A new and innovative partnership to provide better products for the medical community and potentially create new small business opportunities is underway.
Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center is partnering with the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) at Catawba Valley Community College, the City of Conover, Gaston County, and the private sector to create a launch pad for prototyping and testing reusable personal protective equipment (PPE) products for entrepreneurs and existing manufacturers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In support of this effort, the North Carolina legislature has passed a bill which provides $14,300,000 in funding.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and emergency care clinics in North Carolina and around the country have experienced shortages of vital PPE needed to care for critically ill patients infected by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, approximately 96% of all PPE supplies were manufactured outside the U.S.
In addition, medical personnel and essential workers wearing masks, particularly N95 and cloth face masks, for long periods of time were now experiencing “Maskne,” acne or other skin irritations from wearing the masks. A better-quality product needed be developed.
In response to this and related COVID-19 product needs, companies quickly turned to the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textile Technology Center for product research, testing and development to produce diagnostic test kits and create fabrics for innovative PPE such as advanced face mask coverings, shields and protective gowns. But in order to develop and manufacture these better products, the two Centers discovered they needed additional space, more specialized equipment and resources. The funding from the legislative bill will help to meet those needs.