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04/12/2021|Formenbau Niemann GmbH

Mouth-nose mask thanks to mold making competence

With the development of the comfortable and reusable mouth-nose mask "COVI-MASK", Formenbau Niemann GmbH makes its contribution to the fight against the COVID-19 virus. Mold production for injection molding is done on a DMU 75 monoBLOCK with PH 150 pallet changer.

Formenbau Niemann GmbH
Thomas Niemann, owner and managing director of Formenbau Niemann GmbH, and his son Tim.

​​​​​​​Complex workpieces and precision in the hundredths range make tool and die making one of the most demanding industries in metal-cutting manufacturing. The high competitive pressure requires technical know-how, flexibility and a talent for creative solutions. Formenbau Niemann demonstrates this talent during the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Within just a few weeks, the company based in Gemünden am Main, founded in 1999, develops a mouth-nose mask that is comfortable to wear thanks to a soft, skin-friendly plastic and is also reusable. Formenbau Niemann GmbH has also founded Niemann-Group UG for the production and sale of the masks. Formenbau Niemann GmbH machines the aluminum 4-cavity molds required for production on a DMU 75 monoBLOCK with PH 150 pallet changer installed in 2019.

Formenbau Niemann GmbH
Formenbau Niemann GmbH spent four weeks tinkering with different prototypes until the current 4-cavity mold for the mouth-nose mask was manufactured.

One of the measures to combat the COVID-19 virus is wearing mouth-nose masks. Even though experts had strongly debated their effectiveness at the beginning, it was foreseeable that they would soon become part of everyday life. Looking at the range of masks, Thomas Niemann, the owner and managing director of Formenbau Niemann GmbH, noticed that many models only provide protection for a very limited period of time: “After that, they end up in the trash as disposable items.” So at the end of March 2020, he says, the idea was born to develop a reusable mask made of plastic.

Weeks of tinkering until the perfect fit was achieved: Comfortable and reusable mouth-nose mask made of plastic

Formenbau Niemann GmbH focuses on casting molds made of aluminum for prototypes, molds for small to medium production runs, all the way to fully automated molds made of steel for large-scale production. In the team, customers from the medical technology, automotive and aerospace industries find a reliable partner in the design and manufacture of complex components.

This experience and, above all, the know-how in design helped Thomas Niemann to develop a mouth-nose mask that met his expectations within a few weeks. “With each new prototype, we were able to further optimize the mask,” he recalls. “After four or five weeks of work, we had the desired result: a comfortable-fitting mask made of soft plastic with a replaceable filter element.” The filter currently in use is an FFP3 fleece of German manufacture.

Formenbau Niemann GmbH
5-axis simultaneous milling enables productive and precise complete machining in one clamping.

5-axis simultaneous milling: Precise complete machining in the hundredths range.

For Formenbau Niemann GmbH, manufacturing the tools for the various prototypes is both daily business and core competence. This also explains the use of state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. For 21 years, the company has been working with machining centers from DMG MORI. In 2013, a DMU 85 monoBLOCK was installed, which can accommodate molds up to 935 x 850 x 650 mm. This was followed in 2019 by the DMU 75 monoBLOCK with PH 150 pallet changer. “On this machine, we machined the molds for the masks.” This also includes the 4-cavity tool for the mouth-nose mask that is now available, he said.

In order to cope with rising quality demands and increasing competitive pressure, Formenbau Niemann GmbH began very early on to optimize manufacturing processes in the long term – initially with 5-axis simultaneous machining. “Complete machining in one set-up enabled us to maintain our productivity and serve increasing accuracy requirements,” says Thomas Niemann, looking back on the development.

Formenbau Niemann GmbH
Formenbau Niemann GmbH has been working with a DMU 85 monoBLOCK since 2013. This was followed in 2019 by a DMU 75 monoBLOCK with PH 150 pallet handling.

Automated manufacturing: Rethinking production processes

Complete machining and the recently installed PH 150 pallet handling system have changed the processes at Formenbau Niemann GmbH significantly. Whereas two employees used to spend a week working on a complete mold, today one employee can do it in two days. “The second employee now ensures that the ten pallets are prepared at an additional programming station,” explains Thomas Niemann. In this way, the team can utilize the DMU 75 monoBLOCK in two additional unmanned shifts.

With such long unmanned times, it is all the more important that the machine runs reliably. “We ensure this internally with program simulations in an exact 3D model of the workspace,” says Tim Niemann, son of the managing director. In this way, he says, potential crashes can be prevented in advance. In addition, DMG MORI's service plays a major role, because unscheduled machine downtime has a serious impact on productivity in automated production.

my DMG MORI: Direct contact to DMG MORI Service

Since 2019, DMG MORI has been offering a very user-friendly way to optimize service processes with the free my DMG MORI online portal. Like several thousand customers already, Formenbau Niemann GmbH is also registered. Tim Niemann sees the added value in the acceleration of service requests: “We can submit damage reports including a description or even photos online at the push of a button and receive a ticket immediately.” Thanks to the clear definition of the problem, the case is forwarded directly to the right contact person, he adds. “With the track & trace function, we can transparently view the processing status at any time.” In addition, he says, all commercial and technical documents are stored in my DMG MORI.

Formenbau Niemann GmbH
The mouth-nose mask "COVI-MASK" from Niemann UG has a comfortable fit and is reusable thanks to the replaceable FFP3 filter element.

Mouth-to-nose mask for the time during Corona and afterwards

Thomas Niemann is glad that his company has weathered the Corona crisis well so far. Orders have not disappeared. But he would also like to push the mouth-nose mask as another mainstay. “We are still convinced of the quality and see it as a good alternative in many occupational groups that work with protective masks, even after Corona." Feedback from previous users, including a pulmonologist and a dental laboratory, has been consistently positive, he says: “The main arguments for our customers are the comfortable fit and the possibility of cleaning and disinfection.” Another advantage: no fogging of lenses, as is known from surgical or fabric masks. The production capacities are large enough: “We can produce up to 10,000 pieces a day.”

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