Mask factories have risen in Finland at a historic pace. Manufacturers say production would already exceed healthcare needs, but the product certification process has proven cumbersome.
In Finland factories now produce well over a million masks or masks a day. Domestic manufacturers of folk masks, surgical mouthpieces and respirators include Lifa Air, Screentec, Filterpak, Eagle Filters and SJT-Investment Group.
Mask recommendations have tightened recently following the deterioration of the epidemic.
Lifa Air factory in Espoo produced more than 20 million masks per month in August. CEO of Lifa Air Johan Brandt says production is on the rise. He does not want to specify current production volumes.
“They come like manna buns. Additional capacity will be installed for us and production will run in three shifts. ”
Lifa Air manufactures masks suitable for civilian use and IIR-class surgical nasal protectors, which are also suitable for hospital use. According to Brandt, the company’s masks have received the CE mark in August.
In addition to the masks, the goal was to manufacture more robust respirators as early as the summer, but the company is still awaiting FFP2 and FFP3 certifications for its products. Such respirators can be worn by, for example, coronavirus patients.
Lifa Air In the spring, it entered into an agreement with the Security of Supply Center (HVK) to start Finnish mask production. In addition to the IGC, hospital districts have placed orders directly with the company. There are also products for sale to consumers.
“Nothing is left lying on the shelf,” Brandt says.
Lifa Air manufactures the filter material for the products itself.
“In the spring, its availability was poor and prices bounced tenfold. In July-August, we were self-sufficient in filter material. ”
Mask cover fabrics and other materials come from several different suppliers in different countries.
In Oulu Screentec began manufacturing surgical mouth-nose pads in the summer. The company’s FFP3-level respirator is currently being tested for CE marking. CEO of Screentec Antti Tauriainen according to which the entry will be received in November at the earliest.
“The goal would be to produce about 150,000 to 200,000 mouthguards a day and tens of thousands of FFP3 respirators. In fact, we are not very far from this. ”
Tauriainen does not want to tell the exact production volumes for reasons related to the competitive situation. Screentec manufactures shelters as an uninterrupted production, for which the company has hired dozens of new employees this year. In total, Screentec employs about 90 people.
The materials of the shields and respirators come from Turkey, Asia and Europe. Screentec also cooperates with the Finnish nonwoven fabric manufacturer Suominen.
“The goal would be to create product lines that are mainly based on Finnish materials,” says Tauriainen.
Screentec focuses primarily on meeting the needs of hospitals and healthcare.
“We were originally a medical company. We focus on making good quality products you can trust. ”
According to Tauriainen, the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District supported the company in product development. He also values the work of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in starting Finnish mask production.
In Hanko The masks are manufactured by Filterpak, a collaboration between the K-Group and Ahlstrom-Munksjön was announced in May. Ahlstrom-Munksjö supplies nonwovens for masks and K-Group space and distributes the products.
CEO of Filterpak Peter Nordlund says the company ‘s production rate has been around hundreds of thousands of copies a day for a few months now.
“At least a million masks a week, the more I don’t want to tell the amounts to the public,” Nordlund says.
About half of the production is Nesu folk masks, which therefore do not have certification or CE marking. In addition to folk masks, Filterpak manufactures Class II surgical nasal pads that can also be used in healthcare.
“Deliveries to the IGC are slowly starting. The first delivery is in two weeks, ”says Nordlund.
Nordlund, who has been making air filters for about 30 years, says the masks have entered the company’s range to stay.
“We invest a lot in these products and their manufacturing,” says Nordlund.
In Kotka the protectors have been manufactured by Eagle Filters since July, which has not yet received the desired CE markings for its products.
CEO of the company Juha Kariluoto says Eagle Filters has received covid-19 certification for its respirators. Due to the corona situation, the European Union has relaxed its certification rules so that protective equipment can be obtained quickly. Covid-19 certified respirators should only be used by coronary care personnel.
Protectors for consumer sales and industry, on the other hand, must not be supplied because the product has not received the actual CE marking. According to Kariluoto, the entry is coming in two weeks.
“The product is going through, but the bureaucracy is taking its time, and now it’s congested.”
Eagle Filters has built a new production line for shield production. If the factory rotated around the clock, 30,000 products could be produced per day. Currently, the protectors are manufactured in two shifts, producing 20,000 pieces per day.
According to Kariluoto, the company has already received a few dozen orders for about 30,000 pieces. IGC has not ordered any products.
“We have made offers there, but no orders have come. We have discussions with central and wholesale stores and distributors, ”says Kariluoto.
Prior to shield production, Eagle Filters has manufactured filters for gas turbine power plants. The company also manufactures protective filter material from polypropylene itself at its factory.
“We have had filter expertise for a long time, but the machines have had to be renewed,” says Kariluoto.
In Vantaa manufacture FFP2- and FFP3-rated Jedx protectors for heavy-duty respirators, backed by SJT-Investment Group. CEO of the company Jari Nurminen describes that there is hard work behind obtaining ratings.
According to Nurminen, the company’s shelter production will double on Saturday, compared to the previous 40,000 units a day. The protectors are made of materials coming from several different countries.
“In a couple of weeks, production will increase to 100,000 protectors a day,” says Nurminen.
According to Nurminen, the company’s primary goal is to make the products available for healthcare. It is also possible to sell protective equipment to consumers and industry now that type approval has been obtained.
“Hospitals and hospital districts have placed direct orders. The IGC has not ordered any protection from us, ”says Nurminen.
According to Nurminen, the company intends to stick to the manufacture of respirators and not to expand to surgical nasal protection.
“It’s a sector of its own. We don’t have the skills and now we don’t have time to learn. ”
There are differences in masks
■ According to the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes), a respirator protects its wearer from airborne particles.
■ The purpose of surgical mouth guards is to protect the patient, for example, from the exhaled air of the staff. They do not protect the user from airborne infections and particles.
■ In April, half a million surgical nasal protectors were believed to be worn daily in Finnish social and health care. The FFP2 and FFP3 respirators, on the other hand, consumed about 50,000 pieces per day.
■ In October, due to the extension of the instructions for use, the consumption of surgical nasal protection has been about 30 percent higher than the peak consumption level in the spring. The level of consumption of more robust respirators is still much lower in the spring because the number of coronary patients in hospital is small.