Last week, Swiss-based Jacob Holm, the manufacturer of Sontara fabrics and other nonwovens for medical and wipes applications, was the latest company to announce it was ramping up material for PPE. The company will implement a company-wide investment program that would lead to a 500 million square meter capacity expansion annually. The program, called Project Boost, began last month and will be completed by the third quarter of 2022.
“Project Boost is our response to he needs of our partners across the globe for increasing capacity, providing more sustainable substrate choices and continuing to hold our position as an innovation leader in nonwovens,” says CEO Martin Mikkelsen.
Last month, the company reported that it had seen a 65% increase in its Sotnara medical fabric during the Coronavirus pandemic, leading two of its five sites to report record production levels in April.
“This situation is unprecendented,” Mikkelsen says. “However, for Jacob Holm as a company, the only way forward is to lean in to what we know and use the full force of our experience to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and make a positive impact on the well being of our communities.”
Among Jacob Holm’s efforts in the fight against Covic-19 was a partnership with sports performance brand Under Armour to make face masks and isolation gowns.
Other nonwovens manufacturers investing to meet the demand for medical gown material include construction specialist Johns Manville, who announced in May that it had shifted production at its Spartanburg, SC facility to make disposable medical gowns, and Hollingsworth & Vose, who has shifted its focus beyond its traditional markets like medical, automotive and filtration to create a material for non surgical gowns on an accelerated time ine.
“H&V had already been manufacturing critical materials used in the fight against Covid-19 including filtration media for N95 respirators, ventilator filtration media and the materials used in surgical hoods to it made sense for us to see how else we might be able to meet the needs of healthcare workers on the frontlines,”says Jeff Crane, segment leader, H&V.
JM’s spunbond material, made from polyester, is designed for the production of Level 3 medical gowns. “The fabric offers superior liquid barrier performance compared to materials used for Level 1 and Level 2 medical gowns, while also providing comfort and stitch-strength,” says Souvik Nandi, director nonwovens technology at Johns Manville Engineered Products.
The investment responds to a desperate need in North America and Europe for medical gowns. “Our teams are working quickly to create solutions and manufacture a new coated polyester spunbond fabric,” says John Vasuta, president of JM’s Engineered products business.
A veteran leader in the production of medical gown material, DuPont, significantly ramped up its Tyvek production earlier this year to help combat the spread of Covid-19 and protect healthcare workers. The #TyvekTogether initiative, which includes expanded capacity in Richmond, VA, is delivering six million additional non-surgical isolation gowns per month by enabling others to join us in protecting even more frontline responders.
“There’s a critical need for protective apparel, and we believe that working with other companies to convert their existing cut-and-sew manufacturing capacity to protective garment fabrication is the fastest way to protect more people,” says John Richard, Vice President & General Manager of DuPont Safety Solutions. “Our dedicated employees around the world are working 24/7 to make more Tyvek material and patterns available to more organizations, working together to protect those who are protecting us.”
In addition to increasing capacity, TyvekTogether Program has led to the introduction of a new specialized Tyvek fabric to enable an increase in the amount of garment production for the COVID-19 response to 15 million garments a month.
Tyvek style 1222A has similar barrier properties to the core DuPontTM Tyvek 400 garment offerings with adjusted fabric drape and hand to optimize material usage and is available in roll good form to existing and new customers. For customers not familiar with the construction of medical gowns, DuPont is offering cut-and-sew capabiltieis to increase the production of garments as quickly as possible.
“We are providing designs, patterns and support so that smaller sewing shops and converters can get on board as quickly as possible to help make these gowns,” says global business director, David Dominisch. “We are trying to get as many partners as possible to meet local needs while this program gets going.”