Many praise Taiwan’s preparedness for the COVID-19 outbreak and effective control over the pandemic. Among the various rapid responses, gearing up the nation’s production for surgical masks is one of the most crucial strategies. By forming a “national mask production team”, Taiwan has established up to 92 mask production lines and ramped up daily mask production capacity from 1.88 million to 20 million in just a few months. This ensures a sufficient supply to both medical workers and the general public.
ITRI’s expertise in machinery helped mask manufacturers deliver an adequate amount of manufacturing machines within a month.
The “national mask production team” was formed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs along with the Taiwan Machine Tool & Accessory Builders’ Association. They called on nearly 30 machine tool and equipment component manufacturers to cooperate with not-for-profit institutions such as the Precision Machinery Research & Development Center, the Metal Industries Research and Development Centre, and the Textile Industry Research Institute, to help mask manufacturers rapidly develop and install related machinery and equipment. ITRI was also part of this team, where it contributed its expertise in machinery to speed up the nation’s mask production.
During the team’s work, ITRI has delegated experienced engineers to assist Nonwoven Converting Machinery Co., Ltd. (NCM), which was responsible for 37 out of the 92 mask production lines, to set up machines and downstream production lines. ITRI technicians worked with engineers from machine tool companies on machine installation, assembly, wiring, and calibration. All equipment were soon put in place so that production lines were brought online promptly, which would otherwise require six months to complete under normal circumstances.
“In this pandemic crisis, it is important for all the government and private sectors to cooperate closely to complete this mission impossible,” said ITRI President Edwin Liu. Dr. Jwu-Sheng Hu, ITRI’s Vice President and General Director of Mechanical and Mechatronics Systems Research Laboratories, also pointed out that ITRI will continue helping NCM install critical sensors and adopt machine vision systems and AI technologies for mask making machines in the near future.
As traditional machines of mask production rely heavily on manpower for quality control, ITRI can upgrade the machines with functions including predictive maintenance and fault diagnosis to achieve total automation for online inspection and automatic packaging. Furthermore, enhanced production rate, yield rate, reliability and value-added services will enable mask making machines to reach stable production for 24 consecutive hours.
Thanks to the surging production capacity of surgical masks, Taiwan is able to safeguard the health of its own people, and beyond that is capable of offering aid to the rest of the world. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of early May, Taiwan has donated more than 17 million masks to countries in need. This effort is evidence that “Taiwan can help” and “Taiwan is helping”, a gesture of solidarity in this battle against the deadly virus.