As news of the COVID-19 virus overwhelms the world, Taiwan's government acted quickly to increase investment in expanding the country's mask-producing volume to 60 machines. This mammoth effort was headed by domestic firms – Chang Hong Machinery and NCM Nonwoven Converting Machinery.
The goal was to expand production to churn out millions of masks per day by March. The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) teamed up with Taiwan Machine Tool & Accessory Builders' Association (TMBA) to lead around 30 machine tool manufacturers, assembly factories and parts suppliers, as well as organizations like the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Precision Machinery Research & Development Center (PMC), Metal Industries Research and Development Centre and Textile Industry Research Institute Foundation.
They formed the foundation of Taiwan's “national mask-making team,” a team with the goal of setting up production equipment for mask-making factories. ITRI also assigned personnel to oversee commercial rights of automating mask-making equipment and setting up machinery and production chains.
The strong synergy bolstered the team's ability to roll out production equipment that could be put into use at once. Under non-stop efforts, the team was able to deliver 60 mask-making machines in early March, a feat that would normally take half a year to fulfill.
However, as machine tool firms lack the expertise of producing mask-making equipment, TMBA Chairman Hsu Wen-hsien, Honorary Chairman Yen Jui-hsiung and PMC General Manager Lai Yung-hsiang set up talks to discuss assisting the MOEA to expand production lines. The plan was to shorten the timeline of producing and assembling mask machines from half a year to only one month, a feat that was considered impossible.
The government requested for more production lines at the end of February as the pandemic worsened, making up a total of 92 production lines. All of them began operations on March 20, bolstering the country's production capability to 15 million masks daily.
Taiwan's successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic launched the country back into international spotlight, and proved to be a “beacon of hope” for the industry in Advantech board director Chaney Ho's eyes.
Ho suggested that Taiwan should consider offering a complete package of the mask-making production line to potential buyers, from raw materials, film, meltblowing equipment and other equipment, as well as inspection gear and processes.
The fight against the virus is often likened to military warfare, therefore the idea that mask materials have become as important as warfare resources isn't entirely outlandish. While Taiwan has donated masks, PMC General Manager Lai revealed during a livestream with Advantech, that the U.S. and Canada both received mask production equipment from Taiwan.
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