Pelican Rotoflex develops automatic machine for making N95 masks

A Made in India Marvel

The N95 mask making machine from Pelican Rotoflex

Inspired by the strong desire to contribute to society in fighting against the corona pandemic, Team Pelican has developed the first fully automatic machine for manufacturing N95 masks in India. This special-purpose machine has been conceptualized, designed, and built within an incredibly short time of just three weeks and Pelican is now taking this further by building five more lines that would help India produce N95 masks on a large scale.

A made in India marvel

The first machine is running satisfactorily and performing well at the Pelican plant in Rajkot. It will produce more than 25,000 face masks per day. Several more machines are under manufacturing. COVID warriors – doctors, nurses, medical attendants, lab technicians, hospital staff – no longer need to worry about the supply of international quality N95 face masks in the required quantities.

After ramping up production capacities to meet local demand, Pelican can comfortably export and help other countries needing these machines. Face masks are critical personal protective devices that, when used correctly, protect the users against aerosol/droplet borne/air-borne infections. It is one of the most critical needs of all the COVID warriors and patients. It is mandatory for health workers to use N95 masks.

The general public could not use them since N95 masks are in short supply. To date, all major high filtration and protective equipment were imported. The supplies dried up since overseas suppliers started needing huge volumes for their own consumption as the pandemic spread.

The N95 masks are made of multiple fabric layers for filtration, welded together, a nose wire/metal strip inserted, ties for ear loops welded automatically, and folded in a manner that gives a good facial fit. A complex machine is needed to make masks and it must be fast for yielding high output.

A number of machine manufacturers and raw material suppliers from Taiwan, South Korea, and China were contacted for the supply of similar machines even by airlifting. Not only were the costs high, but more critically, there was no guarantee of the quality of some of the Chinese machines and no certainty regarding delivery times. Hence, Pelican decided to make one for India.

Pelican Rotoflex of Rajkot decided that they must leverage their well-honed technical and project management skills in conceptualizing, designing, manufacturing, and successfully installing and running high precision – mass production machines for the packaging industry that are comparable to global standards. Numerous technologies such as metallurgy, new generation electronics from Siemens, pneumatics, web handling, forming, folding and welding were used – all within Pelican’s in-house R&D facility.

Team effort

“Great support from Government of India and active personal encouragement of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijaybhai Rupani; good deliberations on this thought with Nitinbhai Bharadwaj; necessary techno-commercial information from Kalpakbhai Maniar from time to time; active support from D. K. Shah; required guidance on fabric from Lalitbhai Kagathra; and some assistance from Dineshbhai Karia and Hasmukhbhai Hindocha – helped Team Pelican reach its objective smoothly. And we are very thankful for all the support from the local government bodies,” says Bharat Shah, owner of Pelican Rotoflex.

“Our team of over 150 engineers working round the clock, made the dream of developing the Mask Making Machine come to reality in just around 20 days,” says Vijay Shah of Pelican Rotoflex. Pelican is aiming to manufacture over 100,000 high-quality N-95 masks per day very soon.

(This article has been updated and corrected slightly on 3 June 2020.)

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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