This is a time like no other before it, not only in the rubber industry, but in all business sectors around the world. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows exponentially, layoffs are piling up in record-setting numbers.
A lot of it starts with automotive production coming to a virtual standstill in the U.S. and elsewhere. That brings a big part of the economy to a halt. For our industry, it begins with tire makers enacting temporary shutdowns, followed by the pandemic's impact on a growing list of automotive parts suppliers.
But while this global outbreak marches on, people want to do something positive. With this, you see individuals and companies finding a way to make a difference. In some cases, where a company or industry is deemed essential, it allows a business to give workers a sense of normalcy and routine.
But there's a whole other side to this. Many companies both big and small are doing something extra or different. It can be a small but meaningful gesture meant to help the surrounding region where a factory is located. Or it can be a widespread effort where other businesses are invited to join in collaboration.
It may be an engineer at a Freudenberg Sealing operation in Indiana who finds blueprints on the internet to use 3D printing to make safety visors for front line responders. It may make only a few visors a day, but it's something.
Or it may be workers at a Nishikawa Cooper facility, where the vast majority of the staff is on furlough because the automotive industry is virtually shut down. But when a local business organization suggested they could aid in the fight against the pandemic by making gowns, they relished the chance to be part of the effort.
Other efforts are larger, but that doesn't make them any more or less meaningful. Woodbridge Inoac Technical Products is aiming to produce more than a million masks a week at facilities in the U.S. and Canada. Polyzen, a 100-person company in North Carolina, is setting its sights on making gloves and assisting in the development of face shields and other disposables for use by those on the front lines of this battle.
Stratasys Ltd., knowing this is the perfect situation to showcase the power of 3D printing on a grand scale, has put together a global coalition of 150 companies, organizations and institutions to produce tens of thousands of face shields. To aid in the effort, Stratasys has offered free material licensing on many of its high-end printers during this time.
And these are just a few of the many examples.
More than once, people have called the battle against the novel coronavirus "a different kind of war." And it's times like these when efforts to help in any way give people hope, along with a sense that we will get through this and come out the other side.