Honda helps develop face mask supply chain
- June 1, 2020
Honda engineers and manufacturing associates from Honda of Canada Mfg. collaborated with Ontario-based Molded Precision Components (MPC) to convert a warehouse into a manufacturing center for the frame components. The Honda team helped create the plant layout, install eight new injection-molding machines and enhance the receiving and shipping infrastructure.
Once the frames were produced at MPC, Honda helped establish a supply chain to Sterling Industries in Concord, Ont., where the headband and Mylar shields were assembled. At Sterling, Honda used its manufacturing expertise to design and develop automatic packing lines to prepare the shields for high-volume shipping. With increased production capacity, Honda will help the companies pursue Sterling's internal goal of producing 27 million face shields to be distributed throughout Canada.
"This project has given our team the ability to help two companies to come together and find creative solutions to bring these desperately needed face shields to the market in a very short time, and ultimately to help our frontline healthcare workers," said Dwayne Switzer, HCM production engineer and face shield project lead. "I am proud to work for Honda, a company that not only cares deeply about the safety of its associates but also cares about our community."
Canadian facilities aren’t the only Honda divisions stepping up. Engineers at Honda Engineering North America (EGA) in Marysville, Ohio, the Honda division that develops Honda's production equipment, have repurposed high-speed injection-molding technology ordinarily used in the production of vehicle components to make face shields. While EGA is manufacturing face shields, a multi-company effort in Canada that includes Honda of Canada Mfg. (HCM) is making the frames, shields and headbands for additional units.
"Team Honda has really stepped up to the challenge on a tight timeframe," said Hugo Beltran, associate chief engineer at EGA. "We make a car about every 50 seconds, and that's the same type of approach that we're taking for these face shields. We're using our mass production expertise and equipment to produce a large quantity of shields to help people in our communities."
Honda began making face shield frames in March, using a network of 3D printers at five manufacturing facilities. However, the company's engineers determined that the 3D printers could not produce the volume to meet expected demand. Honda engineers began looking at other options and focused on one of the company's in-house manufacturing capabilities: plastic injection molding.
Converting machines and processes that make plastic parts for automobiles into a production line for face shields was a complex task. After studying various designs in consultation with healthcare professionals, the team of Honda engineers began building a special die for the plastic injection molding equipment to produce over 3,000 face shields per hour.
"It was a comprehensive effort with our Honda design and manufacturing teams working together to quickly solve this challenge," said Eric Walli, Regional Planning Leader of Honda North America. "We were looking at materials, doing scientific work to understand if what we put in a face shield would be safe for humans to wear and all of this was occurring as we sought to rapidly begin, and then ramp up production."