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West Japan firms team up to develop disposable paper-frame face shields

Takeshi Higuchi, president of Himejishiko Co., left, and Kengo Shimada, an executive of Kuroiwa Co., are seen holding their face shield products at Himeji City Hall in Hyogo Prefectur,e on May 13, 2020. (Mainichi/Yoshiko Yukinaga)

HIMEJI, Hyogo -- A paper processing plant in this western Japan city has teamed up with a local company specializing in die cutting services to create paper-framed face shields to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.

Some 2,000 of the items were donated to the municipal government of Himeji on May 13, and orders for the product have already been received from nursing facilities and other institutions.

Himejishiko Co. has been involved in manufacturing paper packages for products such as snacks sold as souvenirs and "ekiben" box lunches seen at railway stations. However, demand for the products saw a sharp decline in April, following moves to refrain from traveling amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.

While searching for new alternatives for products, the company came up with the idea of a face shield, as they thought they could put their processing skills to use. President Takeshi Higuchi commented, "We thought we could make use of the technique to attach a transparent film on a package so that it shows the inside contents of the box."

The company asked Kuroiwa Co., a die cutting business based in the same city, to handle the product design and trial production. The team carried out trial manufacturing of the product repeatedly while also listening to the opinions of health care professionals. The finalized product was completed in only a month.

The face shields do not fog up so much, are light in weight, and were kept at a low price as the makers envisioned them as disposable. The shield is shaped as a facial covering mask, and is fastened to the head using a paper belt. By bending the paper around the forehead in an arch, the shield does not stick to the face and allows air to pass through easily.

The price of the shields is set at 80 yen each, excluding tax. The products are being sold exclusively to medical institutions and corporate bodies. Approximately 20,000 of the items can be manufactured per day.

President Higuchi commented, "I am glad if we can be of help, even in the slightest way."

Upon receiving the face shields on May 13, Himeji Mayor Hideyasu Kiyomoto stated, "I would also like to distribute these masks to municipal staff members in charge of investigating infection routes for the novel coronavirus. I hope the masks will be sent out to the world as a local specialty of Himeji."

(Japanese original by Yoshiko Yukinaga, Himeji Bureau)

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