Fraunhofer IPT, Moss and IBF Automation build systems for the production of 50,000 surgical masks per day

Press Release / April 15, 2020

Surgical masks can intercept infectious droplets that are expelled when speaking, coughing or sneezing. They may help to protect other people from being infected with respiratory tract infections if the necessary safety distance cannot be maintained. The current shortage of surgical masks is making regular healthcare provision and the fight against the corona pandemic more difficult. Therefore, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT is now setting up a production plant for surgical masks in Germany together with the local machine builder IBF Automation GmbH on behalf of Moss GmbH.

Medizinerin mit MNS-Maske
© PantherMedia / Kzenon (Presselizenz)

The project partners have set themselves the ambitious goal of setting up a production facility within just four weeks that can produce around 50,000 surgical masks a day. To achieve this, they are drawing on existing construction plans from Moss GmbH and are making use of the many years of know-how of Fraunhofer IPT and IBF Automation in the field of special machine construction and automation. Subsequently, three further plants are to be set up in Germany in order to expand production to 200,000 masks per day.

In a first step, the machine builder makes a prototype of the system including the machine control at their facility. In parallel, the engineers at the Fraunhofer IPT are working on the decisive process steps for the production of the masks. When planning the plant, the partners consider the entire supply chain from the production of the required nonwovens to certification and the supply chain management. As soon as the first prototype is completed, it will be further optimized in the Fraunhofer IPT's machine hall in order to scale and automate the production of the medical masks to an industrial scale.

This whole initiative is focused on making sensible use of free capacities during the Coronavirus crisis

After the Corona pandemic freed up capacity in the sewing department at Moss, whose core competency is printing for trade fair construction and retail trade, the company initially produced nonmedical masks. Managing Director Peter Bottenberg now decided to start producing surgical masks. He worked with Moss’s China and USA offices to obtain construction plans for the production of surgical masks and was able to award the local machine builder IBF Automation GmbH and the Fraunhofer IPT the project. The goal is to build three systems within a very short time after a prototype. "I am very impressed by this speed! I think it is perfect how the team pulls together and how motivated each individual is," says Bottenberg.

Digital platform links needs of medical facilities with capacities of manufacturing companies

The demand-oriented distribution of the MNS masks produced is supported by another partner of the Fraunhofer IPT at the RWTH Aachen Campus, who has set up a digital platform: At www.corona.kex.net (German only) the KEX Knowledge Exchange AG and the INC Invention Center bundle the know-how and free capacities of manufacturing companies and thus aim to guarantee a professional procurement and logistics chain. All utility companies throughout Germany can report their requirements on the digital platform. Based on the requirements registered on the platform, suitable suppliers are then selected who meet the quality and legal certification requirements. So far, medical facilities there have reported requirements for more than one million surgical masks, 1.3 million medical gowns, 4.3 million nitrile gloves and 896,000 FFP2 masks.