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Eastman donates 450 pounds of plastic to help PHCC 3D print protective gear

MARTINSVILLE, VA – Patrick Henry Community College received a donation of 450 pounds of double-laminated 7-millimeter film from Eastman in Martinsville.

A giant roll of plastic may seem like an odd thing to give a college, but during the pandemic of COVID-19, this donation could save lives.

Last week, PHCC launched an initiative to produce hundreds of face shields for health care providers in its Fab Lab at the Dalton IDEA Center.

While the college had several rolls of the appropriate plastic in stock to create the base of the shield, they did not have enough clear plastic on hand to the create the face coverings.

Initially, college officials had not anticipated this being an issue.

However, they found that suppliers’ shipments were backlogged which would slow their production significantly.

The college reached out to Eastman, a local company that uses large amounts of plastic regularly, to see if they had the necessary plastic to create a face shield.

Although Eastman did not have any plastic thick enough for a face shield, they quickly developed a creative solution.

Within 72 hours, Eastman’s team figured out how to use the materials they had on hand and began producing a product that would fit the need.

On Tuesday, Eastman presented the college with 1,000 feet of the specially designed plastic.

From this one donation, the college estimates it will be able to make over 400 face shields.

Face shields are a vital means of protection for healthcare workers who are caring for patients with infections disease.

As coronavirus spreads, many hospitals are finding their supply of face shields are insufficient to meet the demand.

Together, Eastman and PHCC hope to ensure local healthcare providers are fully equipped with these essentials before the need arises.

“We’re extremely proud to partner with Patrick Henry Community College for this important cause,” Steve DuVal, Eastman site director, said. “I am proud of how our teams stepped up to deliver the materials quickly and safely so our local healthcare workers can be safe as possible on the frontlines of this pandemic.”

College technicians say it will only take a few seconds for its laser cutting machine to turn a plastic sheet into a face shield.

The base of the face shield – which the college is producing using 3D printers – takes about four hours to print.

“We believe this whole event showcases how strong the Martinsville community is – how we can come together to support one another in a time of need,” Rhonda Hodges, PHCC's vice president of workforce and community development, stated. “We are so grateful for this donation and grateful to have partners like Eastman that are willing to come alongside us as we all do our part to keep our community safe and healthy.”

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