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Solvay supplying material for medical face shields

Solvay employee Rocky Turner prepares to unload raw materials for the production of Udel in this 2017 photo. Udel is one of the specialty polymers Solvay in Marietta is producing to supply materials for face shields being manufactured by Boeing. (Photo provided by Solvay Specialty Polymers)

MARIETTA — Solvay Specialty Polymers is supplying plastic pellets used to manufacture face shields to protect medical personnel from COVID-19 infection.

The company will supply “high-performance, medical-grade transparent film” to airplane-maker Boeing for its production of face shields needed by medical workers around the country, Solvay said in a press release this week. The film is made from Radel PPSU or Udel PSU, specialty polymers already made at Solvay on Ohio 7 – the only Solvay location worldwide that produces them.

“We’ve prioritized the production of that material for that application,” plant manager Wally Kandel said.

The plastic is used in a variety of applications, including plumbing and food service, as well as to produce trays for sterilizing medical equipment and handles on surgical instruments.

“It can be sterilized like 6,000 times without any degradation,” Kandel said.

Solvay Advanced Polymers in Marietta is supplying plastic pellets that Boeing will use to make face shields like these for medical workers. (Photo provided by Solvay Specialty Polymers)

They are also utilized in aircraft cabin interior walls, overhead storage units and insulation, so the company already has a relationship with Boeing, Kandel said.

The pellets will be produced here, then shipped to a Solvay facility in New Jersey, where they will be converted into sheets.

“Then Boeing is cutting it into the face shield and mounting it” at their facility in Berkeley, Missouri, Kandel said.

Solvay products are used in a variety of medical applications, including for parts in in-demand ventilators and dialysis filters.

“Solvay Marietta supplies material for 100 percent of the domestically produced dialysis cartridges and roughly 50 percent of the overseas-produced cartridges,” Kandel said.

That’s why Solvay remains an essential business, with about two-thirds of the plant’s more than 300 employees still working on-site, he said.

“These guys, it takes a lot of courage to be doing what they’re doing,” Kandel said. “We have as many people working from home that can be working from home. But in a chemical plant, a majority of the hourly guys have to go into the plant.”

The company has taken steps to protect against spreading the virus, Kandel said. Extra cleaning is being done, both by staff and outside entities. Employees are separated during meetings and lunch. Temperatures are taken before workers start their shift, and “we’re providing masks when they need to be closer than 6 feet,” Kandel said.

Working on the face shield material strikes a personal note for workers who have friends and family in the medical field. That includes Kandel, whose sister and nephew are nurses in South Carolina using the type of equipment Solvay is helping provide.

“I’m really thankful and proud of our employees for the continued effort to come to work every day because we are such an essential business,” he said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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