Bluetree takes control of specialist mask material
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Bluetree Group has taken delivery of two specialist machines that will allow the business to make its own ‘meltblown’ material for surgical face masks in-house.
When the business launched its new mask-making venture over the summer, there was only one other manufacturer of the special material in the UK, with the government buying up all of that supply.
With the two new meltblown machines Bluetree said it had become the first manufacturer of the material in England.
The firm said that the Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in meltblown becoming “one of the scarcest materials in the world”, with some countries banning exports.
“Before the pandemic, the average cost of meltblown was £2,000 per tonne, this soared to £150,000 at the peak of the pandemic,” Bluetree stated.
The specialist machinery was sourced from China, and installed by a UK engineering business.
The meltblown material is used for the middle layer in the Type IIR surgical masks being made at Bluetree’s new facility. Bluetree said it was in the process of securing a UK supply chain for the polypropylene raw material used to make the substrate.
It has the capacity to make 100 tonnes of meltblown material a month.
Around 12 of the hundreds of new jobs being created at the facility will involve operating the meltblown machines.
Meltblown material is also used for gowns and respirators.
Wath upon Dearne-based Bluetree Group has already won a huge £64.1m contract to supply the NHS with 352m masks, and is also supplying the Daily Mail’s charity PPE initiative, Mail Force.
The firm has the potential capacity to make 1.7m masks a day. As well as large supply contracts, it offers its Mask Box subscription scheme to businesses such as dentists and vets, and other printers who need masks for their workforces.
Bluetree said its initial £1.8m investment had grown to a total of £12m for the new venture.