THE United States is one of the countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 271,915 cases and 6,962 deaths (as of Saturday, April 4, Manila time).
In its factories on the east coast, sneaker and apparel company New Balance is committing to manufacture 100,000 masks a week in the fight against the deadly disease — and it’s using its shoe-making expertise to create masks that were certified for use by health workers.
As New Balance's executive vice president of operations Dave Wheeler said to Business Insider: "We designed [the masks] to actually match the equipment that we have on the factory floor.”
Their masks are made of five layers of polyurethane foam (one of the most commonly used materials in modern sneaker construction), as well as a “non-woven melt blown fabric, and nylon and polyester layers that are bonded through a heat melt process,” wrote Shoshy Ciment for BI. These four materials were chosen to match the filtration levels doctors and other health care professionals would need in their work.
The four layers are assembled together, then layered with what New Balance called a "no-sew" material on top. This material uses a heat-sealing process to bond with the fabrics, as sewing needles would create little holes in the fabric.
It's this "no-sew" material that create the distinctive black bands around the mask.
The straps, naturally, are made of New Balance’s elastic shoelaces.
Ever mindful of design, the company wanted the masks to still have that signature New Balance look.
Talking about the masks like one of the company's shoes, Wheeler told Ciment: “Even though we were really focused on performance, a lot of the feedback we had was 'That's really an awesome New Balance look.’”
It takes about a minute to assemble each piece, according to Business Insider.
The initial prototype was designed on March 23. Now, two factories (one in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the other in Norridgewock, Maine) are committed to manufacturing the masks. The company projects that it will hit its 100,000 mask target by mid-April.