Collaborative Innovation: How Strouse Responded to the COVID-19 Challenge by Designing and Building Capacity for 2.5 Million Masks per Week
According to Scott Chambers, a Business Development Manager with Strouse, the company was forced to “live up to our ‘more than tape’ motto.” Using Delta ModTech equipment, they succeeded, delivering millions of surgical masks and face guards in a cost-effective manner.
Challenge: Delivering protective equipment in bulk without compromising safety
In early March of 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that healthcare workers would need 3.5 billion face masks if the coronavirus outbreak in the United States were to hit pandemic proportions.
Compounding the problem was the fact that China, which had previously produced approximately half of the world’s face masks, had stopped exports due to COVID-19’s impact on their own country.
The demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was acute, but availability wasn’t the only issue. The equipment had to assure the safety of frontline workers, yet remain affordable to manufacture. “We’d seen plenty of examples of people price-gouging,” Chambers said.
The only way to make the product cost-effective was to either:
- Cut materials, which limit the effectiveness of the product, or;
- Manufacture it in a process that makes it extremely efficient from a cost standpoint.
The biggest cost-driver with PPEs was the amount of required manual assembly. Issues of costs and availability of labor in a pandemic only heightened the challenge.
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Solution: Manufacturing PPE in one pass on Delta ModTech’s Crusader®️ converting machine
Thanks to their experience in medical device manufacturing, Strouse overcame one of the initial roadblocks, which was finding N95 and N99 materials for the PPE. Once the materials were in hand, they moved on to the project’s biggest obstacle: Assembly.
“When you’re talking about laminating materials, it’s not easy to build a 3D part on a press and automate the process,” Chambers said.
Strouse engineers prevailed, thanks to the flexibility of Delta ModTech’s Crusader converting machine. They were able to automate assembly so it would require only one pass.
Each step of the assembly process posed unique challenges. For example, the filter materials for the face mask had to be combined into a 3-stack layer. The filter included an outside protecting layer, the filter material itself, and then a scrim, which prevents skin irritation.
Combining the layers would require ultrasonic welding. Delta ModTech set up a conference call with Strouse and an additional vendor and eventually, the three parties developed a process that integrated the welding method into the assembly.
“Delta’s experience with that type of process, and their willingness to support Strouse, is one of the primary reasons we rely on them,” Chambers said. “We’ve had a great relationship with them for quite some time.”
Throughput: 2.5 million masks, 250,000 face shields
Strouse was able to refine the process to the point where the company can produce:
- 2.5 million masks per week
- 250,000 face shields per week, and
- Keep up with all of their other customers
“By being able to automate the production, we were able to rapidly speed up the production,” Chambers said. “Because of the controls on the Delta press, we’re able to make quality parts more reliably.”
By helping reduce the staggering demand for PPE, Strouse has notched one of its most important achievements in its 30+ year history. We were happy to provide their team with the tool to make it possible.
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