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Italian industry-academic collaboration yields prototype machine for making new masks

By Gerald Ondrey |

The Marchesini Group S.p.A. (Pianoro Bologna, Italy; www.marchesini.com) and a multidisciplinary research group at Bologna University (www.unibo.it) have created a prototype that manufactures “super” filtering material for face masks with greater protection against viruses and bacteria compared to materials currently in use. Moreover, the filter media (photo) has an excellent particle-filtration capacity, and can be applied to fabrics not normally used to produce face masks.

“The prototype enables industrial-scale production of this new type of filtration material, based on electrocharged polymer nanofibers,” explains Andrea Zucchelli, a professor with the Dept. of Industrial Engineering (DIN) at Bologna University, and one of the project coordinators. Once up and running, the prototype, which is housed in the laboratory of the DIN in Bologna, will produce enough filtration material for around seven thousand masks per day. The first production runs of these materials will be used to produce a prototype batch of FFP3-type masks by GVS S.p.A. (Zola Predosa, Italy).

masks

The group was led by professors Zucchelli, Maria Letizia Focarete of the Giacomo Ciamician Dept. of Chemistry and Davide Fabiani of the Guglielmo Marconi Dept. of Electrical, Electronic and Information Engineering. “Only a University environment could nurture and support a project of this kind, designed to rapidly and effectively combine notions from the fields of mechanical engineering, polymer research and electrical engineering to develop an advanced electrospinning technology,” Zucchelli says. “Thanks to this synergy, we succeeded in combining electrospinning technology, which allows us to produce material with nanometric fibers, with corona discharge, thanks to which we were able to obtain nanofibers with a high electrostatic charge”.

“Together with connectors for face masks, which we produced using 3D-printing technologies, this prototype further demonstrates how technology can also be used to meet society’s needs, both during this pandemic and afterwards,” says Maurizio Marchesini, chairman of Marchesini Group.

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