GREELEY — As Colorado mobilizes more and more resources to arrest the spread of the new coronavirus — including shelter-in-place orders for Boulder and Denver that take effect today – a Greeley company is preparing to produce millions of face shields for medical professionals in the state.
Genesis Plastics Technologies Inc., which has manufactured medical equipment for more than 50 years and has about 40 employees at 1226 E. 18th St., is mobilizing all hands on deck as it ramps up to produce as many as 50,000 to 60,000 face shields for frontline medical personnel per day, said sales manager Jake Comer.
The shields cover the entire face and are designed to be worn over a mask and safety goggles, Comer said. They can protect parts of the face that aren’t covered by a mask or respirator.
“As far as the medical world, what is appealing to them is preventing the person behind or on the other side of the shield from inheriting moisture and bacteria through a cough or a sneeze,” Comer said.
Comer said that Genesis was approached March 18 by a client to join a task force created by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to redirect manufacturing in the state toward medical equipment needed to fight COVID-19.
When Genesis joined the task force, Comer said, it already had the raw materials on hand to manufacture face shields. Acquiring those raw materials is becoming difficult as the coronavirus disrupts supply chains, Comer added.
“In this case, we had it,” Comer said.
So far, Genesis has made about 60 face shields, Comer said. The shields have two components — a ring that goes around the wearer’s head, and the shield itself. The shields are made from plastic using a die, a specialized manufacturing cutting tool customized to the object it’s designed to create. Comer said that, with the die, Genesis can make 5,000 to 6,000 shields per hour.
The ring is made of polymer. Right now, it has to be 3-D printed, a process that takes about one hour per ring, Comer said. To help speed up the process, Genesis is working with about a dozen other companies and private individuals who have lent their 3-D printers to the effort.
“It’s really cool to see how many companies and people are willing to help out,” Comer said.
But 3-D printing is just a stopgap solution until an injection mold is made that can produce a ring in three to four seconds. When that mold is ready in seven to 10 days, Comer said, Genesis will be able to produce between 50,000 and 60,000 shields per day. To accomplish this, the company will be shifting the majority of its employees to this project.
Comer said the state asked Genesis for 1 million shields. If Colorado develops a surplus, the shields may be sent to aid medical professionals in other states, but Comer said Colorado is the priority.
The logistics of how the shields will be delivered and where they will be stored are still being worked out, Comer said. Right now, the priority is making the shields as quickly as possible for a medical workforce that is already undersupplied.
“From our side, it was, ‘How quick can we show there’s a viable product here?’” Comer said. “How do we help the people of Colorado?”