The RESERVIST project was divided into 3 phases, namely the preparation phase, the demonstration phase, and the replication phase. The preparation phase covers the first months of the project and in this phase the RESERVIST network was established (WP1), a digital platform was developed (WP2), medical products were developed and tested, and it was investigated how manufacturing lines should be tweaked in order to make these products (WP3).

The RESERVIST network is a cluster of companies and non-profit entities which ensure the setup of a resilient supply chain for medical and protective equipment manufacturing and testing (figure 1).

Figure 1: Reservist core network

This network has been defined in a general structure for the four demonstration and replication cells that are defined in the RESERVIST project: 1) Textile protective equipment, 2) Respiratory Ventilator, 3) Disinfection Equipment, and 4) Emergency Hospital, as a starting paradigm to build on an extended network of cells, services, components, materials, and products to fight against pandemics. To define the most effective structure of the network, several aspects were identified for each RESERVIST use case, namely:

  • The general structure of the current status of the network with its logistical and operational aspects;
  • The actors constituting the stakeholders external to the project consortium;
  • The relations between the actors and their positioning in the supply chain for emergency items;
  • The gaps and needs for the future improvement of the network;
  • Potential stakeholders to be involved in the network to cover the gaps.

In particular, for each product taken as a use case, the needs that emerged during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic regarding improving production processes, management, and delivery of emergency items have been analysed, with the primary outcomes in terms of:

  • defining who the required stakeholders are and the requirements they should meet;
  • identifying what triggers their emergency governance and what this governance results in;
  • determining the priorities and interests of the manufacturing industries;
  • establishing an interlink methodology between the different “Cells” of the network.

The strong network of some RESERVIST partners (particularly the clusters) has been exploited to find potential solutions and stakeholders to fill the identified gaps by involving them in the extended RESERVIST network in the project’s later phases.

As a final result, a set of structures and engagement rules for the stakeholders within the supply chain were defined as a means to optimize the prompt response of the RESERVIST cells to any future emergency.

To complete the collaborative network and to further strengthen it, gaps that must be filled have been tracked down, and partners that could overcome these gaps have been identified. So, these partners can potentially be added to the sub-networks. Business models have also been devised to prepare for the ‘beyond project’ phase of RESERVIST.

The RESERVIST Digital Platform (RDP) is a web-based platform that supports the activation process (https://reservist.collab-cloud.eu/) (figure 2).

Figure 2: RESERVIST digital platform

It presents RESERVIST offering for customers a marketplace of products, materials and services. The RDP also includes situation awareness services for partners and registered customers to support preparedness for ramp up production in times of spiking demand. These services include emergency reports and knowledge data base presenting generic information about features and needs related to different types of emergencies. It also presents simulated forecasts of needs in crises. In addition, the RDP offers trusted data transfer services between partners and customers.

The products that can be found on the platform are the outcomes of the product developments within the project (WP3) (figure 3).

Figure 3: RESERVIST products

Two melt-blown-free types of facemasks were developed. One type of facemasks concerns disposable facemasks with good bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE > 95%) while the other type consists in reusable facemasks with a bacterial efficiency of around 80%. So, the latter can only be used as community masks. Reusable gowns were developed as protective textiles. The developed gowns are fully waterproof (> 2000 mm according to ISO20811) and were still waterproof after 25 industrial washings (at 95°C) in SIOEN’s testing lab.

The following results have been obtained for the reusable gown industrial prototypes:

▪ The highest protection was obtained for the virus barrier according to EN14126 : class 6 for ISO16604  and class 3 for ISO 22611.

▪ The breathability can be judged as “high” as evidenced by the relatively low resistance to evaporation transmission (RET) value is 15 m².Pa/W (lower RET means higher breathability).

From a processing point of view, the manufacturing of reusable gowns is very well controlled and seems very feasible for mass production.

Body bags are also a vital means to prevent any diseases spreading from deceased persons. These products are currently based on non-biodegradable plastics (typically PVC and PE), so once these bags are in use under the ground, they stay there for many years as no degradation occurs. The pandemic demonstrated a need for qualitative and more sustainable body bags that are rapidly available in case of an emergency. After the modification of the extruder, it was possible to produce biodegradable body bags (tested according to EN13432 ) with good mechanical properties.

A second product family targeted in RESERVIST was not focused on virus protection but on assisting infected people with breathing namely invasive (aimed at patients who need to be intubated because they are unable to breathe on their own) and non-invasive ventilators (for those with a less serious condition) developed by IDIONIAL, ARCELOR MITTAL and NORMA group. The initial versions were very simple, adapted to the materials that were available in those first weeks of the coronavirus crisis. The redesigned versions are smaller, more manageable ventilator designs, which can be manufactured on an assembly line at NORMA Group.

Disinfection equipment is the third product category that is offered by RESERVIST. The main focus in product development was redesigning the spray nozzle so that less- in times of health crisis precious – disinfection liquid is needed.

The last product category where RESERVIST focused on is emergency hospitals and an inflatable hospital was developed. This innovative modular inflatable building is made up of rigid, highly insulating double walls and offers an unparalleled level of comfort and strength. The rigid walls are not only extremely practical but also create the ideal condition for cleanability. Its revolutionary ‘drop-stitch’ technology means it can withstand the harshest of weather conditions. This makes it perfectly suitable for both long- and short-term operations in regions with a challenging climate.

Moreover, this tent system offers unprecedented thermal and acoustic insulation, which translates in a significant reduction in energy consumption (and costs) for heating or air-conditioning. Another benefit of utilizing the drop-stitch technology, is that this tent system requires less maintenance.

The final part of the preparation phase focused on the modification of the manufacturing lines for repurposing and product quality. The repurposing work performed in RESERVIST is very important for the RESERVIST concept because the production of RESERVIST products rely on the modification of existing manufacturing lines which are normally making other products in non-crisis situations. It was shown that these lines could be tweaked to make the facemask, gowns, and body bags, but for the ventilators it turned out that rapid switching of manufacturing lines is the most feasible way to quickly start up production. For these ventilators a new test bench was developed to quickly test the pneumatic connections of the ventilator to evaluate whether it works correctly (figure 4).

Figure 4: Pneumatic test bench

For the facemasks correlation was found between the normally required BFE test for medical masks and the paraffin particle filtration test. The latter is not required to certify medical face masks, but as these tests only requires a couple of hours instead of days for the BFE test, it can be a good alternative when a huge amounts of masked have to tested (figure 5).

Figure 5: Correlation between the particle filtration test & the bacterial filtration test

In the demonstration phase it was validated if facemasks and ventilators (figure 6) could indeed be manufactured within 48 hours even when there is stock problem of the raw materials. A request was sent through the digital platform. To be able to produce the products within 48h, it is important that there is always a stock present of the starting components, and the quality of these components must be checked beforehand to be sure that they can be processed on the manufacturing lines.

Figure 6: example of the manufacturing process of invasive ventilators

After the demonstration phase the roll out phase was initiated. This phase targeted the overall successful industrial embedding of the RESERVIST concept as well as creating blueprints and ideating for replicating the RESERVIST Network for future (emergency) scenarios. This resulted in 1) the development of a set of (non)binding contractual agreements for companies that are part of the RESERVIST network and guidelines to access the RESERVIST ecosystem, 2) training the companies on how to use the RDP, 3) audited implementation manuals to make sure that the knowledge on how to produce the products is not lost, 4) a blueprint for testing/certification which can be used by companies as a guideline to know what is the best way to get certification of certain products, 5) a book ‘Emerging RESERVIST Cultures from stories of resilience to network preparedness’ (figure 7) and finally 6) the execution of two activation scenarios of the RESERVIST cells.

Figure 7: book Emerging Reservist Cultures

For the first activation, Hospitainer simulated an emergency scenario and informed the RESERVIST partners via the situation awareness system of the RDP that a disaster took place. In a second phase, Hospitainer was asked to install a fully equipped hospital and was in an urgent need for protective and medical equipment. Partner HOSPITAINER sent out a request for these products to the cells via the same RDP. The companies in the network replied and sent the products to Hospitainer who also acts as the coordinator of the RESERVIST network. The outcome was presented during the final event during which participants had the opportunity to visit Hospitainer and see the inflatable hospital with all the RESERVIST products in place (figure 8).

The second activation was related to the testing service. CENTEXBEL was overwhelmed with requests to test and certify face masks and distributed the work between partners VTT and MIRTEC for testing. Through the IDS connectors of the RDP CENTEXBEL could track and follow the progress of the mask testing at MIRTEC and VTT and quickly has access to the test results so that the masks could be rapidly certified.

The results of the RESERVIST project were presented at several events (e.g., TechTextil, the International Machine Tool Exhibition, 7th Encuentro Empresarial in Madrid, the Aidex show in Brussels and European Conference on Protective Clothing), and on social media (LinkedIn, twitter). 3 scientific papers of RESERVIST were published in the peer-reviewed proceedings of the European Conference on Protective Clothing .

Figure 8: Inflatable hospital demonstrated at Hospitainer

A project video and Open Resource Series of videos were created with the goal of showcasing the consortium’s expertise, highlighting their RESERVIST products and their agile manufacturing lines, and sharing key lessons learned from each partner. These videos can be watched on the RESERVIST YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@Reservist_EU.

On the project’s website (https://cov-reservist.eu), more RESERVIST-related activities an be found.

Progress beyond the state of the art is shown by the redesigning of the RESERVIST products: face masks with good bacterial filtration efficiency without a melt blown filter, biodegradable body bags, ventilators that are easier and faster to assemble, movable inflatable hospitals than can be adapted to the various medical needs and a disinfection equipment with a lower consumption of disinfecting liquid. Further, it is shown by the realization of the RESERVIST concept that repurposing existing European manufacturing lines to produce protective and medical equipment is feasible. Especially the concept of ‘ready for preparedness’ by being prepared for repurposing and by the creation of European capacity (instead of buying stocks from countries outside the EU) has the potential to make EU less vulnerable in times of crisis or during market disturbed situations. This concept could be used for other sectors as well to avoid shortage of other critical products (e.g., micro chips).

Should you be interested in getting more information about the RESERVIST project, please have a look at the following Deliverables: