As the world faces a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers confronting the corona virus, a long-standing partnership between the polylactide (PLA) producer NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, MN/USA, and the Nonwovens Institute (NWI) at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC/USA, has resulted in a new spunbond nonwoven technology enabling the production of at least 10 million additional N95 surgical masks.
NWI has converted the use of its research and training pilot production line to produce the face mask materials, and NatureWorks has donated the Ingeo resin needed to produce the spunbond material.
The new nonwoven fabric is a bicomponent fiber made of Ingeo biopolymer (PLA) and polypropylene (PP), providing significant strength and bulk with equal effectiveness in filtration. Additionally, Ingeo improves the productivity of the spunbond process by at least 30 %. Leveraging these benefits, NWI’s pilot line can produce enough material to make 2 million masks/week.