Interview with Johannes Loos, Business Unit Manager, NORAFIN
Whether it is hospitals or care homes - the right hygiene tools are crucial for process efficiency. These products can be composed of a wide variety of materials. NORAFIN offers a sustainable solution with products made from nonwoven fabric.
In this MEDICA.de interview, Johannes Loos at the NORAFIN Company talks about the nonwovens that are used for hygiene purposes and explains the changes that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Loos, what innovative solutions in personal protective equipment are you currently manufacturing?
Johannes Loos: We recently partnered up with a machine manufacturer in the German state of Saxony and developed several types of protective masks. This collaboration allowed us to successfully produce masks on short notice in Saxony for several months now. Another aspect for us is to promote sustainability in the medical textiles arena even during the pandemic. These fabrics are used in patient settings as well as surface cleaning solutions. Our production uses biodegradable fibers to promote sustainability. In many instances, viscose and lyocell are used to manufacture the larger volumes we require today. These are likewise biodegradable fibers, which are made from renewable wood sources. We are also increasingly working with superior natural raw materials such as flax and hemp. Today, many producers use polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP) in cleaning solutions that benefit patients or surface sanitation. But our future lies in improved sustainability without polyester, PE, and PP.
What are applications of nonwovens in the medical setting?
Loos: Many types of nonwovens are used as surgical covers. Some fabrics are frequently enhanced to be used as wound dressings or bandage components. Based on a US-system, one solution uses nonwoven fabric that is pre-moistened with lotion to wash patients without water. This technology is increasingly applied in hospitals and nursing homes, where the nonwoven fabric is popular in cloth or glove form for cleaning purposes. The applications have also expanded significantly since the fabric itself can be furnished with various attributes. We are able to refine the nonwoven fabrics in-house using special printing or liquids.
For operations the nonwoven can be used.
Why are special nonwovens suited for medical products?
Loos: It is a growing market in medicine. Our nonwovens offer a wide variety of structures thanks to customized solutions and added options. This includes various grammages, weight variations, and a multitude of colors. Our technical expertise and clean hydroentangling process make us a predestined supplier in this field. Of course, this also means that we have to continue to drive innovation, enhance nonwoven fabrics and design the needed products in collaboration with our customers. This includes custom solutions with higher absorption capacity or solutions made of more sustainable fibers. Europe will be an important market in the future. Due to the demographics in hospitals and geriatric care, we already have an extremely high demand that’s expected to only increase in the future, especially as it pertains to solutions for patients and cleaning surfaces.
How do hydroentangled nonwovens support the healing process or improve treatment hygiene?
Loos: The key advantage of hydroentangled nonwoven fabric is that it is lightweight and efficient. Low grammages are another benefit. Our systems offer a variety of weights and start with 30 g grams going up to 800 grams. Most of today’s medical nonwovens typically range under 100 grams per square meter. This expands the field of application as it pertains to cerebral venous thrombosis, for example. Here the nonwoven fabric is placed over individual bloods vessels of the brain. This necessitates a certain level of transparency and stability, though the nonwoven fabric must simultaneously not dissolve. This is where hydroentangled nonwoven fabric has a crucial advantage due to the mix of fibers. The technology also benefits from a very clean production process. The water jet process essentially resembles a giant washing machine. The compression that’s installed in the system applies water jet pressure of 50 to 300 bar onto the fabric. This bonds the individual fiber elements together and creates the fabric. The water also washes the fibers again.
Products and Exhibitors related to protective equipment
Would you like to learn more about products to improve hygiene? You can find exhibitors and products related to this topic in the catalogue of MEDICA 2020:
Due to the pandemic, various protective masks were developed.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected demand in your company?
Loos: The demand for medical disinfectant wipes and generally for all areas has increased dramatically. This is a result of changes in the supply chain. At the start of the pandemic and even today, we often saw delivery delays. It means that local manufacturers, like us, have an edge in terms of speed and delivery capacity levels. This has prompted a major mindshift and it is great to see that there is an increased move back to manufacturing in Europe.
Where do you still see room for improvement when it comes to product solutions for medical facilities?
Loos: Even the experts quite often are only familiar with a fraction of the innovation opportunities the nonwovens industry has to offer. Many pay close attention when they hear the term sustainability but the potential is far greater than that. How can I improve absorption or stability, for example? Which unique fibers mean I can use less lotion? The possibilities are endless, but there is a lack of supply chain transparency and communication among individual manufacturers. Businesses often obtain standard solutions, yet the market requires custom solutions. Yet this information doesn’t reach the manufacturers. There should be more and better communication at all levels, which would facilitate successful, targeted product development.
What do you expect from your participation at this year's virtual.MEDICA?
Loos: It’s obviously a pity that a major trade fair like MEDICA won’t be an in-person event this year. We have had many positive experiences in the past, especially as it pertains to networking. The new digital trade fair format has initially been a learning curve for us. We have been in intense preparation to study how to use the various options, such as video clips, as efficiently as possible. We hope that people will discover and connect with NORAFIN. I think it is important that trade fairs like MEDICA will continue to exist and attract visitors in the post-pandemic world.
More topic-related exciting news from the editors of MEDICA-tradefair.com: