Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Manufacturing companies pivot to produce PPE, medical devices for COVID-19 fight [UPDATED]

May 19, 2020
By Kristina Urquhart

Manufacturers and automation companies across Canada are retooling in an effort to offset a shortage of critical medical supplies needed to combat coronavirus

Photo: sturti/Getty Images

Manufacturers and supply chains across Canada have been mobilizing to produce more personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices needed in the fight against COVID-19.

Face shields and masks are among the most critical supplies needed by hospitals and health-care providers, along with ventilators, hospital gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer. As workplaces reopen, PPE is also required for customer-facing roles.

On Mar. 31, federal government committed $2 billion to the purchase of PPE and medical supplies from Canadian and international suppliers.

Ontario has pledged $50 million for businesses to retool their manufacturing operations for COVID-19 equipment, and Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) has also opened up $50 million in available funding for manufacturers to produce essential supplies and PPE.


Major manufacturers such as Labatt, Fiat Chrysler, Canada Goose and Bosch are among the companies producing more equipment. (For more on what these companies are doing, see this list on our sister site

Other Canadian manufacturing and automation companies are stepping up, too. Here’s how [last updated May 19, 2020 11:15 a.m. EDT]:


Innovative Automation in Barrie, Ontario has retooled and produced a ventilator prototype called the TidalPump in the span of 12 days. The ventilator is now awaiting approval from Health Canada.

Steve Loftus, president of Innovative Automation, says that the simplified ventilators can be used in emergencies when there is high demand.

“We need to generate positive news when communicating to our employees so they can feel good about what they’re doing,” he recently said in a webinar hosted by

The company is also producing face shields, and announced in an Apr. 3 LinkedIn post that they had manufactured 10,000 in four days.

Magna International, Linamar Corp., and Martinrea International are among the companies that have been solicited by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association and the Ontario government to manufacture 10,000 ventilators.

The three companies are working tandem with health care technology manufacturers Thornhill Medical in Toronto and O-Two Medical Technologies in Brampton, Ontario.

Thornhill Medical plans to deliver more than 1,000 to the federal government, and 40 directly to Ontario over the next two months.

The three auto parts manufacturers will also collaborate with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems, which are producing ventilators at a GM factory in the U.S. for distribution in North America.

Bombardier is also assisting O-Two Medical Technologies with production of 18,000 ventilators for the Ontario government at its temporarily closed plant in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The recalled workers are doing sanding, painting and assembly work on the equipment.

Flight simulator manufacturer CAE has recalled all of its employees in Canada that were temporarily laid off in response to the COVID-19 pandemic after signing a contract with the Canadian government to produce 10,000 ventilators.

Festo North America and its subsidiary Fabco-Air Inc. are working on a ventilator design and an automation system for masks in the fight against COVID-19.

The companies are also prioritizing orders for components and systems used in medical equipment.

High-speed automated laboratory devices are essential for the types of screening envisioned for sample analysis during the pandemic. Photo: Festo

Face shields

INKSmith, a maker of 3D printers and laser cutters in Kitchener, Ontario is producing Health Canada–approved face shields to donate to local hospitals – and started a spinoff company, The Canadian Shield, to do it.

The Canadian Shield has opened its second facility and is hiring hundreds of employees as it accelerates production.

The company specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of reusable PPE shields. Approved by Health Canada in March, these shields are designed in-house and can be washed and sanitized, reducing the overall cost on the healthcare system.

In late April, The Canadian Shield signed a contract with the federal government to produced 10 million face shields.

In order to meet the anticipated demand, The Canadian Shield has hired machine operators, assembly line workers, support and administrative personnel. Employees will earn a living wage and be eligible to receive company benefits.

INKSmith started by creating two single-use face shields: The Canadian Shield, featuring a laser-cut headband with adjustable strap and a clear face shield; and an earlier iteration called the Community Shield, which included a headband manufactured on a 3D printer. The Community shield was shipped directly to hospitals in critical need.

The company has also made files available for local companies that have 3D printers, so they can print and mail the parts to INKSmith for assembly.

For more: Ontario tech manufacturer creates new company dedicated to face shield production

The University of Waterloo is sourcing filament from Oshawa, Ontario’s Cimetrix Solutions for use in a 3D printer in its Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing Laboratory (MSAM).

MSAM is manufacturing between 50 and 60 headbands per day, which are then shipped for assembly at INKSmith.

Molded Precision Components (MPC), an injection moulding company in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, is pivoting from producing automotive parts to manufacturing face shields and parts for ventilators.

The Globe & Mail reports that the company is currently working on retooling and creating new moulds based on a 3D-printed prototype.

MPC is working with Sterling Industries, a Toronto-area medical manufacturer, on the logistics to create the parts. Sterling Industries is facilitating approvals from the federal government.

Within approximately four weeks, MPC expects to manufacture about 4,000 face shields per day with just one machine tool, and may be able to scale to produce thousands or even millions more.

MHI Canada Aerospace, Inc. a Tier 1 manufacturer of major aircraft structures and assemblies in Mississauga, Ont., is 3D printing 100 plastic visor bands per day to attach to face shields and sending them to local hospitals.

Napoleon‘s facility in Barrie, Ont. has set aside manufacture of grills and fireplaces to help an area medical supplier produce face shields. Fifty staff work four shifts a day assisting with machine operations, assembly, engineering, quality control and material handling.

Additive manufacturer Burloak Technologies received funding from NGen to produce face shields that are designed and tested in collaboration with Hamilton Health Sciences and Mohawk College.

Production has begun and will ramp up to volumes of approximately 10,000 units per week.

Ford Motor Company of Canada is producing face shields at its Windsor, Ontario operations in response to the need for COVID-19 protective equipment, and Bauer Hockey is manufacturing facial shields at its Blainville, Que., plant.

Bauer has made its design for the facial shields public so that other manufacturers can retool and produce them quickly.

The companies are working with the Ontario and federal governments to distribute face shields throughout Canada.

CKF Inc., a Canadian manufacturer of food service, packaging and tableware, has retooled to produce a face shield.

The company, known for producing the Royal Chinet brand of paper products, designed, tooled up and began the pilot manufacturing of the protective gear at its plant in Delta, B.C. in less than two weeks.

Made from recycled PET (rPET), the Front Line Face Shields are assembled in 60 seconds and are available from CKF’s Delta, B.C. and Rexdale, Ont. locations.

A private auto parts manufacturer in Orangeville, Ontario has created the Easyshield, a face shield that attaches onto either a baseball cap or hard hat.

The shield was created using the same material used to produce medical shields and can be wiped down after each use.


On Apr. 9, Eclipse Automation announced that it is working with a Chinese manufacturer to bring an automation system for production of N95 masks to Ontario.

N95 masks meet stringent health regulations as they are produced using tightly woven material that filters out 95 per cent of microscopic contaminants.

The system was installed and put into operation at Eclipse’s facility in Cambridge, Ontario within four weeks. They system is allowing manufacturers across North America to customize production requirements for mask designs including the N95 and KN95 – and ultimately enable Canadian manufacturers to make the masks, which until now have been outsourced to the United States and global sources.

The federal government has ordered 75 million N95 masks for delivery from international sources, and a shipment of 2.3 million arrived this week.

In addition, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has stated that the province is collaborating with Woodbridge Group, an automotive supply company in Mississauga, Ontario, to produce N95 masks.

General Motors has reopened its Oshawa plant in Ontario to produce one million face masks a month at its Oshawa plant after reaching an agreement with the federal government.

The company will retool part of its plant, similar to the operations its plant in Michigan, to produce the personal protective equipment (PPE).

Photo: Adobe Stock

Hand sanitizer and disinfectant

Progressive Fluids in Mississauga, Ontario, a producer of industrial lubricants, is now producing hand sanitizer with capacity of up to 15,000 litres per day.

The company is sending 1,000-litre containers of the sanitizer to London, Ontario’s Goodwill Industries for packaging and distribution.

Goodwill is then transferring the hand sanitizer into four-litre containers to sell to businesses.

Virox Technologies, a manufacturer of disinfectants, is scaling up its production with $850,000 in funding from the Ontario government’s program that helps businesses retool to make COVID-19-related equipment.

The company is installing a high-speed manufacturing assembly line to ramp up production of its accelerated hydrogen peroxide products, which are used in households and professional settings.

It is estimated that the new equipment will allow the company to produce 6,000 cases per day, which will help meet increased demand from the health care sector and general consumer market during the outbreak.


Canada Goose is producing medical supplies at its Toronto and Winnipeg factories, and plans to open its other six facilities to assist in production.

At capacity, the company will produce at least 60,000 gowns per week, delivering up to 1.5 million in total at cost.

Testing equipment

ATS Automation Tooling Systems has received a $65 million order for two automated manufacturing systems that will produce components for COVID-19 test kits.

The Cambridge, Ontario–based company will design, build and deliver the systems within the next four months to Tessy Plastics, a global contract manufacturer headquartered in New York that specializes in injection moulding and custom automated assembly solutions.

ATS is also facilitating ventilator component production and respirator production across North America with its automation systems.

Imagine Fiberglass Products, of Kitchener, Ontario, has created a COVID-19 testing station that allows health-care professionals to administer tests.

The company says that the testing station, called the IsoBooth, will reduce the need for disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) after each test is administered.

The booth design allows the clinician to stand inside, apart from the patient, and administer a swab test from gloved external hand ports. The gloves can be sanitized after each use.


Has your company pivoted to produce equipment to aid in the fight against COVID-19? Email our editor to let us know and we will add you to the list!

Looking to retool or collaborate with another company on manufacturing medical supplies? Here’s a list of resources to get started.

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