Canadian Shield awarded 10M-unit contract for reusable face shields
Doubling its Waterloo-area workforce to 300 to meet August production target.
KITCHENER, Ont. — The Canadian Shield has won a contract from the federal government to manufacture 10 million reusable face shields for healthcare providers and essential workers across Canada.
This Kitchener, Ont. personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer, in existence for just a few weeks, will double its workforce from 150 to 300 employees to fill the order by August.
“The federal government’s contract will put us in a position to expand our operating capabilities to address the critical shortage of medical equipment,” said Jeremy Hedges, founder and CEO of The Canadian Shield.
“We understand the significant toll that COVID-19 has taken on our local economy and the Canadian workforce as a whole. This investment will allow us to put at least 150 more people back to work, reinvigorating our local manufacturing sector in Waterloo Region.”
The company sprang from InkSmith, Hedges’s original company, a manufacturer of educational tools that had 10 employees. It responded to the COVID-19 state of emergency’s need for medical gear by producing face shields using 3D printing and laser cutting technology at its 10,000 square-foot plant.
The first version of the face protector was called “Community Shield”, designed by Czech Republic firm Prusa3D. It consisted of a 3D-printed headband and reinforcement piece, clear protective face shield and an adjustable head strap.
But 3D printing would not handle the expected volume so the company switched to its own patent-pending design – Canadian Shield – laser-cut shields that eliminated the 3D-printed parts. The new shields can be washed, chemically sanitized and reused. The shield can be reused when cleaned using chemical sanitation and is a more affordable PPE option compared to other disposable shields. It is also compatible with other PPE including N95 masks, surgical masks and safety goggles.
Canadian Shield hired 80 workers recently laid off because of the financial impacts of COVID-19 to produce the shields. Demand has pushed the company to expand to a 50,000 square-foot space where the face shields will be produced on several automation lines. Plastic will be fed into machines that cut out thousands of shields hourly per unit. Dozens of manual punch-press machines will also be producing parts.
The shields, approved by Health Canada in March, are currently being distributed to hospitals across Ontario, including Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Cambridge Memorial Hospital and Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa.
“The story of The Canadian Shield demonstrates the strengths of Waterloo region – combining modern-day innovation of a company like InkSmith, our traditional roots in manufacturing and our collaborative spirit of both the public sector of cities like Kitchener and Waterloo with the private sector to move mountains to get things done,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.
Once the contract with Public Services and Procurement Canada is fulfilled, the manufacturer plans to extend its reach internationally.
“InkSmith’s Canadian Shield is a perfect example of tech for good and an inspiration to other innovators looking to help Canada respond to COVID-19,” said Iain Klugman, president and CEO at Communitech.
Communitech is a public-private innovation hub that supports more than 1,400 companies from startups, to scale-ups and large global players in the Waterloo Region.
“The InkSmith team’s lightning-fast pivot to building face shields to protect our frontline healthcare workers is a true community effort that has captured hearts across the country, and we’ll continue to support them as this story unfolds.”
The Canadian Shield acknowledges its partners and stakeholders including Communitech, City of Kitchener, Bereskin & Parr, Whitney, Waterloo EDC and BDO Kitchener-Waterloo.