MN manufacturers produce face shields to support health care heroes

Our health care workers are working tirelessly on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. These nurses, doctors, EMTs and other medical support staff are risking their own health and safety to fight this battle—a battle that requires proper protection and tools.

To help protect these heroes, Minnesota manufacturers have been producing medical products in short supply, particularly disposable face shields. For Eden Prairie-based 3D printing manufacturer Stratasys, its technologies create at least 800 face shields a day—at no cost to recipients—with plans to grow that by tapping into its larger on-demand facilities in Texas and California, reports Twin Cities Business. According to the company’s website, the shields have “FDM 3D printed frames, with clear, full-face plastic shielding.”

After Stratasys creates the plastic face shield material, Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis uses its school machines to create the support material that finishes each mask.

Down the road at Minneapolis-based Woodchuck USA, the manufacturing company’s laser cutting machines are also well suited to make the plastic face shields, Twin Cities Business continues. “Woodchuck plans to devote half of its manufacturing capacity to face shields” and “increase as necessary.”

“We’re not going to make money (on face shields),” [Founder and Chairman Benjamin] VandenWymellenberg said. “But it could help keep the lights on, keep people employed, and most importantly, help the medical community.”

As an outdoor gear manufacturer, Duluth-based Frost River Trading Company has shifted its production to personal protective equipment (PPE), which the health care workforce is depending on to safely care for patients.

For Frost River owner Christian Benson, there’s a personal dimension to the move: His wife, Andrea Hustad Benson, is an anesthesiologist at Duluth’s St. Luke’s Hospital.

Benson notes that Frost River Trading has the equipment and production facilities to manufacture and ship thousands of masks, hoods, and gowns every day. Now he’s hoping that PPE manufacturers will be willing to share their proprietary patterns and medical-grade materials. Benson also is seeking [to] coordinate efforts of other Duluth-area cut-and-sew manufacturers.

Thank you to these manufacturers, their industry partners, and other companies using their resources to support health care professionals during this crucial time.