Limburg face masks on Economic Affairs shortlist, with support from UM institute

The ‘Limburg Face Masks Team’ (Team Limburgse Mondkapjes), in cooperation with the UM institute AMIBM, has a chance to become one of the preferred suppliers for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, to produce high-grade face masks for the Dutch healthcare sector in the coming years. The expertise of the Aachen Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM), which is unique in the Netherlands, ties in perfectly with that of two Limburg entrepreneurs who have recently entered this market. The first samples are currently being inspected to see whether they meet the FFP2 standards that apply for healthcare personnel in pandemic conditions.

Boogaard Textiles in Gulpen-Wittem specialises in high-quality, customised textile products from beanbags to parasols, often with advertising from large food producers printed on them. Limburg entrepreneur Cyrille Depondt, together with Nikolaj Boogaard, decided a few weeks ago to start producing face masks. Managing director of AMIBM Richard Ramakers shared their desire to do something for the Dutch healthcare sector during the coronavirus pandemic. He contacted the Limburg Face Masks Team and the initiative thus gained momentum.

Practical academic expertise
AMIBM's academic expertise and networks enable entrepreneurs to ensure the highest product standards. About twelve members of two AMIBM research groups (‘polymer engineering’ and ‘medical application of textiles’) are now in daily contact with the entrepreneurs. More specifically, this includes specialised technicians, a few postdocs, two professors and a few engineers. In the laboratory in Aachen, for example, the quality of the filter material used could be tested for how it holds up to different sterilisation methods, among other things. Centexbel, a research institute in Belgium with which AMIBM is collaborating more often, is currently testing forty masks from Gulpen-Witten, as is the National Test Centre. AMIBM can also provide ‘clean rooms’ for the production of masks, if necessary, or advise the company on setting up such facilities. And another practical area of expertise from AMIBM is reading and interpreting the many rules and standards that must be met in high-grade medical masks.

Good contender
“In collaboration with the MUMC+ engineering department IDEE (Instrument Development, Engineering and Evaluation), we are also looking into the possibility of developing our own quality control testing facility for face masks in Limburg. All of this together makes this Limburg initiative a good candidate for producing face masks for the Dutch market in the longer term”, says Richard Ramakers. If the Limburg Face Masks Team becomes a partner of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, contracts will be drawn up for both the supply of raw materials and the purchase of the produced face masks.