How made-in-USA face shields come together in Elk Grove
A third-generation family-owned business in Elk Grove Village is used to custom-making things such as gaskets, cushions, seals and insulators for the automotive, electronics and appliance industries.
But during the rush for personal protective equipment to help decrease the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the company has added a new product: face shields.
Standard Rubber Products Co. has sold several thousand face shields, meant to be worn atop a mask and goggles for an extra layer of microbial protection, since launching the product in April.
The shields sell for $5 each online at www.srpfaceshield.com, with discounts available for bulk purchases. But many customers are buying in relatively small quantities, Nick Gualano, the company's sales and marketing executive, said -- five shields here, 20 there.
Dentists and dermatologists are buying the shields, along with mechanics, teachers and parents, he said.
SRP is able to sell the shields without a high minimum purchase because the company has easy access to the necessary materials through long-standing vendor relationships, President Larry Gualano said.
"We knew the need was there," he said. "With the availability of resources that we have at our fingertips with our different vendors and die makers, we were able to turn quickly on it."
SRP is a preferred converter of 3M materials and has had a relationship with the conglomerate for roughly the past 30 years. 3M gave recommendations of materials to use and now provides the clear polyester film for the shields as well as the adhesive to connect each shield to the forehead cushion.
SRP engineers developed a prototype, which the company tested on its laser cutters. The company then had a die made, placed orders with suppliers including 3M, Rubberlite Incorporated and Elastic Cord & Webbing, Inc. in East Dundee and began production.
"We can get materials fast and we can produce them pretty fast," Nick Gualano said. "Not thousands and thousands a day, but we can at least help the cause and get more shields into the market."
All materials for the SRP shields come from the U.S. and the shields are assembled at the company's headquarters in Elk Grove, where roughly 50 people work. This is a rarity in the market for this kind of protective gear, said Bill Liu, a consultant to SRP through his company NaviAsia Advisors. Most face shields and other types of personal protective equipment, or PPE, are produced overseas.
Hearing of PPE shortages at local health care facilities, businesses and governments prompted SRP to jump into a new product line to help fill the need. Liu said he heard DuPage County has a need, so SRP plans to donate 100 shields to the county government next week.
Larry Gualano said the shields are anticipated to remain a standard product.
"We figured, if were going to do it," he said, "let's use the highest quality materials we have available to us where we could still sell it for a reasonable cost."