Mimkai has reported that its long-term customer Energiapura has utlilsed its solutions by adding colour to innovative face masks.
From functional sportswear to combatting the spread of the Coronavirus, Energiapura, an Italian manufacturer of clothing and accessories for ski racing and snowboarding, has leveraged its know-how and technology to conceive and develop – in a very short space of time – a protective mask that meets the Class I medical device requirements.
The EP PA 2020 (Energiapura Pure Air) facial device, optimised for air filtering and breathability, provides many hours of protection while working, and can be reused. But Energiapura has gone even further, branding and customising the masks with sublimation printing.
‘Bold colouring has always distinguished the Energiapura brand, and we didn’t want to abandon this, not even in the midst of the crisis,’ explained Alberto Olivetto, founder and CEO of Energiapura. ‘Sublimation printing allows us to give a brighter face to Covid-19. Our message is to add colour and a bit of optimism, precisely in these difficult times.’
The EP PA 2020 mask, compliant with 93/42 EEC Medical Devices – Class I washable, meets the essential requirements of UNI EN 14683:2019. Having redirected the manufacturing process, Energiapura is now stepping up production levels to meet the rising demand from hospitals, pharmacies, chemists, companies and even consumers. In its headquarters at Tezze sul Brenta (Vicenza province), Energiapura employs 25 staff members. A further 80 employees work in Tunisia, where part of the production is managed.
Colour and customisation thanks to sublimation printing, using Mimaki technology, have always been at the core of Energiapura’s manufacturing process. ‘Backed by years of research, development and testing, it was our expert use of sublimation that allowed us to make a difference. Breaking with the monochromatic tradition, we added colour to the alpine environment, which is dominated by white, and this simple idea has opened up incredible possibilities.’
Every single production phase at Energiapura is given minute attention – from design to fabric preparation and processing (partly outsourced to external partners) and on to printing and packaging.
‘At the heart of it all is sublimation printing. With virtually unlimited creative freedom, we can offer truly unique designs to our customers.’ On this journey, the encounter with Mimaki around 12 years ago and the installation of Mimaki roll-to-roll sublimation printers – currently four machines, including one JV5 and two JV300s – has brought another leap in quality. ‘Thanks to Mimaki, we have been continuously improving our quality while also expanding our range of applications. At this point, we even customise our accessories, including shin and arm guards. We were the first to offer colourful shin guards, and arm guards for ski racing are actually our invention.’
But Energiapura goes even further. The company continues to experiment with colour transfer methods, with a particular focus on managing the ink quantities deposited on the transfer paper. ‘We primarily work with composite materials, comprised of two or three layers of fabric. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is air flow, and we conduct many internal tests on this issue. Sublimation printing helps to optimise air flow, giving the fabric – and therefore the piece of clothing – the ideal technical characteristics and aerodynamics for the intended use,’ explained Olivetto. ‘We have managed to create ‘winning formulas’, playing with the pigments used and their impact on the aerodynamic performance of fabrics.’
This is how Energiapura came to create EP PA 2020, an effective protective mask based on a functional concept. ‘It all started with the need to protect our own staff from the Coronavirus. Based on our usual modus operandi, we launched a study phase in our laboratories to identify the three main properties to impart to our devices: protection, breathability and reusability.’ EP PA 2020 is made up of three layers of fabric: the first, the outer layer, is DWR-treated polyester, the second is TNT polyester, providing a filtering function, and the third, which comes into contact with the face, is polyester containing special fibres, such as coolmax and carbon. In this way, the mask not only guarantees the necessary protection but, being breathable, it can be worn for many hours while working. And it can be reused vianormal washing and steam ironing, which also sterilises it.’
Beyond the present crisis, the Energiapura project is also looking to the future. ‘We wanted to disassociate our masks from the hospital image. How? Through customisation, by decorating them with company branding and designs provided by customers.’ This is where the Mimaki JV300 wide-format printer comes in. Highly productive and optimised for rapid job changes, it ensures the fast turnarounds required in times of increasing demand.
‘Innovation is part of our DNA. EP PA 2000 is the fruit of a great deal of research conducted in our laboratories. More than ‘just a mask’, it is a fully fledged facial protective device. In conceiving this project, we thought a lot about the future because we believe that the post-Coronavirus world will be different and involve new ways of socialising. Facial protection will play a critical role in the months to come, so we wanted to create an item that is actually fun to wear – adding a personal touch and a little bit of cheerfulness. Much like a fashion accessory. Last but not least, another main focus was the reusability of the mask, avoiding issues with disposal and working towards a culture of zero waste for the benefit of our environment,’ Olivetto concluded.
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