Cross-Border Plastics Partnership Aims to Save Lives and Support Local Economy
Three northern plastics manufacturers have joined forces to produce much-needed PPE visors for the hair and beauty sector. Shortages within the industry meant a quick response was required, so hairdressers and beauticians could operate responsibly during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Demand for PPE continues to rise, as the country faces the challenges of a second wave and newly imposed restrictions.
Early on in the pandemic, Mechlam Precision Tooling a mould tool manufacturer based in Haydock, Merseyside, identified the rapidly increasing need for quality PPE. The company was keen to support its wider community and concluded quality face shields would be in high demand for a long time to come. The team was able to source PET sheet, which is laser cut, for the visors and set about designing a suitable headguard. As specialists in tool design and manufacturer, Mechlam was able to lead the project, but it required help from other plastics processors to produce the end product. Martin Atherton, director of Mechlam Precision Engineering, set about identifying suitable partners within the locality. Commenting on this early stage, Martin said:
“We believed we could make a difference to real lives in our community and were keen to find suitable partners to help us with our mission. We regularly supply tools to Fibrax Mouldings, an injection moulding company that operates just over the border in North Wales. We have always enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Fibrax and knew they not only had the moulding capacity, but also the material expertise to make this project a success. They were an ideal fit and we weren’t disappointed!”
Fibrax’s Material Technologist, Jonathan Coupe, and Technical Sales Director, Robert Winterbottom, were both keen to support Mechlam and its end users. Jonathan set about identifying a durable material that would offer flexibility and comfort. He selected PP for the holder and TPE for the strap; both contained the high flow properties needed to successfully mould the headguard, whilst being touch safe and suitable for skin contact. When it came to colouring and enhancing the properties of the plastic, Fibrax introduced masterbatch manufacturer Silverate Plastics to the project. Reflecting on their support, Jonathan said:
“We knew from the outset that we would require a masterbatch partner and our Wrexham-based neighbour, Silvergate Plastics, was an obvious choice. We have shared a great relationship with Silvergate over many years, as they have always delivered excellent colour matches in quantities we require. That aside, they are also renowned for their ability to deliver quickly and, due to ongoing PPE shortages, time was certainly of the essence! Chris Young, Silvergate’s Sales Manager, provided a rapid response and a product of the highest quality.”
Working with his colour match team, Chris was able to produce the correct colour and ensure it could be manufactured to meet Fibrax’s schedule. Commenting, Chris said:
“We were delighted to be introduced to this project. We’ve been manufacturing products for the frontline throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, so we knew we had to act fast and deliver excellent quality. It has been great to be part of such a proactive partnership and community spirited project.”
The PPE visors are now being distributed directly to wholesalers operating in the hair and beauty industry. Martin added:
“As specialist toolmakers, we would never have looked at something like this in normal circumstances, but we have always progressed by being adaptable and innovative. Designing and making the product was the easy part. Getting a finished product to market however, was a completely new ball game to us! With the help and support of Fibrax and Silvergate, we now have a top-quality product. We are proud to help protect the lives of so many individuals whilst supporting our local economy by keeping businesses in operation during this very challenging time.”
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