In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario,’ Nick speaks with John Rawlins and Amar Zaidi from BIG-nano in Cambridge, Ontario. John is the president, chief technical officer, and founder, and Amar is the company’s vice president and CEO. The company recently expanded their meltblown textile technology operation (thanks to a grant from FedDev Ontario), where they manufacture fibres at the nano-scale.
Meltblown technology, first developed in the 1970s, is a textile fabrication method where a polymer melt is extruded through small nozzles surrounded by high-speed blowing gas. The random nature of the deposited fibres forms a nonwoven sheet which can be used for everything from surgical masks and gowns to water filtration and much more.
As the guests explain (in great detail over the course of the episode), shrinking the size of individual fibres allows the increased functional surface area of their textiles using a much wider range of polymers. In addition to making the next generation of PPE more breathable, more effective, and even biodegradable, this technology has uses outside of PPE, like the manufacturing of battery components for electric vehicles.
To develop this technology (and related products), BIG-nano collaborated with numerous partners in Ontario’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem. John specifically mentioned funding and support from the National Research Council (NRC), the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), NGen Canada, and the University of Waterloo. They have also worked collaboratively with other industrial partners and put their technology to use in a PPE supercluster.