Continuous production of masks

Article of 26 June 2020 

CAROLA

In the current situation, there is a strong demand for mouth and nose protection masks worldwide. All the more important is quick and easy production on site. With Festo’s engineering support, the mechanical engineering company Mikron has developed a system that allows practically anyone to produce the masks themselves.

Since the beginning of the corona pandemic, the demand for protective masks has risen sharply. Global supply chains proved to be less resilient in some cases – and susceptible to corruption. In the case of medical protective equipment, the failure of a delivery can cost human lives.

The Mikron system enables masks to be produced directly on site. It fits into a 20-foot shipping container, which can also function as a clean room. The container can be placed anywhere – for example in front of a hospital, next to a shopping centre or behind a school. The integrated air-conditioning system with an air-purification filter makes production possible even in places with high levels of virus contamination.

The system can be installed in the tightest of spaces – for example in a 20-foot shipping container.
The system can be installed in the tightest of spaces – for example in a 20-foot shipping container.

Independently produce 50–100 everyday masks per minute

Depending on the raw material, the plant can work self-sufficiently for more than two hours, which keeps the use of humans and thus the risk of infection low. The mini factory makes it possible to produce protective masks in remote locations or even in crisis areas where hygiene requirements may be difficult to meet.

Depending on the model, the system produces 50–100 everyday masks per minute. At full capacity this means about two million masks per month. Official statistics show that medical personnel in Germany alone require at least 50 million mouth and nose protection masks per month. This demand could already be met with 25 containers.

The basis of the protective masks are melt-blown non-woven fabrics, which consist of many layers of fine fibres and thus filter out the smallest particles such as bacteria and viruses from the inflow of breathable air. In order to produce a mask, the non-woven fabric rolls first come into a three-layer unwinding station. Then a 'Kegelschnecke' (cone auger) folds the fabric, a cutting tool shortens it to the right length and a nose wire is inserted, with which the wearer can adjust the mouth and nose protector to his or her face size and nose shape as desired. Ultrasonic welding is used to close the edges and attach the ear bands.

Depending on the setting, the system can offer packs of ten or individual masks – neatly shrink-wrapped and, if desired, in printed bags and cartons.
Depending on the setting, the system can offer packs of ten or individual masks – neatly shrink-wrapped and, if desired, in printed bags and cartons.

Pneumatic and electrical Festo technology in use

In all process steps, electrical and pneumatic components from Festo ensure that parts are transported safely or perform clamping tasks. The motors are not classically fixed to an axis, but directly to the application, such as the cutting tool for the non-woven fabric. Among others, the CMMT servo drive controller, the stepper motor EMMS and the EMMT servo motor are installed, which can also be easily connected with controllers from other suppliers.

The pneumatic components from Festo’s core range, such as the ADN compact cylinder, the DFM guide drive or the DSNU round cylinder, are attractively priced, are in stock worldwide and are available within 24 hours. These are the best prerequisites for quickly and safely setting up additional mask production facilities within the shortest possible time – and all this decentralised at locations around the world.

The electrical and pneumatic components from the core range installed in the plant can be delivered quickly worldwide, so that the plant can be constructed decentrally at locations around the world.
The electrical and pneumatic components from the core range installed in the plant can be delivered quickly worldwide, so that the plant can be constructed decentrally at locations around the world.