CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.
In the case of textile maker Duvaltex in Cascade Township, necessity was twofold.
They needed work to keep the plant open, and the public needed something to cover their faces to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
The invention is a specially designed non-medical mask.
Unlike flat fitting masks that most of us are used to wearing, the design of Duvaltex’s mask gives wearers room to breathe.
“You can see that the pocket does not hug your mouth or lips. So, it creates a space for youth mouth,” Brent Early, Duvaltex’s sale manager, said as he demonstrated the fit of the mask.
“We’re also using a specific yarn that prohibits mold and bacteria,” he continued.
It’s not the kind of product they normally make at Duvaltex.
But then again, what is normal these days?
“We all were trying to do what this pandemic was playing out to be,” Duvaltex Director Patrick Hennessy said. “So, we focused in on our core competencies.”
One of the company’s competencies is three-dimensional knitting — a special industrial sewing technique that produces seamless products.
Knit components, like the coverings on office furniture, are among its biggest sellers.
But as the COVID-19 crisis shut down much of the economy, Duvaltex’s regular customers weren’t placing many orders. And Duvaltex had to furlough much of its staff of 20 employees.
Company officials soon realized they had the specialized machinery and the skilled labor to run them. So, they decided to switch their efforts to what was selling.
“In a short amount of time, we were able to design, develop, commercialize and bring to mass market a face covering that meets those CDC requirements,” Hennessy said.
The non-medical grade masks cost $12.99 on the company’s website.
The product launched about a week ago. Since the launch, the company has already brought back some of its furloughed employees.
Duvaltex is still making office furniture textiles at the plant —That business won’t go away.
But even with a vaccine on the horizon, Duvaltex officials are convinced the public’s concern over exposure to existing and future bugs may make mask production worth continuing.
“What I can tell you is, I don’t see that demand falling off for the foreseeable future,” Hennessy said.