Firms pivot to meet demand for clear screens
Rising demand for “sneeze barriers” made from clear, plastic-based materials has prompted some Bermudian businesses to start making them.
As business owners scramble to prepare for reopening, while adhering to government guidelines designed to combat the spread of Covid-19, clear shields are suddenly much needed.
Vinyltech, a company that specialises in making PVC doors and windows, has already made custom-built Plexiglas screens that it has installed at beauty salons, retailers and a car dealer.
Bermuda Blueprinting, a printing firm, is also making protective shields from the acrylic materials it uses for making signage, as well as making face masks.
Among the Ministry of Health's recommendations for reopening businesses are installing Plexiglas shields in areas where employees, such as receptionists and customer service representatives, interact with customers.
Ron Hook, managing partner at Vinyltech, said demand for the sneeze barriers was quickly turning into a strong business line.
He said prospective customers had seen early installations at grocery stores and gas stations and wanted something more aesthetically pleasing and without the need for drilling holes. Mr Hook said: “We made a big one for Auto Solutions, a large 16ft screen for the parts department, as well as some standard 4ft screens.
“I've started getting calls for exempt companies who are looking to fit out whole office floors and they want something that is attractive.”
Vinyltech will soon take delivery of some stainless steel posts designed for Plexiglas screens, designed for the office environment, he added.
Mr Hook said: “It's a good thing I happened to have a big order of Plexiglas in, because my supplier says it's becoming harder to get.”
Manufacturers such as Plexiglas and Perspex are facing a spike in demand as the trend for installing transparent partitions in response to Covid-19 goes global.
Around the world, some restaurants have started to install screens around booth areas, while offices are placing clear partitions between desks. Italian firm Aviointeriors has even proposed a design for clear dividers between economy class airline seats.
Bermuda Blueprinting and sister company Island Embroidery have added sneeze guards, as well as face masks and Covid 19 signage to their usual services.
John Stephens, owner of Bermuda Blueprinting, said pivoting his business had been challenging.
“It's been a really interesting process for us,” Mr Stephens said. “Having to reinvent what we do for the betterment of our clients has been challenging but ultimately rewarding.
“You don't think about how the world is running low on things like elastic and acrylic … So even when we recognised how we could help, sourcing these materials has not been easy.”
The company designs, cuts and moulds protective shields to custom specifications and then installs them at the purchaser's premises.
To make masks, they have used a T-shirt printer to print custom designs onto fabric that they have sourced with help from Gibbons Company.
A pattern was made in-house and the printed fabric cut on a machine normally used for cutting shapes out of paper, board and acrylic. A circle of local seamstresses have been subcontracted to assemble the masks, the company added.
A Bermuda Blueprinting spokesman added that the firm donated several masks to Westmeath Nursing and Care Home.
“We are thrilled we were able to donate these valuable resources to one of our local care homes,” the spokesman added.