Once again, plastic has shown its adaptability, versatility and flexibility in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Global packaging major Mondi has found a way to convert a production line at its Gronau plant in Germany to manufacture soft, elastic straps for face masks used by medical professionals and consumers globally.
The Gronau plant, part of Mondi's Personal Care Components business, typically focuses on manufacturing materials used in hygiene products such as baby diapers, adult incontinence pads and feminine care items. However, the plant was able to quickly adapt one of its manufacturing lines to produce a three-layer, laminated strap that binds a stretchable plastic film between layers of soft, nonwoven material. The straps, which Mondi supplies to its mask-making customers on a reel, are then cut and attached to each side of a mask, which can loop comfortably over the user’s ears to hold the mask in place.
|Mondi Gronau is working to provide straps that will fit more than one billion nonwoven face masks. Image courtesy of Mondi.|
Mondi Gronau extrudes the plastic film in strictly controlled, hygienic conditions, before applying an adhesive and nonwoven layers to either side of it. In a final step the multilayer laminate is then put through a ring-rolling process, by which the material is stretched between two rollers with tooth rings, thereby activating the elastic properties of the material without causing any damage to it
This elastic material replaces a rubberized band that holds the mask to the face, thereby increasing operational speed of the machines in comparison to rubber, which is slower.
“Mondi Gronau is working to provide straps that will fit more than one billion nonwoven face masks. As there is increasing demand for such types of face masks, we are building up our capability to meet this demand. By producing this soft elastic strap, we are able to produce more volume to meet growing demand,” says Dr. Michael Trinkaus, director of R&D and application engineering for Mondi’s Personal Care Components division.
Mondi also operates a plant in Taicang, China, that laminates film made in Gronau to make nonwoven hygiene products similar to those manufactured in Germany. While closely monitoring developments, assessing risks, and implementing preventative policies in line with the local government regulations and recommendations, the company was able to meet orders for mask straps from customers in China when the COVID-19 virus epidemic first broke out. Demand is now growing for more of such supplies from customers across Europe, prompting the Gronau plant to increase production of this material.