Durable, comfortable, antiseptic, waterproof, and most importantly, reusable fabric. This sturdy fabric is the right solution for those in all professions, especially within the medical healthcare industry.

Discontinuing or limiting the amount of disposable materials used (i.e., gowns, towels, gowns, or uniforms) has many advantages. It is not only cost productive, but it is also environmentally friendly. Eliminating or removing the use of disposable medical items in circulation, reduces waste released into the environment, while increasing the rate of recycling among those in the medical profession. This movement away from disposable material also reduces disposable costs, which refers to the area of corporate social responsibility (CSR), a topic that has been debated over the years.

One of our most important customers in Italy is Servizi Italia. This organization has been operating for more than 30 years in the sterilization of textile medical devices. They have provided us with this interesting in-depth study on textile medical devices.

Textile Medical Devices:  History and Features

The history of the use of textile devices in the medical and operating fields dates back to the early 20th century.  It was during this era that the use of a specific multilayer cotton fabric uniform was first sterilized with steam.

 

This type of material was in use in gowns in operating rooms up to and through the 1960s to contain the spread of infections.  Cotton-made materials, and in this case, for medical gowns, can be sterilized and reused.

Although cotton is absorbent, water-proof, and dries rather quickly, it does not sufficiently protect those in the healthcare industry.  We need a material that prevents the spread of fluids, and unlike cotton, does not release particles.  This material would prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.

The need for an alternative solution was devised.  This is how the Disposable Non-Woven Fabric and the Reusable Technical Fabric was developed.  These two types of fabric are important to the development of medically-produced garments.

The Disposable Non-Woven Fabric

The Disposable Non-Woven Fabric is the generic term for an industrial product similar to a fabric, but developed differently than the traditional way of weaving.  Unlike common fabrics, in which the fibers are generally arranged orthogonally with each other, the Disposable Non-Woven Fabric, lacking this type of structure, has the fibers joined mechanically, with adhesives or with thermal processes.

The invention of the Disposable Non-Woven Fabric dates back to the 1930s.  It only became known to the general public in the 1980s with the discoveries of the polymers and their properties.  The use of these materials, in fact, has the advantage of not having to buy or produce fibers.  This reduces costs without reducing their quality and their technical characteristics.

The development and use of Disposable Non-Woven Fabric as a low-cost alternative to traditional fabric has gradually gained a large share of the market where the use of classic fabric would not be as effective.  The medical industry is a prime example for the use of disposable Non-Woven Fabric.  This type of fabric has been useful in the healthcare profession, replacing the traditional fabric-made materials that are disposable and need to be replaced, which in turn, is not cost effective for the hospitals.

The main advantages of the Disposable Non-Woven Fabric include:

  • high level of absorbency
  • light-fit
  • non-abrasive
  • water repellent
  • compact
  • easily manufactured.

There is one glaring disadvantage in using this type of fabric.  It is highly pollutant.  This is a growing concern today.

It is estimated that it takes over 400 years for Disposable Non-Woven Fabric cloth to decompose.  In addition, being a thermostable fabric, which degrades with heat, this fabric material requires cold sterilization.  The problem occurs when the ETO methodology is chosen, a very common sterilization process.  This poses a higher risk to the environment because it uses ethylene peroxide.

The Reusable Technical Fabric

Tessuto tecnico riutilizzabile, una scelta per l'ambiente

Reusable Technical Fabric is an innovative, safe, and comfortable textile material that is widely used in the healthcare industry and in the operating rooms.  It consists of two types of fabric:

  • polyester microfibers: drapery, light, antistatic, water-repellent and nearly lint-free (without any lint residue on the surface);
  • trilaminate fabric: consists of two external polyester layers, hydrophilic rendered, and polyurethane (PU) and/or polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) foil: waterproof, breathable and resistant to odors, with low particle release.

Textile products for Reusable Technical Fabric operating room (gowns, surgical towels and Clean Air uniforms) maintain the condition of asepsis, that is, the prevention of the spread of infectious germs, especially during a surgical procedure, which reduces the risk of infection.  This protection ensures the safety of the healthcare professionals.

As required by UNI EN 13795, all materials used for the production of gowns and surgical towels are subject to chemical, physical and biological analysis and to confirm that these textiles remain intact throughout their usage.  The Reusable Technical Fabric guarantees:

  • the prevention of the spread of pathogenic microorganisms and viruses
  • the resistance against the spread of different fluids (blood, secretions, and other fluids)
  • antistatic
  • comfort and breathability
  • prevention against the release of particles (i.e., lint-free)
  • resistance to abrasion
  • water resistant

The PTFE or PU membrane that is present in the trilaminate fabric is highly breathable.  This makes the fabric more comfortable for any healthcare worker from being too warm and uncomfortable when working in the operating room.  This temperature regulating feature prevents excessive sweating.  Therefore, the trilaminate fabric provides the medical staff extra comfort during their stressful day.

As previously mentioned, the Technical Fabric is reusable.  The gowns and other textiles have the ability to breathe and are water resistantThese qualities are long-lasting even after numerous cycles of washing and sterilization.

Understanding the invaluable use of Technical Fabric comes at a critical juncture in the medical industry as COVID-19 has shown the disproportionate demand for the purchase and use of disposable devices in both the private and medical sectors.  The amount of non-recyclable waste that has accumulated has not only caused hospitals to spend more money in replacing these invaluable items, but has also impacted our environment in a negative way.

This growing concern and a need to understand that changes need to be made was echoed in an article recently published in the main Financial Newspaper entitled, “Il Sole 24 Ore”.  Jacopo Giliberto remarked: “by way of comparison, personal protective equipment against the virus can generate in one year up to 300-400 thousand tons of waste, when the two largest Italian waste-to-energy plants…destroy about 600-700 thousand tons per year.”

(source: A2A, we need a network of incinerators to dispose of the tide of masks, Jacopo Giliberto, “Il Sole 24 Ore” of 16/09/2020).

Reusable Technical Fabric and Flow Management Through Automated Distribution Systems

In order to make the cycle of personal protective equipment management even much efficient, an automated distribution system is essential for an organization (i.e., private and public hospitals) to know at all times the amount of textiles available to the user.
ABG Systems’ very own “One”, an artificial intelligence software platform, arranges and prepares the distributions of uniforms, personal protective equipment, towels, beddings and other materials for different departments within the hospitals.
The ratio of quantities among the clean garments available within the vending machines, those in use by the hospital staff, and those soiled returned inside the collectors, consolidates the accurate calculations for the actual needs of each department in real-time. The data collected from the soiled return aid the immediate preparation for the clean uniforms and the prioritization of the washing sequence among different batches according to the higher demand in the laundry.
This prevents the possibility, even at the highest peak of requests, for hospitals from not having enough clean garments available.

Eliminate Waste to Reduce Expenses

The fear of not having enough clean uniforms has resulted healthcare workers taking more garments than they actually need, and stockpiling them in various places.

The automatic distribution systems for textiles allows users, through the allocation of credits, to only withdraw items that they really need.  This ensures the availability of uniforms for all users and the return of dirty items so that they can be thoroughly washed.  This will reduce waste, and in turn, decrease costs for hospitals in supplying their healthcare professionals with their needs.

 

Vending Machines of Work Uniforms Allows A High Control of Compliance with Hygiene Regulations

Having access to uniforms in an uncontrolled environment where there is no monitoring whatsoever is not just a management problem.  To ensure that there is a sufficient amount of clean, sanitized garments, it is important that a worker only takes what he/she needs.  There are automatic distribution systems that only provide the uniforms that hospital staff need by making them access the cells that contain the appropriate sized garments.  When this type of distributor cannot be utilized/installed due to a lack of space or due to the hospital’s specific needs, a good alternative is to use smart cabinets.  In order to access the clean uniforms, one must clean their hands using the sanitizer in the cabinets.

 An article has been posted as an attachment that provides further insight into how textiles can be a vehicle in spreading infections.


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