Demand for PPE, Personal Protection Equipment like face shields and face masks, ballooned as the corona pandemic (covid-19) hit Europe late in February 2020. Like many companies Brigo felt like doing something to assist in this battle. What did the healthcare heroes need the most? Soon we realized that face shield and mask manufacturers were on their knees due to high demand. A full-face visor, could we somehow produce it and put it on the market? And which of the face shield and face mask would provide the best protection against the coronavirus?
Face shield vs. face mask
Face shields are manufactured to protect the whole face. They come in various forms but all consists of a clear plastic barrier, a full-face visor, covering the face all the way past the chin. One cough simulation study done in 2014 suggested that a face shield, correctly manufactured and worn, could reduce a person’s viral exposure to a cough expelled less than 18 inches away by 96%.
Face masks are manufactured to protect the mouth and nose. They are made in different thicknesses and with different ability to protect you from contact with liquids – N95 respirators and surgical masks for example. When worn in a proper way, they help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter that may contain viruses and bacteria. Also, they help reduce exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions to others.
Below you can see a comparison of the face shield vs. the face mask based on which of them offers the best protection against the coronavirus (+ pros, – cons):
+ can create a complete or near complete seal on sides of the face
+ can be disinfected (single dry heat sterilization, 70 degrees Celsius heating for 30 minutes)
– requires specific machinery for production
– difficult to communicate or talk to others
– limited durability
– requires touching your face to put on or adjust
– not comfortable, difficult to breathe in
– no protection from infection via mucus membranes in the eyes
– open on the sides, providing some possibility for aerosols and small particles to float in
+ easily disinfected
+ easy for face shield manufacturers to produce
+ makes lip reading possible for the deaf/hard of hearing
+ easily sterilized or re-used
+ presents wearer from touching their face
+ comfortable to wear and breathe in
+ includes eye protection
+ clarifies the importance of physical distancing
However, a combination of the full-face visor and face mask seems to be the best solution. Even though manufacturing face shield and face masks differs a bit they both contribute to a good overall protection. In theory, the face shield keeps face masks from full onslaught of viral particles, letting healthcare workers use the masks longer.
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How face shield and mask manufacturers produce their PPE-items
Face shields enables rapid manufacturing, making it possible to produce them in large amount when needed. The production takes place in several steps, beginning with the high gloss finish PET film. A protective coating is applied directly to prevent the surface from getting scratched or dirty. The PET plastic is delivered in sheet format and then is cut out into visor glass. Associated headbands are printed and then punched out. Finally, three details are mounted into a face shield: visor glass, headband and foam. Packaging is preferably done in dust-protected multi-packaging together with user manual in the correct language. A correctly manufactured face shield should comply with the European standard EN-166 and be classified as a category II PPE.
Surgical face masks are manufactured out of a non-woven fabric, providing a better bacteria filtration and air permeability while remaining less slippery than woven cloth (as members of the public choose to wear). The most common material for face masks is polypropylene but can also be made of polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene, or polyester. When manufacturing face masks for medical use the producer needs a machine line that assembles the nonwovens from bobbins, ultrasonically welds the layers together and stamps the masks with nose strips, ear loops and other pieces. The face masks are made up of a multi-layered structure, generally by covering a layer of textile with non-woven bonded fabric on both sides and then sterilized before shipped out.
Brigo’s face shield manufacturing
At Brigo we develop, produce and distribute unique customer solutions in accordance with production on demand. Our strength comes from the fact that we are both diversified and multi-faceted as suppliers. For each project we work in qualified teams in line with LEAN methods, such as applying a standardized approach to our day-to-day business and continuously improving our way of working. When it comes to the face shield project, we wanted to help plug the gap caused by the coronavirus. In search of the most needed product we tried several development tracks at the same time – protective robes, face shields, foldable beds, linen and face masks. Some of these ideas became sketches, others made it to prototype stage and a few went all the way: to a finished product.
In order to manufacture our face shields, we teamed up with Abena, who knows what is needed – especially by the healthcare industry. The result of our joint work is a good quality face shield with mechanical and optical properties up to, or even better than, the standard requirement. Our face shields have been type-tested and marked with the CE mark and “BRIGO 1 S – EN166 3 A”, stating that the optical class is class 1 and the intended use is protection against droplets and splashes (3). The digit (S) means that the face shield fulfils the standards requirement for increased robustness. Our face shields are suitable for storing and has an expected shelf-time of 10 years.