In this Financial Times article, the author described meltblown as the hottest commodity of the Coronavirus, saying it was so valuable it is now called “the golden fleece.”
It is true. Prior to the pandemic, at the start of 2020, meltblown production, particularly in the Western world, had waned, with the bulk of production in China, where the majority of face masks were also made.
As countries across the globe began facing the Coronavirus, seriously shortages in face masks—and their raw materials—created dire situations. Overwhelming demand for face mask material has led to an unprecedented surge in investment for meltblown technology. One machinery supplier reports it is delivering as many as one line per week, compared to two lines for all of 2019. This investment is truly global too, with lines going into China, North America, Europe, South America, Africa and Australia.
While industry estimates are mixed over exactly how many lines have been built or are under construction, experts estimate about 100 new lines in China, 25-30 in Greater Europe and 20 in North America. The capacity of each new line varies.
For the immediate future, these lines will surely help meet demand for face mask material. Experts say even a year-plus into the pandemic, the supply chain for these products remains severely inadequate and face mask demand is expected to continue throughout the rest of 2021.
Beyond 2021, the picture is less clear. Many believe that mask usage will continue, maybe not to the same degree as current levels, but consumer behavior will remain permanently changed. Also, government directives to maintain stockpiles of PPE like face masks will create a continuous need for meltblown in this market.
Beyond masks, meltblown is also applied in filter media, and this market is expected to be boosted by increased awareness of clean indoor air to remove the threat of future virus spread and promote good health. We predict the market for meltblown will remain strong.