FFP2 and FFP3 masks

UK’s first medical-grade mask factory established in Wales

Image credit: Dreamstime

Hardshell is set to begin manufacturing PPE at a new £1.5m facility in Cardiff. This will be the UK’s first domestic medical-grade mask factory.

The UK government has imported millions of items of PPE during the coronavirus pandemic, including all medical-grade masks in use in the NHS. However, the UK is now set to have its first local supply of medical-grade FFP3 respirators.

Hardshell, which produces protective equipment such as body armour, has secured product certifications which allow it to become the first company in the UK to produce FFP3 masks. The company was supported through the certification process by Life Sciences Hub Wales, which was appointed by the Welsh Government to support offers of support from businesses on behalf of NHS Wales

FFP3 masks have a minimum 99 per cent filtration efficiency and are the most protective of the EU-certified FFP masks. They are intended to protect the wearer against inhalation of fine particles such as viruses, bacteria and asbestos.

Hardshell has been working with the Welsh government to establish a £1.5m facility in Cardiff, which will support 40 jobs. The facility will be used to manufacture a range of PPE items alongside FFP3 respirators, such as FFP2 respirators, single-use surgical masks and reusable face masks. It will have a capacity of 300,000 respirators and 1.5 million other masks per week.

The company is in discussions with UK-based manufacturers to provide the factory with raw materials in the long term, speeding up production while reducing dependence on international supply chains.

Manufacturing will begin this month, once final certification is complete. It will primarily supply the NHS, with some supplies going to businesses and retailers to protect employees who cannot work remotely.

“As a defensive equipment manufacturer, we specialise in making protective equipment and body armour that saves lives in areas of combat,” said Anil Kant, Hardshell CEO. We wanted to build upon this legacy and help protect those people working on the new frontline in the fight against Covid-19.

“Due to the global pandemic, PPE has been in high demand, with many countries understandably taking control of their own domestic supplies, leaving a shortage of products for the UK. We wanted to do something about this and chose to invest in our business to produce masks and respirators in-house here in the UK, using materials all manufactured in the UK.”

Through the coronavirus pandemic the government has faced criticism over its handling of acquisition of medical supplies, particularly PPE. Last week, the UK government confirmed in court documents that 50 million masks bought from Ayanda Capital as part of a £252m contract would not be used in the NHS due to safety concerns.

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