As part of its response to aid frontline healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, Honda engineers have developed new methods to use manufacturing equipment to produce critically needed face shields.
So far, the workers have donated 70,000 face shields to healthcare workers at 305 medical facilities in 45 states, with plans to donate another 60,000 in the coming days.
Honda engineers at Honda Engineering North America (EGA) in Marysville, Ohio, the in-house company that creates much of Honda’s production equipment, made the face shields by designing new uses for high-speed injection-molding technology ordinarily used in the production of vehicle components. 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. Honda associates also worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to understand requirements and ensure that the shields were suitable for contact with skin. The single-use shields have been authorized for use during the COVID-19 pandemic by the FDA pursuant to an Emergency Use Authorization.
After studying various designs in consultation with healthcare professionals, the team of Honda engineers began building a special die to enable the plastic injection molding equipment to produce over 3,000 face shields per hour.