Production work has begun on specially designed face shields at Metalform's Dannevirke plant.


Managing director Campbell Easton said sales and marketing manager, Tim Henman suggested making the shields after media reported frontline staff were struggling to get Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

"Tim called me and said 'was this something we could think about making'?

"We looked into it and decided this was a chance for Metalform to help fight Covid-19 as we have the ability to quickly produce the high volumes required.

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"We developed a simple design quickly and built some samples that we had local businesses test before settling on the final design."

Ministry of Health officials approved the project and the company is now fulfilling several orders for district health boards.

A box of face shields is headed to Hawke's Bay District Health Board.
A box of face shields is headed to Hawke's Bay District Health Board.

"It wasn't just health workers we wanted to provide with correct PPE, it was also supermarket workers and pharmacies. We hear about them being spat at by angry customers. That's pretty horrible.

"These people are risking their lives to help others."

A large part of Metalform's production area has been converted into an assembly area with separate stations set up for working on the different components.

The shields are made from thin, clear plastic, with a foam band that sits against the forehead and an adjustable elastic strap that fits around the head.

The shield is open at the top to allow good airflow, which stops the visor fogging up.

Metalform has used only New Zealand suppliers to provide the clear plastic, foam and elastic used to make the shields.

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Easton said each shield takes 90 seconds to assemble, and the plant can produce 35,000 shields a week, which will keep more than 100 people employed along the supply chain.

Easton says the lockdown has hit Metalform hard.

"Before the start of the face shields project, the essential services side of the business is only 2 or 3 per cent of our work so it's been pretty savage."

Production of the face shields will allow about 50 of the company's 90 staff continue to work.

"We have been required to carry out some limited production over the next few weeks of products that have been deemed essential to the medical industry to help fight Covid-19."

Metalform's essential team has been producing hundreds of the oxygen bottle holders for hospital beds.

Metalform was started in April 1961 by Bryce Easton, Campbell's grandfather, who began manufacturing rotating display stands for retail stores like Mitre 10. It still sells the same product, with some refinements.

By the 1980s, the company was producing aircraft hopper boxes and spreading buckets for helicopters.

It now makes a lot of high-tech electronic and tech-integrated products, which it exports worldwide.

The company has continued to expand and has offices in New Zealand, Australia, and the US and market representation in the UK, Europe, Japan and Chile.