West Warwick, R.I.-based manufacturer Guill Tool & Engineering Co. Inc. has always been active in the military defense market.
Now its extrusion products are helping stock the Arsenal of Health to combat the invisible threat posed by COVID-19.
Founded in 1962, Guill Tool jumped into action for a medical device customer that needed to produce a certain size tubing in a hurry to produce ventilators for patients struggling to breathe because of the respiratory illness.
One of the customer's plant operators reached out to Guill Sales Manager Thomas Baldock.
"He said, 'We're really going to need you to step up to the plate and help us out.' Then he laid out the situation," Baldock said in a phone interview. "The customer was switching all of his production over to making these hoses. He had our dies throughout his plants and he needed a lot of tooling quickly. We got it done in a big rush."
Guill mobilized a team of six employees to produce tips and dies for an in-line die assembly. The tooling can be swapped out to make different size tubing.
"We lined up our resources — people and machine tools," Baldock said. "We said we've got to stop what we're doing, switch over to this and knock it out."
Guill had the metal in its inventory and the team cut it to length, set up the new tooling and ran it, turning, grinding, polishing and heat-treating the dies that would be used to extrude PVC tubing.
"The dies are made of stainless steel that's precision-machined, tight tolerance and highly polished. That's where our specialty is," Baldock said.
Soon after getting the rush job, Guill was shipping the tooling via special air freight arranged by the customer.
"That normally would have been at least a four-week turnaround, but we got it down to a matter of days. It was less than a week," Baldock said.
Guill designs and manufactures custom extrusion tooling for a wide variety of markets, including wire, cable, fiber optics, wood composites, medical and automotive tubes, rubber, industrial pipes and packaging.
In 1995, the business became the first major extrusion tooling company to receive ISO certification for meeting international standards, according to the Guill website.
Extrusion tooling accounts for roughly half of the company's annual sales, which are about $20 million, Baldock said. Federal defense jobs make up the other 50 percent.