Bluetree has become the first company to be able to produce medical grade face masks following investment in two mask making lines supplied by Diecut Global, which had access to the Chinese made technology.
The equipment has been installed in the empty factory unit that Bluetree acquired last year for expansion into large format, textile printing and promotional goods. Instead, it has converted the space into a unit currently capable of producing 1.4 million masks a week, and up to 20 million masks a week by September. It is selling them to medical professionals such as dentists, care homes and surgery practices through a dedicated website, bluetreemaskbox.
The investment comes after Bluetree began producing face visors, the first 1,000 of which were donated to its local hospital in Rotherham. That equipment could be produced on its conventional flatbed large format printing and plotter cutter systems. The expansion into medical mask production is a project of a different order, which kicked off at the end of March.
Bluetree managing director Adam Carnell says: “We are in a fortunate position where our existing setup lends itself well to mask production, so when it became apparent that help was needed, we immediately began planning what we could do.
“The team has worked hard over the last eight weeks to work through the understandably complex regulations around producing medical products; building a clean room production facility and securing some of the most sought after materials needed to make the masks.”
The company, like other online trade printers, experienced a precipitous fall in orders with the announcement of lockdown, gradually edging back up to around 50% capacity. It has been kept busy producing floor stickers and other signage and collateral needed for social distancing and is producing back to business kits for small companies. It has also been fielding inquiries from commercial printers considering the winding up of their own litho print and outsourcing to Route 1.
The expansion into promotional products is on hold, at least for the foreseeable future. “We are still operating our business as usual product lines, dedicating a separate task force to this project, but aim to make mask production a sustainable line of business for the foreseeable future to help protect the nation,” says Carnell.