Two companies newly established in Germany to manufacture and distribute high-end protective masks were in the spotlight at the beginning of May. FleeceforEurope and Lindenpartner, Düsseldorf-based Kloepfel Group purchasing consultancy, and Berlin-based industrial consultancy Bechinger & Heymann Holding plan to manufacture and distribute up to 50 million protection class FFP1 through FFP3 respiratory masks a month exclusively for the European market from the beginning of fall. The primary focus, the partners report, will be on quality.
With protective masks—including those used in operating rooms—this quality is provided above all by virus-absorbing nonwovens. These will be manufactured by the new venture ‘FleeceforEurope’ in Germany using an Oerlikon Nonwoven meltblown system.
In a patented process, the fibers laid into a nonwoven fabric during manufacture are subsequently electrostatically charged before the material is further processed. “Our patented electrostatic charging ensures that even the smallest particles, and therefore also viruses, are drawn in and absorbed by the nonwoven fabric for several hours,” said Rainer Straub, managing director, Oerlikon Nonwoven. “As a result of the comparatively loose formation of the fibers, the wearer can nevertheless breathe in and out easily.”
Currently, the company is receiving inquiries from across the globe, but specifically also from Europe and from Germany itself. “The Federal States all currently want to be self-sufficient in order to better control the so-called critical infrastructure in the future. The investment program announced by Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier will additionally boost the demand for our meltblown technology”, says Straub.
Oerlikon Nonwoven and FleeceforEuropea will focus on producing high-end nonwovens, and Lindenpartner, will manufacture and distribute the protective masks. The companies believe that the market for protective masks has a promising long-term future in Europe. What has been commonplace in Asia for many years will also become normal in Europe, they believe.
People will be wearing face masks when venturing out to protect themselves against health risks such as the current pandemic, but also against environmental pollution. Marc Kloepfel, CEO of the Kloepfel Group, noted the quantity of poor-quality product, “and unfortunately counterfeits, as well,” he said.
Prices for masks “have practically exploded,” said Philipp Heymann, CEO of Lindenpartner. “While masks used to cost ten cents to purchase, prices have risen to two euros or more during the coronavirus crisis. In order to become competitive here, the focus will be on state-of-the-art production processes for manufacturing protective masks.”
Lindenpartner has already secured supplies of nonwovens and will be producing face masks for the European healthcare sector over the coming weeks. To fight the coronavirus pandemic, Lindenpartner is planning to install 100 self-service face mask vending machines in Germany immediately, positioning them in publicly accessible places, such as shopping centers and airports. FFP2 masks will initially cost around five euros from vending machines.