Protective face mask have been and continue to be in high demand around the World. The ability of manufacturers to meet this demand depends on the availability of melt-blown fabric. Extrude Hone technology contributes to significant improvements in the productivity and efficiency of the melt-down manufacturing process is used to make this critically needed material, increasing face mask availability.
With hundreds of millions of face mask to be produced in a record time the face mask supply chain has been highly stressed. The first bottleneck in the face mask supply chain was the availability of enough melt-blown fabric raw material.
The melt-blown fabric is a very fine mesh of synthetic polymer fibers that will make possible the high-level filtration level expected in face masks.
When saying very fine we mean sometime less than one-micron fiber diameter. You can imagine the difficulties in producing such material and especially the challenge of ramping up the production.
It’s not all about the expensive machinery involved in the manufacturing process which melts and blows the polymer material in order to create a flat sheet of fabric which will be used for the face mask production.
What is really critical in these complex machines is the mold used to create the filament – the spinneret.
A spinneret is a large piece of steel designed and machined to drive high velocity air and polymer through a line of tiny holes or nozzles machined by high precision CNC and EDM to typically 0.2mm diameter.
Still it’s not enough.
The nozzle characteristics and especially the edges quality is key to ensure size consistency hole to hole and to ensure that the filament will not break. In order to increase and secure production you need a perfect diameter, a nice surface and a quality top edge rounding.
The best solution to achieve that requirement is to use Extrude Hone’s AFM (Abrasive Flow Machining) as an all in one deburring-rounding-polishing process.
The result is these machines then will make more and higher quality fabric.
Photo above: Details of the spinneret being processed on an AFM EASYFLOW machine in open mode.
At Extrude Hone we have years of experience in mold finishing. But this was the first time we have seen demand surge in a so short period of time for the very same application.
In May 2020, Extrude Hone China rose to the challenge with astonishing speed to deliver within days several AFM EASYFLOW machines to face mask fabric machine builders.
The EASYFLOW machine enables the technology of AFM – Abrasive Flow Machining