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We have recently launched a biodegradable 3-layer civil face mask

Apr 01, 2021
We have recently launched a biodegradable 3-layer civil face mask

Ahlstrom-Munksjö is a global leader in fibre-based materials, supplying innovative and sustainable solutions to its customers. The company’s offering includes filter materials, release liners, food and beverage processing materials, decor papers, abrasive and tape backings, electrotechnical paper, glass fibre materials, medical fibre materials, diagnostics and energy storage solutions, as well as a range of specialty papers for industrial and consumer end-uses. The company’s annual net sale is about EUR 2.7 billion and employs about 7,800 people. Lionel Bonte, Vice President, Medical Business, Ahlstrom-Munksjö discusses the scope of medical textiles in India and the rising awareness of viral protection post-pandemic.

How do you perceive the market for medical textiles in India? At what rate is it growing?
Given the current circumstances the one thing we can observe is that the Indian market landscape will dramatically change. With the prime minister’s announcement, changes have started to happen in the medical device regulatory environment which is where everything starts in this highly regulated industry. Changes in public coverage of household health spending will also be a major factor to accelerating changes in this space. At this stage the market remains a “reusable” market where medical device product affordability is still the key driver.

Which are your major markets in India and abroad?
Ahlstrom-Munksjö is focused on delivering the highest value products for the most demanding applications. Our products are mostly used in the operating room but have recently penetrated laboratories, clean room and pandemic theatres with the launch of our PureArmor® product fitting coveralls applications outside the OR. We also have a foot in the sterilization warp market where we sell both roll good and finished packaged sheets in a variety of sizes, basis weight, substrates and colours. Our customers are mostly distributors scattered all over India.

Outside of India our products sell worldwide with a strong penetration in North America. But our products are also available in Europe and Asia.

What kind of impact did the pandemic have on this industry and your business?
As a result of the material scarcity driven by the shortage of meltblown our mix has shifted toward higher demand in the face mask and the drapes and gowns category while the shutdown in elective surgeries has reduced demand in sterilization wraps applications.

We went to great lengths of operational agility to increase capacity, restart dormant assets and re-staff existing assets. We were also very successful in adapting our portfolio to meet the growing demand of Face Mask and Isolation gowns by developing and validating new products.

Have things changed post pandemic? Are you exploring new product options and newer markets as a result? Please share a few details.

I am not sure we are out of the pandemic yet but indeed there are lessons to be learned at all levels of the value chain moving forward. For Ahlstrom-Munksjö, protective barrier material and comfort has always been at the centre of our strategy. As a result of the pandemic, the awareness about viral protection will surely raise and help us serve new customers and markets.

Accelerating our R&D effort on developing materials that are meeting the growing need for comfortable barrier material has also been a lesson from this crisis.

Lastly, the impact on the environment of this pandemic with billions of face masks ending up on the street has also been a wake-up call for Ahlstrom-Munksjö. As a result, we have recently launched a biodegradable 3-layer civil face mask. TenderGuard™ BioBased is highly breathable, biocompatible so it’s gentle on the skin, non-irritating and comfortable to wear for long durations. It is certified under European Norm EN13432 as biodegradable and compostable under controlled conditions.

What are the challenges that hamper the growth of the medical textiles industry?
Perceived high cost of some of the single use products versus reusable linen products as well as lack of awareness of poor performance of the reusable products are the main barriers to the growth of the medical nonwovens.

What would be your suggestions to overcome them?
Continue to demonstrate the value nonwovens deliver and the benefits of using over single use fabrics.

Which countries are your major competitors in this field?

What types of technologies and products do you plan to produce going forward?
We will continue to grow and evolve our product portfolio.

What are the action plans set for your company for the next 2-3 years?
Innovation is at our core. In partnership with our customers, we will continue to innovate solutions by challenging the boundaries for how to use fibre.