The move follows a call by prime minister Boris Johnson to re-shore manufacturing capacity and a new regulation in force from this week that makes face masks mandatory for airline passengers.
A new plant capable of producing 300,000 masks a day has been opened at Discovery Park in Sandwich, a specialised healthcare innovation and manufacturing campus that was formerly the European home of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Three production and packing lines have been installed in the pristine former drug manufacturing and packing hall, with room to scale production rapidly up to as many as one million masks per day. Pre-covid, roughly 400,000 passengers a day left UK airports.
“We can individually wrap each face mask and brand it for the airline so that they can distribute them at various touch points, such as check-in,” explained Nathan Schreiber, CEO of ArchMed, the company behind the investment.
“As we scale up manufacturing we know we can drive unit costs down to very low levels indeed. Airlines will be spending pennies to give confidence to customers who may be considering spending hundreds of pounds.”
He says the company’s Ventil face mask is medical-grade and uses a 3-ply formula, with non-woven outer layers sandwiching a unique melt-blown middle layer which repels moisture, whether in-bound or out-bound through the wearer’s breath.
“It’s a single-use product perfect for enclosed spaces and capable of performing at peak on even very long-haul flights,” says Schreiber.
“We can provide the product branded for the airline and even provide branded counter-top display boxes for passengers to help themselves. Airlines can show that their brands are in tune with passenger and staff concerns about safety and wellbeing.”
The multi-million pound investment will create 30 new jobs at full production in a number of skilled technical and sales roles.