Movie screen material to be used to make guards for frontline workers

Protective gear: The prototype designs of face shields by Harkness Screens.  

Moments of crises can often be about making a quick turnaround to stay relevant. Cinemas may have shut down the world over but the PVC material used in manufacturing movie screens can be utilised as a guard in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting Monday, global screen technology company Harkness Screens will start making curtains (used as dividers, and frames, for partitioning) for Indian hospitals and quarantine facilities, aprons and disposable face shields for the country’s doctors, nurses, health staff and other frontline workers, from its manufacturing unit in Nelamangala near Bengaluru. The fourth product, a sanitisable and reusable face shield, will start getting delivered by the end of April.

Harkness has prototype designs of medical curtains and heavy-duty PVC aprons using the PVC usually used to create a movie theatre’s silver screen, said a press statement. The 90-year-old company also has manufacturing units in the U.S., U.K., France and China.

Movie screen material to be used to make guards for frontline workers

The idea is to mobilise Harness Screens’ global manufacturing strength to focus on how they can help those on the frontline. “The cinema business is closed globally. We cannot make or sell screens. Our concern was to be of help during the crisis and put the existing infrastructure and capability to use,” said Preetham Daniel, senior vice president Asia, Harkness Screens.

Mark Ashcroft, CEO of Harkness Screens, said in a press statement they were prepared at the tail end of last year, when the pandemic’s onset in China meant their factory there remained closed from the Chinese New Year to the end of March. “As a result, when COVID-19 reached the other regions we operate in, we knew what to expect. We believe we can help those on the frontline.”

According to Mr. Daniel, the core material is the key. PVC is considered much more resilient, durable and effective than OHP sheets currently being used for manufacturing face shields. PVC has a great advantage because it is anti-microbial. PVC curtains can also be sanitised very easily with minimum labour by using a disinfectant spray. The PVC face shield will be like a visor from the forehead to the neck and is size agnostic when it comes to a person’s head or face.

Chief scientist and director of R&D (research and development), Laurent Espitalier, said all of Harkness’ ideas are well within the capabilities of Harkness staff the world over. “The fact that we have such a wide global footprint means we can help countries and provide them with high-quality PVC products,” he said, in the statement.

The unit is classified under essential services and been granted special permission for repurposing the factory as a medical equipment manufacturing facility. According to Mr. Daniel, all measures and norms will be followed strictly: 50% of the 45-strong workforce will work in cycles, maintaining the required distancing and assuring proper sanitisation of the place and people.

The disposable shield will cost ₹75, the reusable one will cost ₹120 and apron, ₹900 a piece. Curtain cost would depend on the size. A 3 feet by 8 feet one used in railway isolation coaches would typically cost about ₹2,000.

According to Mr. Daniel, the price just involves the cost of the product — the PVC sourced from Europe — and not labour. “There is no additional profit involved. It is a social responsibility exercise for us,” he said.

The company is working closely with health ministries across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telengana to connect with hospitals and quarantine centres and wants to extend its support to Maharashtra as well.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 1:31:37 PM |

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