MARYSVILLE — Local Honda engineers have developed new methods to use manufacturing equipment to efficiently produce thousands of critically-needed face shields during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, the company has donated 70,000 face shields to healthcare workers at 305 medical facilities in 45 states, with plans to donate another 60,000 in the coming days. Mary Rutan Hospital has been one of the local beneficiaries of this effort.
Engineers at Honda Engineering North America (EGA) in Marysville, the in-house company that creates much of Honda’s production equipment, made the face shields by designing new uses for high-speed injection-molding technology ordinarily used in the production of vehicle components.
While EGA is manufacturing face shields, a multi-company effort in Canada that includes Honda of Canada Mfg. (HCM) is making the frames, shields and headbands for additional units.
“Team Honda has really stepped up to the challenge on a tight timeframe,” said Hugo Beltran, EGA associate chief engineer. “We make a car about every 50 seconds, and that’s the same type of approach that we’re taking for these face shields.
“We’re using our mass production expertise and equipment to produce a large quantity of shields to help people in our communities.”
During March, Honda began making face shield frames, first using a network of 3D printers at five manufacturing facilities. However, the company’s engineers determined that the 3D printers could not produce the volume to meet expected demand.
So Honda engineers began looking at other options and focused on one of the company’s in-house manufacturing capabilities: plastic injection molding.
Converting machines and processes that make plastic parts for automobiles into a production line for face shields was a complex task. Honda associates also worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to understand requirements and ensure that the shields were suitable for contact with skin.
The single-use shields have been authorized for use during the COVID-19 pandemic by the FDA pursuant to an Emergency Use Authorization.
After studying various designs in consultation with healthcare professionals, the team of Honda engineers began building a special die to enable the plastic injection molding equipment to produce more than 3,000 face shields per hour.
“It was a comprehensive effort with our Honda design and manufacturing teams working together to quickly solve this challenge,” said Eric Walli, Honda North America regional planning leader. “We were looking at materials, doing scientific work to understand if what we put in a face shield would be safe for humans to wear and all of this was occurring as we sought to rapidly begin, and then ramp up production.”
In Canada, Honda worked with two manufacturers seeking to quickly expand their ability to produce face shields.
Honda engineers and manufacturing associates from Honda of Canada Mfg. collaborated with Ontario-based Molded Precision Components (MPC) to convert a warehouse into a manufacturing center for the frame components. The Honda team helped create the plant layout, install eight new injection-molding machines and enhance the receiving and shipping infrastructure.
Once the frames were produced at MPC, Honda helped establish a supply chain to Sterling Industries in Concord, Ontario, where the headband and Mylar shields were assembled.
At Sterling, Honda used its manufacturing expertise to design and develop automatic packing lines to prepare the shields for high-volume shipping. With increased production capacity, Honda will help the companies pursue Sterling’s internal goal of producing 27 million face shields to be distributed throughout Canada.
“This project has given our team the ability to help two companies to come together and find creative solutions to bring these desperately needed face shields to the market in a very short time, and ultimately to help our frontline healthcare workers,” said Dwayne Switzer, HCM production engineer and face shield project lead.
“I am proud to work for Honda, a company that not only cares deeply about the safety of its associates but also cares about our community.”
Honda tapped its extensive network of automobile, powersports and power equipment dealers to identify medical facilities in local communities across the country in need of protective gear. Using their local knowledge and relationships, these independent Honda dealers contacted medical facilities and helped arrange donations.
“We are incredibly grateful for this generous and much needed donation from Honda,” said Gregory Monette, interim CEO, Community Hospital of Huntington Park, after receiving 1,600 face shields through the Helpful Honda Dealers in Southern California.
“Our physicians, nurses and staff are working tirelessly to care for the community, and these face shields help to protect our workers and patients.”
In addition to producing face shields, Honda has been involved in a number of other initiatives to address issues related to the pandemic, including assembling components for ventilators; providing modified Honda Odyssey minivans to transport people potentially infected with COVID-19 while helping to protect the safety of the transport driver; pledging $1 million to provide the most vulnerable North American communities with food; engaging and empowering its associates in North America to help people in need in their local communities while maintaining social distancing; and donating more than 200,000 items including gloves, N95 masks, alcohol wipes, half-mask respirators and other types of protective gear.