Army machines paying off for Victorian mask maker

Shepparton-based surgical face mask manufacturer Med-Con is now producing millions of masks each week for Australia after the ADF helped it meet demand.

FILE PHOTO (April 2020): Australian Army Sergeant Steven Davidson assists Bob Neighbour to repair a medical mask manufacturing machine at Med-Con Pty Ltd. Photo by Corporal Sagi Biderman. Story by Jason Beck. 

The State government’s directive for masks to be worn in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire came as Med-Con reached full production capacity.

It was a success built on support delivered to Med-Con by the ADF earlier this year, when the COVID‑19 pandemic first saw a spike in demand.

Head of CASG’s Land Systems Division Major General Andrew Bottrell said Med-Con was facing a call to arms that it had never experienced before as the entire country faced a shortage of medical-grade personal protection equipment.

“Only two of the company’s three machines to produce surgical face masks were operational, and private industry was unable to provide timely assistance to repair the third machine,” Major General Bottrell said.

“The government needed a solution to support frontline health workers, so the ADF was called on to help.

“This high-priority task quickly established a capable Defence team to produce design drawings and manufacture repair parts, which was initially focused on returning the third machine to working order.

“However this quickly changed.

“Due to the expected demand Med-Con was facing, it was decided the ADF would produce a technical data package to permit the remanufacture of more complete machines.”

Major General Bottrell said the goal was to have the machines operational within six to 10 weeks of commencement.

“This was a monumental task which included the use of computer aided design tools, 3D scanners and old-school instruments, and which at its peak saw seven volunteers working 12-hour days, seven days a week,” he said.

“In all, more than 1300 models of the required components were created in under 19 days and had it not been for the technical mastery of our Land Engineering Agency, Special Operations Logistics Squadron and Joint Logistics team, this task would surely not have been completed in time.”

The complete data package to have the machines built was handed over to Med-Con on 27 March.

After further due diligence and consideration of the potential size and timeline of the pandemic, Med-Con decided to commission a further four machines, now with a total of 10 machines on site.

The last machine will be commissioned this week.

All the machines are currently running 24/7, and will maintain that tempo until at least the end of the year.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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