College, partners manufacturing face shields for front-line workers during pandemic

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Take a global pandemic and front-line service workers who don’t have the option of working from home.

Add an instructor with a 3-D printer network and a community service streak a mile wide, several caring industry partners, and a student with a desire to help his community while gaining real-world work experience.

The result? A partnership that is providing protective face shields for those who are keeping our communities running smoothly during COVID-19.

“With my skills as an engineer, I wasn’t going to sit back and not do something to help,” said Kevin Gallant, an instructor at NBCC Miramichi Campus.

Gallant, who organizes the Association of Professional Engineers and Geo-Scientists of New Brunswick’s annual Pumpkin Fling fundraiser in Miramichi, is used to serving the community. So when local industry partner Sunny Corner Enterprises (SCE) contacted him about using his network of 3-D printers to help make face shields for front-line service workers, he didn’t hesitate.

“This comes quite naturally to me, but for SCE, this product was not their norm,” Gallant said. “I was able to manage the logistics of 13 printer teams. I knew the network and put the team together.”

Business Administration: Management student Ryan Corcoran got involved with the project, preparing marketing materials and working with SCE to manage the supply chain. He had planned to complete his work practicum at SCE, but the pandemic changed those plans; this project gave him another way to get practical work experience and keep himself busy.

“I’m not the type of person to sit around and do nothing,” he said. “I like to help, however I can, and I’m always looking for stuff to do.”

Miramichi Medical Supplies also provided support to the project.

For SCE, the project represented a way to give back to the community it calls home and keep its supply chain running.

“The effects of this pandemic on the supply chain were not predictable and our team has been working tirelessly to source products for all of our customers to keep their operations functioning,” said Bill Schenkel, Vice-President Business Development and Sales at SCE. “The project showed the role of community-based education facilities in piloting techniques to create products in a manufacturing environment. Much was learned by all involved.”

But that’s just the beginning of the story.

Mariner Partners, one of Atlantic Canada’s largest independent technology companies, was looking for a way to give back to the community during the pandemic. Knowing that NBCC had 3-D printing technology, but not realizing that the College was already working with SCE, Mariner CEO and co-founder Curtis Howe reached out to NBCC to see if the College would be interested in partnering to make face shields.

“I was pleased to find out that this was already happening. I was so impressed that Sunny Corner and the College are doing this, at a time when our community needs this help,” said Howe. “There really is no other institution like NBCC. Who else has this kind of capability and is so invested in the community?”

Mariner Partners contributed financially to the project, allowing for the purchase of raw materials, and is challenging other industry partners to do the same.

“We’re priming the pump to get to the next level, building on what NBCC and SCE have already done,” said Howe.

By the end of the project, Gallant predicts that 250 to 300 face shields will go to front-line service providers in New Brunswick, but he’s not finished. He’s already working on a second phase of the project.

“All these printers, printing for a cause….that’s what’s motivating everyone,” said Gallant.

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