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Wheeling around: Pulaski County’s Volvo plant produces PPE

One of the New River Valley’s largest manufacturers used a temporary halt in production and its 3-D printing technology to make personal protective equipment for hospitals running low on supplies.

A team of employees from the Pulaski County Volvo factory’s innovation lab have been making face shields and face mask clips for medical staff working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Franky Marchand, the plant general manager and vice president, said he contacted a local hospital to see how his company could help when production was temporarily halted in mid-March.

“I said you have a manufacturer with some time on its hands, what would you like us to do,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

Marchand said he was told there wasn’t initially a need for much in the area, but as the virus spread, he was told by LewisGale Hospital Pulaski that it, and its neighboring hospitals in Southwest Virginia, could use some PPE equipment, particularly face shields.

He said hospital officials told him first responders were running through single-use masks and shields at an unsustainable rate, so they enlisted Volvo’s help in creating a more durable shield that could be reused after being sanitized.

Many medical experts have discussed the use of shields in addition to masks, as the shields further reduce the chance of workers becoming infected.

Volvo Manufacturing Engineer Cody Lester – who makes parts using the plant’s 3-D printers – said he and a few other employees were able to successfully produce a usable mask after a few tries. He said the printer can produce 33 masks a day, plus mask clips and ear guards that read “Heroes at Work.”

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