Over a four-day period in late March, Eastman Chemical Co. cranked out 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, officials said.
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 facemask 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, officials said.
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.
"Getting this done safely and quickly to help first line medical personnel in Nashville is incredibly awesome," Brendan Boyd, specialty plastics vice president, said in a news release. "Rising to the occasion like this is a great sign of how we will weather this storm by working together."
Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer Steve Crawford added that "the need here is very real and life changing. I'm proud to be part of a team that always solves for yes when their help is needed."
In Brazil, Eastman is donating copolyester materials to filament maker 3D Labs and distributor MMS Plasticos for use in PPE. Face shields made by 3D Labs are expected to be distributed mostly to public hospitals in early April.
Eastman's production plant in Wuhan, China, was restarted during the weekend of March 23. The plant, which makes Benzoflex-brand benzoate ester plasticizers, benzoic acid and sodium benzoate for adhesives, sealants and other markets, had been closed for almost a month because of a COVID-19 shutdown.