Members’ News

24 Jun 2020

Festo supports “mini factories in containers” to help reduce face mask shortages

Protective masks have been in short supply in these times of coronavirus. An innovative containerised production facility that enables businesses and healthcare organisations to produce their own masks to order could solve the problem. Developed in just six weeks by Mikron with engineering support from Festo, the mini factory uses a scalable system that can produce 50-100 face masks per minute.

“Normally you’d need six months for systems of this size, but this is time we don’t have during the current coronavirus pandemic,” explains Nils Rödel, General Manager of Mikron Berlin. “So, 20 of our designers and fitters spent a week concentrating fully on this project and came up with a 3D model as the basis for this scalable system.”

The project was accelerated by the engineering support provided by Festo. “Even in this period of crisis, the electric and pneumatic components we needed were available quickly. The fact that integrating and commissioning the electric drive solutions in the system as well as connecting them to the Beckhoff PLC was so quick and easy was also helpful,” says Rödel, adding: “The Festo Automation Suite software made integrating and commissioning the CMMT servo drive child’s play, and we were able to quickly make decisions about the correct sizes.”

Mini factory, big benefits

In the modern world, factories are often sited far from the people who actually need the products they manufacture and relay on complex supply and distribution chains – increasingly spanning different continents. This has been precisely the problem during the coronavirus pandemic: when demand skyrocketed, global supply chains were revealed to be less robust than expected – and prone to corruption. When it comes to medical protective equipment, the failure of a delivery can cost human lives. Mikron’s mini factory closes the gap between point of manufacture and point of consumption, eliminates the need for transport and so makes the end product cheaper.

The beauty of Mikron’s system is that it fits in a 20-foot shipping container, which can also act as a clean room. This makes it compact enough to be sited adjacent to a hospital, shopping centre or school. The integrated air-conditioning system with air purification filters means that production is even possible in places with high risk of viral contamination. Depending on the raw materials, the system can operate autonomously for more than two hours. This reduces the number of people required and consequently the risk of infection. So, the mini factory can also produce protective masks in remote areas or even in crisis zones where meeting hygiene standards is more challenging.

In effect, it would be possible to produce two million protective mouth-nose masks each month with just one system. The masks are based on meltblown non-woven fabric which is made up of many layers of fine fibres, and thus filter out even the smallest particles such as bacteria and viruses from the air being breathed in.

Depending on how it is configured, the system can make packs of ten masks or individual ones, shrink-wrapped for cleanliness and in printed bags and boxes if required. “This involves docking an automated packaging station developed by our project partner pi4_robotics GmbH to the scalable system,” says Rödel.

Innovation driven by Festo

Electric and pneumatic components from Festo ensure the reliable transport of the parts or perform clamping tasks at every stage of the process, from the three-layer unwinding station, to the shaping and folding station for the non-woven fabric, on to the ultrasonic sealing station for sealing the edges and finally attaching the ear loops. Festo’s CMMT servo drives and EMMT electric drives are used in the application, since they can be easily connected to PLCs from other manufacturers such as Beckhoff, Siemens and Rockwell.

The pneumatic components installed in the system are from Festo’s core product range, and include the ADN compact cylinder, the DFM guided drive and the DSNU round cylinder. All these components are attractively priced, in stock worldwide and available within 24 hours. The Festo core product range provided the ability to build systems for producing masks reliably within the shortest possible time. The pneumatic drives are actuated by MPA manifold mounted solenoid valves. MS6-SV-E safety valves ensure that safety-critical system components are exhausted and de-energised as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency stop.

Thanks to its international production and sales network, products from Festo are quickly available in 176 countries and enable systems to be built decentrally at locations around the world. This is entirely in keeping with the global open-source approach of the Carola project, which provided the impetus for designing the system.

The face mask production system needed to be as easy to commission as it is to build. “The current travel restrictions make it extremely difficult for commissioning technicians to get to where the systems are to be built,” says Rödel. So Mikron came up with a digitised solution: “We use the HoloLens, which enables commissioning to be done virtually using an interactive 3D projection.”

To watch a video of the mask production system in action visit:

Hydraulic and Offshore Supplies Support Customers Globally During COVID-19

BFPDA Member Hydraulic and Offshore Supplies, based in Sunderland, offers products such as flexible hose assemblies, fittings, adaptors, valves, pipe fittings, SAE and DIN flanges, socket and butt weld fittings, instrumentation valves and fittings, tube (carbon, stainless steel, duplex, exotics), adaptors (BSPP, NPT, JIC, SAE, UNF, ORFS) available in 3K,6K,10K pressure range.

Services offered include hose installation, pipework installation, technician support and subcontract hire for short or long-term projects, manifold assembly and build in clean room environment. Also, HOS offers asset management services including flexible hose integrity, pipework inspection and renewal, accumulator management, on-site manufacture and replacement, cylinder new build and refurbishment.

See below for some of their recent client reviews…

“I telephoned HOS with request for a replacement Yuken Valve, which was delivered same day from ex-works UK stock within 4 hours. Thank you.”

“Excellent service from the HOS team during breakdown situation.”

“96 x 4SH hose assemblies, measured, tagged, pressure tested, flushed, installed and certified within 7-day window, wow!”

Received out of hours (SOS) call from Project Manager, reaching out for project support while their vessel was waiting to leave port. We were asked to supply Parker fittings, which, with help from our supplier network were delivered within several hours from receiving the call.

Industrial and Marine Hydraulics (IMH) signs distributor agreement and brings high-pressure hydraulic technology to the Port of Blyth

Industrial and Marine Hydraulics (IMH) can now offer an even greater range of hydraulic solutions to customers, thanks to a new agreement with SPX Flow. IMH, headquartered in Middlesbrough and with a facility at the Port of Blyth, creates innovative hydraulic solutions for a range of industries by drawing on its extensive engineering knowledge and experience of real-world applications.

The company has entered into a distribution agreement with SPX Flow on its Power Team brand, which has a broad range of component parts, accessories and tools suitable to the needs of the shipbuilding, manufacturing and industrial processing sectors. This means that IMH can further support the needs of clients based at the Port of Blyth, and the wider area, with hand pumps, pumps and jacks.

The company also recently implemented a new ERP system to streamline processes, which it has helped the company to do, but also the efficiencies it delivers and how it helps to cut down steps in their processes has been a major support whilst the company has been operational through the lockdown.

For example, the new system enables a single source for information where previously they had multiple systems and documents, where sometimes only one person could access and edit at a time. That’s no longer the case and the company has been able to respond quickly to customers, operating in key sectors.

For more information visit

SMC announces resumption of customer training courses

  • Sessions to resume at SMC’s UK facility in August
  • Social distancing measures at the heart of planning arrangements
  • Delegates receive thorough background knowledge of pneumatic principles

SMC UK has confirmed details of its plans to resume their popular training course, Introduction to Pneumatics and Electro Pneumatics. The global market leader is once again accepting bookings for its three-day, non-residential course, held at the company’s UK facility in Milton Keynes. The first session will run from 25-27 August, then monthly thereafter.

SMC’s Learning and Development Manager Nik Watson says social distancing measures have been at the heart of the planning to allow the training sessions to resume. “First and foremost, what we want is for everyone involved to be able to take part safely,” he said. “We’ve worked with our dedicated Covid 19 planning team to make sure every element of how these sessions operate will incorporate social distancing at every stage, giving delegates the confidence that they can focus on the training with complete confidence in their health and safety.”

All sessions will be held in SMC’s dedicated training unit with facilities available which allow delegates to adhere to social distancing advice for the duration. The number of delegates attending each session will be capped, allowing plenty of space for both the practical and theory-driven elements of the course.

Suitable for newcomers to compressed air use, the training is also ideal for long-standing users who want to refresh their knowledge of new technologies and best practices. The course modules include circuit design, pneumatic symbols and troubleshooting, with a certificate of completion provided at the end of the three days.

Nik Watson continued, “We’ve already had several enquiries from customers asking when we’re starting the training sessions again so we’re expecting the remaining sessions of the year to be popular. If you’re an apprentice just starting out, or a more seasoned engineer that wants to make sure they’re up to date with best practice and find out how to use bang up-to-date technologies from solutions providers like SMC, then we can help you with this short course.”

For more information or to book a place, email

Bath University ASME symposium on fluid power and motion control 9-11 September 2020 goes online

Bath University’s symposium on fluid power and motion control will go ahead as planned on September 9 – 11, 2020, as an online conference.

Below is their revised schedule. If, due to work disruption from COVID-19, you need more time to prepare your paper, please get in touch with the Symposium organisers to discuss as soon as possible.

15 April 2020 Submission of full-length paper for review
13 May 2020 Paper review complete
20 May 2020 Paper acceptance notification / copyright form submission process opens
7th July 2020 Submission of copyright form
8th July 2020 Submission of final paper

The submission portal is open

You can find more details and the call for papers on their dedicated web page:


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