Business

Businesses reposition operations to produce 300,000 face shields

Gary McDonald Business Editor

A NUMBER of companies in the precision engineering sectors in the north are repositioning their operations to allow them to manufacture vital medical equipment in fight against the Covid-19 virus.

The collective of small businesses is working together to design, test and produce emergency two-piece face shields.

And by the end of next week, from a drawing-board idea, the alliance will churn out the first of 300,000 face shields that can be used as personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line NHS medical staff across the UK and Ireland.

Adam Murphy, co-founder of Co Down baby products supplier Shnuggle, recognised his company had spare research and development capacity and took the lead in getting together a conglomerate of businesses that will produce the equipment at zero cost to the health service.

He has commenced a crowd-funding campaign at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/facevisors to raise £50,000 to cover some of the costs. By last night it had hit almost £10,000.

O'Neills in Strabane has begun manufacturing scrubs for the north's health and social care trusts in response to the coronavirus pandemic 

Metal toolmaker Crossen Engineering at Crossnacreevy and Lisburn-based Ad-Vance Engineering are currently working with local designers and injection moulding partners to produce a tool for moulding a quick-assembly face mask.

Brett Martin in Newtownabbey, a global player supplying specialist plastic products for the construction, fabrication, print and display sectors, will supply the acetate/PET for the front shield, and Denroy Plastics in Bangor will pull the whole product together.

Adam Murphy said: "It's remarkable how this has come together, and by next Friday we expect to have the first 100,000 shields off the production line and ready to go.

"Our emergency workers are keeping us alive right now, but they can only do that if they stay healthy.

"They need proper protective equipment. Face masks are essential, but must be used with a full face visor, and right now there are not enough of them.

"That means workers are getting sick - and sick workers cannot save lives and it puts their families at risk."

Roger Vance from Ad-Vance Engineering said: “We are well positioned to use our modern manufacturing facilities to rapidly produce this vital medical device needed to support front-line medical professionals in saving lives during this emergency. We all want to help."

Around 40 companies in Northern Ireland are understood to have offered to help make more protective clothing for healthcare workers.

It comes just days after sportswear manufacturer O'Neill's, suspended normal operations and laid of 750 workers until May due to the impact of the coronavirus on business, said it would provide much needed gear for medical staff, and yesterday it confirmed that it had 150 staff back working on orders for scrubs.

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