HOUSTON — May 8, 2020 — ExxonMobil has responded rapidly and effectively to an initiative by the Nonwovens Institute (NWI), a long-standing partner since 2008, which was looking for polymers to fabricate specialty nonwoven fabrics used for personal protective equipment (PPE). NWI is supplying the spunbond and meltblown nonwoven fabrics to manufacturers of medical masks, helping essential frontline medical workers get the PPE they need to stay protected against COVID-19.
“When NWI reached out for support we had no hesitation in helping them,” said John W. M. Roberts, strategic marketing executive polypropylene, ExxonMobil. “Having identified the location of the polymers, we mobilized our logistics network to make sure the product was delivered quickly and efficiently.”
From various inventories, ExxonMobil donated a combined total of 146,000 pounds of ExxonMobil™ PP3155, Achieve™ Advanced PP6926G2 and Vistamaxx™ 8880 performance polymers to LINC, a non-profit affiliate of NWI located in Raleigh, N.C. Supply chain logistics required coordination with ExxonMobil’s branded distributor Channel Prime Alliance which handled delivery of the product. ExxonMobil also made several value chain introductions, connecting NWI with companies looking for high-quality nonwovens for PPE.
The nonwoven fabrics were produced at the NWI facilities on the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus. Production requires incredibly specialized machinery and skilled operators which, combined with high-quality ExxonMobil PP, Achieve and Vistamaxx polymers, optimizes speed of production and nonwovens performance. Spunbond nonwovens are used for the outer layers of a variety of medical masks as they are breathable and have the strength to protect the inner layer by maintaining the integrity of the mask. Meltblown nonwovens are used in the inner layer because they provide an effective barrier to liquids and particulates, while being breathable. Currently celebrating its 60th year in the polypropylene business, ExxonMobil has over 50 years’ experience with both types of nonwovens and invented the meltblowing process in the late 1960s.
Nonwoven fabrics were sent to mask manufacturing companies in North Carolina and across the United States. NWI also purchased assembly machines so that nonwovens could be converted into masks using local campus staff and volunteers, speeding up delivery to local medical facilities.
“This entire effort clearly illustrates the value of long-term collaborations between industry and academic institutions,” said Bhaskar Venkatraman, ExxonMobil vice president, Polypropylene, Vistamaxx and Adhesion. “In this instance, when there was a critical need to produce PPE so frontline workers can do their jobs more safely, these relationships enabled us to respond quickly and effectively to help society.”
Having joined the NWI in 2008, ExxonMobil has provided ongoing support to the Institute’s development including: product development programs; the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment; mentoring of students in related North Carolina State University graduate programs; guidance on Institute programs; and, training of ExxonMobil employees to better serve the market.
Posted May 8, 2020