Ep. 83 – Tooling Machines to Fight COVID-19

By Noah Graff

Today’s guest on the show is Gordon Erickson, founder of KWALYTI Tool in Batavia, Illinois. KWALYTI specializes in tooling up packaging machines, often for food products such as meat and cheese. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, KWALYTI has played an essential role in combating the epidemic. The company has tooled machines to package cotton swabs for coronavirus testing. Soon it will be tooling machines that produce pouches for holding N95 masks so they can be sterilized for reuse.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

(2:45) Gordon talks about his company KWALYTI, a machine shop, located in the Batavia, Illinois. He says KWALYTI rebuilds and tools up vacuum packaging machines, primarily used in the meat and cheese industry. When you see the vacuum packages holding hotdogs or bacon they are probably produced with the type of machines his company works with. 

(5:00) Gordon talks about tooling packaging machines for both the food and medical industries. For the medical industry KWALYTI has tooled machines that vacuum pack suture removal kits and packages of gauze. KWALYTI also services and troubleshoots the machines it supplies.

(9:30) Gordon says that KWALYTI has suppled three machines to Vienna Beef, the hotdog brand that Chicago is famous for.  

(10:50) Gordon talks about how KWALYTI has been relied upon during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says when Illinois Governor Pritzker instituted the shelter in place order he quickly got a call from Vienna Beef and some other customers telling him the company needed to stay up and running because it was their main parts and service provider for their packaging machines. Also during the pandemic, demand for vacuum packaging machines arose when food that had usually gone to restaurants was diverted to grocery stores.

(13:30) Gordon talks about supplying molds to a company in Florida to change over its machines from packaging syringes to packaging nasal swabs for virus testing. He said the company was running three shifts a day making 3” swabs. 

(15:30) Gordon says that KWALYTI is in the process of making a perforating system that goes onto a machine to makes special pouches. Medical workers will put their used N95 masks in the pouches, which then will undergo an autoclave sterilization process overnight so they can be reused the next day. An autoclave process exposes the pouches to 250 degree Fahrenheit direct steam. The pouches have one side made of plastic and the other side made of a material called Tivek.  

(18:45) The same company that makes pouches to sterilize the masks also had KWALYTI make a tool to use in machines that make plasma bags. He says some of the tooling his company produces could have taken months to import from Germany, but he was able to produce them in a week.

(20:20) Gordon says he doesn’t point the finger at the government for not being more ready to deal with supply chain problems because nobody could predict what was going to happen. He says many critics are “hindsight engineers,” and in his case, suppliers knew right away they needed to insure food packaging machines stay up and running. 

(23:40) Gordon says he likes his business because it helps people people make their ideas happen. He says that tooling machines to combat COVID-19 doesn’t give him much more purpose in his work than he had before because he always felt his products were vital. Though he says right now he has more pressure than usual to get products to customers faster. 

Question: Should people wear face masks when they go out of the house?

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7 thoughts on “Ep. 83 – Tooling Machines to Fight COVID-19

  1. Mike C.

    At Trumps next rally they should chant “Wear a mask” instead of USA. He is setting a bad example for the country. The science is proven. Masks work. Look at the Asian countries where wearing a mask is like putting on your socks. Their infection rates and death rates are much lower than ours. People that don’t wear masks when they can’t socially distant themselves are simply SELFISH MORONS.

  2. Misterchipster

    Sorry Mike C. I don’t think it is as “cut and dried” science as you see it. There are over 600 infectious disease doctors that have signed a letter to Pres. Trump and Dr. Fauci that disputes the practice. These are experienced medical experts in their field and see real patients daily, not politically motivated business people or doctors that haven’t seen a real patient in over 25 years (like Fauci). Although it may help in the short term, it’s long term ramifications are not in the best interest of anyone.
    Granted there may be some that are helped but in the greatest scheme of things it might be best if we “learn” from our experience rather than to jump to costly medical and political “cures”. Cultural non-contact greeting practices (Asain) might be best in the end.

    1. Aaron

      The letter from the doctors to President Trump had nothing to do with face masks. It was warning about the potential health consequences of an extended lock down.


      Here is the actual letter:

      The studies done on face masks seem to indicate that they help reduce transmission of respiratory viruses. It’s unclear how much they help, but they certainly don’t hurt.

    2. Mike C.

      Mr Chipster, I would like you to explain to me how wearing a mask has long term ramifications and is not in the best interest of anyone. Is getting your fellow Americans sick and possibly killing them not in EVERYONES best interest? Also please explain how wearing a mask is a costly medical cure? My daughter, who happens to be a nurse taking care of Covid patients, bought me a washable/reusable mask for $10. I have had it since this started and still wear it today.

  3. Jim Hanna

    Masks in our present situation are much like wearing seat belts when you drive; it is the cheapest and best insurance you can get. Eventually we are likely to be able to dispense with them again, if a vaccine is found, the virus mutates into something harmless, or a quick and reliable cure is developed. In the meantime masks are a very easy, effective, and inexpensive way to reduce the risk to yourself and to others. I personally consider the “to others” part the most important. I would certainly be devastated to find that I had passed this bug along to someone who got extremely ill or died. I also have a daughter who is a nurse on the front lines of fighting this disease. Masks are the primary defense the medical professionals use. Without them you have nearly a 100% chance of being infected while working near infected patients. I’d like to see evidence of the 600 doctors who are purported to think masks are unnecessary. If they don’t help with a disease absolutely proven to spread via aerosols why do they wear them to do surgeries?

    1. Mike C.

      Amen Jim. And god bless your daughter. The letter from the 600 Dr’s that Mr Chipster is referring to has nothing to do with masks. It has to do with lockdown. There is no mention of masks. The subject matter in this discussion is masks NOT lockdown. Some quick stats for everyone in case they don’t know:
      Japan – 16,719 infections and 874 dead
      So Korea – 11,402 infections and 269 dead
      Taiwan – 442 infections and 7 dead
      USA – 1,700,000 infections and 104,000 dead

  4. Big Al

    Fauci himself said (before the “mainstream” media got to him) that masks don’t do any good unless you are sick. They only keep your germs in and don’t stop getting germs in from the outside.


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