Plastics firms and colleges in western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio are working together to make face shields for health care workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
In late March, injection molder Port Erie Plastics Inc. of Harborcreek, Pa., was contacted by Case Western Reserve University of Cleveland, Port Erie General Manager Sean Connole said in an April 15 interview with Plastics News.
CWRU was working with Cleveland-based design firm Nottingham Spirk to find a way to make the shields. Connole then contacted the plastics engineering program at Penn State-Behrend in Erie, Pa., and learned that they were working on a similar project and were willing to work together.
"We can do more good together than separately," Connole said.
Working with an open-source design and using its own tool room, Port Erie was able to start injection molding polypropylene headbands for the shield within 10 days. Connole said that type of project normally could take as long as 12 weeks.
"We made [the headbands] a priority," he added. "The challenge was the timing and getting to market as soon as we could.
"The project also was important to us because a lot of our employees have relatives or know people who work in health care," he said.
Munot Plastics Inc. of Erie is making the clear plastic sheet for the shields, while Erie-based Bliley Technologies Inc. is handling logistics and distribution. In some cases, medical centers like Cleveland Clinic — which has placed a large order — are assembling the shields themselves, Connole said.
The collaboration began shield production on April 9 and now is making as many as 7,000 per day. Connole said the work will continue as long as it's needed.
Jon Cannole, Port Erie sales and marketing manager, added that the company benefited from having its own tool room, which allowed it to respond when needed.
Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. and an oil firm also have contacted Port Erie about their headband mold design, Jon Connole said.