Shoddy Machinery for Making Key Face Mask Component Emerges in Eastern China
Some manufacturers in eastern China have been making shoddy machinery for producing a key component in face masks as global demand has boomed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, multiple industry insiders told Caixin.
These machines for producing melt-blown nonwovens — the filter-like polymer sheets placed between two layers of fabric to form conventional three-ply masks — can be delivered within a month at a price of less than 1 million yuan ($141,420), the insiders said. That compares with a price tag of 10 million yuan for higher-quality machinery used to make the key mask component, which usually takes several months to be delivered.
Companies have been producing these machines since mid-March in the eastern provinces of Jiangsu, Shandong and Zhejiang, the insiders said. Many of them were found to be substandard.
The situation has raised quality concerns about masks being produced in China not long after it came under fire for the quality of some of the test kits and other medical supplies exported from the country.
On Wednesday, the local government in Yangzhong, Jiangsu province, said it was ordering all the factories that produce melt-blown nonwovens to suspend production, according to a statement (link in Chinese) from the State Administration for Market Regulation. The factories won’t be allowed to resume production until they show their products meet quality standards.
The problem with the substandard machines is that some of their core components aren’t quite up to snuff, the insiders said. Chinese manufacturers of higher quality machinery for producing melt-blown nonwovens typically rely on imports for these components.
In addition, some melt-blown nonwoven producers have also been using inferior raw materials to make the mask component.
In some regions in China, authorities have uncovered shoddy face masks being produced. Last month, the local market regulator in Xiantao, Central China’s Hubei province, said it had shut down 64 mask factories after discovering about 790,000 masks of inferior quality, according to an official statement (link in Chinese).
Melt-blown nonwovens are subject to different testing standards depending on how they will be used. For example, masks for medical use and masks for civilian use each have their own technical standards.
Although factories must have their products inspected by certificated institutions before they can sell them, some have failed to send in samples because demand for their products is so great right now, industry insiders said.
A source close to a textile industry association told Caixin that authorities are looking into measures to better regulate the production of melt-blown nonwovens.
Contact reporter Guo Yingzhe (yingzheguo@caixin) and editor Michael Bellart (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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