MSI Mold Builders in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, enlisted the processing capabilities of Kelly Plastics in Bell Plaine, Iowa, to make 50,000 polyethylene ear savers for healthcare workers coping with face masks that have irritating elastic ear loops.
Ear savers are adjustable, grooved plastic straps that make face masks easier to fit and more comfortable to wear by removing pressure and friction from the ears.
Prisma Health, a large nonprofit health care system in Greenville, S.C., where MSI also has a plant, asked the company to produce a mold for ear savers for its 32,000 employees.
MSI President Roger Klouda agreed and expanded the scope of the project to help health care workers in Iowa, too. He turned to Kelly Plastics, a molder about 40 miles away that serves a wide variety of markets.
Kelly Plastics produced the ear savers from recycled material for Prisma as well as a nursing center and pharmacy in Cedar Rapids and first responders in nearby communities.
"This was our opportunity to help those who are working tirelessly each day to help others," Klouda said in a news release. "These individuals are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, and if we can provide just a little more comfort to their lives, then that's something we are more than happy and willing to do."
For its part of the effort, MSI Mold Builders based its mold design on an online model and then built, polished, assembled and fit the mold, reducing a process that usually takes six to 14 weeks to seven days, Dale Larsen, MSI's human resources director, told Plastics News in an email.
Kelly Plastics used the mold to manufacture about 400 ear savers per hour, which saved money compared to 3D printing.
MSI covered all costs and then donated the ear savers to Prisma and other hospitals and frontline organizations.
Ear saver production continues at Kelly Plastics, where employees have exceeded the initial 50,000 goal.
"We are donating certain amounts to front-line organizations for now and are selling to any nonfront-line individuals and organizations," Larsen said.