B-Con Shifts Workforce to Make Shields for Health Care Personnel

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B-Con Engineering Inc., an optics manufacturing company, is shifting its manufacturing focus to make face shields for medical staff and facilities. The company has previously designed and built optical systems for NASA’s Mars missions as well as motorcycle helmet face shields and bomb disposal suit face shields.

B-Con, started in 1988 by Brian Creber, began redirecting part of its 10-person workforce in mid-March to turn out clear plastic shields for nurses, doctors, and health care providers to help in their efforts to treat COVID-19.

“The Canadian federal and provincial governments were indicating that the virus would be very serious and that there may be a shortage of medical supplies,” Creber said. “I reached out to an ER nurse who I know and asked what they needed. There was a list, but since we are in the optics business, it made most sense to develop a solution that was in the optics field.”

Creber had previously told the Ottawa Citizen newspaper of the need for his optics company to respond: “Everyone who can, should try to help. Even if the only thing you can do is stay at home and stay away from people, everybody’s got to be involved.”

Using its plant in Ottawa, B-Con hopes to turn out about 500 face shields a week. It has already shipped a batch to a midwife group and to an agency that does in-home ventilator care. B-Con is selling its washable face shields for $20 each in batches of 20, a price Creber said covers only his costs.

Creber said he was surprised by all of the health care workers who responded positively to B-Con’s support.

“Our response to date has been incredible,” Creber said. “I did not realize all the people and groups who deal directly with the public every day. Staff in hospitals are only a part of the front-line workers. We have supplied shields to midwives, to home-care nurses for patients at home with lung problems, to pharmacy workers, and to people whose spouse is a front-line worker and who wants to protect their loved one.”

Creber said he remains optimistic about the photonics industry response to the virus, even if the pandemic continues on longer than anticipated.

“I believe in the future, photonics companies can contribute by having these process recipes available to turn to making products for relief efforts when disaster strikes,” Creber said. “Some of us may be making these products for a number of months if what I hear about the COVID-19 virus and the length of time the pandemic will be with us is correct.”

Published: April 2020
BusinessCanadaOpticscoronavirusmedicalN95 masksface shieldshealth careCOVID-19 News

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