials said, providing medical personnel with personal protection equipment (PPE) that is sustainable and affordable.
"Eastman is proud to work with Rotuba to provide much-needed supplies to those who need them most," Reubuer de Graaf, Eastman specialty plastics marketing director, said. "We will continue to work with companies across the value chain to quickly adapt their operations to meet unmet needs during this crisis."
Bell added that the face shield work has allowed Rotuba to keep 35 workers employed in Garwood. Pen Co. of America is the only producer still making pens in the U.S., officials said.
Rotuba makes a range of sheet products and began supplying Pen Co. with cellulose acetate sheet last month.
Eastman is a producer of specialty materials, including Tritan-brand copolyester. The firm has been active on COVID-19 efforts in multiple areas. In late March, Eastman in four days made enough plastic film for 10,000 face shields for medical workers in Tennessee. The firm also has donated copolyester materials to two firms in Brazil for production of PPE there.