SAINT JOSEPH, MI—A pair of systems integrators in southwestern Michigan have come together to make sure local first responders have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need.

As reported by local television station ABC 57, the story starts at Bridgman (MI) High School, where schools superintendent Shane Peters noticed there was a shortage of PPE for medical staff and first responders.

“I thought to myself how could we help as a school district? How could I…help facilitate getting PPE into the hands of the people who really need them for their own health and safety?” Peters said.

So, Peters reached out to a long-time friend, Tim Tate, the managing director of Edgewater Automation in nearby St. Joseph, MI, to ask if the systems integrator was capable of making face masks or face shields.

It was. “We do just about anything you can think of in the transportation industry, the energy industry, aerospace industry, medical devices and pharmaceutical,” Tate says.

Deciding to produce face shields might have been easy, however, Edgewater quickly realized supplies would be an issue. “Material has proven to be a difficult thing to source, with everyone making [face shields] right now,” says Cody Laughlin, a mechanical design engineer at Edgewater.

Despite a lack of supplies, Edgewater was already facing huge demand. “We got a really big request that came in for the Berrien County Sheriff's department for 750 pieces,” Tate says. “They wanted them quickly, and we wanted to make sure they got them quickly.”

Some outside help was quickly needed to get the job done. That’s when Edgewater called Eagle Technologies, a systems integrator located in Bridgman. “It’s really cool, because a lot of the time, were competing with one another, and now we would be working as partners,” says Tate.

Immediately, the two businesses got to work. “There were a couple basic designs we started with,” says Laughlin. “Working with Eagle, we came up with a design that would work and be comfortable for everyone.”

Trying to ramp up production of 3D-printed clips and main frames with only one printer was a challenge. Fortunately, Bridgman High School had two 3D printers that were sitting idle, so Peters allowed Edgewater to use them. Eagle also added its 3D printer to the cause.

“We have supplied about 200 so far, and I believe Eagle has done about the same, so we’re a little over half way to our 750 mark,” Laughlin says.

The partnership with Eagle made the project possible, Laughlin says. “We would have taken twice as long to do it ourselves,” he explains. “They helped us refine the design, ramp up production, and make these as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

For Laughlin, the project was more than just a work assignment. It was personal. “My dad is actually a deputy,” he says. “He got his mask the other day, so he’s been able to stay safe.”