Manufactures shift to producing personal protective equipment

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Workers at The Scotts MiracleGro Company’s Temecula plant wear face shields produced at their plant. Valley News/The Scotts MiracleGro Company photo

While much of the country has shut down due the pandemic, some local organizations and companies are retooling to help provide medical workers with the supplies they need to keep themselves safe.

In the face of increased demand for personal protective equipment such as masks from many hospitals, including Hemet Global and Menifee Global medical centers, Providence Health, Riverside Community Hospital and Temecula Valley Hospital, Mt. San Jacinto College has begun using its Eagle MakerSpace to manufacture face shields to provide to these hospitals, the college announced Friday, April 10.

The Eagle MakerSpace, located at the college’s Menifee campus, features 3-D printers and a laser cutter which students have access to as needed for various projects, according to an emailed statement from MSJC.

The space is funded by the California Strong Workforce Program, which is designed to help spur career education at community colleges statewide and increase socioeconomic mobility and educate skilled workers, according to the college. 

But the space is now an important local tool for helping keep the local health care field supplied.

“I’m excited and grateful to be a part of the MSJC and statewide MakerSpace support of my health care colleagues on the front lines of this COVID-19 pandemic,” Hal Edghill, a MakerSpace specialist at MSJC, said. “The proportions of this challenge are daunting, and keeping doctors, nurses, and all other professionals as safe as possible is the goal.”

Edghill said to produce the face shields, the MakerSpace uses polylactic acid plastic in its 3-D printers to build the visor component, while the face shield itself is created from commercially available transparency sheets that are commonly used for overhead projectors. The connector at the back of the visor is a No. 33 rubber band, he said.

MSJC also donated gurneys, N95 masks, non-N95 masks, nitrile gloves and other equipment from its nursing program to local hospitals.

“We were honored to be able to help our medical partners who indicated they had a need for these types of items,” Joyce Johnson, MSJC’s executive dean of instruction and a registered nurse, said. “The school closures mean our students cannot use this equipment at this time. We wanted to make sure we did our part to help protect medical professionals and patients alike during this pandemic.”

Meanwhile, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company has shifted production at its manufacturing plant in Temecula to produce face shields as well.

The plant, which normally produces things like lawn spreaders, is now making around 3,000 face shields a day, according to Claudia Contreras, the plant manager.

“Our country is facing a challenge unlike anything it’s ever seen before,” Jim Hagedorn, chairman and CEO of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, said. “During times like this, it’s the responsibility of every citizen, and especially every company, to do the right thing to protect our people and help our country remain strong. I can’t thank our Temecula team enough for the hard work they’ve put in to create these face shields and support our community’s first responders.”

Some of those masks were sent to entities in New York, including the county of Nassau east of New York City on Long Island.

Other masks were kept for nursing homes and hospitals in the region, including the Temecula Valley Hospital, Contreras said. Some of the masks were also sent to law enforcement agencies including the Whittier Police Department and are also being kept and used as extra protection for the plant’s workers, Contreras said.

Soon, Contreras said the company hopes to be producing as many as 22,000 face shields a day.

“Right now, the only limiting factor we’re having is the supply of acrylic,” she said.

Once the plant can get more acrylic, they will be able to produce the face shields using molds rather than via laser-cutting, which will allow for more production, Contreras said.

“That will be our goal, to continue production until they are not needed anymore,” she said.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.

An employee at The Scotts MiracleGro Company’s Temecula plant wears one of the face shields produced at the plant. Valley News/The Scotts MiracleGro Company photo
Hal Edghill, a MakerSpace specialist at Mt. San Jacinto College, dons one of the face shields produced in the college’s Eagle MakerSpace. Valley News/Mt. San Jacinto College photo
Whittier Police Department officers wear face shields produced at The Scotts MiracleGro Company’s Temecula plant. Valley News/The Scotts MiracleGro Company photo
Whittier police officers wear face shields produced at The Scotts MiracleGro Company’s Temecula plant. Valley News/The Scotts MiracleGro Company photo