RadiciGroup is stepping up its investment in the production of the nonwoven materials used to produce personal protective equipment.
Located in Bergamo, Italy, the European city that was hardest hit during the first surge of COVID19 in Europe, RadiciGroup has invested 15 million euros ($18.2 million) in a new production line for meltblown nonwoven, the filter material used in protective face masks. At the start of the pandemic, it rapidly became clear that the lack of PPE production capacity in Europe was partly responsible for the huge shortages occurring throughout the continent. It was an issue that expanded beyond Europe as the world had depended on Asia for a steady supply of PPE. However, this supply dwindled and dried up due to factors ranging from local demand to lack of transport.
Very early during the pandemic, RadiciGroup was already acting fast to alleviate the situation. The company first set up a production chain comprised of local factories for the manufacture of spunbond nonwoven material for medical gowns and other personal protective equipment. It then decided to produce meltblown nonwoven, a type of nonwoven not readily available in the Italian market, but essential in the manufacture of surgical masks. It is a continuous filament nonwoven measuring between 1 to 5 microns in diameter, with an excellent filtering capability even for particles of microscopic size, such as viruses.
The decision was a strategic one, aimed at establishing independent Italian production capacity for personal protective equipment. As Maurizio Radici, vice president and COO of RadiciGroup, noted, currently only a very small quantity of meltblown material is produced in Europe - ‘certainly not sufficient to meet demand in a health emergency’.
“Given our extensive experience in the field of nonwovens, we swiftly began figuring out how to set up a chain for the production of PPE in Italy. And, as soon as the opportunity arose to take concrete action, we had no hesitation to jump on it,” he explained.
As well, the investment in the new production line can open the door to new technical applications” “We must also consider the fact that other technical applications will be found for this material, such as filtration, thus presenting prospects for economic sustainability in the medium term,” said Radici.
Installation of the new, high-capacity line is under way at Tessiture Pietro Radici SpA, a Group company in Gandino (Bergamo). It is suitable for the production of products made from, as well as from polyester, polyamide and TPU. Once installed, RadiciGroup will become one of the few European manufacturers able to offer both the spunbond and meltblown nonwoven material used to produce face masks. The new line will be able to produce about 120 tons/month of meltblown nonwoven, or enough material to make about 170 million surgical masks per month.
The installation of the machinery will be completed in January 2021, after which the line will start operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.