Spartech LLC is supplying essential clear plastic materials to longtime customer Duo-Form Plastics, which is now producing intubation boxes and safety shields.
Spartech, a Maryland Heights, Mo.-based sheet extruder has supplied materials to Duo-Form, an Edwardsburg, Mich.-based thermoformer, for many years, particularly for the RV and transportation markets. So when the COVID-19 crisis emerged and Duo-Form began seeking materials for personal protection equipment it was a "natural fit," Todd Niemuth, market manager in health care for Spartech, told Plastics News in a recent interview.
"Based on our long-term relationship, they knew they could rely on us for a quick supply of clear materials — it was a natural fit to work with them on their applications," he said.
A clear polycarbonate product called DuraGard will be used in Duo-Form's intubation boxes and retail safety shields. The material is strong and thick gauge and will offer protection for medical and health care facilities. DuraGard can also be used in sneeze guards in retail and grocery stores.
Duo-Form's intubation boxes, made with Spartech's UltraTuf glycol-modified PET sheet, will provide additional protection between medical staff and patients when endotracheal intubation is need for patients infected with COVID-19. The box can be kept over a patient's head when being moved to different units. The PETG material will also be used in Duo-Form's face shields.
Prior to the pandemic, Spartech already had customers that made face shields for medical and industrial applications.
Mike Gonser, director of new product development for Duo-Form, thanked Spartech for the supply of the materials in an April 20 news release.
"Like Spartech, our main objective is to protect health care workers as we work together to end this global pandemic," he said.
Spartech has deployed several additional lines to help meet demand for various materials like face shields, retail barriers and home disinfectants.
The main products used for personal protective equipment are clear and Spartech has a broad portfolio: amorphous PET, PETG, polycarbonate, acrylic and cellulose acetate. Four of the company's 15 manufacturing facilities can produce the clear materials: Sheboygan Falls, Wis.; Muncie, Ind.; Greenville, Ohio; and Newark, N.J.
"We've got a great working relationship with our raw material suppliers and our procurement team is working together with our suppliers — to date we haven't had any issues," Niemuth said. "It's been more than sufficient with output, even with adding multiple extrusion lines using these materials."
The company and has taken many safety precautions. Strict social distancing measures and PPE devices are required in all 15 Spartech facilities. Increased sanitization and disinfecting are being done, and employees are monitoring their temperatures. Special protocol is being used for delivery trucks and visitors coming to a facility. The company employs about 1,500.
The company has experienced "very limited" instances of the virus, but in those instances the facility where the worker was employed has closed temporarily and been sanitized.
Spartech has been running at full capacity, and some lines are running 24/7 to produce material, he said.
Spartech has also seen an influx of new customers seeking sheet for PPE-related materials, even if they had not previously made medical equipment.
"Very little is normal given the current coronavirus situation. I'm really proud of all of our employees and we have to make sure we are using those COVID-19-related measures," he said. "If we don't keep them safe and healthy, we can't support our customers. Our employees have really stepped up; we cannot thank them enough."