Dow designs new simplified face shield for front-line healthcare workers

MIDLAND—To help address the urgent need for personal protective equipment among healthcare professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW) has developed a simplified face shield design and is sharing its design through an open-source file to help accelerate production rates of this critically-needed PPE.

In addition, the company is collaborating to produce 100,000 face shields for donation to the state of Michigan for distribution to hospitals.

Dow, a manufacturer of polyethylene resins, does not typically fabricate plastic products for consumer end use. However, the company quickly developed the resin film technology for these face shields through its prototyping and fabricating capabilities at its Pack Studios application development facility in Freeport, Texas. Dow also worked with other partners to identify a fabricator for the foam comfort strip that enables the shield to be worn comfortably.

“Our goal in offering an open-source, simplified design is to provide a way for others to increase additional production of much needed face shields,” said Diego Donoso, president of Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics. “This is another example of how our materials, technical service personnel, and our Pack Studios collaborative development capabilities are enabling solutions that can be used to help protect those on the frontlines of the pandemic.”

The face-shield design is flexible, allowing for the shields to be produced from a variety of readily available polymers, and can be cut using several high throughput technologies, such as water, laser and die cutting techniques. It is also simple and lightweight, comprised of just two pieces—a shield and a forehead cushion—which eliminates multi-component assembly that can slow production, allowing for faster distribution.

In addition to sharing the open-source design, Dow is producing 100,000 face shields to be donated to the state of Michigan for distribution to hospitals. A makerspace in mid-Michigan’s Meridian Charter Township, tinkrLab, is serving as a key development partner, providing laser-cutting and assembly, and has already completed an initial allotment of production.

“COVID-19 has shaken our communities. Being a small business, we see firsthand the need from those on the frontline and even though we are small, we still wanted to have an impact and offer a solution,” said Melissa Rabideau, founder and president of tinkrLab. “As a small business, we are able to mobilize volunteers quickly to do our part, but the tangible impact of a small/large business collaboration allows us to combine resources and the impact can be much more substantial. Being hands-on is in our DNA, so it’s only appropriate that we have a hands-on approach to helping.”

Several prototypes were field tested, and feedback from healthcare professionals including doctors and nurses was used to develop the final design. Face shields are often a one-time use item, but using some film formulations, shields can be disinfected and reused. The face shield was developed and is being distributed consistent with the limitations described in U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s guidance and Emergency Use Authorization issued for face shields for the duration of the public health emergency.

Companies and individuals interested in producing face shields can access the design file online. Dow is also seeking to partner with other companies with film manufacturing and cutting capabilities to continue to develop this critical PPE. Please contact us at facshld@dow.com if you are interested.

The Michigan State Police State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) is managing distribution of supplies. Organizations that want to request face shields need to contact their county emergency management office. Multi-county or state wide organizations can submit a consolidated request to MSP-SEOCPSL@michigan.gov.

Dow’s face shield project is the latest action the Company has undertaken to address the COVID-19 global pandemic crisis.

  • On March 23, Dow committed $3 million to aid COVID-19 relief efforts, with donations going towards global relief organizations, as well as non-profits in communities where Dow operates.
  • On March 30, Dow announced that sites across North America, Europe and Latin America were set to produce more than 200 metric tons of hand sanitizer, equivalent to more than 880,000 eight-ounce bottles, to be donated to local health systems and government agencies. Manufacturing sites in Auburn, Michigan; South Charleston, West Virginia; Seneffe, Belgium and Horolandia, Brazil and Stade, Germany have all produced hand sanitizer for donation.
  • And on April 9, Dow announced an additional $500,000 donation to the Great Lakes Bay Region in Michigan, to aid COVID-19 relief efforts in Dow’s global headquarters community.

Dow’s material science expertise and production capabilities are used to develop some of the most vital hygiene medical products and technologies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, such as disinfectants, sanitizers, cleansers, plastics used in the production of disposable PPE for medical professionals, and memory foams for hospital beds.

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