B.C Company Set to Begin First Canadian Production Line of Cup-Moulded Respirator Masks

A Coquitlam, B.C., manufacturer that pivoted production from pet beds to personal protective equipment is now set to start rolling out respirator masks after winning a $1-million federal grant.

Novo Textiles has partnered with a company in Windsor, Ont., to develop the first made-in-Canada automated machine to produce cup-shaped, moulded respirator masks — also known as N95 or N99 masks — used in hospitals.

The N95 and N99 respirators are so named because they’re designed to filter out at least 95 per cent and 99 per cent of airborne particles, respectively, including pathogens.

Respirator masks or higher level protection is required in hospitals and for medical procedures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other infections — but they remain in short supply in Canada.

The company’s achievement was announced Thursday in a release by Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), a non-profit, industry-led organization that has awarded more than $27 million in federal government money to manufacturers and innovators under a “Strategic Supply Challenge” to develop cost-competitive critical supplies during the pandemic.

Two other B.C.-based companies — Inno Foods, a confectionery producer and distributor in Port Coquitlam, Vitacore in Burnaby and Eternity Medical Equipment in Surrey — are also producing folded N95 masks. But Novo is the first in Canada to engineer a way to automate the process and make a cup-moulded version, according to the NGen release.

Industry experts say Novo Textiles has created a Canadian standard for N95 masks.

These masks are currently being put into final product testing stage by federal and provincial health authorities.

Novo Textiles aims to produce up to 5 million masks a year, along with 15 million conventional surgical masks, when the factory is running at full capacity.

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