Sense of urgency drives Reko International's move to produce face shields for local hospitals

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


There’s a real personal feel to Reko International’s decision to throw its resources behind an effort to build full plastic face shields to donate to local hospitals.

“Once we had this COVID crisis hit us we had so many workers coming up to us saying we have to do something to help the cause,” said Reko’s director of tooling Dave Romanello.

“A lot of guys here their wives or significant others are nurses and doctors or on the front lines.

“There’s a real sense of urgency about what we’re trying to do here. We know we can help people if we can do this fast.”

Romanello has his own personal connection to the front lines in his Michigan-based sister-in-law who is a nurse in Detroit.

Her stories of the shortages of personal protection equipment and the sharing of shields and re-using of masks helped make the decision on where to focus easier.

“She told me face shields is one of the things most needed,” Romanello said. “It gives them that extra line of security from having liquids or mucus sprayed in their faces.

“I thought we can do that and quickly get it to market.”

After downloading a design off the internet, within two days the company had a prototype in their hands.

Romanello said they can use two 3D printers simultaneously to print the headbands for four masks in three hours.

The company uses clear plastics obtained from a supplier for the shields. It uses a press punch to create the holes in 8-by-11-inch shields to attach it to the headband.

“We want to be faster than that, so we’re working on a mould that should hit the manufacturing floor in a week,” said Romanello, who added Reko will used about a dozen employees on the project.

“In a week to 10 days, we’ll have complete shields ready. We’ll be able to make them faster and in larger quantities.”

Romanello estimates the firm will be able to produce between 200-300 face shields per day once the mould is ready.

Romanello said they sent a prototype home with an employee with a daughter who is a nurse to test it out.

“She said it was exactly what they need,” Romanello said.

“We’ll donate them to the hospitals, but we know other frontline healthcare workers need them too.

“We have no issue with people coming from clinics and the blood blank, which has recently contacted us, who need them. We’ll supply as many people as we can.”

Romanello said Reko has begun planning on building a prototype of another medical device.

It’s a Plexiglas box held together by acrylic cement that fits over a patient’s head. It allows someone to work inside the box to adjust equipment such as ventilator, but protects him or her from the patient coughing up liquids or mucus.

“We just got a communiqué this morning (Thursday) from the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade asking if we could make a prototype,” Romanello said.

“We’ve already ordered the material to make it and test it.”

Romanello said watching the region’s manufacturing base rise to the COVID-19 challenge is inspiring.

“Switching gears to make something we don’t normally make is a challenge we’ve done before,” Romanello said. “It’s what our trade does and it’s an honour to help people.”