The nitrile glove production journey

WITH many rubber and latex glove producers struggling to keep production cost affordable amid the rising raw material cost, it makes valid sense for new manufacturers to turn to nitrile glove production to keep up with demand for disposable medical-grade gloves.

While disposable latex gloves are still more biodegradable than nitrile, the latter is a more superior solution for those with latex allergies, according to Limmas (M) Sdn Bhd CEO Lim Choon Huat.

Lim Choon Huat

“Made out of synthetic rubber, nitrile gloves are often referred to as ‘medical grade’ and are suited for medical workers who come into contact with patients who could potentially have a latex allergy,” he told FocusM.

“We notice that more and more manufacturers have also converted their rubber/latex gloves production lines to nitrile glove production lines.”

Additionally, nitrile gloves also boast the following positive characteristics:

  • Nitrile gloves are three times as puncture resistant compared to latex gloves of a comparable thickness, and are resistant to a wider range of chemicals (hence, provide greater resistance to blood borne pathogens and environmental contaminants);
  • Nitrile gloves have superior chemical resistance (three to five times more) to chemicals, acids and oils compared to natural rubber (making it safer for lab workers and medical workers who are required to handle hazardous or toxic substances); and
  • The price of nitrile is more stable as they are made from synthetic rubber (this enables them to keep up with the surge in global demand for medical-grade disposable gloves).

Nitrile glove production first surpassed that of natural rubber glove in 2014. Lim foresees that nitrile gloves can make up as much as 80% of Malaysia’s total glove production in 2020/2021.

“Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous manufacturers who produce fake or low-quality nitrile gloves in the market to capitalise on the current demand and public ignorance,” revealed Lim.

“It is important to ensure that the gloves are from a reliable manufacturer in order to ensure the quality and safety standards are properly adhered to.”

Moreover, the shift to nitrile gloves encourages manufacturers to produce nitrile gloves outside of Malaysia, thus paving the way for more manufacturers to set up their factories in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and China.

“In the long run, Malaysia’s position as the world’s biggest glove manufacturing base could be affected,” opined Lim.

Limmas’ nitrile experience

Year-to-date, Limmas has seen a revenue surge to the tune of US$486 mil (RM1.98 bil). The company’s two major export continents are the Europe and US while its key customers are pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, medical suppliers and military agencies.

This has led to the setting up of its very first nitrile examination gloves manufacturing plant in Pulau Indah, Selangor. For its Phase I, Limmas has set up 12 fully-automated manufacturing lines (costing RM250 mil) with a total of 40 manufacturing lines slated by end-2021.

Under Phase II, the company plans to acquire a 125-acre land in Malaysia as well as setting up production plants in three major geographical areas, namely Europe, the US and the Middle East.

“While some manufacturers are facing a shortage of nitrile rubber (NBR or raw material for nitrile gloves), we have managed to secure NBR from a secure source and foresee no issues in obtaining the raw material supply at a reasonable cost for the near future,” projected Lim.

Limmas’ nitrile gloves have obtained the approvals from the relevant authorities including the US Food and Drug Administration, CE Certification, ISO 13485, ISO 10993, in addition to have been subjected to various tests to ensure they are suitable for use in a medical environment.

“Our participation in Medical Fair Asia 2020 (MFA 2020) from Dec 9 to 18 is our first step in showcasing Limmas’ nitrile examination gloves and our brand to the world,” added Lim. – Nov 30, 2020

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