A new bicomponent spunbond material that can serve as an effective N95 face mask filter – without the need for a meltblown filtration layer – has been developed by the Nonwovens Institute (NWI), Raleigh, NC/USA, with partners including ExxonMobil Chemical Co., Houston, TX/USA and NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, MN/USA. The development was in response to the immediate and pressing need for meltblown nonwovens earlier in 2020.
N95 efficiency can be achieved with just 2 layers of the new spunbond fabric and it also requires no electrostatic charging, which has been another bottleneck in the production of face masks this year, and because the materials are strong – unlike classical meltblown materials – they can also be cut and sewn by traditional techniques.
In terms of productivity, spunbonding is also much faster than meltblowing. On the latest state-of-the-art Reicofil 5 lines from Reifenhäuser Reicofil GmbH & Co. KG, Troisdorf/Germany, for example, throughput for spunbond fabrics is now up to 270 kg/m of beam width, compared to 70 kg/m width for meltblown.
The material can also be based on bi-components of Ingeo PLA biopolymer by NatureWorks. The company has been an active partner in the development, donating high amounts of its Ingeo PLA, which improves the productivity of the spunbond process by at least 30%. Another partner, ExxonMobil, has donated polypropylene and Vistamaxx resins.
This innovation has already received the 2020 RISE conference Innovation Award from the Association of the Nonwovens Fabrics Industry, INDA, Cary, NC/USA.