How Gresham has managed to remain one of the country’s top producers of N95 masks

N95 masks have been the center of attention during the coronavirus pandemic since early in the year. The questions surrounding this PPE (personal protective equipment) item seem to be endless and are always popping up on the news or online. Are they protecting us? Do we have enough of them? Will shortages stop soon? Needless to say, they’ve been an important topic of discussion this year.

A big focus has been on increasing their production since shortages are affecting the healthcare sector tremendously. Many American companies have stepped up to ramp up their production, and one of them is D6. Keep reading to learn about the company’s new production line for N95 masks located in Gresham, Oregon, and what are their plans for the future.

A company in Gresham, Oregon remains one of the USA’s top N95 mask producers amid the coronavirus pandemic

D6 is a manufacturing company that specializes in a fast design-to-shelf manufacturing process, with a whole line of robotics, engineering automation, and software for a mixture of speed and accuracy. Today, they’re on track to becoming one of the main suppliers of N95 masks in the country, a product that is every bit as necessary as it is scarce these days.

To help face the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re creating N95 respirators both inside Oregon and across the country, with their Gresham factory being just one of five manufacturing companies around the United States. They were already making thousands of face shields with 3D printing technology.

Now, they’re embarking on a journey to produce over 7 million N95 masks per day. They filed the patents for the respirators in April of this year, and the manufacturing process began this past Wednesday. Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were present at company’s the ribbon-cutting held that same Wednesday.

Senator Ron Wyden said about the event: “here's an Oregon company doing something about it. That is saying, look, we can make a big difference. We can make a big difference for Oregon. We can make a big difference for our country".

The masks still have some certifications to go through before they’re available for sale to the public, according to D6’s director of engineering. However, they had already given N95 masks to the staff that works at Oregon Health & Sciences University for testing the fit and the possibility for their reuse.

Why are N95 masks so important right now?

N95 masks are a specific type of disposable face mask that has more antiviral properties than surgical, medical, or reusable cloth masks. They’re considered to be the best face mask available at the moment for virus protection and anyone who uses them is getting the best protection available at the moment. This is because of the respirator’s characteristics.

To be considered an N95 respirator, a face mask needs to be regulated and tested by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They have a classification for filtration rate that they apply to respirators, classifying and naming them according to two characteristics:

  1. Resistance to oil: they indicated this with a letter that can be N, for not resistant, R for resistant, and P for oil-proof. N95 respirators aren’t resistant to oil.
  2. Filtration efficacy: this is based on the percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy of the respirator, which can be either 95, 99, or 100%. N95 respirators can filter out at least 95% of all airborne particles.

Based on this classification, N95 respirators can filter out 95% of all non-oil based airborne particles, which includes smoke, dust, or bioaerosols like the flu virus or the coronavirus. This is why these types of respirators have been widely used by healthcare centers during the coronavirus pandemic, and need to be prioritized for them amid the shortages they’ve been experiencing the last several months.

KN95 masks have been used as a replacement for N95 masks during these shortages, but they’re not the same. KN95 masks are made under Chinese standards but are usually considered to be the equivalent to the N95 respirator. Many of them have been cleared by the FDA to be used in medical settings as a replacement for N95 respirators.

The Coronavirus pandemic

The SARS-CoV-2, a new species of coronavirus, has been causing a pandemic since the beginning of the year. Unlike other species in the coronavirus genus, this new virus seems to be able to cause a more severe infection that involves not only the respiratory tract but other organs as well. While other coronavirus infections typically cause very mild flu-like symptoms, according to certain characteristics like age and the presence of comorbidities, the SARS-CoV-2 can be more serious than just a flu-like infection.  

Even though the majority of the cases are asymptomatic or experience very mild symptoms like dry cough or sore throat, there are populations with risk factors that can lead to a more severe form of the illness. Some of these factors include being older, immunocompromised, or having comorbidities like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, among others.

While the size of the percentage of people who develop a severe form of COVID-19 is relatively small compared to the milder cases, when too many people get infected at once, the percentage becomes more concerning. Healthcare centers become overwhelmed and collapse, and shortages of PPE become more pronounced.

This is why, even though kids and younger people have a lower possibility to develop a severe illness, they all need to wear face masks to protect the most vulnerable among their communities and to help out the healthcare workers who are attending people every day.

If you’re looking to buy 3M N95 masks, like the models 3M 8210, 3M 8511, or any other model, in bulk or wholesale, make sure to always look for legitimate and reliable distributors.

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