North Carolina’s public and private sectors are coming together to form the “Made in NC” initiative. The program seeks to produce and distribute PPE to communities in the state most affected by the pandemic.
About Made in NC
The partnership includes NC State’s Nonwovens Institute and UNC Health along with non-profits the NC Healthcare Association, NC Medical Society. In addition, private partners include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), and Freudenberg Performance Materials.
Together, the group will manufacture N95 masks. It will also distribute those masks to healthcare workers across the state as an inexpensive and safety-regulated solution.
The cost of the PPE materials is a significant component of the program. Since COVID-19 hit North Carolina, prices for N95 masks and other essential supplies have risen 500% on average.
The program expects to produce an initial run of 1000,000 to 200,000 N96 masks per month. Its goal is to quickly increase production and serve as a reliable and affordable supply of critical safety equipment for the state’s health care systems.
New Materials Lead to New Program
Near the beginning of the pandemic, the Nonwovens Institute introduced two new filter materials for use in N95 masks and other products. Made in NC will use these materials to produce masks for the project.
Scientists at NC State developed a unique spunbond fabric from two different polymer materials. Spunbond fabrics are layered fabrics that combine these materials into a single fiber. These materials have been noted to be strong, light, and just as effective as materials that are currently being used.
Getting A Boost From the Private Sector
BSBNC donated $450,000 to the program at NC State. This donation facilitated the purchase of two mask-molding machines that produce part of the N95 masks as well as sourcing of production materials.
Freudenberg Performance Materials is housing the machines in its Durham location. The textile manufacturer is providing manufacturing proficiency as well as workers to install, maintain, and operate the machines.
The additional help from the private sector will allow the program to significantly increase production and distribution. Made in NC estimates that over the next year, it can supply more than 1 million masks to agencies and healthcare systems across the state.