Bluetree Group is to become the first UK business to manufacture type IIR-medical grade face masks which have a greater than 98 per cent bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE).
Following a call from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in March for industry to help increase face mask production by 40%, the Rotherham-based printing business decided to diversify its manufacturing capabilities to help with the response to Covid-19.
Over the past two months, Bluetree Group has worked round the clock to convert its 45,000 square foot facility, originally acquired for expanding its printing operations, into a surgical face mask factory. The facility will be capable of producing 1.4 million masks per week, with the potential of expanding capacity to 20 million per week by September.
As well as working to convert operations, the company has ensured it meets complies with health and safety guidelines and is in accordance with the complex regulations for certification. This has been especially important for the meltblown material, which is the filter layer within the mask.
The global pandemic has left meltblown material – which is the filter layer of the mask – in short supply. Bluetree Group is investing to produce meltblown inhouse ensuring that, from the summer, the final product will use materials solely manufactured in the UK. The company believes this to be the first supply chain of masks which is entirely domestically sourced.
The business will be producing type IIR-certified surgical masks, one of the most commonly used types in UK healthcare, and will be launching them under the product name OBISK. Type IIR masks have a bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) of 98% and are splash resistant to protect users from bodily fluids including blood. Not all masks on the market provide bacterial filtration, so Bluetree Group has ensured its masks are medical grade and capable of protecting frontline workers from harmful bacteria.
The final stage of production is certification, where the products must be sent to a lab to undergo extensive testing. There are a limited number of companies in the UK able to carry out such work and current demand is understandably high, however, Bluetree Group expects this final stage to be completed in the coming weeks.
For customers requiring more than 5,000 masks per month, orders will be fulfilled via long term contracts with the direct sales team. Consumers and smaller businesses such as dentists, clinics etc. will be able to set up a subscription service via bluetreemaskbox.co.uk. Bluetree Group will also be donating a year’s supply of face masks to a Bluebell Wood, a local hospice.
Adam Carnell, managing director at Bluetree Group, said: “We are in a fortunate position where our existing setup lends itself well to mask production, so when it became apparent that help was needed, we immediately began planning what we could do.
“The team has worked hard over the last eight weeks to work through the understandably complex regulations around producing medical products; building a cleanroom production facility and securing some of the most sought-after materials needed to make the masks.
“We are still operating our business-as-usual product lines – dedicating a separate task force to this project – but aim to make mask production a sustainable line of business for the foreseeable future to help protect the nation.”
For more information, please visit: https://bluetreemaskbox.co.uk/