The cost of commercial project masks has fallen sharply in the last five years, while the amount of time needed to manufacture them has decreased by about 40 percent, according to a new study.
The trend is driven by three factors, said Daniel Kohn, chief executive of the commercial project goggles and masks industry group.
First, demand for masks has been growing, he said.
Second, the amount and variety of mask options has shrunk.
Third, the cost of equipment has dropped to less than half the cost it was a decade ago.
The trend is accelerating, he added.
The masks themselves, which include goggles, masks, masksets and respirators, have also improved in cost.
The cost per mask has declined by about 25 percent over the last decade, according the study from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In the U.S., mask prices are about 30 percent lower than the previous year, according a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.
The number of masks per capita has dropped by about half, according research from the U:niversity of Pennsylvania.
The mask industry’s growth has been driven by the introduction of masks made from biodegradable materials, such as polyethylene or nylon, and polyethylenimine, said Mark Mair, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Texas at Austin.
The cost of these materials has dropped nearly 70 percent since 2000, according Kohn.
They are used in disposable masks and disposable respirators that can be used indoors and outdoors.
The use of biodegradeable materials in masks has increased from about 20 percent of total masks used in 2000 to about 25 to 30 percent today, according Mair.
The number of disposable masks in the U.:More than half of U.s. states now have laws requiring companies to remove the mask and respirator when making a product that is made from these materials, according John A. Hahn, a research scientist at the U-M Center for Materials Technology.
These laws also apply to products made from nonbiodegradables such as plastic bags, cardboard and metal foil.
The rules also apply for reusable disposable masks.
But even as disposable masks have gotten cheaper, costs have dropped.
In the U., disposable masks now cost about 30 cents per mask compared to about $2.50 in 2000, a decline of more than 50 percent, the study found.
For masks, the biggest cost drivers were material cost, including the cost per layer and the cost to manufacture the mask, according Hahn.
The remaining cost was labor and other manufacturing costs.
To make masks that are more cost effective, mask makers need to increase the number of layers they use and decrease the number and variety they use, Mair said.
Companies are also finding it cheaper to fabricate and package masks, which allows them to save money and reduce the time required to manufacture and package a mask, he explained.
Companies can also reduce their labor costs by using a mix of materials that are cheaper to make than traditional polyethylenes or nylon.
These materials can also be more easily recycled, Hahn said.