Local company can produce tens of millions of masks annually
James Jackson Waterloo Region Record Sunday, April 11, 2021
CAMBRIDGE — Eclipse Automation, one of the country’s largest privately owned automation companies, has announced it will donate 1.5 million surgical-grade face masks to small businesses across Waterloo Region.
The company specializes in building automation systems for some of the largest manufacturers in the world, and last year turned its talents to designing and fabricating face masks at a time when Canada had a critical shortage. They can now produce tens of millions annually inside their Cambridge facility.
“It’s really all about empowering small businesses to succeed when they reopen again,” said Patty Attwell, director of marketing and communications for Eclipse. “We’ve been lucky at Eclipse to be able to continue working, and this is one way we can help out.”
Cartons of masks will be made available, free of charge, to small businesses via the Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo, a group that includes the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation, the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and Communitech.
Business Improvement Areas across the region will be briefed on how to provide pickup information to businesses. More information about the free masks is available online, www.chambercheck.ca, and the Region of Waterloo will also help distribute the masks to small businesses.
Eclipse also makes two different Health Canada certified respirators, and now has the capacity to produce approximately 130 million units of personal protective equipment each year — 80 million respirators, and 50 million surgical masks, Attwell said.
Chief executive officer Steve Mai said in a release: “Out of respect for the hardship our local small businesses have been through during the pandemic and recognizing the toll it takes on our community, Eclipse is pleased to do what we can to lighten the load just a little bit.”
Founded in 2001, Eclipse Automation builds custom automated manufacturing equipment for the life sciences, energy, transportation, consumer, electronics, and industrial sectors. Headquartered in Cambridge, the company also has facilities in South Carolina, California, Arizona and Hungary, and has more than 750 employees.
Eclipse was also a founding member of the Canadian Association of PPE Manufacturers, which formed last spring when Canada’s supply of protective equipment was low.
About a month ago, members of the Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo wrote to the Region of Waterloo and Province of Ontario to ask them to urge people to wear surgical-grade masks instead of cloth masks whenever they leave the house and shop locally.
The surgical masks do a better job of containing the spread of COVID-19, they said, and the masks are now in ample supply following a critical shortage early in the pandemic when there was no domestic production and international supplies were snatched up.
The hope was the masks could help the province avoid another complete shutdown as the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and intensive care visits continued to climb. Premier Doug Ford announced another state of emergency and stay-at-home order last week.
Local business leaders thanked Eclipse for the donation.
“As chair of the leadership group of the Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region, I’d like to congratulate Steve Mai and Eclipse Automation for stepping up when our community needed them the most,” said Waterloo Economic Development Corporation president and CEO Tony LaMantia in a release.
James Jackson is a Waterloo Region-based reporter focusing on business and technology for the Record. Reach him via email: [email protected]