Technical Textiles 4-5/2020: Protective equip...
Technical Textiles 4-5/2020

Protective equipment demands high-end nonwoven products


Since the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic, the worldwide demand for protective masks and apparel has resulted in a record number of new orders in the high double-digit millions of euros for the Oerlikon Manmade Fibers Segment. The meltblown technology from Oerlikon Nonwoven, Neumünster/Germany is recognized as being one of the technically most efficient methods for producing highly-separating filter media made from plastic fibers.

With the rising demand for protective masks and other medical protective equipment since the start of the corona virus pandemic and the associated global ramping up of production capacities, an increase in the demand for nonwovens for their production has also resulted. Initially, this resulted in bottlenecks in the provision of meltblown filter nonwovens, as there had until this point be very few producers of medical filter nonwovens outside China. Meanwhile, the demand for spunbond systems is also rising. Due to the structure of Oerlikon, they were in the fortunate position to swiftly reallocate and free up production capacities. This means that the company was able to relatively quickly deliver not only meltblown systems, but also spunbond equipment.

The capacities for respiratory masks available in Europe to date are predominantly manufactured on Oerlikon Nonwoven plants. Ever more manufacturers in the most diverse countries are hoping to become independent of imports. These meltblown systems will be delivered to Germany, China, Turkey, the UK, South Korea, Italy, France, North America and – for the very first time – to Australia until well into 2021. Depending on the purpose of the application, medical PPE (personal protection equipment) should be breathable and comfortable to wear, protect medical staff against viruses, bacteria and other harmful substances and form a barrier against liquids. For these reasons, they are often made of either pure spunbond or of spunbond-meltblown combinations. Here, the meltblown nonwoven core assumes the barrier or filter task, while the spunbond has to retain its shape, while being tear-resistant, abrasion-proof, absorbent, particularly flame-resistant and nevertheless extremely soft on the skin.

Oerlikon Nonwoven is able to offer both meltblown and spunbond systems. The systems are characterized by their combination of effectiveness and productivity, while simultaneously being highly-efficient. The homogeneous nonwoven formation ensures high-quality end products. Customers are offered systems that are tailored to their requirements from the extrusion process through to the nonwoven roll goods, all from a single source.

Fig. 2

All masks are not created equal
Protection against infections such as the corona virus can only be guaranteed with the right quality. On the one hand, this relates to how the masks are made. On the other hand, it is above all – as is so often the case – about what is inside. Because the nonwovens used in protection classes FFP1-FFP3 respiratory masks plays a decisive role. The nonwovens can be electrostatically-charged in order to further improve the filter performance without additionally increasing breathing resistance. Here, Oerlikon Nonwoven’s patented ecuTec+ electro-charging unit excels in terms of its extreme flexibility. Nonwovens manufacturers can freely choose between numerous variation options and set the optimal charging method and intensity for their specific applications. In this way, even the smallest particles are still attracted and reliably separated by relatively open-pored nonwovens. Nevertheless, mask wearers are still able to easily breathe in and out due to the comparatively loose formation of the fibers. All meltblown systems currently destined for the production of mask nonwovens are equipped with the ecuTEC+ unit.


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