The Crucial Meltblown Material; Why We Have Brought its Manufacturing In-House
Surgical Face Mask Autonomy
A certified surgical face mask requires 3-ply protective layers; an inner, middle, and outer layer. The hydrophobic non-woven outer layer is intended to repel water, blood, and any bodily fluids the wearer may be exposed to. The purpose of the inner layer is to absorb water, or bodily fluids from the wearer such as sweat and spit.
The middle ‘meltblown’ layer, however, is crucial. This is what is responsible for bacterial filtration, preventing germs from exiting the masks and therefore reducing the spread of infections and viruses such as COVID-19. The meltblown material is not only a vital component of surgical masks, it is also used to produce other important PPE items, such as gowns and respirators.
As you might imagine, the demand for meltblown became a huge problem when the (COVID-19) global pandemic hit. In fact, meltblown has become one of the scarcest materials in the world with many countries banning its export. Demand decides the price and, before the pandemic, the average cost of meltblown was £2,000 per tonne. This soared to £150,000, at the peak of the pandemic.
How Does Meltblown Help Prevent Infection?
COVID-19, like many viruses, is transmitted mainly from close-contact and secretions of bodily fluid, such as droplets when sneezing. The meltblown layer acts as a filter for such droplets. It electrostatically absorbs water droplets, that may potentially contain viruses, leaving them unable to exit a properly worn Surgical Mask.
Did you know? Due to this crucial component becoming so scarce, we have decided to bring the manufacturing in-house and we have recently taken the delivery of England’s first meltblown machines! Doing this in-house will seriously increase our supply chain resilience as we will no longer depend on sourcing the material from overseas. The instillation of the machines will allow us to produce 100 tonnes of meltblown each month, enabling us to contribute towards a guaranteed regular supply of surgical face masks for key workers and UK businesses.
The Meltblown Manufacturing Process
Melt blowing is a conventional fabrication method of micro - and nanofibers where a polymer melt is extruded through small nozzles surrounded by high speed blowing gas. These strands of polymer then mesh together to create a fabric and it is used as the key filter material for Surgical face masks, and other PPE products. The machine settings are controlled and set to pass both PFE (Particle Filtration Efficiency) and breathability tests at ratios of 98% for PFE and Breathability (≤ 50 (Pa/cm2) of the material manufactured.
Mixed plastic (97% polypropelene 3% master batch) are then delivered to the upper level heating unit where the plastic is melted before being sprayed from the small nozzles (Spinneret), and placed onto the large roller to form the material known as meltblown.
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