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VDL and DSM form JV to manufacture and commercialize medical facemasks and PPE filter materials

| By Mary Bailey

VDL Groep and Royal DSM (Heerlen, the Netherlands) announced the start of a 50/50 joint venture (JV) that will establish production of medical facemasks and the first permanent production of critical facemask components in the Netherlands. The new joint venture, “Dutch PPE Solutions”, is expected to create employment for dozens of people in Helmond and Geleen, the Netherlands.

The JV partners are investing several million euros in the purchase of manufacturing equipment and the construction of new manufacturing facilities to produce meltblown polypropylene, the critical material layer in medical facemasks that filters viruses, and to produce medical masks. Initial production of facemasks will begin in Helmond in October 2020. The meltblown polypropylene plant is expected to be fully operational in Geleen in April 2021.

The new JV will help to meet the urgent need to diversify the global production and supply chains of personal protective equipment at scale by reducing dependency on a small number of international sources. The establishment of the first permanent production facility of critical filter material in the Netherlands will provide greater resilience to possible future surges in demand for facemasks and the underlying materials.

Dutch PPE Solutions is a new enterprise that combines VDL’s manufacturing and processing knowledge with DSM’s specialist materials expertise. The JV intends to help meet the ongoing demand for finished high-quality facemasks as well as critical filter material. The healthcare industry will be prioritized initially, and production will eventually be extended to support professionals in other sectors such as public transport, schools and educational institutes and private companies across Europe. It will have reliability, quality, availability and responsible pricing at the core of its strategy.

While the priority of both companies is the swift, reliable and stable manufacturing of urgently needed medical facemasks, DSM and VDL will simultaneously look for innovative and sustainable ways to reduce the growing waste mountain of used facemasks, for example by looking into the use of circular materials.

President and CEO of VDL Groep, Willem van der Leegte: ‘During the past months, the corona crisis has taught us that you can’t tell a pandemic what to do and that it’s important for continents to provide for their own needs. This means we owe it to ourselves to create certainties close to home. This applies especially to personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who worked hard for our health during the past months, but for other professionals as well, of course. I’m proud of the fact that VDL and DSM, two powerful Dutch companies, decided to join forces and will start producing melt-blown and facemasks.”

Pieter Wolters, Vice President DSM Innovation: “The global demand for medical facemasks and critical filter material exceeds the limited supply. The need for reliable and high-quality supply chains is more urgent than ever. I’m proud that through our partnership with VDL Groep we can create a reliable, sustainable, high-quality supply chain in Europe, making us less dependent on supplies from overseas. Our joint venture is a purpose-led commercial enterprise. It marks a new phase that builds on DSM’s earlier initiatives to donate or support production at cost of, among others, medical facemasks, disinfectants and testing swabs when it was most needed and immediate actions were necessary in the fight against COVID-19.”