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LEEDS - The UK-based Nonwoven Innovation & Research Institute (NIRI) has recently completed an upgrade to its existing meltblown system, installing new equipment and expanding their extensive facilities to further help clients across a whole host of applications.

The latest meltblown system will be of particular relevance for research and development, pilot projects, sampling and prototyping, proof of concept testing, as well as designing cost-effective products.

The availability of meltblown technology has been high on the nonwoven agenda over the last year given its critical usage in medical grade textiles throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including Type II and Type IIR face masks, FFP2, FFP3 and N95 respirators, and PPE more generally.

NIRI’s upgraded laboratory and pilot system from Fibre Extrusion Technology (FET) is capable of processing a wide range of polymer types often involving difficult-to-process materials, including standard polymers; engineering polymers; high temperature polymers; corrosive and aggressive polymers, as well as sustainable and biomedical polymers.

“We were mindful when specifying the new equipment that we wanted to invest in the most flexible and adaptable technology available, to enable the development of a wide range of nonwoven structures - with the potential to develop unique filament and mechanical properties to further facilitate our clients’ R&D and prototyping," Dr Matthew Tipper, CEO at NIRI explained.

NIRI’s new meltblown equipment includes a cutting-edge computerised control system for monitoring and managing all parameters, including temperature, pressure, speed and recipes. The software associated with the control system features quality verification for the entire process, as well as highly flexible reports and a combined display of data, alarms and events to trace cause and effect, offering the greatest range of options for R&D and prototyping.

Found across numerous sectors, the applications of meltblown technology are varied, from use within the specialist biomedical field for the manufacturing of medical devices, tissue support and surgical meshes, to use within the healthcare field for sanitary products, including feminine hygiene products and adult incontinence aids. Filtration applications (both liquid and gaseous) include clean room filters, industrial respirators and automotive cabin filters.

The thermal insulation properties of meltblown nonwovens make them particularly suitable for both general and functional fabrics within apparel, including disposable industrial apparel. Meltblown technology is also utilised within oil sorbents, to collect oil from the water surface during incidents including accidental oil spills.

Dr Ross Ward, NIRI’s new business development manager, added: "In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, at NIRI we’ve been using our expertise and extensive facilities for the continued development of PPE and medical devices. This is, clearly, an area where our new equipment will benefit clients and, ultimately, the general public. We are keenly interested in exploring the wider opportunities for meltblown nonwovens, such as developing products from bio-derived polymers, chemically recycled polymers and novel masterbatches with enhanced functionality. This latest investment will help us facilitate the rapid development of innovative and commercially viable products for our customers.”


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