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The Force Behind the Mask: How American Ingenuity is Saving the U.S. from a PPE Disaster

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded AFFOA (Advanced Functional Fabrics of America) and 16 cross-institute collaborators over $11M in funding as part of the American Rescue Act’s Rapid Assistance (for) Coronavirus Economic Response (RACER) program. The funded program will address manufacturing automation, supply chain diversification, and the environmental impact of PPE.

As COVID-19 first spread across the world, U.S. manufacturers and their supply chains were overwhelmed, trying to meet the rapidly increasing demand for personal protective equipment (PPE). Recognizing the dire challenge, and their unique ability to help solve it, the Manufacturing Innovation Institutes within the Manufacturing USA® network jumped into action to help manufacturers pivot and scale production.

Each institute is a public-private partnership with a unique advanced manufacturing specialty. AFFOA, the Department of Defense (DoD) sponsored institute focused on advanced fabrics, wasted no time, and in March of 2020 issued a “Call to Action” to its membership ecosystem. AFFOA polled its ecosystem to see who could support the development, production and testing of critical PPE as well as facilitate critical connections to respond to mask and gown shortages.

This call spurred collaborations across multiple fronts. In April 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration launched the M-ERT initiative, granting over $16 million in funding to help local manufacturers pivot and scale their operations to produce critical PPE items at high volumes.



Released April 21, 2022, Updated May 9, 2022