A £1.5 million investment by Hardshell is set to see the UK’s first medical-grade mask-making facility established in Wales, creating over 40 jobs and boosting business opportunities in the region.
Life Sciences Hub Wales has supported Hardshell, a global leader in the production of protective defensive equipment such as body armour and demining suits, to secure product certifications that will allow it to become the first in the UK to produce medical-grade face masks for use by the NHS.
The site will be the only facility in Britain to manufacture FFP3 type respirators, which are currently imported rather than produced on home soil.
With a minimum 99% filtration efficiency, FFP3 face masks offer the highest level of protection against toxic particles including asbestos, bacteria and viruses, making them the most effective in protecting against COVID-19 and the most critically needed by staff on the frontline.
Hardshell decided to diversify its manufacturing capabilities and create personal protective equipment (PPE) to help with the response to COVID-19 following an industry call to action issued by Life Sciences Hub Wales.
Life Sciences Hub Wales has been appointed by Welsh Government to manage all initial enquiries and offers of support from businesses on behalf of NHS Wales. The organisation has worked closely with Hardshell to offer guidance on the certification process and to help the company ensure its masks meet regulations.
Over the last four months, Hardshell, with support from Welsh Government, has worked tirelessly to set up the 1500sqm facility in Cardiff, which will be dedicated to manufacturing a full range of PPE, covering everything from single-use surgical masks to reusable face masks. The range includes Type IIR, FFP2 and FFP3 respirators. It will be capable of producing 300,000 respirators and 1.5 million masks a week.
The company has purchased its own line of machinery to be able to complete the full manufacturing process on site. Hardshell is also in talks with UK-based manufacturers to provide the facility with raw materials in the long term – a move that will enable it to speed up production of the masks, while helping to support other British businesses.
Anil Kant, CEO at Hardshell said: “As a defensive equipment manufacturer, we specialise in making protective equipment and body armour that saves lives in areas of combat. We wanted to build upon this legacy and help protect those people working on the new frontline in the fight against COVID-19.
“Due to the global pandemic, PPE has been in high demand, with many countries understandably taking control of their own domestic supplies, leaving a shortage of products for the UK. We wanted to do something about this and chose to invest in our business to produce masks and respirators in-house here in the UK, using materials all manufactured in the UK.
“Welsh Government’s support and guidance has been invaluable in helping us to navigate the logistics and necessary approvals to set up the facility here in Cardiff. As the capital of Wales and with its proximity to ports, being based in Cardiff allows us to procure raw materials with ease and dispatch our products more quickly. This means we can significantly speed up our processes and manufacture masks at a much earlier stage – something that is essential during a pandemic when time is of the essence.”
Production of the face masks and respirators will begin in August, following the completion of stringent tests and final certification of the product. The company plans to primarily supply the products to the NHS and is currently in the application process with the Government. It will also supply a range of masks to businesses and retailers to help protect employees by preventing the potential spread of COVID-19.
Cari-Anne Quinn, CEO, Life Sciences Hub Wales, said: “Hardshell’s commitment to developing a Welsh manufacturing base to tackle the nation-wide shortage of masks and respirators is testament to the company’s impressive innovation and capabilities. These products will go a long way towards helping key workers on the frontline, providing a reliable, quick and continuous resource of much needed protective equipment.
“The company’s work is another example of the incredible innovation, hard work and desire to help that we have seen from industry in Wales.”