An Irish manufacturer of blinds has converted his factory to produce thousands of face-shields for frontline healthcare workers.
Nick Walsh, who runs ACME Blinds in Cork city, said the business has gone from producing blinds just three weeks ago to almost full-time medical equipment manufacture.
"It’’s been a steep learning curve, sorting out designs, prototypes, supply chains and the production process, but we hope to produce these on a commercial scale," he said.
The business in Blackpool was founded 65 years ago by Mr Walsh’’s father, Bill, who is now cocooning. Mr Walsh said the Covid-19 outbreak hit the business and he had to let several staff go. But he said he began to think about how the business could contribute to the national response to the outbreak.
Following talks with various experts, including medical experts in infectious disease control, they agreed on a face-shield design, with the required materials and standards. An area of the factory was deep-cleaned and readied for the new production process and Mr Walsh now has 20 people dressed in protective gear working in two shifts, 18-hours a day, making the face-shields to fill a number of orders already placed.
He said they are prioritising hospitals and other healthcare settings, but hope to produce a face-shield for domestic use soon.
Meanwhile, the owner of a sportswear company in Waterford which is now making face-masks for the healthcare sector has urged the government to follow the French government and allow it to produce tens of thousands of non-surgical, re-usable face-masks daily.
Last week Azzurri Sport Ltd adapted its operations to manufacture 6,500 masks free of charge for over 40 nursing homes and other healthcare centres in the southeast. It plans to deliver over 10,000 this week.
The company, the GAA’s official kit supplier, has designed “a light, re-usable face-mask, using certified, viral-resistant material with over 80% filtration efficiency”, owner John Molloy, said.
The material is effective against 0.03 micron droplets which measure “ten times smaller than those of Covid-19”.
He said they could produce over 2,000 masks daily, on a non-profit basis and would also assist any other potential manufacturers.
But they may not be “formally suitable for use in Irish hospitals” because of EU certification “which could take months”.
Mr Molloy says the French government took decisive action early in the pandemic by requisitioning the country’s entire mask stock and manufacture capacity until May 31, enabling dozens of French companies, including the fashion and car industry, to divert into mask manufacture.