Propel LLC quickly pivoted from military textiles into PPE

Posted December 15, 2020


PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Propel, a woman-owned textile technology innovation company focused on the development of products for the U.S. military market, has experienced explosive growth in 2020 after pivoting quickly to producing cutting-edge cloth masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


While the company primarily focuses on the U.S. military market, innovation and industry expertise have made it possible to continue to grow the business during this difficult time while achieving the goal of creating superior masks that are both affordable and accessible.


In early March, when the pandemic had made its way to the U.S., Propel's leadership had the foresight to order a half-million yards of elastic, anticipating the oncoming need for protection for the military as well as the general public. From concept to production, the process of developing the mask took only five days. The company is now producing masks in multiple U.S. factories, sourcing U.S.-made textiles and components from its home state of Rhode Island and across the country.


Together with its partners, including Darlington Fabrics of Westerly, RI, the textile pioneer has constructed a mask that meets CDC recommendations, is comfortable and features a nose-stay that reduces the need for the constant re-adjusting typical of many other masks and helps prevent glasses from fogging. Due to this innovation and fortitude, Propel was awarded a Defense Logistics Contract to make the same face cover design for the Department of Defense. 


To date, the company has sold approximately 1.6 million masks to the military and over 2 million masks overall and counting with the capacity to make over 100,000 masks per week. A line of adjustable children's masks in the colors black, navy, purple and green just launched on Free ground shipping is available for orders of five or more. As mission-driven causes are important to the organization, Propel donated 1,000 masks to the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless earlier this year.


"It's humbling to have Propel products on the front lines of this pandemic protecting those who protect us," said Clare King, president of Propel LLC. "The team appreciates the opportunity to transform the world of textiles alongside other small businesses making a difference at home and globally."


Propel has received U.S. Army R&D contracts to develop textile technology solutions that have transitioned to acquisition and have been competitively awarded multiple Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Contracts by the U.S. Navy. In November 2020, the company was given the first place IFF Innovation Award from the Industrial Fabrics Foundation (IFF) for its Propel LLC Smart Integrated Shirt project. Propel's U.S. Navy SBIR funded smart shirt includes three patent pending innovations to monitor the physiology of the wearer in a garment that looks and feels no different than any other first layer garment. This shirt is made with Propel's proprietary electrically enabled yarn that looks, feels and behaves like a traditional yarn, but has the conductive elements needed for transmitting data and power. The shirt has solder-free textile connectors that are soft and flexible for wearer comfort and user-transparency. All components within this shirt are U.S.-sourced. 


Source: Propel

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