‘Make In India’ Success: Tamil Nadu Textile Firm Produces Virus Barrier Product To Help Frontline Workers Combat Covid-19

‘Make In India’ Success: Tamil Nadu Textile Firm Produces Virus Barrier Product To Help Frontline Workers Combat Covid-19The PPE kits produced by SVS.
  • SVS has cleared various tests in manufacturing virus barrier products that gives little chance for virus, especially coronavirus, to pass through it and into the body of the person wearing the coveralls.

A textile firm in Tamil Nadu's Udumalpet town, about 70 km from Coimbatore, has come up with India’s first virus barrier products made of fabric that is considered safe for frontline workers engaged in tackling the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Sri Venkatalakshmi Spinners (SVS) has come up with this innovation that matches the American and European standards in preventing virus penetration through the coveralls worn by frontline workers, particularly doctors.

The innovation of SVS, through its technical textile division SVS Advanced Fabric, comes on heels of the Union government encouraging production of personal protection equipment (PPE) kits locally to meet the domestic demand for such kits for use by Covid-19 frontline workers.

Since then, the PPE kits sector has grown into a whopping Rs 7,000 crore industry with the kits’ manufacturers now eyeing the export market.

SVS has cleared various tests in producing “virus breathable fabric” products — under doctorSHIELD brand — that gives little chance for virus, especially coronavirus, to pass through it into the body of the person wearing the PPE kit.

‘Make In India’ Success: Tamil Nadu Textile Firm Produces Virus Barrier Product To Help Frontline Workers Combat Covid-19

Frontline workers, particularly doctors, are prone to getting infected with Covid-19 since the PPE kit they wear only prevents penetration of a patient's blood on to them and not the virus. In fact, the Union government has not come up with the specification that PPE kits should be made of such virus barrier fabric.

South India Textile Research Association (SITRA) director Prakash Vasudevan told Swarajya that the developing of a product with such a fabric that meets the American and European standards is significant since many other firms couldn’t come up with ones with such features in the country.

The timing is also significant as the Bureau of India Standards (BIS) is likely to come up with such specifications of products with fabrics that are impenetrable by virus for use in PPE kits, according to Vasudevan.

Until now, PPE kits only stopped bodily fluids penetration and health workers, mainly doctors, had to import such virus impenetrable coveralls.

SVS, set up in 1980 and into technical textiles since December 2017, developed this product made of the specialised fabric with Covid-19 frontline workers’ safety in mind.

The need for such virus barrier fabric cropped up after frontline workers, especially doctors, became vulnerable to getting infected with coronavirus while treating Covid-19 patients.

Media reports have put the number of doctors who have died of coronavirus at 99, while at least 1,300 have tested positive for Covid-19.

Easwar Sabapathy, SVS Advanced Fabrics director, told Swarajya that the company offers virus barrier hood, coverall and shoes that will be part of PPE kits.

Globally, there are only a handful of companies such as 3M and Kimberly Clark that produce such a product. For India, it is SVS that has come with such a product for the first time, he said.

“Our product provides Level 4 safety protection, which is of the highest grade,” Easwar said.

The SVS product has, in particular, passed three key quality tests. One is ASTM (American Society For Testing and Materials) F 1671 that tests if the product acts as a real virus barrier. The ASTM tests are global technical standards for a wide range of materials.

The second is ASTM F 1670, which was cleared only after 10 cycles of washing and sterilisation was completed. The washing includes industrial wash, cold wash, tumble dry and autoclave (like a big pressure cooker which destroys all viruses and bacterias). Washing and sterlisation makes doctorSHIELD the first reusable PPE in India, said the SVS Advanced Fabrics official.

The third test is the breathability of the fabric. All these tests were conducted by SITRA, which is the Centre of Excellence for medical textiles and has been authorised by the government to conduct such tests for products.

SVS also ensured that the fabric cleared cytotoxicity tests which ensure that no allergy is caused to the person wearing the coverall or any products made out of this fabric, Easwar said.

So far, the Udumalpet firm has sold nearly 10,000 such coveralls in Coimbatore district, mainly to hospitals. The company is also looking at export opportunities since such products are in good demand abroad.

As regards the costs, it is 20-30 per cent higher than the PPE kits that are currently being used by frontline workers.

Easwar said the material for the fabric was sourced locally. “We are using woven and woven-coated fabric,” he said, adding that this was another key product of the Centre’s “Make In India” efforts.

The textile firm, which mainly spins different yarn and manufactures woven fabric with different coated materials, is currently working at full capacity, he added.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani


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