In Japan, application areas for facial masks are: medical usage in hospitals, industrial usage in the workplace and at home use in the case of cold or pollen spread. The output of facial masks in Japan is estimated to be 1.2 million pieces. Of this, 72% are used at home, 16% in medical applications and 12% in industrial. Home usage dominates this market thanks to the increasing demands for products that stop the spread of pollen as well as contagion.
About 20% of the Japanese population suffers from hay fever and the potential demand for facial masks for use at home is far greater than in medical applications or for industrial use.
Although gauze has been used as covering masks at home for some time, nonwoven-based masks comprised 90% of the market last year.
The use of nonwovens in this market was propelled by Unicharm’s introduction of a three-dimensional molding covering made from nonwovens in 2003. Demand for this type of product has increased rapidly as the respiratory covering masks allow allergy and cold sufferers to breathe more easily. This led other mask makers to incorporate nonwoven-based products, which has limited the number of gauze-based products on the market. Nearly 100% of the covering masks for medical applications and industrial usage have been based on nonwovens and the nonwoven type has been growing in home use.
As for masks used at home, demand is influenced by the severity of flu and allergy seasons, so this market can be unstable. On the other hand, demand for medical and industrial use is more stable but demand is smaller.
Molding of Electret Nonwovens
The covering treatments on masks have impacted their filtration performance as well as their breathability. The electret process treated on nonwovens results in high performance masks. These masks make it easy for the wearer to breathe and suffocation can be avoided with the covering mask made of electret nonwovens because high collection efficiency could be obtained while keeping high porosity. Electret treated nonwovens play a significant role in industrial respirator applications as well as surgical masks. These masks can be made of laminated and pleated nonwovens. In fact, the three-dimensional molding of cup-shaped dust protective masks, made from laminating several nonwoven layers, is widely used.
When the electret nonwoven is heated, charged electricity decreases therefore, sampling engine performance by decreasing the static electricity. As for the cup-shaped dust protective mask, deterioration of the performance had been the problem because the mask had to be heated at molding. For that problem, several methods have been employed other than heating. Some of these include a technique of electret processing after three-dimensional molding or solvent welding by an ultra-audible wave to the outer perimeter of a shape-retaining nonwoven layers separated by electret nonwovens..