FRIEDBERG - Autefa Solutions, the manufacturer of nonwoven machines and automation solutions, has developed HiPerMask, a fully automated production line for the production of protective facemasks.
HiPerMask, which is said to offer high process reliability and a high level of productivity, has been designed to produce protective masks in accordance with the EU FFP2 and FFP3 standards as well as the US N95 and N98 standards.
Autefa is now reporting double-digit sales of the machines following the initial deliveries in May 2020 to Univent in Germany and Flawa in Switzerland, both market leaders in mask production in their respective countries. Both companies were also among the first to be able to handle the corresponding federal orders in Switzerland and Germany.
The mechanical and electrical design, production and assembly, software programming and in-house tests for the HiPerMask takes place in Friedberg, Bavaria and Frauenfeld, Switzerland, says Autefa, noting that all parts and components used in the machines are from well-known German and European manufacturers. This ensures that all production processes are subject to the ISO 9001-2015 certified quality standards of the machine manufacturer.
As the roll-out of the machines continues, the supply of the additional machines and production lines will be carried out by Autefa Solutions Germany. In addition to the DACH region - Austria, Germany, and Switzerland - the target countries for sales are the rest of Europe and the USA.
"The unique combination of knowledge at Autefa in mechanical engineering, nonwovens technology and automation has enabled us to provide customers with a complete solution that leaves nothing to be desired," explained Christian Egger, CEO, Autefa Solutions Germany GmbH. "We provide customers not only with mask production line, but also with access to premium material, camera-based quality control and a fully automated packaging solution for the final product. These added values offered by Autefa allow an economic mask production."
As Egger notes, the fully automated HiPerMask production line offers numerous advantages for successful FFP/N protective mask production, for which Autefa Solutions stands as a leading machine manufacturer with the requisite expertise and know-how.
Especially noteworthy is the high process reliability with reproducible product quality and a production output of over 50,000 masks per day.
The complete line, consists of numerous state-of-the-art individual units which are joined together into what Autefa calls, "a unique machine solution". A single line consists of a material feed, nose clip feed and positioning, ultrasonic welding units, ear loops or headband stations, mask folding, punching, and dispensing of the masks into a collection container. The line also includes an unwinder with 6 stations to ensure a warp-free synchronized material feed while the respirator/ mask shape welding is carried with Emerson Branson ultrasonic assembly technology.
Each of individual units plays a key role in producing a high quality facemask. The nose clip unit, for example, ensures the precise feeding of the nose clips while a printing unit affixes the labeling on both sides, including individual numbering and the company logo. The mask folding unit is then equipped with automatic centering by means of a vision sensor and linear unit.
As an option, the mask strip welding can be carried out as an ear loop station or as a headband station with band length adjustment. A further feature is the shaping and welding of the protective mask contour for different mask sizes and protective mask shapes. The automation continues on the HiPerMask up to the integration of the packaging machines. Here, the masks can also be automatically packaged in individual bags with the entire process monitored by an integrated quality control, which is controlled by cameras and carried out with the help of artificial intelligence.
The production line is completed with a comprehensive full-service packages for starting production and procuring consumables for meltblown and spunbond nonwovens as well as other accessories. Autefa also offers companies assistance with certification. The resulting short delivery times and the fast "time-to-market", says the company, guarantee a successful entry into manufacturing FFP2 and FFP3 masks.
One of the first development partners for the fully automated HiPerMask production line was Univent Medical GmbH, which is based in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.
"Mask production is a new business in Europe, and we spoke to various machine manufacturers who wanted to build the machines," said managing director Thomas Vosseler, highlighting his high levels of satisfaction with the system and the collaboration as a whole. "In the end, Autefa convinced me as a global acting specialist for nonwoven machines and lines. That has already created a lot of trust. In addition, everything that we had in our future plans, such as automated packaging, automated control and head loop stations, children's masks, i.e., everything we wanted having to do with producing masks, was never a problem for Autefa, which always said that it was doable.
"The message was that we can manage to do everything together, and it is working really well now. That's why I would definitely choose Autefa again."
A further benefit from Auteda is that an upgrade of customers' existing production technology for FFP / N masks is also possible. Using its extensive know-how in the sector, Autefa says that many FFP / N mask machines from other manufacturers that are available on the market can also be expanded and modernized.
Examples of such upgrades are the upgrading around ear loop and head band welding stations, mask shape stamping (for different mask shapes) and mask folding (here the centering is sensor-controlled), and, of course quality control of the processes and the entire production.
André Imhof, CEO, Autefa Solutions Switzerland explained: "The production of FFP /N protective masks is about quality, efficiency and output. At Autefa Solutions, we are happy to help wherever possible to improve production quickly and sustainably with our know-how and flexible solutions in order to be able to produce more masks faster and better."