Harbour Technologies to open local PPE production plant

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell

A Windsor company involved in producing the first all-Canadian, cup-style N95 mask is also going to open a local protective personal equipment manufacturing facility.

The automation firm Harbour Technologies is looking at re-using a vacant plant in the range of 20,000 square feet to house production lines that will produce N95 masks, isolation surgical gowns and other PPE equipment.

The project is being done in partnership with British Columbia’s Nova Textiles Co., which is also involved in the N95 project.

“The goal is to build a new industry here,” said Andrew Glover, who co-owns the third-generation family business with his brother David.

“We’re looking at the end of July to start production here in Windsor. We’re down to two sites — one in Windsor and one in Oldcastle.

“We’re also looking at a short-term lease on an empty, 5,000-square foot building next door to us to build the machinery side of the business.”

Harbour Technologies currently employs 24 people with 90 per cent of its business being in the nuclear industry sector.

The company also does work in the aerospace, automotive and health-care industries (hospital beds).

Glover said Harbour and Novo Textiles have already spent millions of dollars together on designing machinery, research and development, and plant preparation.

“We anticipate starting off with 20 employees and growing to 50 within the year here,” said Glover, who spent an hour with federal government officials this week and was meeting with Business Development Bank of Canada officials Friday afternoon.

“I think this is going to be a fluid growth industry just because of the demand from private businesses.

“We already have a company in Toronto, who will probably be our biggest customer, ready to purchase masks as soon as we begin production.”

In the meantime, Harbour Textiles will have its automated machinery in place at Novo Textile’s plant in B.C. by early July to begin production to serve western Canada.

The Windsor facility will serve eastern Canada, but also has drawn strong interest from the U.S. market.

Glover said contracts with the provincial and federal governments are in the final phase of review.

“The government contracts are very close to completion,” Glover said.

“The governments aren’t specifying how much or the cost of what they want, they’re more interested in our volume of production capability. They clearly want a lot.”

The two lines Harbour made for the B.C. plant, containing 12 machines, can make 3,000 surgical gowns and 9,000 to 10,000 N95 masks daily.

Glover noted the province is particularly keen on securing Level 2 and 3 isolation surgical gowns.

“There’s a shortage of those gowns in Ontario, so that’s what the government of Ontario is really pushing for,” Glover said.

Glover added Harbour Technologies and Novo Textiles can actually produce the all-Canadian PPE at a lesser cost in many instances than the Chinese products due to the inflated prices that have developed.

“Novo Textiles has really championed Canadian industry, so everything from the foam nose pieces, to the metal clips and elastic bands in the N95 are made in Canada,” Glover said.

“In building our automated machinery lines we wanted the highest quality steel tubing, so we’ve used Harrow’s Atlas Tubing. We also used Windsor’s Telsonic Ultrasonics branch for welding materials in the gowns and masks.

“There’s already been a filtration of business down to other Windsor companies.”

Glover said they decided to plunge into PPE manufacturing in early March, which was shortly before things started shutting down in Ontario due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’d seen the shortage of PPE and the poor quality and high prices coming out of China.

“Most of the stuff coming from China doesn’t meet Health Canada standards,” Glover said. “It’s PPE pirating.

“Those KN95 masks, you might as well not bother wearing them for all the filtration they provide.”

The all-Canadian N95 masks are scheduled to go out for final testing and Health Canada approval next week, but the filtration materials used in the cup-style mask have already been rated at 98 per cent.

The filtration portion of the mask is made from a Meltblown cloth, which are plastic extrusions forced through tiny holes in a die by hot air. Those micro strings can then be woven together to form a mesh material.

The mask and the machinery to make it have been submitted for patent protection.

“We’ve got exclusive use of an anti-viral material to cover the inside and outside of the cup. The material makes the mask re-usable without decontamination.

“The mask can sit by itself for half an hour and self decontaminate. It will save hospital systems a lot of money not having to throw away masks after one use.”