Finland, with no domestic face mask production at the time, had difficulties sourcing high-quality masks at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Suominen, a globally leading nonwovens producer, was one of the companies that promptly reacted to the difficult situation. In an ultra fast-tracked innovation process Suominen and its partners developed a novel nonwoven, Fibrella Shield, suitable for use in the manufacturing of respirators. The innovative nonwoven, developed in only a few months, has passed the European Standard EN 14683:2019 Type II requirements in terms of filtration efficiency and pressure drop.
“Fibrella Shield not only provides excellent protection, it is also comfortable and easy to breathe through,” says Suominen’s category manager Johanna Sirén.
At the same time that Suominen was developing the new material, Screentec Oy – a renowned producer of medical electrodes and human-machine interfaces for demanding environments – decided to start production of high-quality face masks at its Oulu works. After an exceptionally fast installation phase, the new production line was ready by late summer.
“The common aim, a fully domestic supply chain for high-quality face mask production, was a natural starting point for our cooperation with Suominen. The plan is that in the future we will mainly use Suominen’s Fibrella Shield in our face masks,” says Screentec’s CEO Antti Tauriainen.
Suominen has been working with TrueMed Oy, an innovative Finnish start-up, already earlier. TrueMed has developed an AI and machine vision-based non-additive solution that is used to detect original and counterfeit medicines and medical products.
The aim of the cooperation between the three companies is to be able to confirm the authenticity of the masks and the nonwoven used in them – in this case, Fibrella Shield – and thus to guarantee end-user safety. The cooperation also aims to produce important inventory information for the customer, for example, information about expiration days or how many masks that have been used.
“Determining if the product is genuine or a counterfeit is done through our mobile phone app, TrueMed Scanner. We provide Suominen an identification process and mechanism that can detect the product authenticity on the fiber level of the nonwoven material. Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens utilizes TrueMed’s proprietary AI and machine vision platform. At the same time, we can read all the necessary codes and markings on the product and it’s packaging,” explains TrueMed’s CEO Jyrki Berg.
“By combining the deep know-how of the three companies, we are able to offer our customers high-quality face masks with verifiable authenticity as well as the ability to follow the inventory data. In the future many of these kind of technical innovations, for example related to the end-users safety, smart supply chain data, carbon footprint information and so on, can be taken into use with Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens. This very fast joint development project was also funded by Business Finland research and development funding,” says Suominen’s CTO Markku Koivisto.