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MCPHERSON — When news of an impending shortage of personal protective equipment first started making headlines, two employees at the Saint-Gobain North America McPherson plant sprang into action.
Mike Janzen, an engineering and automation technician, and Kait Drawz, a mechanical engineer in Saint-Gobain’s Essentials of Manufacturing program researched how to put 3-D printers to work.
An effort to begin printing face shield frames that could be used by front-line workers was born.
“The coronavirus pandemic has created stressors for everyone — whether it is job, health, family, school, anxiety or mental health related — if you’re healthy, there are still concerns surrounding the unknown,” said Austin Butcher, Engineering manager at the plant. “This project has allowed our team to give back in a meaningful way and help those on the front lines stay protected so they can continue to do their jobs”
The crew has been able to print visors that are compatible with three-ring binder sheet protectors to create face shields. — allowing health care workers to remain protected during their fight with COVID-19 and to clean and replace their shields as needed.
The plant is still doing job one — producing injection molds for a siding product line within Saint-Gobain subsidiary company, CertainTeed. The plant is considered an essential business .
But employees wanted to do more.
“In a time when events and circumstances are out of our hands, it helps to have a positive outlet and project at work to focus on,” Butcher said. “It feels like we are helping fight the battle, because we are helping, in our own way.
Butcher said the addition of masks to the daily work has excited the staff, and not impacted the daily work of creating injection molding.
The plant’s first shipment of 50 face shields was delivered to a local hospital late last week, and they plan to continue producing about two dozen face shields each day to send out in subsequent donations to area health care workers.
And the reach will be international — other Saint-Gobain plants have heard what is happening in McPherson and are joining in the effort. Facilities in Brazil and Europe are starting production.
“Additionally, we’re communicating with sites all across the country to see how we can support other efforts — even though many of us are required to be physically distanced, this is a great reminder that we’re all in this together,” Butcher said.