PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — An Austin-based startup has raised $5 million to set up shop in Pflugerville.
The company, Armbrust America plans to address the nation-wide PPE shortage and bring manufacturing back to the U.S.
When COVID-19 first began, CEO Lloyd Armbrust says it reminded him of a college experience he had working in the mold remediation industry. It taught him about the importance of N-95 masks and poor air quality.
“With my manufacturing background, I also knew where a lot of things were being created. I knew that most of the masks in the world are being created not just in China, but Wuhon China,” said Lloyd Armbrust. “I said to myself, man what if this is like SARS and it takes down Wuhon. What are we going to do?”
Armbrust America has been nearly five months in the making. Armbrust began brainstorming the mask-making idea once he recognized quickly the need to mass-produce personal protective equipment here in America.
“There’s no incentive to automate when China can produce something so much cheaper than we can do in the United States,” said Armbrust. “If you can automate something, you can remove the strategic advantage China has over cheaper labor. You just remove it. It’s about investing in that automation. We can build this stuff anywhere now.”
Lloyd Armbrust started testing the process the first week of May. In recent days, he received FDA approval and launched online sales.
Armbrust says the vast majority of PPE is currently manufactured in China, and there’s a global bidding war driving prices to all-time highs. Armbrust says he can offer these masks at the same price as Chinese suppliers, so that American’s don’t have to choose between Made-in-America quality and price.
“This machine is truly an American invention. While none of the core parts of this product are from America, it’s only been assembled here,” said Armbrust. “Most of this technology is invented here, but then it goes to China to be produced.”
Armbrust says it’s the mass production we lacked. If necessary, he has plans to scale production to billions annually if needed.
“We are the world superpower, by any objective measure. The PPE shortage exposed a gaping hole in this idea that we tell ourselves,” said Armbrust.
Armbrust America is selling the masks online in packs of 50. The company is also hoping to contract with retailers, state governments and healthcare facilities In the future, Armbrust America also plans to make hospital-grade N-95 masks and gowns with the additional machines
“In a uniquely political, American way, we weren’t prepared for this. But we don’t need a bailout. We don’t need other countries. We need the finest quality products with the most effective materials, full supply chain control, and no foreign dependence. We need Made-in-America, Made in Texas. And masks are just the beginning.”— Lloyd Armbrust, Founder and CEO, Armbrust American
3813B Helios Way, Pflugerville