In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, face masks are extremely important. However, not all of the available masks live up to their promises. The specialists at weisstechnik, located in Reiskirchen, know this challenge – and their testing technology can provide more safety to medical professionals and the public
The run on respirators is unbroken. Since the beginning of the corona pandemic, manufacturers have hardly been able to meet the demand – and there are still bottlenecks. That’s why many industrial companies have switched their production line to respirators, in order to supply doctors, hospital and nursing staff with them. But there’s a problem: “Not all companies producing respirators have the necessary testing technology and experience,” explains Janko Foerster, Head of Product Management at weisstechnik. “Another factor is that the international testing standards are similar, but overall very few approval tests and inspections are carried out.”
Not uncommon: Faulty breathing masks
As a result, masks that do not actually provide the necessary protection have been repeatedly launched on the market: For example, the Muenster University Hospital in Germany was supplied with more than 50,000 defective FFP2 masks. In the Netherlands, 1.3 million such masks supplied to hospitals were defective. And in Austria, up to 90 percent of the masks used did not meet the FFP2 requirements. Here, a mask testing center had to be specially set up for this purpose, equipped with a weisstechnik testing cabinet, was able to ensure greater safety.
Simplified test requirements in corona times
“Companies that have now started producing respirators during the crisis must familiarize themselves with the standards and testing requirements,” says weisstechnik’s Foerster. These requirements have been temporarily reduced in view of the supply bottlenecks and were adapted to protect against coronavirus. Nevertheless, the topic of standards and testing is complex and requires the appropriate testing technology, says Foerster. Until now, FFP2 and FFP3 masks had to undergo a temperature marathon according to the EN 149:2001+A1:2009 standard: 24 hours at 70 degrees Celsius and then 24 hours at minus 30 degrees Celsius. The permeability and dustproofing quality of the masks are tested, as well as their fit and resistance to exhalation. However, testing in the negative temperature range is not required for the temporarily approved corona pandemic breathing masks (CPA). The simplified procedure and the standard, which is provided free of charge, is intended to give an additional boost to production.
This is what testing technology must do
In order to successfully test the quality of respirators, a human being and technology must interact optimally. Adds Foerster: “The right testing technology can do two things, above all. On the one hand, it ensures reliable and internationally comparable test results. This is guaranteed if the testing technology provides constant and reproducible conditions with a homogeneous temperature distribution in the entire test room. On the other hand, the testing technology can support the engineers via a simple control system in such a way that no operating errors occur, and the results can be evaluated as easily, quickly and conveniently as possible.”
Respiratory protection masks in the test chamber
According to Foerster, one model from the wide range of test equipment is particularly suitable for testing CPA masks: The weisstechnik TempEvent temperature test chambers. “Thanks to the optimised air flow with excellent temperature constants, they are ideally suited for this purpose,” says Foerster. This model also performs extended testing including cold tests of FFP2 and FFP3 respirators. The web-based WEBSeason® user interface provides flexibility: All tests can be programmed, controlled and monitored anytime and anywhere, even via tablet and smartphone. And finally, weisstechnik’s laboratory software S!MPATI® ensures easy recording of measured data and generation of test reports. “Our test chambers are reliable and proven,” sums up Foerster. “They thus create an important piece of security in times of great uncertainty.”