Different types of non-woven fabrics are used for producing surgical face masks. Non-woven fabrics are known for their filtration capacity and at the same time air permeability while remaining less humid than woven materials. The main ingredient of non-woven materials is polypropylene, made usually in 20 or 100 gsm (grams per square meter) in density.
Meltblown, spunbond, sms are the main types of non-woven products made of polypropylene mainly used in the medical mask industry.
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Non Woven fabrics including meltblown, spunbond and sms constitute a major export item for countries like Turkey, according to wiki Nonwoven fabrics are broadly defined as sheet or web structures bonded together by entangling fiber or filaments (and by perforating films) mechanically, thermally or chemically. They are flat or tufted porous sheets that are made directly from separate fibres, molten plastic or plastic film. They are not made by weaving or knitting and do not require converting the fibres to yarn. Typically, a certain percentage of recycled fabrics and oil-based materials are used in nonwoven fabrics. The percentage of recycled fabrics varies based upon the strength of material needed for the specific use. In addition, some nonwoven fabrics can be recycled after use, given the proper treatment and facilities. For this reason, some consider non-woven a more ecological fabric for certain applications, especially in fields and industries where disposable or single use products are important, such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes and luxury accommodations.
Nonwoven fabrics are engineered fabrics that may be single-use, have a limited life, or be very durable. Nonwoven fabrics provide specific functions such as absorbency, liquid repellence, resilience, stretch, softness, strength, flame retardancy, washability, cushioning, thermal insulation, acoustic insulation, filtration, use as a bacterial barrier and sterility. These properties are often combined to create fabrics suited for specific jobs, while achieving a good balance between product use-life and cost. They can mimic the appearance, texture and strength of a woven fabric and can be as bulky as the thickest paddings. In combination with other materials they provide a spectrum of products with diverse properties, and are used alone or as components of apparel, home furnishings, health care, engineering, industrial and consumer goods.
Non-woven materials are used in numerous applications, the ones in medical field include but not limited to:
- isolation gowns
- surgical gowns
- surgical drapes and covers
- surgical masks
- surgical scrub suits
- medical packaging: porosity allows gas sterilization
- shoe covers
- bath wipes
- wound dressings
- drug delivery
Melt-blown nonwovens are produced by extruding melted polymer fibers through a spin net or die consisting of up to 40 holes per inch to form long thin fibers which are stretched and cooled by passing hot air over the fibers as they fall from the die. The resultant web is collected into rolls and subsequently converted to finished products. The extremely fine fibers (typically polypropylene) differ from other extrusions, particularly spun bond, in that they have low intrinsic strength but much smaller size offering key properties. Often melt blown is added to spun bond to form SM or SMS webs, which are strong and offer the intrinsic benefits of fine fibers such as fine filtration, low pressure drop as used in face masks or filters and physical benefits such as acoustic insulation as used in dishwashers. One of the largest users of SM and SMS materials is the disposable diaper and feminine care industry.
Spunbond or Spunlaid nonwovens
Spunlaid, also called spunbond, nonwovens are made in one continuous process. Fibers are spun and then directly dispersed into a web by deflectors or can be directed with air streams. This technique leads to faster belt speeds, and cheaper costs. Several variants of this concept are available, such as the REICOFIL machinery. PP spunbonds run faster and at lower temperatures than PET spunbonds, mostly due to the difference in melting points
Spunbond has been combined with melt-blown nonwovens, conforming them into a layered product called SMS (spun-melt-spun). Melt-blown nonwovens have extremely fine fiber diameters but are not strong fabrics. SMS fabrics, made completely from PP are water-repellent and fine enough to serve as disposable fabrics. Melt-blown is often used as filter media, being able to capture very fine particles. Spunlaid is bonded by either resin or thermally. Regarding the bonding of Spunlaid, Rieter has launched a new generation of nonwovens called Spunjet. In fact, Spunjet is the bonding of the Spunlaid filaments thanks to the hydroentanglement.