WHO WE ARE
Founded by parent company InkSmith, an educational technology manufacturer, The Canadian Shield was launched in response to global shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using existing resources and capabilities, the company sought to combat the shortage by equipping frontline workers across Ontario with medical face shields.
Through community engagement and an unrelenting work ethic, InkSmith and The Canadian Shield were able to donate 20,000 thousand 3D-printed face shields to hospitals and healthcare facilities. Simultaneously, the company prototyped an innovative, Canadian-made solution to the PPE shortage: a fully reusable alternative dubbed “The Canadian Shield”.
Within a matter of months, the company successfully scaled from less than 10 employees to over 300, acquired new manufacturing equipment, relocated into a 50,000 square foot facility and increased production capacity to 200,000 face shields per day. Shortly after, The Canadian Shield expanded its product line to include kid’s face shields, disposable face masks and reusable cloth masks, further strengthening Canada’s capacity to respond to future health pandemics.
Rebuilding Ontario’s local manufacturing sector is a cornerstone of The Canadian Shield and parent company InkSmith’s core mission. The COVID-19 outbreak served as a stark reminder that having a robust, sustainable manufacturing industry in Ontario is imperative in reducing reliance on global supply chains and keeping Canadians safe. For this reason, The Canadian Shield has strategically established a North American supply chain, bolstering domestic PPE supplies while also reinvigorating local economies with thousands of quality jobs for Canadians. At the company’s Waterloo, Ontario facility, hundreds of employees have secured full-time employment with compensation above the local living-wage rate and daily meals to provide healthy food options to staff.
On a mission to bring manufacturing back to Canada and reshoring jobs, The Canadian Shield is dedicated to sparking a “made in Canada’ revolution, one PPE product at a time.
HOW WE CAME TO BE
InkSmith Founder and CEO Jeremy Hedges had been following the COVID-19 pandemic since January 2020. In early March, it became clear that there would be a domestic shortage of PPE supplies for front-line workers at hospitals, healthcare facilities and beyond. Hedges was approached by Dr. Neil Naik, President of the Kitchener-Waterloo Academy of Medicine, about InkSmith’s capacity to 3D print PPE parts for local hospitals.
InkSmith quickly discovered that they were in a position to retool their existing infrastructure to manufacture PPE face shields. Within hours, InkSmith pivoted from selling 3D printers and laser cutters to school boards, to using the machines to manufacture face shields.
The first iteration of the PPE face shield, nicknamed "The Community Shield," is a 3D printed mask designed by Prusa Research, from the Czech Republic. After printing several of these face shields for testing at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, InkSmith quickly realized 3D printing by themselves was not a scalable solution for the looming PPE shortage.
To help bridge a short-term community solution, InkSmith put out an open call to anyone in Waterloo Region with a 3D printer to assist in printing headbands for The Community Shield on March 21st, 2020. Within 48 hours, InkSmith received hundreds of 3D printed parts from all over the Region to create PPE face shields. InkSmith then cleaned, assembled and distributed these shields to local undersupplied hospitals.
As the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada continued to evolve, the need for PPE face shields increased far beyond the initial demand. The team went back to the drawing board to create a face shield that could be produced and manufactured at scale. After dozens of iterations, InkSmith prototyped a design that could be manufactured quickly and was made entirely out of thin plastic, making it disinfectable and therefore reusable.
Soon after its inception, the InkSmith team affectionately named their latest face shield design and newly-formed company, "The Canadian Shield”. A pun on its origins and mission; the name may be light-hearted, but the impact the team hoped to achieve was not. After receiving their Class 1 Medical Device license from Health Canada, The Canadian Shield team worked around the clock to move what was once a small operation into a full-scale manufacturing facility in Waterloo, Ontario, where operations continue today.