Arburg GmbH & Co. is injection moulding liquid silicone rubber (LSR) and polypropylene masks for its employees worldwide and medical facilities near its headquarters in Lossburg.
The company says it has the capacity to produce 3,500 multifunctional high-tech masks per day to address the critical shortage of personal protection equipment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arburg officials describe the product as a soft LSR mask that is put over the nose and mouth and a firm PP shield with eyelets for attaching elastic bands. In the middle, there is a standardized connection with a hole. The opening is sealed with a flow gate, which will be fitted with a filter housing.
Arburg is working with partners and getting ready to produce the filter components. By using certain filters (FFP2 or FFP3), Arburg says the face masks will protect against COVID-19 and be suitable for use by nurses and doctors.
Production started May 11 with a goal of ramping up to 15,000 a week. The project comes on the heels of another effort to mould PPE. In April, the company used its Allrounder injection moulding machines to make safety glasses.
"We are involved in various aid initiatives and also [pushing] internal company projects, such as this face mask. The demand is enormous," Gerhard Böhm, Arburg managing sales director, said in a news statement.
"We are receiving specific requests from hospitals and nursing homes from all over the region."
For the mask project, Arburg is using two electric injection moulding machines: an Allrounder 570 A with a clamping force of 2,000 kN to produce the LSR masks at the Arburg Training Centre with a 4-cavity mould from Polar-Form; and an Allrounder 470 E Golden Electric with a clamping force of 1,000 kN and a 2-cavity mould from Foboha to produce the PP shields at its customer centre.
The larger injection moulding machine operates with a six-axis robot from Kuka that removes the masks from the mould and places them on a conveyor belt. In the second machine, the PP shields are handled by a linear Multilift Select robotic system. Finally, the PP shield is manually placed on the silicone mask and the product is completed with elastic bands and packed.
The masks are designed to be easily sterilized and worn multiple times, according to Thomas Walther, head of Arburg's application technology department.
"It was important for us to take advantage of the performance of plastic materials and to create a product that is suitable for long-term use. In this way, resources can be conserved," Walther said in a news release.
The first face masks are going to the company's own employees worldwide and to partners who have been significantly involved. They will then be distributed to hospitals, care facilities and civil defence organizations.
Some of the other companies involved with the face masks, include Sigmasoft software for the LSR components and mould simulation; Polar-Form and Foboha for building the injection moulds for the LSR and PP components; Wacker and Borealis for raw materials, Ewikon and Männer for cold and hot runners and mould work; Barth Mechanik for the gripper, and Packmat for the packaging technology. For the follow-up project to manufacture the housing, the companies involved include Weber (tooling), Guenther (hot runner), Küfner (filter material), Herrmann Ultraschall (welding technology) and Packmat. Picture: