Learning about shortages of personal protective equipment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic gave Sandy Price of PYC Awnings and Price’s Yacht Canvas in St. Michaels a great idea. After all, making polycarbonate boat enclosures for years with the complexity and custom designs it takes to make each enclosure, face shields were in reach of their expertise.

Price’s daughter who works as a dental hygienist had shared that dentists and hygienists could not find the proper face shields because of the eye loupes they need to wear. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge dentists and hygienists to wear full face shields to protect medical personnel from exposure to splashes and sprays.

When Price began to research the idea, she quickly realized she might be able to parlay her experience into making face shields. She and her business partner Steve Price have years of experience making accessories for boats out of polycarbonate, a strong material that can also be optically transparent.

Sandy’s search also took her to the Maryland Marketplace where she found the need for face shields. She set out to develop one that could be used by dentists and others.

Her online research took her to the Czech Republic for face shield designs using 3D printing technology for the headbands.

“I found a company named Prusa that offered free, open source design software for a variety of face shields,” Price explains. Among the designs for headbands was one that allows the polyethylene terephthalate (PETG) visor for the shield to bow out from the wearer’s face to create room for glasses and optical devices.

Her next stop was a company in Texas with 3D printers on a scale that could produce medical grade headbands for the face shield visors. “I considered purchasing a printer, they are quite expensive,” Price says. “The Texas company has several printers capable of producing a large number of frames.”

Vendors that PYC has worked with for years already supply polycarbonate, medical grade padding, and elastic. Using her CAD plotting machine, Price was able to put all of the information together to manufacture medical grade face shields.

“Our face shields are made of a high grade of polycarbonate (PETG) that can be cleaned,” Price says. “And we offer replacement parts so that the shields will last. I believe these will be especially useful in rough environments.”

Because all the parts are certified medical grade by the Food and Drug Administration, she was able to obtain an emergency certification from the FDA that allows her to supply medical professionals. Price’s Yacht Canvas also received a manufacturing grant from the Maryland Department of Commerce. The grant was used to purchase equipment to manufacture the face shields in large quantities. PYC also invested their capital in the supplies, labor, and the development of the shields.

Price has been in the marine canvas business since 1987 when she and her business partner Steve Price started Price’s Yacht Canvas. “In 2004, the awning business took off, so we established PYC Awnings and pivoted our manufacturing to an online business that ships products nationwide,” she explains. The company is located on Talbot Street and employs eight people.

Price is proud of her company’s ability to quickly develop and manufacture PPE to meet a critical need during this unprecedented crisis. She would also like to provide to local businesses and institutions looking for solutions to the challenge of protecting employees and customers. PYC Awnings is offering donations of face shields to care facilities and other medical facilities. She also offers face shields sized for children.

For more information and donation requests, visit pycawnings.com or email sandyp@pycawnings.com.