COVID-19 Update: 3M to make more than 1B masks by year end

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic surges worldwide, IFJ will be providing regular updates to emerging news stories relevant to the textile fiber industry. Photo: iStock/Arhunus

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading worldwide, we are tracking stories relevant to the textile fiber industry. Facemasks, personal protective equipment, medical supplies and sanitary wipes are among the fiber-intensive technologies particularly relevant to the COVID-19 response effort. And as manufacturers of these technologies and others struggle to meet global demand in the face of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, news stories are breaking quickly. Here we will post relevant news stories on an ongoing basis. Please check back for regular updates. If you have news that you feel should be added to this summary report, please email it to Matt Migliore at

Most recent update: March 27, 2020

Considering alternatives to minimize the impact of the face mask shortage

An editorial published March 20 in JAMA requested creative ideas on how to reuse the N95 face masks, as well as how to make alternatives to commercial masks. The innovation on display convinced surgeon Ed Livingston, a coauthor of the editorial and an editor at JAMA, that “this is the biomedical engineering community’s Apollo 13 moment.”

In this fast-moving emergency, it’s unclear which homespun efforts will help the most. The following article considers how to best conserve the PPE that we have and how to make more.

Read the full story:

How 3M Plans to Make More Than a Billion Masks By End of Year

Andrew Rehder, manager of 3M Co.’s respirator mask factory in Aberdeen, S.D., got the call from headquarters on Tuesday, Jan. 21. He gathered about 20 managers and supervisors into a conference room, where they sat, unworried, less than 6 feet apart. Rehder told them that a new virus was spreading rapidly in China and that 3M was expecting demand for protective gear to jump.

The Aberdeen plant had already ramped up production of respirator masks in response to demand from first responders battling wildfires in Australia and contending with a volcano in the Philippines. Now, Rehder told his charges, Aberdeen would shift to “surge capacity.” Idle machinery installed for precisely this purpose would be activated, and many of the plant’s 650 employees would immediately start working overtime. “We knew it wouldn’t be a two-week blip, it would be longer,” Rehder says. “But I had no idea.”

This is 3M’s moment, one for which the staid, 118-year-old Minnesota manufacturing giant—the maker of Post-its, Scotch tape, touchscreen displays, and scores of other products—has been preparing for almost two decades.

Read the full story:

Klopman commits to produce 700k face masks per month

Klopman, a European manufacturer of protective fabrics, has committed to produce up to 700,000 protective masks per month, which are sterilizable and reusable up to 50 times, according to the company. Due to its capability in the production of fabrics for the medical and health sectors, the company has been included in Italy’s list of “essential” organizations.

The masks will be made from a double layer of fabric to ensure maximum protection and comfort while in contact with the nose and mouth. A first batch of 10,000 masks will be donated to the health authority of Frosinone and to the hospital “Fabrizio Spaziani,” with a rapid response supply chain in place to serve the needs of public and private operators.

In order to ensure a barrier effect with low particle release, Klopman said its masks will be based on the Vectron 8200 fabric, which is usually used in electronics, cleanrooms and in hospitals due to its characteristics, including a hydro/oil repellent finish to enable domestic and industrial washing at 75°C.


US FDA loosens restrictions on PPE and medical devices to bolster supplies for COVID-19 response

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took action to increase U.S. supplies to support the U.S. response to COVID-19 by providing instructions to manufacturers importing personal protective equipment and other devices.

One of FDA’s priorities in combating the COVID-19 pandemic is facilitating access to critical personal protective equipment (PPE) and devices. The agency is engaging with importers and others involved in the import trade community during this pandemic to facilitate the entry of needed products, including PPE, into the U.S. These instructions to importers clarify the types of PPE that can be imported without engaging with FDA. They also include information about the type of information importers can submit to facilitate their entries. The FDA has adjusted import screening to further expedite imports of legitimate products and are continually monitoring import systems to prevent and mitigate any potential issues.

For more details on the FDA guidance on masks and respirators, see Full guidance on medical gowns is still being drafted.

The FDA also established a special email inbox,, for industry representatives to quickly communicate with the agency and address questions or concerns.


Reifenhäuser Reicofil converts its own meltblown test lines to facemask production

The German machinery and plant manufacturer Reifenhäuser Reicofil has temporarily converted two of its test plants to full production in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The lines installed in the company’s nonwovens technology center, which are otherwise exclusively used for research and development as well as customer trials, have been producing meltblown material for the production of urgently needed facemasks.

Until further notice, the meltblown lines will be operated in 4-shift operation 24/7. The daily output is sufficient for up to one million facemasks. Reifenhäuser said trial operations will be almost completely suspended during this period.

The meltblown material from the nonwoven technology center is already sold out for the next five weeks. However, Reifenhäuser continues to look for opportunities to strengthen the local supply during this crisis. The company is in close contact with associations, authorities and other companies. Material for other medical protective clothing could also be produced at short notice, according to Reifenhäuser.

In related news, Reifenhäuser Reicofil is shortening the delivery time for meltblown lines to 3.5 months, with the aim of supporting the production of the crucial middle material layer for face masks. Supplies of face masks have been severely stressed in the face of the COVID-19 response.

Dr. Bernd Kunze, CEO of Reifenhäuser Reicofil, said, “In situations like the current one, we gladly depart from customary procedures. Sticking to standards in a non-standard situation is out of place. It goes without saying that we will do everything in our power to serve the needs quickly and in the accustomed high quality.”

The first contract with the new delivery time has already been concluded. The 1.6 meter wide Reicofil Meltblown line is scheduled to start operation in August 2020. With an annual output of 550 metric tons, the plant will produce H99 filter material for up to 1.8 million face masks a day.


Ford joins 3M, GE in speeding up ventilator, respirator production

Ford Motor Co said it was working with General Electric’s healthcare unit and 3M Co to speed up production of ventilators for patients and respirators for healthcare workers as the coronavirus pandemic escalates.


USTR requests input on lifting ‘Section 301’ duties on Chinese imports of medical-care products

In order to facilitate the U.S. response to COVID-19, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that it is now accepting comments from interested parties on the possibility of removing some of the additional “Section 301” duties that have been applied on various Chinese imported medical-care products.

According to USTR, each submission must specifically identify the particular product of concern and explain precisely how the product relates to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, the comment may address whether a product is directly used to treat COVID-19 or to limit the outbreak, and/or whether the product is used in the production of needed medical-care products. Comments may be submitted regarding any product covered by the action in the investigation, regardless of whether the product is subject to a pending or denied exclusion request. However, submissions are limited to comments on products subject to the tariff actions and relevant to the medical response to the coronavirus.


For more information, click here.

BYD opens face mask and bottled disinfectant plant

BYD created what it describes as the world’s largest mass-produced face masks plant, which is running at full capacity and is able to produce 5 million masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants per day. This allows the firm to help alleviate severe shortages that have affected hospitals and agencies across China in the face of the global COVID-19 outbreak.

On February 8, the newly-built production lines in one of BYD’s industrial parks in Shenzhen started to produce these critical supplies, with hundreds of staff working both day and night shifts along with machines working around the clock.

In late January, BYD began to assist in the production of masks and disinfection gels to tackle the growing COVID-19 outbreak. A special task force was appointed by BYD chairman and president Wang Chuanfu, consisting of leaders from different business divisions and more than 3,000 engineers involved in research and development, design, processing and other roles.

The task force moved in less than two weeks to finish work that normally takes two months, completing both the R&D and manufacturing process of mask production equipment within seven days, with the completion of R&D for medical-grade hand sanitizers in six days. Supplies were shipped to medical staff dealing with the COVID-19 response in China.


EU takes action to procure ventilators, masks and medical equipment

European Parliament is working with member states to ensure that the EU can buy ventilators, masks and other medical equipment to be put at the disposal of hospitals across the EU.

Last week, the Commission set up a scheme to gather medical equipment (through rescEU) so that the necessary supplies to combat COVID-19 can quickly get to member states facing shortages of equipment. This equipment is needed to treat infected patients, protect health care workers and help slow down the spread of the virus.

Parliament is working with member states to swiftly approve 40 out of 50 million EUR for intensive care medical equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment, such as reusable masks.

Member states are also joining forces under the Joint Procurement Agreement to buy personal protective equipment, respiratory ventilators and items necessary for coronavirus testing. Working together in this way will give them a stronger position on the world market.


Textile and apparel brands to build supply chain for emergency manufacturing of medical facemasks

American apparel brands and textile companies are responding to a White House request for medical supplies, building a supply chain to fast-track the manufacturing of medical face masks.

Parkdale Inc.– the largest yarn spinner in the U.S. headquartered in North Carolina—helped lead the effort to build the coalition with Hanesbrands, Fruit of the Loom and six other companies to set up a manufacturing supply chain and begin ramping up production of the masks.

The coalition consists of Hanesbrands and Fruit of the Loom, often competitors in the marketplace, who are banding together for the greater good of a nation facing one if its most monumental challenges.

American Giant, Los Angeles Apparel, AST Sportswear, Sanmar, America Knits, Beverly Knits and Riegel Linen are also part of the coalition working tirelessly to respond to a national emergency in the nation’s time of need.

Dr. Peter Navarro, assistant to the President and director of the White House Office of  Trade and Manufacturing Policy, worked with the coalition and helped expedite the production of these masks. The first face masks have been approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The companies expect to begin production on Monday and will make the first deliveries by mid-week.

If companies are interested in dedicating resources to help the cause, please reach out to the National Council of Textile Organizations at

NCTO is a Washington, DC-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers, including artificial and synthetic filament and fiber producers.


Related Story: “NC textile mill ‘heeds call of nation,’ gears up to make 10 million face masks per week”

U.S. Textile and Nonwoven Associations Urge Government to Deem Manufacturing Facilities “Essential”

U.S. textile and nonwoven associations issued a joint statement today urging federal, state and local governments to deem textile and nonwoven manufacturing facilities as “essential” when drafting “Shelter in Place” orders in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The statement was sponsored by the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), INDA (Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry) and Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI).

Our associations recognize the serious challenges our elected officials, health administrators and others are facing when issuing orders to protect communities across the country and we understand the necessity for leaders to enforce a ‘Shelter in Place” order or quarantine orders.

Our members make a broad range of inputs and finished products used in an array of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical nonwoven/textile supplies, including surgical gowns, face masks, antibacterial wipes, lab coats, blood pressure cuffs, cotton swabs and hazmat suits. These items are vital to the government’s effort to ramp up emergency production of these critical supplies.

If workers who produce these goods are not granted an “essential” exemption from “Shelter in Place” and other quarantine orders to go to their manufacturing and distribution facilities, it will cause major disruptions in the availability of these goods. This will create significant hardship to healthcare providers and consumers across the country who depend on steady and stable supplies of these critical items.

We are asking the administration and state and local authorities to provide greater certainty and clarity for our companies and employees and ask for a clear exclusion of our manufacturing operations from “Shelter in Place” orders as the textile and nonwoven products that we make in the U.S. play an essential role in mitigating the shortages of critical supplies. Such a designation will help us avoid disruptions of vital goods and services during this challenging time.


COVID-19 Has Caused A Shortage Of Face Masks. But They’re Surprisingly Hard To Make

Both the masks made for medical personnel and for consumer purchase require a once-obscure material called melt-blown fabric. It’s an extremely fine mesh of synthetic polymer fibers that forms the critical inner filtration layer of a mask, allowing the wearer to breath while reducing the inflow of possible infectious particles.

“We’re talking about fibers where one filament has a diameter of less than one micron, so we are in the nano area,” said Markus Müller, the sales director at German company Reicofil, a major provider of melt-blown machine lines.

And there’s now a global shortage of melt-blown fabric due to the increased demand for masks — and the difficulty in producing this material.


As coronavirus surges, filtration questions arise

There is extraordinary confusion about the basic issues that will shape the market for face masks and filters relative to the coronavirus pandemic. This applies to fundamental questions, such as does a medical mask provide protection for the wearer? Will the virus travel through the air and ductwork? How long will the virus remain viable?

There is no consensus relative to supply needs in the future. China has reportedly ramped up medical mask production fivefold to 100 million per day and N95 masks to 1.2 million per day from just 200,000. So it makes sense that they will have excess supply. Not necessarily. China is very worried about outbreaks in provinces visited by Europeans and other foreigners who the Chinese view as the future risk.


When the unexpected happens, are today’s filtration systems ready for the challenge?

Over the past several months, the world has faced some unexpected/unpredictable filtration challenges, such as the bushfires in the New South Wales region of Australia, which produced air quality that the Australian Environmental Protection Authority dubbed “the worst in the world.” And now, the coronavirus (COVID-19), which has been declared a global pandemic, the scope of which, at the time of this writing, we are still trying to determine. Both of these tragic events call into question how prepared filtration technologies and systems are in addressing emergency scenarios like, for example, wildfire-induced air pollution or viral outbreaks, like what we’re seeing the COVID-19.

To help us understand what the Australia bushfires and the coronavirus outbreak mean from a filtration perspective, we recently interviewed Tom Justice, the president of the National Air Filtration Association. In addition to his involvement with NAFA, Justice has served on a number of ASHRAE standards committees, been involved with ISO air filtration initiatives, and received lifetime achievement awards from NAFA and INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry. Justice also holds several patents related to air filtration.


Across Asia, countries race to boost face mask supplies

At a face mask factory just outside the South Korean capital of Seoul, workers are churning out 300,000 masks a day – and it’s still not enough.


3M taps regional suppliers to meet soaring demand for masks

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services intends to buy 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), the nation’s supply of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.


Squabble over mask shortage erupts as coronavirus spreads

At a visit to 3M in Minnesota, Vice President Mike Pence noted the company can currently only produce 4 million FDA-blessed surgical masks per month.


U.S. to Ramp Up Mask Production, But China Is Bottleneck for Raw Materials

Honeywell International Inc is the other major U.S. mask producer, which is aiming to ramp up production.


3M can’t confirm Pence comments about making more masks

Jennifer Ehrlich, a 3M communications manager said in an e-mail late Saturday that any information about government contracts for respirators would have to come from the Office of the Vice President. However, Ehrlich added, “Just to clarify, we are not yet under contract for the volume mentioned today. However, we are preparing to respond to the U.S. administration’s request for a proposal for respirators. 3M continues to maximize production at its manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and around the world for all types of N95 respirators.”


US mulls using sweeping powers to ramp up production of coronavirus protective gear

The Trump administration is considering invoking special powers to rapidly expand domestic manufacturing of protective masks and clothing to combat the coronavirus in the U.S., two officials told Reuters. The biggest producers of face masks in the United States include 3M Corp and Honeywell International Inc.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said at a congressional hearing on Wednesday that China controls “a lot of the raw materials as well as the manufacturing capacity” related to face masks. Very little of this stuff is apparently made in the (United) States, so if we’re down to domestic capability to produce, it could get tough,” the DHS official told Reuters.


3M ramps up N95 respirator production as demand surges from global coronavirus outbreak

From the streets of Beijing to Milan Fashion Week, people around the world are turning to protective masks and respirators to try and reduce the risk of infection amid the global outbreak of coronavirus.

Demand is so high that it’s increasingly difficult to order respirators on e-commerce platforms like Amazon.

“We’re seeing outbreaks develop in new countries every day. But even the countries where there isn’t a widespread outbreak are working really hard to prepare right now, in case they do have that situation,” Dr. Nikki McCullough, 3M’s global head of safety, told CNBC.
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