A company in Rochester is positioning itself to be the largest site for meltblown filtration media production in North America and arguably the world.
Meltblown filtration products include porous fabrics — or media — that are components of masks that filter liquids and gases.
The media produced at Lydall is a critical layer of N95 respirators and surgical face masks, which health care workers and emergency responders need to protect themselves from COVID-19.
Employees at the Chestnut Hill Road facility worked 60 straight days with no time off to ramp up production of the materials when the virus hit the United States. During a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for two new production lines and a center of excellence, CEO Sara Greenstein personally thanked them and reminded those in attendance of the importance of their work in the midst of a global pandemic.
“Today is a huge day for Lydall. It really represents a turning point for our organization and solidifies our position as the leading media filtration provider in the world,” Greenstein said.
By May 2021, when both new production lines are operational, Lydall will be able to support U.S. production of 140 million N95 respirators, or 540 million surgical masks per month.
It is estimated by health officials that 3.5 billion face masks will be required to fight COVID-19 domestically. Greenstein said having these items produced in the United States is important because countries that typically make personal protective equipment, such as China, may focus primarily on their own citizens during a health crisis.
Andrew Tompson, a meltblown operator who lives in Sanbornville, said their products are tested on site to ensure they meet high safety standards. Their media needs to be 95% effective or better in 50 mile-per-hour winds.
During the event, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Will Arvelo, director of the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development; and Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley all spoke about the good work being done by the employees at Lydall.
Tompson said that means a lot to him and the other men and women who work there. “It makes me personally feel very good. I’m really happy to get to help the community, the state; I mean, the world in general. I want everyone to be safe and to stop the spread of COVID. I’ll work as many hours as I have to and I’ll do my best,” Tompson said.
Geoff Crosby is helping to oversee the expansion and said even if the need for N95 respirators and surgical masks declines in two to three years, they will be working with businesses to ensure their HVAC systems are upgraded with the best levels of protection. Up until recent months, that was their primary focus.
“Our plan now for this through 2025 is pretty much all face masks, but we’re also working on a lot of next-generation stuff so what happens is when face mask demand slips, what are we going to do about HVAC for buildings? How are we going to improve hospital performance? How are we going to improve hotel performance?” Crosby said of the questions their engineers are working to solve.
Crosby said businesses on the national and international level are trying to determine what they need for enhanced filtration to ensure the safety of their patients, customers and students when airborne diseases such as COVID-19 are being spread throughout the population they serve.
Last month, Lydall officials signed a $13.5 million contract with the Department of Defense to support the two new meltblown filtration media production lines.