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North Bay-area plastic parts maker ready to step into the COVID-19 fight

Expanding Corbeil injection molder is available to make medical parts should the call come
Don Champagne
Don Champagne of North Bay Plastic Molders holds a heavy-duty shop mat in his Corbeil facility in this 2015 file photo.

Don Champagne of North Bay Plastic Molders stands ready and willing to do his part to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Corbeil-area custom injection molder is signaling to the provincial government that they have capacity and ability to make thousands of components, on long production runs, for any urgently needed medical application on short notice.

“We can do any part that a mold can be made for,” said Champagne, owner of the three-employee custom shop, just east of North Bay.

Plastic is one of the more critical materials in the health care and medical fields. It’s used for such things as masks, gloves, IV tubes, blood bags, ventilator parts, and antimicrobial floor and wall coverings.

The global pandemic that has spread to Ontario is happening at the same time his company is making a major move from their 7,500-square-foot shop, only steps from the back door of Champagne's Corbeil home, into a new 20,000-square-foot building on Highway 94.

“We are taking over the new building this week, so it’s been a massive process to move the machines and get them electrically hooked up.”

He was fully expecting to be back in production by Thursday and is ready to bid on any COVID-19-related government procurement contracts, if need be.

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On March 21, the Ontario government put out a public call for the manufacturing sector to prepare to retool its production capacity toward making “essential equipment like ventilators, masks, and swabs.”

A special website has been launched for companies and the business community to share creative solutions and submit proposals on how the government can quickly procure required goods and services.

Champagne said he was in the process of filing his company’s credentials on the website when contacted by Northern Ontario Business.

He also directly inquired with Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli’s office earlier in the day and was waiting to hear back from the cabinet minister.

“We did tell them what our capabilities are, so we’re waiting for some feedback on what exactly they want.”

A small and nimble manufacturer, North Bay Plastic Molders are familiar with rush jobs for clients, especially in making drilling and blasting parts for the mining industry.

“Once we have the mold, you will never keep up with what I can produce,” said Champagne, who began the company out of his garage in 1985.

Champagne runs a fully automated, “lights-out,” shop of various types of molding equipment, including six Engel machines, to make a wide array of custom-ordered parts. Once programmed, the machines run around the clock, unattended.

Depending on the complexity of a part and the number of cavities, “we could be producing 50,000 to 100,000 parts per day.”

Aside from the mining sector, the company’s diverse range of clients and products has them making everything from plastic construction cones for highway contractors to selling heavy-duty mats to veterinarians to line the bottom of pet cages.

They export around the world to Sweden, France, Spain, North and South Africa, Australia, the U.S. and South America, said Champagne.

Making parts for the health-care and medical sectors would be a new venture, but not one that Champagne feels they couldn’t tackle.

He said they can easily make small, more intricate, parts that can be assembled as components.

Champagne said his company has its own master unit die, allowing them to quickly make a mold to certain specifications in order to get into production immediately.

As well, his main mold maker in Montréal, one of several companies he works with, is experienced with medical supply parts.

“If we have the molds, we would be producing within 24 hours.”