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‘Rowan is serving the world’: Local company designing, shipping N95 mask machines

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — One local engineering company in Rowan County is answering the call to help combat a national shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers battling COVID-19 by designing and shipping machines that can create tens of thousands of N95 masks.

Turnkey Technologies is an engineering company in the local manufacturing industry that designs, builds, programs and integrates machines and secondary processing equipment, primarily for the plastic industry, for clients all across the globe. The facility has about 41 employees at its 44,000-square-foot facility located at 402 Bringle Ferry Rd. It was founded in 1999 and moved from Concord to Salisbury in 2011.

Turnkey is partnering with an integration company in Kentucky as part of a contract to build rotary machines to produce N95 personal protective masks — designed to protect the wearer from airborne particles and liquid contaminating the face. Each machine can produce almost 16,000 masks per day at a rate of one mask per 5.45 seconds.

The machines will be sent sent to Branson Ultrasonics, the world’s largest plastic manufacturer, said Turnkey president and co-owner Tony Ward.

The workers creating the machines can be thought of as “soldiers on the front lines fighting this silent enemy,” said Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander, who toured the facility Thursday and called it “really patriotic work.”

On the FDA website, it states the FDA recognizes that the need by healthcare providers and personnel for personal protective equipment, such as surgical masks and surgical and isolation gowns, may outpace the supply during the COVID-19 outbreak.

To date, Turnkey has shipped six machines and has agreed to produce a total of 75 machines until July. Such a machine would normally take 12 weeks to produce, but they have been designed and constructed in 2.5 weeks, Ward said, because “America doesn’t have that long.”

“Our country’s asking us to do something, so we’re stepping up,” Ward said.

Turnkey project manager Mark Hill said the work “gives people a sense of pride and a sense of hope” and helps health care workers avoid wearing the same mask all day long or for multiple days, which runs the risk of spreading the virus further. Hill’s own wife, Kelly, is a nurse.

The designs come from SolidWorks, which is a solid modeling computer-aided engineering program. From there, the parts of the machine are coated, painted, assembled on-site and wired before shipping to Branson Ultraworks, Hill said. The rotary machine will include a dial and six stations.

Rowan County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said having a local company play this role in the world “shows Rowan’s place in the economy.” He added that “Rowan is serving the world.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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