10 ways NIRI help companies meet PPE needs during COVID-19 pandemic

10 ways NIRI help companies meet PPE needs during COVID-19 pandemic

Leeds, United Kingdom, June 10, 2020 – With the spread of COVID-19, demand for nonwoven personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and surgical gowns, has risen dramatically. The nonwovens used to make these products are in critical short supply, China has historically supplied approximately 85% of the fabrics used for face masks, however, some exports have now been prohibited. Individual countries, previously reliant upon Chinese supply chains have been exploring more local approaches and resources to meet the current and future demand requirements.

NIRI’s technical textile scientists have been developing and improving client’s nonwoven products for over 15 years. Here’s how NIRI can help companies find solutions:

1. Advise on setting up fabric manufacturing and conversion lines
NIRI helps manufacturers and industrial producers set-up fabric manufacturing and conversion lines to meet the global demand for face masks. This includes technology road mapping and process implementation while considering the full supply chain, as well as, additional support validating fabric performance and equipment selection.

2. Help organisations modify existing production lines
In some cases, organisations that have existing production capability have been able to modify their lines to produce PPE components. This is particularly important for manufacturers that supply absorbent hygiene and medical products. We work closely with manufacturers and industrial producers to perform needs analysis studies and then advise on how to implement changes to produce the required products.

3. Guide companies through spunmelt and converting capacity issues, including Identifying raw material and roll goods suppliers
There has been a high proportion of organisations setting up fabric manufacturing and conversion lines, however, the shortage of meltblown and spunbond materials has been a real bottleneck in terms of product delivery. Consequently, current lead times are uncertain or slow. NIRI has an extensive network nationally and internationally and are able to direct and introduce organisations to raw material and roll goods suppliers, converters and distributors and guide companies through capacity and long lead-time challenges.

4. Advise and guide companies through certification
Certifying products can be complex, problematic and expensive, particularly when registered test facilities are in high demand. NIRI guides companies to the appropriate standard, explains the individual test requirements and performance parameters and provides indicative testing in lead up to certification.

5. Prototype and develop face masks, surgical gowns and infection control products
NIRI has been developing face masks and PPE for over a decade. Our pilot-scale prototyping capability is suitable for producing full prototypes and individual product components. NIRI’s services span from market identification and technical feasibility to assistance with upscale development and commercialisation. To meet your product development needs we are able to provide full product development or smaller packages focused on individual or specific requirements within the product development lifecycle.

6. Develop face masks and PPE using sustainable materials
Prior to the pandemic, sustainability was generally regarded as the leading global concern. The billions of facemasks required are mainly single-use products constructed from synthetic polymers. The challenge remains to consider sustainability during a pandemic, and organisations will continue to develop more sustainable approaches for developing both single-use and durable products. Furthermore, the market has seen an influx of companies interested in developing face masks with both sustainable and fashion influences as trends previously localised to the Asian market are becoming more widely accepted.

7. Provide indicative testing of face masks and roll goods
We have the capability to perform indicative testing of respiratory face masks (EN 149). Certified testing can be as expensive as £15,000 per filter and due to the current demand long lead times, such as 2-3 months are very likely. Our indicative testing approach is a less expensive way of testing prototypes in the lead up to certification and can reduce the risk of failure and increase confidence in the product before committing to the full certification expenses. We can also conduct filtration efficiency testing, which can be used to quantify the particle capture efficiency at 0.3 microns.

8. Delivering infection control products
Our spin-out company, SurfaceSkins Limited, is continuing to support the effort to deliver infection control products to clients globally during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team has been working around the clock in response to the growing demand and is taking necessary precautions to protect themselves as well as their colleagues and customers. Surfaceskins won the RISE® Innovation Award last year, which recognises advanced science and engineering, in the quest to solve an intricate problem.

9. Provide bespoke training and consultancy packages
We provide bespoke training and consultancy packages to organisations via webinars. The development training covers all aspects of nonwovens or can be tailored to meet your application-specific or sector-specific requirements. The courses are designed to provide a clear understanding of nonwoven fundamental science, structure, products, processes, capabilities, new developments and commercial possibilities.

Training available includes:

  • Nonwovens in medical and healthcare
  • Nonwovens in filtration
  • Nonwovens in automotive and transport applications
  • Nonwovens in buildings & geosynthetics
  • Nonwovens in wipes
  • Nonwovens in absorbency
  • Nonwovens in personal protection and clothing

10. Participate in expert panel webinars
NIRI participates in expert panel webinars to reveal the complexity of the PPE supply chain and to give advice on how it may be possible to mitigate the occurrence of this problem in the future. NIRI is currently preparing a free webinar to outline face mask technology road maps and key learnings during this pandemic. Further information will follow shortly.

To discuss a collaboration or potential projects, please contact Dr. Ross Ward via We appreciate this will also be a challenging time for you and your colleagues, and we are grateful for your continued support.

Stay safe and healthy!

The NIRI Team

Contact Information

Company: Nonwovens Innovation & Research Institute Ltd. (NIRI)