Local textile manufacturer looking to convert to mask production

Local textile manufacturer looking to convert to mask production

WOONSOCKET – By this time next week, The Brickle Group, a local textile manufacturer headquartered in Woonsocket, could be converting its operations to make masks for the country’s medical responders.

On Tuesday, Max Brickle, president of The Brickle Group, told The Valley Breeze the company was awaiting feedback from the Rhode Island Department of Health on a prototype mask they had developed at their Singleton Street facility. If the mask is approved, he said, the company plans to convert its operations to mask production in the coming weeks.

“We’re looking to produce over 100,000 units at a time,” he said, adding the company hopes to establish state or federal contracts.

The masks, he emphasized, are not the N95 respirator masks or surgical masks commonly worn by medical staff trying to protect themselves from COVID-19. Instead, the masks would likely be worn by medical personnel or other first responders as a backup to these types of personal protective equipment.

During the current shortages, he said, many medical responders have started wearing other types of masks over their respirator masks as a secondary protection that can be changed easily between patients.

“People are creating masks from home to put over their N95 masks at the hospital to increase the usage of the N95 mask, and our mask could go over the N95 mask to satisfy that need,” he said.

The masks would utilize elastic materials from Stretch Products and North East Knitting, both based in Pawtucket.

Brickle said they’re unable to manufacturer N95 masks because the materials are in high demand and would not be available for at least 30 weeks in the U.S. The company is looking into importing personal protective equipment from Asia to meet the additional need.

“If somebody requires a large volume of the PPE in demand, they can contact me directly,” he said.

The Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network and Polaris MEP, a statewide nonprofit focused on improving manufacturing, have taken the lead on coordinating the Rhode Island textile industry’s response to COVID-19. Both groups, according to Brickle, are working to develop additional mask prototypes for evaluation by the RIDOH.

The Brickle Group is a third generation-owned textile company headquartered on Singleton Street in Woonsocket. The company currently produces industrial materials in addition to blankets and uniforms for the U.S. military.