Retired seamstresses coming back to sew disposable kids’ masks, in answer to Ramatex’s call of duty
SINGAPORE – Local textile and apparel manufacturer Ramatex today announced that it has started producing reusable face masks for the community in Singapore, that have most of the merits of medical masks, yet are washable like cloth masks.
This effort comes on the back of completing the production of 40,000 disposable children’s masks, using a design by A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) and Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC). Out of the 40,000 masks donated to the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), about 19,000 masks are being distributed to benefit children from around 1,900 pre-schools and those who attend early intervention programmes. The remaining children’s masks will be distributed to student care centres, and children and young persons’ homes.
The reusable mask was jointly designed by Ramatex – which has deep knowledge in fabrics – and SIMTech and ARTC. The collaboration also leveraged the expertise of A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) and Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in testing the performance of the mask.
Ramatex began production of these reusable masks in Singapore in April 2020, further contributing to national efforts to combat the transmission of COVID-19. The repurposing of Ramatex’s materials and resources will help boost local mask availability during this period of high global demand for masks.
After each use, this reusable mask can be hand washed with mild detergent and fully air-dried. This can be done up to 30 times while maintaining its integrity. Tests conducted by testing house TÜV SÜD on the prototype showed that this reusable mask’s bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) is 98.5% (when new), and remains close to 95% after 30 washes. It also maintains the fluid repellant properties of its outer layer after 30 washes. The A*STAR and Ramatex team have also optimised the mask’s breathability to be comparable with medical masks.
The reusable mask employs a duck beak design that not only provides good facial coverage but also reduces the components needed, such as the metal nose bridge typically found in disposable masks. The inner and outer layers are made from materials that Ramatex has developed, while the middle filter layer is acquired from overseas and reinforced with Ramatex’s fabric material. During washing, the inner and outer layers protect the middle reinforced filter layer to preserve its integrity and filtration properties. There is also added protection because the team was able to make each layer one seamless piece (photo on top), instead of two pieces sewn together.
Ramatex’s director, Mr Chris Ma, said, “R&D is important to us in developing novel solutions and products. A*STAR has deep capabilities in manufacturing and a strong culture of innovation, and we are glad to work with them again, this time to make reusable face masks for the community in Singapore. A lot of science and engineering went into each step of the process to find the right ‘formula’. To contribute to national efforts, our former seamstresses have answered the call of duty and come out of retirement to help produce these reusable masks for Singaporeans. An added benefit is that it has created new jobs in this challenging period.”
“Science and technology continue to play a key role in finding ways to improve the lives and well-being of Singaporeans, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. Public-private partnerships are important to co-innovate and fast track solutions. We are very glad to be able to combine A*STAR’s manufacturing and materials science expertise with Ramatex’s textile expertise, to make disposable kids’ masks and reusable kids’ and teens’ masks for Singaporeans,” added Dr David Low, executive director of SIMTech and chief executive officer of ARTC.
People – Partnership – Passion. Ramatex is a well-established and innovative textile manufacturer. It was first established in 1976 in Singapore. In 1990, the group took the decision to provide a vertically integrated service. This led to the formation of Ramatex Textiles Industrial in Malaysia. Ramatex is a leader in the textiles industry and a world-class manufacturer for textiles and garments. Through its sustained program of investment in technology, manpower and training, Ramatex has built up a fine reputation for social and environment sustainability, quality, and on time delivery around the world. To date, Ramatex has extended its operational base across Asia and Middle East, with 1 Textile Innovation Park, 4 fabric mills and 16 apparel factories spreading over Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, China, Jordan and Vietnam to reinforce its capabilities across apparel manufacturing functions. Today, this vertical integration helps Ramatex strengthen its apparel production capabilities, offer customers integrated textile solutions, control the entire manufacturing process from spinning, knitting, dyeing and printing to garment export.
About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector R&D agency. Through open innovation, we collaborate with our partners in both the public and private sectors to benefit the economy and society. As a Science and Technology Organisation, A*STAR bridges the gap between academia and industry. Our research creates economic growth and jobs for Singapore, and enhances lives by improving societal outcomes in healthcare, urban living, and sustainability. A*STAR plays a key role in nurturing scientific talent and leaders for the wider research community and industry. A*STAR’s R&D activities span biomedical sciences to physical sciences and engineering, with research entities primarily located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis. For ongoing news, visit www.a-star.edu.sg.
Assistant Head, Corporate Communications
DID: +65 6517 7940
Mobile: +65 9759 2284
Senior Officer, Corporate Communications
DID: +65 6714 9496
Mobile: +65 9651 9798