Nylon cable tie maker American Elite Molding LLC started a new company to produce U.S.-made melt-blown polypropylene for the filters used in medical-grade face masks and gowns.
Called American Elite Personal Protective Equipment (American Elite PPE), the subsidiary is expected to begin production of the critical filter medium in early September at a 20,000-square-foot leased site in Fort Walter Beach, Fla.
The PP material efficiently filters very small particles and organisms while allowing enough porosity for mask and gown users, particularly front-line workers, to breathe easily.
One extrusion line manufactured by US Extruders Inc. in Westerly, R.I., has been installed at the new plant. A second line is scheduled to go later this year and a third in the first quarter of 2021, American Elite Molding Founder and CEO Robert Sires told Plastics News.
About 50 jobs will be created at the new manufacturing site, which is about 25 miles from the 75,000-square-foot Crestview, Fla., plant where American Elite Molding has been producing nylon 6/6 cable ties in different lengths, tensile strengths and colors since 1998.
The company has invested more than $25 million into the cable tie plant, Sires said. It won't reach that level with the melt-blown PP facility, but, he said, "it's a pretty substantial investment."
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how materials used to make PPE come primarily from offshore manufacturers through a supply chain fraught with delays, shortages and quality issues, Sires said.
"We manufacture to tight specifications so our customers can trust that they are getting the protection they need," he said. "We believe that during this crisis, it's vital for the U.S. to secure a reliable, sustainable source of PPE material supply for critical health care needs and for Americans to buy from U.S. businesses to support our economy and our workers. This new initiative delivers on both counts."
American Elite officials touted how their new manufacturing plant will shore up the U.S. supply chain for melt-blown PP, which is a critical material to make highly effective masks and gowns. Much of the material is currently imported from China.
"Only one or two are making it in the U.S.," Sires said.
American Elite will use PP resin sourced from U.S. manufacturers for the filtering material, which will be made by American workers using equipment made in the U.S. with advanced machining techniques used in domestic high-tech industries, Sire said.
"No longer will China control the supply of this vitally important material," he added. "We are proud to be an American manufacturer that produces more than 1.5 billion cable ties in the United States utilizing American-made raw material and supplies. We have proven ourselves to be highly competitive with manufacturers in China and other offshore locations.
"Now, through our new company American Elite PPE, we will provide American-made products for the personal protective equipment that our front-line health care providers, first responders and citizens are so dependent upon," he said.
American Elite PPE is currently taking orders for deliveries of the melt blown filter material, in bulk and custom-cut rolls, beginning in September.