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In the healthcare sector of the nonwovens industry, R&D efforts remain focused on improved breathability, wearer comfort and increased barrier resistance for a variety of applications in both commodity and specialty markets. Meanwhile, despite ongoing technological innovation, the message from the healthcare market is clear: costs must be cut.

In response to this dilemma, some companies have adopted a broad, long-term approach to healthcare costs. “Cost reduction efforts may not mean that nonwovens manufacturers will offer cheaper products,” explained Paul Farren, vice president and general manager of nonwovens for Georgia-Pacific. “Ultimately there are many cost factors involved, whether they relate to labor, energy or the environment.”

Other companies are also seeing strong pressure from the market to control costs. For its part, roll goods giant BBA Fiberweb expects an increase in acceptance and demand for nonwovens and a continuation of the push to drive costs down. “Nonwovens have proven themselves as more cost effective than traditional fabrics for a number of reasons,” opined Betty McVey, director of BBA’s medical business, “but now we need to focus on how we can optimize the use of nonwovens in different applications.”

Looking ahead, she predicted more opportunities for nonwovens. “We will see growth in Europe and Asia, which are really still in their infancy stages. In the U.S., the question is how to utilize new technologies in existing nonwoven products to make them more effective and cost-efficient while finding new applications,” she said.

Ms. McVey referred to the recent effect of the Association of the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) standards as an opportunity for BBA to upgrade its products and offer higher levels of protection than before. “While in the past, some customers had been buying lower end spunbond products from China, these standards have led customers to rethink this decision. However, the medical market remains a challenging market where there is continuing pressure from the healthcare industry to keep costs down,” she added.

Another response to cost concerns in the healthcare arena has been an increased use of spunbond nonwovens in certain disposable apparel applications. With its recent launch of MediSoft at IDEA04, N. Charleston, SC-based PGI is one roll goods producer leading the shift toward spunmelt fabrics. A blend of spunmelt and spunlace properties, MediSoft is a proprietary spunmelt product enhanced with softness and breathability. Produced at the company’s facility in Nanhai, China, the product is offered in the U.S. and Asia and targets disposable apparel applications such as gowns and facemasks.

The new MediSoft fabrics exhibit a 50% increase in softness compared to standard spunmelt fabrics used in medical applications, according to the company’s internal test results. The new fabrics also exceed industry standards for protection against fluids for their targeted class of applications. MediSoft fabrics exceed the AAMI gown and drape industry standard (PB70) for Level III garments of 50 centimeters in hydroheads, a measurement of barrier properties, according to test results.

“There has been a shift in this market to spunmelt,” commented Dennis Norman, vice president strategic planning and communications for PGI. “The focus on controlling costs has led to an increase in the use of spunmelt fabrics because they offer better barrier properties on a more economical basis,” he suggested.

Wilmington, DE-based DuPont has also introduced a new spunmelt-based proprietary medical fabric as part of a new family of medical fabrics. DuPont Acturel is made of three layers—including a polyester nonwoven inner layer, DuPont Hytrel as a breathable membrane layer and spunbonded polypropylene as an outer layer. The first two layers are formed by an extrusion coating process, and the final outer layer is attached to the layer of Hytrel by an adhesive lamination process.

DuPont Acturel was designed for high-fluid, long-duration procedures that pose special challenges, including heat, moisture and increased stress. The company calls its breathable, impervious barrier “smart,” able to adjust to the body temperature over time to maximize comfort. The fabric has been available on a limited basis for about two years.

Also new from DuPont is Suprel, the first in a series of next generation fabrics supported by more than 20 new manufacturing patents. The new fabric combines a high level of protection and the ability to glide easily without catching or grabbing. It transfers heat away from the body quickly, adding to comfort in the O.R. DuPont Suprel fabric is based on DuPont Nonwovens Advanced Composite Technology (ACT), which uses a bi-component polyester/polyethylene formulation. Suprel single-use O.R. gowns are available from Medline Industries.

In another update to its medical fabrics business, DuPont has renamed its Sontara brand Softesse. The fabric represents the newest generation of DuPont’s spunlaced technology. Softesse is designed to provide acceptable barrier protection against liquid penetration as well as breathability.

In the spunbond area, a new product for medical applications has been unveiled by BBA. In conjunction with Dow Chemical, the company has launched Advanced Design Concepts (ADC), a joint venture for the development of proprietary technologies using elastic nonwovens for a number of applications. Areas with potential include medical applications such as surgical gowns and other surgical apparel.

Based on core/sheath technology, these spunbond products offer improved form and fit and use elastic nonwovens in a cost-effective way. The thermoplastic urethane and polypropylene-based products are created through a single production step without blending multiple materials as in the past. “Although ADC is in the very early stages of its launch, we have received extremely positive feedback so far,” offered Ms. McVey of BBA.

Saudi Arabia-based roll goods producer Advanced Fabrics (SAAF) has also experienced the shift toward spunmelt in medical applications. “Increasing barrier performance requirements for medical fabrics will increase the move to spunmelt,” commented Ian Disley, SAAF general manager. “We are seeing this happen, at different rates, in all the markets we are involved in worldwide.” He added that SAAF has designed fabrics to meet the new proposed FDA standards for Level I, II and III gowns at economic price and weight points. “Medalon fabric continues to penetrate the market for top end surgical gowns with high hydrohead, antistatic and alcohol repellency characteristics. A provisional patent has been filed for an SMS fabric with inherent antimicrobial characteristics,” he added.

Wisconsin-based medical products converter Triad Group has taken note of the popularity of spunbond nonwovens in the wiping segment. “We see a lot of spunbonded substrates in this market and not a lot of airlaid,” observed Ron Pontililo, director of contract manufacturing sales. Triad often uses a similar substrate for its wiping products, although it uses a variety of nonwovens technologies. “We do not use one particular nonwovens technology; we really run the gamut. The last four products we introduced were made through different technologies and all came from different suppliers,” he said.

Mr. Pontililo described 2004 as a record R&D year for Triad. The company has introduced an unprecedented number of new products and many are still in the pipeline. “We have a half dozen or so new topical patient/consumer care wipe products coming out. We will launch two or three before the end of 2004, with the balance slated to be introduced in the first quarter of 2005,” he said.

Triad’s wiping products are used in hospitals, physicians’ clinics and long-term care facilities, but some of these products cross into the consumer care sector and are offered in the mass pharmacy market. Triad offers private label products to marketers as well as to store chains. Its medical division drives the company’s consumer care business.

Counting On Composites
Another key approach for manufacturers is the use of composites to meet the varied performance demands often required of medical products. For roll goods producer Ahlstrom, such efforts are evident in the introduction of a variety of nonwoven composite products leveraging the company’s broad nonwoven portfolio with customers’ requirements of a balance between barrier, comfort and cost. “These products are currently in use as premium gowns, drapes and in auxiliary applications where these performance criteria are valued by the end user,” said Paul Marold, Jr., vice president and general manager, medical products for Ahlstrom’s FiberComposites division.

Another company benefiting from the use of composites for healthcare uses is Techni-Met, Windsor, CT. The company produces thin film coatings for nonwoven materials in medical product applications. It custom designs functional physical, electrical and chemical coatings to provide barrier, shielding, conductive, protective and reflective properties. The coated and metallized flexible materials offer potential medical application opportunities in barrier packaging, filters and screens, conductive and reflective fabrics, EMI interference shielding, charge dissipation and barrier protection materials for electronic applications, antimicrobial fabrics, wound dressing materials and other biomedical products.

Techni-Met’s vacuum-sputtered depositions are produced on a broad range of flexible substrates in widths from 6 to 62 inches and gauges .25 to 20 mils including nonwovens and polymeric films. Its precision single and multiple-layer functional thin film coatings include precious and non-magnetic metals and alloys, chemicals and compound coatings. They can be deposited onto flexible polymeric substrates, nonwovens and other materials, which can either be utilized as a stand-alone product or part of an end-use laminated or composite structure.

According to the company’s director of corporate development Charles Regul, the products are ideal for technology-driven applications. “The functional performance characteristics from thin film coatings can allow thinner, lighter and less costly materials to be used and eliminate the need for expensive, alternative materials or laminations. The coated polymeric substrates, too, can be used in slit form, in laminates with other substrate materials and as composites, depending upon end use applications and functional performance requirements,” he said.

“In the medical industry, particularly, there are many new applications in development that will effectively utilize flexible thin, film-coated products, as well as existing applications for which thin film depositions can be utilized either for performance properties or as effective alternatives to other coatings,” said Mr. Regul. Possible applications are: antimicrobial packaging, multi-layer antibacterial films, barrier-protected nonwovens, antimicrobial coated wound dressing materials, drug-eluting coatings, polymeric matrix and transdermal medication materials.

Also in the area of composites, Totowa, NJ-based Precision Custom Coatings offers a new product designed to meet the unique requirements of the medical market. The company has introduced a needlepunched product laminated with a polyurethane barrier film for use in reusable bed pad applications.

The new product is chlorine bleach resistant and can be washed multiple times. “We have been involved in lamination for some time,” explained Shaile Dusaj, director of industrial sales and marketing for PCC, “but our new focus on odor absorption and chlorine resistant products as an extension of our portfolio. These innovations are being driven in part by concerns over costs. Laminated film products are lighter, and therefore less costly, to wash than the vinyl composites that currently dominate the U.S. market. Our new laminated product offers performance and cost advantages over the product’s lifetime.”

PCC is also in the process of introducing absorbents for incontinence pad applications featuring improved odor absorption capabilities in addition to the absorption of fluids. The needlepunched nonwoven products are made from a blend of different fibers and are sold on the market in roll good form to converters targeting hospitals and institutions.

New Needlepunch Niches
Another innovation in the needlepunch area comes from Canadian absorbent roll goods producer Texel. In the disposables area, Texel sells needlepunch felts for band-aid applications to customers such as Johnson & Johnson. As for durables, the company sells bed pads, soaker pads and adult diapers.

One emerging market for Texel is its Bathfelt needlepunched product, which features eight no-linting wipes for post-operative use. Each wipe is used to clean a different part of the patient’s body, which avoids cross-contamination. The wipes are treated with an antibacterial soap and require no rinsing. The lofty needlepunch fabric lends the product a washcloth feel. “Spunlace fabrics try to compete in this area, but more solution can be loaded into a needlepunched wipe than a spunlaced wipe for this type of application,” explained Jeff Girard, Texel’s product manager for wipes and absorbents. “They save time and money for hospitals, which is a concern for U.S. hospitals since they are run like companies. This is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world.”

According to Mr. Girard, the market in the U.S. for disposable bathing wipes is $70-80 million in hospitals alone and is projected to grow to a $300 million market. By 2008, Texel predicts that the peak of the baby boom generation will reach age 75 and more elderly parents will require these products in home settings and nursing homes.

“To get users to switch from a reusable washcloth to this type of product is a matter of changing habits,” commented Mr. Girard. “There is also a security factor. With a traditional washing system, soap has to be diluted in a specific amount. If there are mistakes, patients’ skin can be burned.” He predicted that Europe will be an easier market for Bathfelt to penetrate because of the high price of water. “People don’t have the same bathing habits in Europe as they do in North America because they consider the cost of water before they bathe. The wipe culture in Europe is more developed than the U.S., but there is little differentiation. Most wiping products are the same with a different package and name. We see potential here, but you need to manufacture there otherwise the transportation costs are prohibitive,” he said.

Now sold as an institutional catalog product, Bathfelt has not yet made an impact on the retail market but is expected to do so once the homecare market opens. “This product will take off. It will be sold on the mass market in private label and branded versions,” Mr. Girard stated. He added that there are no big players offering a similar product yet, but he expects this to change. “When it does,” he said, ”the level of competition and the playing field will change completely.”

Currently the dominant player in the disposable bathing wipe market is Sage Products, a producer that is integrated as both a roll goods producer and converter. The company reportedly holds approximately 70% of the $70 million market. “Our strategy has been to create alliances with converters and associate Texel and other names with the product,” explained Mr. Girard. “We are underway with an aggressive marketing push. At the end of the day, marketing will win the war.”

Mr. Girard stressed that Bathfelt is more economical than a washcloth, lowering the cost of laundry services and saving caregivers’ time as patients can be washed more quickly. “However, the union may look at this as a disadvantage,” he pointed out. “We are not facing it now in the U.S, but we are facing this type of mentality in Canada. A product may make sense but external factors may play a role in its ultimate success. Some people will never switch to it because of such issues. Economy and safety may be positives, but they aren’t the only factors, no matter how much sense a product makes,” he said.

Making The Switch
Not surprisingly, most manufacturers described the trend toward disposable nonwoven medical fabrics—and away from reusable products—as one that has already happened in North America, although companies are enjoying continuing growth in Europe and other parts of the world. “All the discussions we have had with customers would indicate that the trend away from reusable and toward disposable fabrics is growing,” commented Mr. Disley of SAAF, “and more so outside of North America as presently penetration of nonwovens is lower but growing.”

According to Miray Pereira, global business manager for DuPont Medical Packaging, FDA guidelines are helping this trend along. “The single-use trend in medical devices is growing and recent FDA regulations on reprocessors of single-use devices is expected to increase the trend.”

“Europe is continuing to transition from reusables to single-use products,” said Ahlstrom FiberComposites’ Mr. Marold. “We are finding this to be mostly due to the balance of performance and cost of single-use nonwoven products versus linens. As we continue to promote the benefits of an engineered nonwoven fabric, the European clinicians are recognizing the need for improved material performance without a loss of comfort. Of course, the challenge for nonwovens producers is to be able to achieve both of these requirements economically,” he said.

PGI’s Mr. Norman cited more nonwovens displacing traditional fabrics on the garment side. “In the woven gauze area, for example, the growth rate has slowed because they were replaced by nonwovens many years ago. We manage our medical business globally and this is true worldwide. There is definitely more converting demand going to Asia and there continues to be roll goods demand in developed regions,” he offered. Mr. Norman added that PGI is seeing higher penetration levels in Korea and Japan as well as growth in disposable nonwovens in Europe. “The U.S. market has been highly penetrated for a while now,” he suggested.

According to Georgia-Pacific, continued displacement of traditional fabrics is happening along with product differentiation. “In the U.S. the nonwoven washcloth market is pretty well penetrated; however, there are still hospitals that are using traditional washcloths and soap,” stated G-P’s Mr. Farren. “We are seeing continued growth even in penetrated areas because producers are differentiating products by adding new features and working to lower costs. In the U.S., we are seeing both growth from displacing traditional materials as well as growth from product differentiation. Wipers are also a well-penetrated area, but there are still institutions and hospitals that are behind the times. This means that there are good opportunities for continued market growth as more government regulations are passed and consumers’ expectations grow,” he said.

“There is a continued trend away from reusable products and this is a viable market segment for nonwovens,” Mr. Farren continued. ”The healthcare industry is looking for disposable products because they are more hygienic. By controlling bacteria, they can reduce costs ultimately. Individual application means less risk of cross contamination, which is a concern in this industry.

“In North America, we have already seen a shift to nonwovens from traditional textiles,” concurred BBA’s Ms. McVey, “but we are seeing a change in thought from reusables to nonwovens in Europe. In some areas this shift is slow, but it is happening.”

From the perspective of Triad’s Mr. Pontililo, nonwovens have not yet scratched the surface in terms of their displacement of other fabrics. “There are still many areas where nonwovens can replace other materials. This is true in patient care, but it is also true in the medical cleaning market. For instance, a treated nonwoven can replace spray bottles in industrial and institutional cleaning applications,” he said. Another potential area for growth is nonwoven cleanwipes, which could be used to sterilize. “There is definitely an opportunity for nonwovens in cleaning applications such as products treated with disinfectant surface cleaners,” he said.

Unlike some industries—such as baby diapers or filtration—where the consumer drives technological innovation, here the onus is on converters and manufacturers to offer a better, cheaper product. “Facilities generally rely on companies to supply them with cleaning systems, which traditionally have centered on alcohol and bleach,” offered Mr. Pontililo. These facilities look to the industry for cost-savings and efficacy. “They look to us to be innovators. We get cleaning down to a science by doing a good job and cutting costs. If you can substantiate that claim, you will be the vendor.”

Sizing Up The Market
When it comes to sales—despite concerns over price pressure and competition—the medical market continues to experience slow but steady growth at about 2.6-3% per year in North America, according to INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC. INDA forecasts North American sales to end users (hospitals, clinics, etc.) at $1.4 billion in 2004. This figure includes disposable surgical apparel, drapes, caps, masks, shoe covers, other related apparel, bandages, sponges and wipes. These disposable medical markets will consume approximately 1.9 billion square meters of nonwoven materials with a value close to $320 million, INDA reports. These North American consumption figures include imports of converted products but do not include medical exports of disposable products.

That said, the medical market is predominantly mature with high penetration levels. Surgical drapes made of nonwovens have about a 90-95% marketshare in the U.S. medical market and somewhat lower in Canada, according to INDA. Nonwoven surgical gowns represent about 80-85% of the total and are engaged in a tough battle from the reusable gown industry.

“While the number of surgical procedures is rising about 5-7% per year, the growth is not reflected in the volume of disposable surgical gowns and drapes, which have been rising 2-3% per year,” commented Ian Butler, director of market research and statistics at INDA. “The reason for the disparity is that many surgical procedures are not as invasive and a growing number of procedures are performed outside the traditional hospital surgical room,” he said.

Like many issues in the nonwovens industry, just which medical product segments are experiencing growth is a matter of perspective. According to Ahlstrom FiberComposites’ Mr. Marold, the company has experienced growth in most of its segments, although drape and gown applications are growing much more quickly than sterilization wrap. “There was a huge surge in facemask demand during the SARS crisis but that has since subsided and sales of these products are more in line with conventional growth rates. We are finding growth of drape and gown applications in Europe to be much greater than those in North America where these applications are already predominantly nonwoven.”

From PCC’s perspective, the bed pad sector is plagued with competition from lower-priced products out of China. “Lower end finished goods are being sold in the U.S. as one-time use bed pads,” said the company’s Mr. Dusaj. “The quality and cost of manufacturing these products is lower. We compete against this by targeting customers who are specifically interested in reusable products because of their environmental and long-term cost advantages. There is a mentality out there that reusable is better, but we do still need to reiterate this to new customers and in our advertising so that people understand the advantages of reusable—as opposed to use-and-throw-away—products. The U.S. lags Europe when it comes to environmental awareness.” Mr. Dusaj added that tough competition in the marketplace is exacerbated by the fact that companies are being forced to pay higher raw material costs that are not easy to pass on to customers.

Also reporting negative trends in the bed and soaker pad area is Texel, which is phasing out its efforts in this segment as part of a strategy to concentrate on value-added, niche areas. “We have to do this as a small company,” explained Mr. Girard. He described the market as mature with price wars that have moved the business to China. According to Texel, roll goods as well as finished products are being manufactured in China. Mr. Girard referred to soaker pads as a multimillion-dollar business that now has products selling for 50% of the price from two years ago.

“We saw this coming,” he added. “There are no longer requests for quality. Specifications aren’t tight anymore. It’s now purely a commodity market where contracts are won on the Internet. The lowest price wins. Period. We used to say that the products from China were coming. Well, now they have arrived and they are just copies of what we have here. It’s not rocket science. They can sell the finished product for half the price of the needlepunch in it. We are fighting like crazy just to stay in this market one more year,” he said.

Texel has not yet seen significant competition from China in the area of wound care, according to Mr. Girard. “Here roll goods need to be very clean. The buzz now is that you can add coatings with antibacterial agents and other additives. It used to just be one felt that was used. Now there is segmentation; we see different coatings being used and different felts for wound care,” he said.

Future Challenges
In addition to growth, industry experts foresee several sizable obstacles ahead for the medical market. One such challenge, according to G-P’s Mr. Farren, is dispersability in washcloths and other products. “Healthcare workers like disposable products because they are hygienic, but they need to be disposed of. Here’s where dispersability is an obstacle. At G-P, we are working on it and have a patent on this type of dispersable product,” he said.

Mr. Farren described dispersability as an issue of technology, but one that won’t require a new nonwovens technology. “There are a lot of ways to come at dispersability and there are certain price and cost factors associated with it. The question is whether people will pay more for this kind of convenience and improved hygiene.” He added that G-P is working out cost issues and has found ways dispersability can be created. Looking forward, Mr. Farren believes the companies that can achieve dispersability will have a major opportunity for growth.

According to Mr. Farren, currently there are smaller sized wipers being used in hospitals and nursing homes that are making it through the pipes after being flushed. Such wipers are flushable, but are not necessarily dispersible and are not the easiest size for healthcare providers to work with. The key, he said, is to create dispersability in large-sized wipers. “Size and dispersability will be the winning combination. The market demands ease of use and disposal. Disposing of the product should not be a problem.”

Mr. Marold of Ahlstrom pointed to comfort as a future challenge for nonwovens in medical applications. “The medical consumer is becoming more aware of the risks they are exposed to in their daily activities,” he explained. “At the same time, there is a high desire to be comfortable when performing their activities in order to maintain their stamina and concentration on the task at hand—healing. As such, Ahlstrom has invested in the ability to produce a variety of nonwovens and then engineer products that promote protection yet are comfortable for extended surgeries. These products have been successfully introduced in North America, and we are starting to see some very keen interest in Europe and Asia,” stated Mr. Marold.

For Triad, foreign competition represents a significant obstacle for medical nonwovens. “Foreign markets are affecting our business. We try to keep a strong eye on foreign competition because it is a prime concern as we develop new products,” said Mr. Pontililo. “Competition is coming from the Pacific-Rim, specifically there are a lot of Korean products out there. There was a time when roll goods were coming out of this area, now we are seeing converted goods as well,” he said. “In the medical market, quality is still an issue, so domestic converters have an advantage there. But in the household area, the quality issue does not have as significant an impact.”

Streamlining the value chain is the key challenge that lies ahead, according to BBA’s Ms. McVey. “ In the medical nonwovens arena, North America is the strongest market and there are a lot of producers here. Most competition comes from other North American roll goods producers. What we are seeing is more products being shipped overseas and treated, converted or packaged and then shipped back. The key question today is ‘how can we streamline this value chain?’ The needs of U.S. customers are different than those of European or even Asian customers. Moving forward, the challenge we face is whether we can manage this globally or will it remain regional? Five years from now, I predict that we will be looking at a very different landscape,” she said.

“The push to keep costs down will continue and to respond to this pressure, producers will need to form stronger partnerships and allegiances to get this done,” Ms. McVey continued. “It’s not an every man for himself philosophy anymore. How can we team up to open new markets and keep costs down? We see resin and roll goods producers partnering, now we need to get the medical end product manufacturer involved to generate the best solutions. This does not happen enough. We still have a supplier/customer mentality, but we’ll see more partnerships moving ahead.”

For the future, hospital-acquired infection is expected to be another area of substantial concern for employees, patients and visitors. Greater awareness of protection for both patients and healthcare providers and the recognition of the cost of cross-infection within healthcare establishments is driving the industry to develop higher quality fabrics to address these issues. “The argument about the direct cost of laundering versus disposables becomes minor against the cost of cross-infection,” opined SAAF’s Mr. Disley.

“While we are not certain that the SARS effect has passed, it certainly has not reached the concern levels of 2002,” said Ahlstrom’s Mr. Marold. “However, today there is an even stronger awareness of the risks of ‘superbugs’ and the need to protect caregivers from these. Most recently, the avian flu is afflicting Europe, North America and Asia, creating a concern over clinician protection. Hopefully, through the use of single-use nonwoven fabrics, these types of viruses won’t spread at the same level as SARS did.”

Times are tough for suppliers to the hygiene market. Pricing pressures, skyrocketing raw material prices and the inability to pass off these costs to consumers have created a grave situation for the manufacturers of film, tape, adhesives, fluff pulp, superabsorbents and other materials that comprise baby diapers, feminine hygiene items and other disposable hygiene products.

Despite these dire straits, manufacturers continue to be challenged with making more sophisticated and advanced products to feed consumers’ craving for more advanced diaper designs. From more stretchable waistbands to leg cuffs to thinner absorbent cores to more textile-like backsheets, improvements to diapers, in particular, have been constant in recent years. These new bells and whistles, however, have not garnered higher price points and the cost of a typical diaper has not risen in recent years.

So who then is paying for these improvements? To some degree, the cost has been offset by technological improvements and leaner manufacturing practices, but these efforts have not recouped all of the costs. Component manufacturers across the board are reporting grim conditions with no end in sight. Robert van der Laan, of Mediane International, a manufacturer of films, predicted that 2005 will be the worst year ever for the hygiene market and cited a 25% increase in pulp prices and a near 50% increase in resins as major causes for this situation. These broad increases are attributed to supply shortages caused by strong demand from China.

“The impact on the hygiene market has been enormous,” Mr. van der Laan said. “Every component of the item is being affected—the nonwoven, the tape, the packaging, etc.”

By and large, the hygiene market is dominated by two key players, Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark in North America, as well as, to a lesser degree, SCA Hygiene in Europe. Beyond these branded companies are a number of small and large private label players operating in North America and Europe. Outside of these regions, the hygiene market is much more fragmented with a number of smaller scale companies serving regional and niche markets.

The consolidation of the hygiene market in developed regions has created a situation whereby the large companies are dominant forces. P&G and K-C are able to control the market by making product modifications that leave the smaller companies scrambling to catch up. Because of this, component suppliers are at these two companies’ mercy and they spend a lot of time forecasting what the hygiene manufacturers will want or need in the future.

This situation led Eastman Chemical Company, a supplier of resins to hygiene component suppliers, to create a “Toolbox” concept that looks at its products from the standpoint of component suppliers across the supply chain. “We need to make sure that the diaper companies understand our products, and what they can do for them,” explained Ruud van der Eerden, global corporate accounts manager. “The diaper manufacturers are pulling the market in a certain direction, and we need to understand what role raw materials are playing. In short, we are putting a lot of time and energy into what is causing certain developments in the evolution of the industry.”

Chasing Costs
Whether or not diaper manufacturers will reward innovation from their suppliers seems to be the great mystery of this market. While companies like P&G or K-C claim to reward innovation over cost, most suppliers are not actually seeing this happen. In fact, most suppliers feel that there is not a single aspect of the hygiene market that doesn’t focus on cost. Because of the disposable nature of these items, their manufacturers want to keep costs low.

“The market is driven by price and cost savings and smaller and medium sized companies are having trouble achieving the same pricing levels as larger suppliers,” explained Manfred Walker, sales manager of Huhtamaki Forcheim, a Germany-based films manufacturer. Among the developments Huhtamaki is working on are more cloth-like films as well as biodegradable technology.

One bright side in hygiene has been the private label market, which has been growing its marketshare, particularly in Europe, in recent years. These products have been able to gain popularity by offering not only cost savings but also innovative features. Industry estimates put the share of private label diapers at about 20% and with large chains like Wal-Mart in the U.S. or Aldi and Carrefours in Europe putting more gusto into their private label brands, this trend is expected to continue.

Unfortunately, it is the emergence of such retail chains that has created much of the hygiene market’s current predicament. These retailers dictate prices and make it nearly impossible for their suppliers to raise the costs of their goods. Not having shelf space in these mass retailers would be the kiss of death for a diaper brand, so companies will more or less do what the retailer wants.

In its effort to keep costs down, the diaper maker will dictate prices to its suppliers. The diaper maker has the power to do this because in such a consolidated market, suppliers don’t have many partners with whom to do business. Plus, winning a contract with a huge hygiene company like P&G or K-C provides automatic giant volumes for the supplier.

Turning to the tapes side of the business, Germany’s Koester has adopted the strategy of offering a great variety of products to its customers. The company is about to launch a line of products that range from economical items for less sophisticated diapers to highly innovative closures to premium products. “The market is really driven by marketing efforts,” said sales manager Andrea Konrad. “These companies are constantly having to come up with new ideas and concepts to show their customers, but at the same time they have to be constantly aware of their production levels.

Stretched To The Limit
One area where diaper manufacturers continue to focus resources is the overall fit of their product and a major way they are doing this is through stretch. The incorporation of more stretchable materials—in the leg cuffs, at the waist band or even through the overall chassis of the diaper—has been ongoing and component suppliers have been eagerly coming up with their own solutions to adding stretch.

The challenge here is adding stretch to the diaper in both the machine and cross directions. While the use of spandex fibers has contributed to improved stretch in leg cuffs and waist bands, now manufacturers are examining ways to add stretch into the entire diaper, particularly in the topsheet or backsheet, to not only make the diaper more comfortable but also to better control leakage. While there have been some developments in stretchable spunbond nonwovens, the costs of these materials have been prohibitive to date. Still, there are a number of other options out there for diaper manufacturers looking to add stretch.

Conwed Plastics, for example, has used its experience in providing netting solutions to industrial markets to develop Rebound, a stretchable netting that is ideal for baby diapers and pull-on style training pants. Among this product’s attributes are its breathability and its ability to stretch in all directions. “It can replace single-strand spandex fibers, which break and impact the appearance of the diaper,” said Keith Misukanis, strategic business manager. “Appealing to the aesthetics of the diaper is very important.”

Also incorporating stretch are film producers who are hoping these efforts will increase the amount of film used in each diaper. “Everyone is still looking at fit and stretch,” said Mediane’s Mr. van der Laan. “We see a lot of different angles from small diaper producers to large brands.”

All of this interest in stretch could eventually expand the use of pull-on style diapers. Similar to training pants, pull-on style diapers are already popular in Asian markets and already K-C is offering a product that can be pulled on or side fastened, Huggies Convertibles. As this type of product gains popularity, expect to see fewer traditional training pant products and more hybrid items that can serve the purpose of both diaper and pant, industry observers predict.

As increased stretchability continues to change the look, feel and fit of diapers, Invista, perhaps the most well-known supplier of elastics to the hygiene industry, is saying the feature has become banal in the industry. “Now stretch is taken for granted,” said Robert Van de Kerkhof, vice president of stretchable performance fibers for Invista, the manufacturer of Lycra spandex and the former DuPont Textiles & Interiors. “As a consequence, it’s not necessarily considered a premium feature anymore.”

Meanwhile, improvements in Lycra technology have lowered the amount of the material used per diaper unit. Not only is Lycra stronger than it was three years ago, it is also more easily processable and more compatible with diaper production lines. “We have to constantly reduce our customers’ costs to allow them to be competitive,” Mr. Van de Kerkhof explained. “If they are not competitive, then we can’t be competitive.”

While Mr. Van de Kerkhof is witnessing increased competition from stretchable materials such as nonwovens, films and netting, he stated that the refractive qualities of Lycra cannot be matched, particularly at the same price level. Furthermore, diapers made with stretchable films are less breathable than those made with elastic strands and extra production steps makes them more expensive to use.

Still, cognizant that these competing technologies will only improve in the near term, Invista has been developing a stretchable nonwoven material, which it expects to launch this spring at INDEX in Geneva, Switzerland.

Another hygiene component company diversifying into nonwovens production is Tredegar Films. Three years ago, the company began producing nonwovens based on its three-dimensional film technology in Italy through an agreement with Switzerland-based Burkhardt, and this fall it announced a similar agreement with Web Converting in the U.S.

When used as a topsheet, Tredegar’s ComfortQuilt product is able to reduce the amount of superabsorbent polymer in the diaper by 3-4%, according to Jim Cree, director of business innovation. While this reduction may seem negligible, when multiplied over large diaper production run it can reap significant savings. And, with SAP production facing a shortage, any reduction is attractive. Tredegar is also making AquiSoft nonwovens for acquisition and distribution layers.

Both products use a 3-D technology that produces macroscopic, cone-shaped apertures that direct fluid away from the skin, reducing rewet and permitting faster strike-through without compromising softness. “We have diversified by manipulating our knowledge of three-dimensional films and applying them to nonwovens,” Mr. Cree added. “We have been approaching the hygiene market from the standpoint of taking an idea and then validating it with the end user.”

And, while Tredegar believes that the diaper market will reward innovation, Mr. Cree does recognize the value of cost consciousness. “It’s important to look into new areas of innovation,” he said. “It can be difficult to pass on costly improvements to customers, but when it works, the benefits are great.”

Other recent innovations from Tredegar Film Products Corporation include StretchTab laminate, a combination of elastics, nonwoven and hook-on-one roll for closure systems, and ForceField and UltraMask surface protection specialty films.

Dealing With Crisis
Beyond stretch one of the most major issues facing the diaper market today is the shortage of superabsorbent polymers, the agent that has allowed diapers to become increasingly thin. Caused by a shortage of acrylic acid, which can be attributed to increased demand from China as well as an overall failure among manufacturers to bring more capacity onstream, this shortage has created an overall feeling of pessimism on the market. It has reportedly even led to lower production yields and could eventually drive prices up in the diaper market.

True to form, however, diaper component suppliers are trying to ease this situation by developing technology to lessen the amount of SAP needed per unit. As already mentioned, Tredegar’s Comfortquilt product can reduce SAP use by 3-4%, and, while no testing has validated this claim, Aquisoft can reportedly do the same in adult diapers, a growing market for hygiene.

Likewise, superabsorbent producer Lysac Technologies has introduced Lysorb for feminine hygiene items and Actofil for baby diapers. Both products enhance the diffusion of superabsorbents in hygiene items to reduce the amount of polyacrylates needed. “People need the superabsorbents in their production.” said Vladimiro Nettel, business development executive for Lysac Technologies. “This is a great alternative during the SAP crisis.”

While industry experts don’t expect the SAP shortage to go on forever—like the fluff pulp shortage of the 1980s, all things in hygiene are cyclical—they do recognize the importance of giving customers a variety of options. “You can’t be too dependent on just one raw material supplier,” Mr. Nettel said. “To achieve good business, you should have two to four suppliers.”

Also commenting on the acrylic acid shortage and its impact on the hygiene market was David Hill, business manager of Technical Absorbents, a U.K.-based manufacturer of superabsorbent fibers primarily for food packaging and feminine hygiene applications. A smaller producer, this company has been hit hard by this crisis, forcing it to cut back on its capacity. Superabsorbent fibers are more expensive but more stable than powders, which has hindered their use in many hygiene applications. “If a product can handle superabsorbent powder, they will use it. Fibers are a much more niche area, which is why we have gotten hit so hard by this crisis.”

Like his colleagues, Mr. Hill described this crunch as temporary and said more capacity should come onstream next year to remedy the market.

China, Friend or Foe?
The rapid development of China’s disposables market has by and large been blamed for current problems in the hygiene market. Because China is not a self-sustaining economy, it is gobbling up resources from Europe and North America, driving up raw material prices and tightening supply chains.

While component suppliers are complaining of this situation, this has not stopped them from targeting China, either as an area ripe for market growth or a haven of lower manufacturing costs. Tredegar Films, for example, in June acquired Shanghai Yaheng Perforated Film Material Co., Ltd., a manufacturer of apertured nonwovens used primarily in personal care markets. At the time of the acquisition, company executives said it signified Tredegar’s commitment to profitable growth in China and other emerging markets. The deal created Tredegar’s third manufacturing site in China; the company has another plant in Shanghai and one in Guangzhou.

For its part Invista is set to open a facility in Singapore in May to target Chinese manufacturers, many of which are currently using natural rubber instead of Lycra in hygiene products.

In fact, for a company to participate in the Asian market, it is nearly imperative that it has an operating base there. The high volumes of this market make transport to the East cost prohibitive. Therefore, down the road industry experts are expecting more hygiene players, both on the supply and manufacturing sides, to establish bases of operations within Asia. As this happens, we will see the Asian hygiene market move away from rudimentary technology to become more sophisticated.

“It only makes sense to ship special, high-value products to China,” said Mediane International’s Mr. van der Laan.

Still some suppliers are reporting more favorable conditions beyond the developed regions in Latin America and China. RadiciSpandex, for example, has been selling its elastic threads beyond the U.S. “We have seen more reception of our products in Latin America, Europe and Asia,” said the company’s Marty Moran. “The U.S. has already focused on addition of elastics in diapers. Elastic threads are now on the backburner.”

These developing markets present a wider customer base than the U.S. and Europe, where market consolidation has narrowed the playing field in recent years. While there are only a handful of companies making hygiene products in the U.S., Turkey, a much smaller market, has between 25 and 30 hygiene companies, according to Huhtamaki’s Mr. Walker. A market with this many players offers component suppliers many more opportunities to sell innovative new products.

The Next Step
Executives interviewed by Nonwovens Industry overwhelmingly pointed to cost pressures as the key problem facing the diaper market. During the past decade, the diaper market has seen a tremendous amount of innovation that has not been rewarded with price increases. In fact, the average price of a diaper has dropped from 22 cents in 1990 to about 15 cents today. As raw material prices continue to climb, however, industry experts are predicting that this could change in the near term.

“The cost per unit of a diaper is going up, but the overall price of diapers is not,” said Tredegar’s Mr. Cree. “This will have to change.”

As component suppliers hope that diaper manufacturers, their customers, follow through with their promise to reward innovation, they will continue to streamline their practices to be able to provide the best prices possible to their customers.

“In the future, innovation will depend on capacity within the nonwovens industry. If capacity starts crunching up, prices will increase,” said Conwed’s Mr. Misukanis. “Diaper companies will feel it."

How To Use This International Buyers’ Guide:

For the 35th year in a row, our annual Buyers’ Guide lists nearly every supplier and producer of nonwovens around the globe. Readers have access, in one comprehensive issue, to information on suppliers of machinery and equipment, raw materials and roll goods as well as contract service specialists, consulting services and associations. The listings include contact addresses, phone and fax numbers and e-mail and website addresses.

?? SECTION I lists suppliers of Machinery and Equipment for the manufacture of nonwovens; the company listings are complemented by cross references that follow the listings.
?? SECTION II lists suppliers of Raw Materials. A cross reference section detailing the products offered by the companies follows the listings.
?? SECTION III lists producers of nonwoven Roll Goods, along with details on processes used, fiber types, product sizes and trade names. A cross reference section organized by technology is included at the end of the alphabetical list.
?? SECTION IV contains a list of Contract Service providers that deal specifically with the nonwovens industry. Each company’s specialty and plant locations are provided. A cross reference section organized by technology is included at the end of the alphabetical list.
?? SECTION V is a listing of the key Consultants to the nonwovens industry.
?? SECTION VI provides information about worldwide Trade Associations involved with the industry.

All companies are listed in alphabetical order in the section in which we determined they best fit. Some may appear in more than one section because of overlapping capabilities, although most appear only once. Information contained in each section varies according to the requirements of that segment of the industry. See the opposite page for an alphabetical index of corresponding page numbers for all four cross reference sections.

The information in this International Buyers’ Guide was supplied by each company in response to a questionnaire; the nonwovens industry staff compiled the information in its final form. We have attempted to make this directory as complete as possible. We welcome any corrections and additions, which will appear in the 2005 Buyers’ Guide next July. If there are any changes, please contact nonwovens industry, 70 Hilltop Road, Third Floor, Ramsey, NJ 07446 USA; 201-825-2552; Fax: 201-825-0553; E-mail: nonwovens@rodpub.com; Website: www.nonwovens-industry.com.

Cross Reference Index

This time-saving index lists the categories in each of the Buyers’ Guide cross reference sections—Contract Services, Machinery and Equipment, Raw Materials and Roll Goods.
Spooling Equipment
Coating Spray Systems
Core/Coreless Winding Spreaders
Creping/Building Spunbond Lines, Complete
Customer Service Stands
Cutting Static Control Equipment
Die Cutting Stitchbonding Equipment
Distribution Surface Finishing
Dry Wipes Tape Applicators
Dying Tension Controls
Embossing Testing Systems
Folding Thermal Bonding Equipment
Hot Melt Adhesion Trim Removal Collection
Impregnating Turnkey Systems
Laminating Ultrasonic Bonding Equipment
Licensing Used Machinery
Medical Vacuum Waste Collection
Packaging Water Jets/Looms
Printing Web Accessories
Private Label Web Forming Equipment
Protective Apparel Web Guiding Equipment
Research & Development Web Handling Equipment
Sheeting Web Splicing
Shoe Coverings Wet Laid, Complete Lines
Specialty Applications Winders, Rewinders
Spooling Wipes Production Lines
Water Proofing RAW MATERIALS
Wet Wipes Acetate
Windings Adhesives, Hot Melt
Adhesives, Waterborne
MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT Antibacterial Agents
Adhesive Bonding Equipment Antifoam Agents
Air Control Devices Antimicrobials
Air Through Bonding Equipment Antistatic
Airlaid Lines, Complete Binders/Dispersions/Emulsions
Aprons Coatings/Lubricants
Bale Presses Curing Agents
Balers, Shredders Dyestuffs/Pigments
Blending/Mixing Systems Fasteners-Hook & Loop
Calendering Systems Fasteners-Tape
Cards Fibers/Staple-Acrylic
Chemical Bonding Equipment Fibers/Staple-Antistatic
Chucks/Cores Fibers/Staple-Bicomponent
Coating Equipment Fibers/Staple-Binder
Compactors Fibers/Staple-Carbon
Computer Control Systems Fibers/Staple-Cotton
Conveyor Belts/Fabrics Fibers/Staple-Flame Retardants
Crepers Fibers/Staple-Flax/Jute/Hemp
Crosslappers Fibers/Staple-Glass
Cutters, Knives Fibers/Staple-Nylon
Cutting Systems Fibers/Staple-Polyester
Data Measuring Systems Fibers/Staple-Polyethylene
Diaper Lines, Complete—Adult Fibers/Staple-Polypropylene
Diaper Lines, Complete—Baby Fibers/Staple-PVC
Die Cutters, Rotary Fibers/Staple-Rayon
Disposable Bibs Lines Filaments-Nylon
Doffers Filaments-Polyester
Drive Systems Filaments-Polyethylene
Drum Forming Equipment Filaments-Polypropylene
Dryers/Cylinders Films-Apertured
Dryers/Ovens Films-Coextruded
Drylaid Lines, Complete Films-Embossed
Dust Pollution Equipment Finishing Agents
Dyeing Equipment Flame Retardants
Embossing Equipment Fluff Pulp
Extrusion Equipment Fluorochemicals
Face Mask Lines Foam
Feeders Laminates
Feminine Hygiene Lines, Complete Odor Control Agents
Fiber Handling Equipment Oil/Stain Repellents
Filtration Systems Release Papers
Flocking Equipment Resins, Acrylics
Foaming Equipment Resins Emulsions
Folding Equipment Resins, Polyester
Food Pad Mfg. Lines Resins, Polypropylene
Garnetts Resins, Synthetics
Hot Melt Systems Rubbers/Elastics-Tape/Thread
Hydroentangling (Spunlace) Systems SAPs
Impregnating Systems Scrim/Netting
Inspection Systems Softeners
Laminating Systems Spandex-Tape/Thread
Measuring Equipment Surfactants/Wetting Agents
Melt Blown Lines, Complete Thickeners
Mixers-Foam Water Repellents
Needle Inserters/Removers Wetness Indicators
Needle Looms
Needles-Felting ROLL GOODS
Openers Airlaid
Packaging Systems Air Through Bonded
Printing Systems Carded
Pulp Fluffing Machinery Chemical Bonded
Pulp Preparation Composites
Recycling Systems Melt Blown
Roll Handling Systems Needlepunched
Roll Packaging Powder Bonded
Rolls-Embossing/Treating Spunbonded
SAP Applicators Spunlaced
Sealers Stitchbonded
Shafts Thermal Bonded
Shredders Ultrasonic Bonded
Slitters Wetlaid

Photo courtesy of Willi Eichbauer.
No discussion of growth in the nonwovens industry may exclude the increasing trend toward globalization. With a more equitable labor pool and developing customer base, the Asian nonwovens market, notably China, has led the way for international players.

A study of the region, conducted by INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, further shows that although Japan has historically been a significant economic power in the region, the country has experienced an economic slump for more than a decade, with its economy in a period of deflation for several years. The Japanese nonwovens industry has had minor growth during the past several years due to a peak in development, prompting the move of some Japanese domestic nonwovens production to lower-cost neighboring nations, most notably China.

With a population of more than 1.2 billion, potential for domestic demand has driven much of China抯 own nonwovens expansion. Unfortunately, Chinese nonwovens producers and converters have faced challenges sating the increasingly savvy domestic consumers who are demanding more sophisticated products as their disposable income increases.

Segment Growth

The Chinese hygiene sector, which accounted for about 10% of domestic nonwovens production in 2002, has one of the highest projected five-year annual growth rates in the industry and is attracting foreign investors which are eager to cash in on this potential.

In a recent industry address, Wang Yanxi, chairman of CNTA, China Nonwovens Technical Association, asserted that spunbonding is the most rapidly developing segment in China抯 nonwovens industry.

In 2002, said Mr. Yanxi, there were 76 spunbonding lines in the country, of which 65 were producing polypropylene-based nonwovens and 10 producing polyester. The remaining line produced a composite spunmelt nonwoven. Nearly half of these lines were built by Chinese companies.

Also highlighting the sharp increase in Chinese spunbond production is Guo Hexin, honorary chairman of the Spunbond Division of CNITA, China Nonwovens & Industrial Textiles Association, who reported a 56% rise in technology last year. Chinese spunbond capacity is now estimated at 267,396 tons.

These fabrics are used primarily in medical and hygiene, construction, packaging, furniture, filtration and agriculture applications. Chinese customers consume only 30% of these goods, Mr. Hexin stated.

Admittedly, Chinese nonwovens producers find their product not up to par with Western standards of quality and cite the gap in domestic consumption as a motivator for Chinese nonwovens producers to increase the quality of their products and tap the tremendous market within their own borders.

This lag in manufacturing capability has influenced foreign investors to target Chinese consumers with higher-quality nonwovens usually associated with Western standards.

Sunrise Business
In sync with the country抯 geographic development, Chinese nonwovens experts expect Eastern coastal regions including Liaoning, Shangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guandong provinces to be the center for industry growth in the near future.

揜egionally, (Chinese) coastal areas grow the most quickly and inner cities are also developing at a slower pace,? said Wang Xuanrong, vice president of Kingsafe Group, a Chinese manufacturer of nonwoven fabrics.

揟he western provinces have only a few nonwovens manufacturers.?

The key to true economic development in China is to bridge the gap between the highly developed eastern coastal region and the largely agricultural western provinces.

Tapping this region, said those in the industry, is the key to maximizing access to a population of nearly 1.3 billion.

Attributing the country抯 explosion of roll goods manufacturers to inexpensive raw materials, producers say they once called that segment the 搈oney printer? because of its potential for high profits.

From 1995 to 1998, some report, growth of nearly 300% could be expected on roll goods sales, especially once domestic machine manufacturers developed converting machines that were affordable and reliable.

As demand for nonwovens goods increased within the country, said Dai Yajun, director of Shanghai Jinguang Nonwovens Co., Ltd, an increased willingness by customers to pay for those goods had those in the industry dubbing it the 搒unrise business.? Shanghai Jinguang Nonwovens is focused on spunbond nonwovens, hygiene items and home furnishing products.

A recent rise in raw materials costs has those same producers predicting a profit 搒queeze.? In 2002, said Mr. Yajun, the price of a ton of polypropylene rose more than 30%, while the price for a ton of polyethylene rose nearly 15%. 揑f this trend continues, the cost advantages we used to have would be greatly diminished,? he added.

Like any country with accelerated development potential, Chinese consumers are quickly becoming more educated and demanding newer, more sophisticated products. This fact was driven home in China during its recent battle with SARS. The epidemic increased the country抯 need for nonwoven disposable products such as face masks, protective clothing and wet tissues and resulted in a shortage of lightweight, nonwoven materials. It is reported that at the end of April and in early May 2003, several of China抯 converters started to urgently import some nonwoven roll goods from the U.S., Japan and Korea. This actually increased Chinese government抯 and the public抯 awareness of nonwovens products, prompting experts to predict a rapid increase in the production of medical and hygiene products using nonwovens.

Foreign Investment
As wages and global awareness increase, Chinese consumers will demand products from outside the nation抯 borders. Savvy foreign investors with an understanding of this potential are scrambling to gain a foothold there, betting that Chinese buying power will increase.

Triggered by its entry into the World Trade Organization, China has recently become a world leader in textiles production, and the country has persistently increased its exports. Foreign nonwovens companies wishing to continue global market leadership are transferring operations to new manufacturing facilities in partnerships with established Chinese companies.

Unlike other industries where such a shift has reaped significant labor savings, the nonwovens industry is not labor intensive and therefore cannot benefit from China抯 labor pool. Moving to China, said some expatriate businessmen, is instead a method of pursuing a new customer base for nonwovens makers.

揑f customers move their converting operations (to China) for the obvious reasons of cheaper production costs, it only makes sense to pass on added value to them and operate there, as opposed to shipping the goods from the U.S.,? said Mark Snider, technical marketing manager for fiber systems, Nordson Company. Nordson recently sold two spunmelt lines to Chinese companies, the company抯 fourth and fifth line sales in China.

In response to a shift of some of its customers to Shanghai, roll goods producer PGI Nonwovens has announced plans to build a new plant there to serve the medical and hygiene markets.

The site will house a state-of-the-art Reifenhauser spunmelt line and will double the Charleston, SC-based company抯 presence in China. PGI first came to China in 1999, following a large movement of customers in need of quality product. PGI has an 80% interest in the operation which is 100% run by Asian nationals.

Nationalistic Success
Currently, there are two ways to categorize Chinese nonwovens companies 梥ize and strategy. There are smaller companies that utilize the lowest possible production costs to offer the cheapest possible products to gain the fastest possible market share. Paulmann Yu, managing director of Gordian Nonwovens Technology Co., and director of the Hong Kong Nonwovens Association, said the larger companies are pursuing technology advancement to offer higher quality products with the aim of gaining a significant marketshare.

Gordian Nonwovens, located in Shiyan, Shenzen, Guandong Province, manufactures both roll goods and end-use products. Nearly 90% of the company抯 products are exported to North America and Europe.

While companies such as Gordian enjoy success in exports, some large Chinese companies are successful domestically. Riding the boom in domestic hygiene demand, Fujian Hengan Holding Co., Ltd., has become a nonwovens success story by targeting Chinese consumers.

According to reports, the company has become the largest sanitary napkins manufacturer, the second largest disposable diapers manufacturer, the main adult diaper manufacturer within its own borders.

With the brand names including 揂nerle? sanitary napkins and baby diapers, 揈lderjoy? adult diapers and 揗issMay? tend-and-protect products, the company has total assets of $240 million, operates a nationwide sales and distribution network and owns 23 Chinese subsidiaries in 14 provinces.

The Future
While those in the Chinese nonwovens industry remain optimistic that growth will continue, many cite rising raw material costs, a lag in infrastructure development, and foreign competition that comes with WTO privileg es as possible hindrances to progress. 揥e are confident in the foreseeable future,? said Gordian抯 Mr. Yu. 揅hina抯 nonwovens industry should continue to grow fast, however, l, if economic overheating occurs the industry could see damage.?

Mr. Yu also points out that as foreign companies such as DuPont, BBA and PGI have greater access to China through WTO, their advantages in capital and technology give them an edge their Chinese counterparts.

To become true global players, the Chinese believe, certain changes must occur within the industry. Chinese businessmen laud their government抯 efforts to open the economy and bridge the development gap between eastern and western regions in China, but they said there is some fine tuning to be done.

To be truly successful, said Mr. Yu, resources should be consolidated by joining the smaller companies with the large ones.

The strategy would unite the industry and ensure that all of the players are on the same page. And, he could not stress enough the importance of pouring resources into research and development.

Without that, he said, China cannot offer the quality of its Western competitors.

Editor抯 note: For more information, a complete version of this article is available at http://www.nonwovens-industry.com/articles/2004/05/index.htm.

The adult incontinence market has had its share of ups and downs over the years. While no one can question its potential for growth梩hanks to a growing aging population and increased awareness of male and female incontinence issues梜ey challenges, including consumer education, a threat of surgical and medicinal antidotes to incontinence and pricing pressures, have made doing business in this segment challenging.

In the past several years, adult incontinence sales around the world have grown steadily. According to market tracking agency Euromonitor, sales of just under $1.6 billion in 1997 grew to $2.1 billion in 2002. This growth is expected to continue with sales reaching $2.7 billion in 2007. A look at world regions shows a similar picture with all of the major world areas excluding Latin America due to its recent financial crises, reporting steady growth in past years, which is expected to continue to 2007.

By and large, the adult incontinence market can be subclassified into two segments梤etail and institutional. According to industry observers, the size of these two segments is fairly similar; however, marked differences exist between them. The retail side of the business is largely driven by comfort, discretion and ease of use and consumers show fierce brand loyalty. Simply said, once a person finds an adult incontinence product that works, he is apt to use that product regardless of price. Meanwhile, the institutional market is much more price driven. Purchasing departments want products that not only cost less but also require less application time for their employees. Comfort and discretion, while increasing somewhat in importance thanks to increased family intervention, often take a backseat to pricing concerns.

A Common Problem
According to the National Association for Continence, in 1996 some 13 million Americans were incontinent. Of these, 85% were women whose affliction was often caused by childbirth, dementia or concurrent illnesses. More recently, however, the association found that one in four women above the age of 18 experience episodes of leaking urine involuntarily. One in five adults older than 40 are afflicated with an overactive bladder or recurrent symptoms of urgency. Furthermore, at least half of all nursing home residents are urine incontinent and many of them experience loss of bowel control as well. These sufferers experience emotional as well as physical discomfort, and many isolate themselves for fear of ridicule and lose self esteem.

In addition to far reaching, incontinence is also a diverse problem, with several types of incontinence affecting sufferers. Stress incontinence, for instance, occurs when sphincter or pelvic muscles have been damaged, causing the bladder to leak during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing or any body movement that puts pressure on the body. This problem, more common in women, can occur after multiple childbirths or menopause. Meanwhile, urge incontinence is the urgent need to pass urine and the inability to get to a toilet in time. This occurs when the nerve passages between the bladder and the brain are damaged. Mixed incontinence is common and occurs when symptoms of both stress and urge types of incontinence are present. Overflow incontinence refers to leakage that occurs when the quantity of urine produced exceeds the bladder抯 holding capacity. It is caused by diabetes, pelvic trauma, extensive pelvic surgery, injuries to the spinal cord, shingles, multiple sclerosis or polio.

Industry Response
The many types of incontinence and the increasing number of consumers experiencing these ailments has led to some significant research in the market. Where once adult incontinence innovation tended to mimic advances in the baby diaper and/or feminine hygiene market, now the segment, particularly on the retail side, is being improved to meet consumer needs. One advancement, noted by industry analyst Pricie Hannah at nonwovens consultancy John R. Starr, Inc., is the incorporation of odor-absorbing additives directly into the core to increase the effectiveness of the product in disguising incontinence issues. 揟his is particularly important in pads and liners because their users are fully ambulatory,? Ms. Hannah said. 揗anufacturers are really looking at the product to decide how much innovation is going into it.?

On the retail side, much of the market is controlled by Kimberly-Clark with its Depend and Poise products. K-C抯 marketshare is currently estimated at about 53% in the U.S. and its product sales are growing in sync with overall market growth. Key competitors, however, include Swedish SCA, who has made several investments to its U.S. adult incontinence business in recent years, which has led to explosive growth in its Serenity/Tena brands. For instance, its Serenity Night and Day adult incontinence product, which gives users greater flexibility than many other products, and its Dri Active adult incontinence product, geared toward ambulatory incontinence sufferers, have recorded triple-digit percentage growth in the past year, according to Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, IL.

In addition to K-C and SCA, Unicharm in Japan is also spearheading innovation on the branded front, according to Ms. Hannah. In the private label market, First Quality in North America and Ontex and Hartmann AG in Europe are likewise increasing their research and development efforts in an effort to win large retail contracts.

揙n the retail side of things, the potential for growth and profitability can support research,? Ms. Hannah said. 揟his potential has been leveraged across the different categories of adult incontinence products dependent on the needs of that category.?

For example, odor absorbers have been incorporated into panty liners for occasional sufferers of incontinence; meanwhile, more advanced sufferers, many of whom are not ambulatory, have a need for the pull-up underpants that can be side-fastened or pulled up, depending on the situation. Side fasteners allow caregivers to change patients while they are lying down, and their refastenability eliminates waste as caregivers can readjust the sides and check for soils without ruining the diaper.

World events have broadened the role of protective garments in recent years. Once worn in select hazardous situations, some industrial environments and in the medical operating room, protective garments are heading mainstream as more folks are faced with hazardous situations in their daily lives.

This increased awareness has created a need for new products that respond to a variety of situations. Eager to meet this need, protective apparel manufacturers are coming up with new products regularly. Hoping that a diverse product range will not only add new customers but also save lives, companies are focusing on two core areas—comfort and protection—and are achieving this by incorporating more nonwoven materials into their lines.

While industry statistics show slow tonnage growth in protective apparel in North America, it has emerged as a segment ripe with opportunity for innovation. Valued at approximately $360 million in North America, protective apparel continues to be a smaller part of the nonwovens industry. Also, this segment has been long dominated by roll goods producer DuPont Nonwovens, Wilmington, DE. Currently, about 75% of all nonwoven-based protective apparel products use DuPont’s Tyvek flashspun nonwovens, and personal protection has long been an area of keen interest to DuPont. Last winter, DuPont reported that it had stepped up supply efforts to China and Hong Kong to help healthcare responders ward off the threat of SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and executives have reported that they are prepared to do the same this year if the threat of SARS escalates. The structure of Tyvek reportedly provides a strong barrier against a range of microscopic substances, including fine dust particles and fibers.

“One of our focus areas going forward will be to identify the emerging threat and markets for protective apparel and what we can do to meet the needs of those markets,” said Debbie McNeil, marketing communication for DuPont Personal Protection.

To facilitate this effort, in November 2002, DuPont formed its Personal Protection division which combines most of its protection business across its many technology platforms. DuPont’s other protective offerings include Tychem haz mat garments and Nomex and Kevlar protective fibers.

“The big drivers for this effort were to help end users have one place for all of their needs and allow DuPont to further integrate our safety and protection resources to meet those needs, Ms. McNeil added. “We have a 30-year history in this area and we are committed to continue to provide the trusted, proven solutions our customers want.”

Outside of Tyvek, other nonwovens used in protective applications include spunbond polypropylene and some SMS composite fabrics. Spunlaced nonwovens are also popular in medical protective apparel. These nonwovens, as well as more resistant microporous film products, are giving Tyvek a run for its money. Whether the manufacturing is offering increased cost effectiveness, comfort, durability, barrier resistance or breathability, this trend is creating a protective apparel market that is more diverse than ever before.

“R&D has been and continues to be critical to our participation in the protective apparel market,” said Charlie Roberson, market manager of Precision Fabric Groups, Greensboro, NC. “ The market continues to become more stratified as industrial end users seek the optimal combination of protection, comfort and cost. Without significant R&D resources we would not be able to supply the highly engineered fabrics end users are demanding.”

Not only are products broad in protective apparel, the tasks for which they are intended are also diverse. INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, estimated that there are between 15 and 20 key markets for protective apparel including nuclear, cleanroom, food preparation, paint manufacturing, fire and chemical protection and other industrial situations. Not only do these garments protect the workers from the environment, they sometimes protect the environment from the worker—as is the case in many cleanroom and other pharmaceutical environments. Therefore, many factors must be considered when deciding which product to use.

Driving Compliance
A key goal of protective apparel manufacturers is not to just sell the products but to make sure their customers are wearing them correctly. While safety is a concern of manufacturing companies, their employees often forsake their own safety in the interest of comfort. This is where nonwovens come in. The inherent flexibility and breathability of many types of nonwovens have made them top choices of manufacturers interested in achieving comfort. Furthermore, in recent years technology has improved the barrier resistance of nonwovens materials such as SMS or flashspun to broaden their range in protective apparel.

“We believe that comfort drives compliance when it comes to worker protection,” explained Beth Hohl, marketing manager for Kimberly-Clark’s Safety Division. “If a worker is comfortable, he is more likely to keep the protective apparel or protective equipment on.”

K-C offers SMS and film laminated materials to the protective apparel market under two core brands: Kleenguard for general applications and Hazard-Gard for chemical protection. In recent years, the company’s approach has largely been market driven, as world events have opened up new consumer demands, according to Ms. Hohl. “In North America, our growth has outpaced growth in industrial segments” she said. “The goal is to help employers keep their workers protected from the environment or processes they work near while keeping the worker as comfortable as possible.” Research efforts of Kimberly-Clark have been focused on these two aspects, protection at the highest comfort level possible.

Also driving compliance is the government. Since September 11, the U.S. government has expanded its Domestic Preparedness Act, which provides major U.S. centers with emergency readiness funds. This funding has grown from millions of dollars to billions in the past several years. For Lakeland Industries, Ronkonkoma, NY, concerns over personal safety have increased profits nearly 75% in the last five years. “We have doubled our capacity in protective clothing and our sales have matched these increases,” explained Carl Brown, senior technical product specialist.

A distributor for DuPont, the bulk of Lakeland’s protective business centers around Tyvek, which Mr. Brown, called “the standard” against which all other products are judged. While there are many grades of Tyvek, however, there are situations where Tyvek is not necessarily the right choice. For one thing, Tyvek is a premium product that can sometimes be cost prohibitive; for another there are areas where microporous film or SMS might be better suited to handle a job. “In the end, there are four factors that need to be weighed when making a fabric choice—comfort, barrier, breathability and price,” Mr. Brown added. “When you alter one aspect of this equation, all are affected. Unfortunately, all too often, cost becomes a primary concern.”

Educating Everyone
Old habits can be hard to break. Getting workers to break the habit of unprotection can be difficult. Across the board, from medical personnel to industrial workers, efforts are underway to educate those at risk on the danger of noncompliance. This trend is particularly apparent in Asian countries where knowledge of infectious diseases and biological threats are not as well known as they are in developed areas.

To reverse this situation a team of executives from Kappler Protective Products, Guntersville, AL, recently traveled to Vietnam where they educated local healthcare officials on the importance of stopping the spread of disease. “Education needs to be important because manufacturers have a dutiful responsibility to go out and learn about standards,” said Laura Kappler Roberts, business development manager of Kappler. “Our customers can’t afford to do all of the legwork. It’s our responsibility to do it for them.”

Kappler has taken the same approach to educated emergency medical technicians on the importance of personal protective equipment. EMTs tend to not be as leery of infection as hospital workers even though they are exposed to blood and other fluids in an environment that is less controlled than other medical situations.

Taking similar strides to limit the spread of disease among healthcare workers is Cardinal Healthcare. This fall the company launched its “Respiratory Etiquette Initiative” for caregivers worldwide. Under this program, Cardinal Health is making available posters and wall-mounted dispensers with medical face masks that advise patients to don a mask if they have a cough and a fever. Dozens of hospitals have reportedly hung the posters in waiting rooms, lobbies and emergency rooms. It is also offering educational materials aimed at reinforcing basic infection control practices, such as covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and using personal handwash products such as alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, areas with the most extensive SARS outbreaks saw the virus spread most rapidly among healthcare workers caring for SARS patients and within healthcare fatalities. In Toronto, 77% of patients infected in the initial SARS outbreak contracted the disease in the hospital and more than half of all SARS cases in Toronto were healthcare workers.

Masking Germs
Until recently, most protective apparel—used mainly to ward off infectious disease—was worn in hospitals, more specifically in hospital operating rooms. In the past several years, however, increased awareness over infectious diseases has made the threat of their spread more realistic to average citizens. This in turn has broadened the role of protective medical apparel around the world. Last year, in Asia, for example, sales of nonwoven-based protective face masks hit record highs when everybody started wearing them to protect themselves from (SARS). This practice was particularly apparent on airplanes thanks to worries that the the disease was largely spread in the sky. Another area where disease spread was identified as hospital and other healthcare facilities where workers began wearing highly protective suits to ward off the illness.

Where once medical protective gear was largely limited to the operating room and other areas with high liquid levels, now airborne pathogens recognized as disease carriers, making the wearing of these materials prevalent among all types of healthcare workers from emergency medical technicians to nurses to doctors. While the threat of SARS has subsided, the spread of other infectious illnesses such as pneumonia and influenza is being prevented by increased use of protective apparel among personnel.

Both SARS and the flu are respiratory diseases that can be deadly. The flu is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, sending the flu virus into the air where others can inhale it and contract it. This illness can also be spread through hand-to-hand contact or when a person touches a surface with the virus on it. SARS, which first emerged in Asia last year, is believed to be spread in a similar way but might require closer physical contact.

Higher Learning
Further proof of the technological richness and opportunity for innovation in protective apparel can be seen in the amount of university dollars being dedicated to advancing this market. University research and papers abound on this topic as researchers look for ways of adding barrier resistance to nonwoven fabrics.

At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, efforts have been made to add an absorbent layer to protective garments to increase comfort and add to the strength of microbial finishes. This technique, along with an electrostatic charge, has significantly increased the percentage of germs being killed. “The approach has been a combination of antimicrobial materials with membrane protection and treatment and finishes,” explained UT researcher Larry Wadsworth. “It’s not too extreme or too expensive and we are able to provide multiple levels of protection for a variety of needs.”

Meanwhile, Texas Tech researchers have been looking at the role of multilayer composites to increase comfort while boosting effectiveness in garments. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Army, this project uses needled composite materials, rather than traditional activated carbon, to enhance protection, comfort and increase versatility. “We have significant proof that these three-layer composites can absorb costs despite what fiber is used,” said university researcher Seshadri Ramkumar. “What is particularly good for the army is the ability to use natural fibers in this technology. Polyurethane-based products are suffocating the troops. This greatly improves their comfort and allows them to do their jobs better.”

Research, both on the university and corporate level, will continue to respond to the needs of and threats to the wearers of protective apparel. Certainly, this will broaden the scope of this market into new frontiers. “R&D has been and continues to be critical to our participation in the protective apparel market,” PFG’s Mr. Roberson said. “The market continues to become more stratified as industrial end users seek the optimal combination of protection, comfort and cost. Without significant R&D resources we would not be able to supply the highly engineered fabrics end users are demanding.”

Also driving innovation in adult incontinence is a consumer desire to sleep through the night. Severe incontinence sufferers often have to wake up several times during the course of a night to change their absorbent devices. Even if they can make it through the night, issues related to fit and comfort can contribute to a restless night抯 sleep. These needs led to the creation of such products as the aformentioned Serenity Night & Day, according to Nancy Mueller, executive director of NAFC.

揟here is definitely a trend among companies of looking at whatever it is that consumers are suffering from the most,? Mr. Mueller explained.

Competition桸o Problem
As disposable incontinence products are being improved through smarter fit, increased diversity, improved efficacy and better polymer technology, they are facing some competition from alternate methods of dealing with the problem. Instead of using disposable products that could fail them in times of need, some sufferers are exploring medicinal cures for incontinence, as well as surgical procedures to correct the problem.

Despite advances in these two areas, experts are confident a place for disposable pads and diapers will always exist in the adult care market. 揑 haven抰 seen a drug that fully cures incontinence,? Ms. Mueller said. 揗edicine might reduce the frequency or the number of episodes or it might mitigate the severity of a problem, but it still needs to be paired with an absorbent device.?

Afraid of being caught having an 揳ccident,? long-time sufferers of incontinence are not going to go without protection, even if it抯 a light pad or shield for less severe disorders. Additionally, slight sufferers of incontinence, such as stress or urge incontinence, don抰 want to take a pill daily for a problem that occurs only once in a while.

In terms of surgery, younger sufferers of incontinence are more inclined to correct the problem than older folks. Since the large portion of users fit into the older demographic, this is not a major threat to nonwovens.

Therefore, absorbent products companies would be smart to continue thinking of adult incontinence as a growing market. Where baby diapers and feminine hygiene items have been recording slower year-on-year growth during the past several years, adult continence remains one area where profits can still be generated.

As manufacturers continue to keep in mind the needs of both the sufferers of incontinence and their caregivers, certainly we will continue to see a broader market for adult incontinence products. 揇emographics will really be the key driver for growth in the future,? Ms. Hannah said. 揙n the retail side, the opportunity will lie in the ability to penetrate consumers who are using makeshift solutions to mask their problems, where in assisted living and other institutional settings, a lot will depend on the patients? and their families? ability to exert influence over purchasing decision.?

Unlike many markets for nonwovens, which have reached maturity in recent years, filtration is still viewed by many nonwovens manufacturers as a market with untapped reservoirs of opportunity. Often difficult to categorize as a whole, because of its high number of applications and end use segments, filtration continues to offer plenty of opportunities in terms of both new products and geographical penetration.

Catalysts triggering growth in filtration include an awareness among media suppliers and consumers as to why filtration is important. Government regulations are also creating extended business segments for nonwovens manufacturers.

揘ew opportunities exist for media that create cleaner air and water,? explained Chris Coates, vice president of filtration specialties at Ahlstrom FiberComposites. 揚ollution is a big issue, and media help keep our food, water, pharmaceuticals and air cleaner and healthier. On the other hand, engine filtration has new emission requirements and legislation worldwide, which continues to drive an enormous amount of change in the technical requirements of filters. Otherwise, new global threats, such as disease and terrorism, are raising awareness of filtration needs to the general public.?

Filtration applications are all divided into two main areas梐ir and liquid. However, within these areas lies myriad applications. For instance, in the air or dry segment key areas include heating, ventilation and air conditioning and cabin air filters while on the liquid or wet side of the filtration business, filters for water filtration, swimming pools and petroleum and food processing are key areas of interest. This scope has required manufacturers to specifically tailor each material to the exact needs of the end use application.

揊iltration applications are customer and end use specific,? explained Frank Baker, market manager for BBA FiberWeb Filtration, Old Hickory, TN, which currently offers 15 trademarked filtration media products. 揚erhaps the most important factor is being able to design products that truly add value while delivering the needed performance. This involves an innovative process that takes full advantage of the available fibers, technology and know-how to deliver value, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.?

Nonwovens Grab Share
To provide a quality, cost-effective product, manufacturers focus on several main areas when creating media material. These include flow rate, pressure drop, loading capacity and efficiency. The importance of each of these ratings depends on the segment and the end use in which the media will be applied.

揑n air filtration applications, pressure drop and loading capacity are critical factors,? said Mr. Coates. 揗eanwhile, liquid applications tend to focus on particulate removal, loading capacity and wet strength, while pressure drop is generally a secondary factor.?

Although filtration applications can use a variety of nonwoven web forming and bonding technologies, wetlaid and meltblown materials, as well as various composites, continue to drive significant growth for nonwovens in filtration. 揘onwoven media are mainly designed to replace glass fiber media in filtration that are known to bear health-endangering risks,? explained Ulrich Hornfeck, sales director of Schwarzenbach/Saale, Germany-based Sandler AG. 揂nother important aspect is the easy handling of used filters in incinerators.?

In addition to environmental drivers, demand for higher efficiencies continues to create a need for smaller diameter fibers in filtration. Meltblown, microglass and microsynthetics for wetlaid are common examples for this as well as solvent electrospinning and splittable fibers in wetlaid.

Also witnessing the growth of wetlaid materials in filtration is Crane Nonwovens, Dalton, MA. The company supplies Craneglas, a nonwoven formed by a special wetlaid process from chopped strand glass fibers of uniform length, to the industrial, commercial and consumer markets and Cranemat, a wetlaid, thermal bonded nonwoven with polyethylene, polypropylene or bicomponent fibers for membrane-casting substrates, cartridge support and gas and liquid filter media. Crane has also developed custom versions of its newer Craneglas 500 nonwovens, which are composed of silica fibers.

揊ilters have to perform梠ften for extended periods of time梚n challenging environments where thermal stability and/or chemical resistance are paramount to performance,? explained Matthew Miller, manager of technical marketing and business development for Crane Nonwovens? Technical Materials business. 揊urthermore, using nylons, PVC, PPS and fluoropolymers allow us to offer materials suited to specific environmental situations. For example, PVC is suitable for use in heavily chlorinated fluids.?

Also gaining ground is the use of antimicrobials in nonwovens for filtration, which are used to custom tailor nonwovens for a specific application and diversify manufacturers? product lines. Hollingsworth & Vose, East Walpole, MA, recently launched a carded, polyester, thermally bonded nonwoven engineered to filter swimming pools and spas. The product, with inherent antimicrobial properties, will enhance pools and spas filters by offering added protection.

揟he antimicrobials are not a second coating that can eventually wear off, leaving the filter unprotected,? explained Dino Abelli, market manager for liquid filtration and respiratory/face mask filtration for H&V. 揅arded, thermal bonded nonwovens offer the ability to use a wide variety of fiber types and sizes, making them ideal for this and other liquid filtration applications.?

H&V also offers an NSF-Class 61-(The Public Health and Safety Company) certified line of meltblown polypropylene nonwovens for liquid filtration applications. Granted in early 2002, this NSF standard regulates the potential health effects of drinking water components. 揚oints of use, whole house and process filter manufacturers can be confident in the use of our NSF-certified liquid meltblown for a variety of end uses requiring NSF- or Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved materials,? explained Mr. Abelli. 揂lso benefiting from the certified meltblown are our existing customers and potential customers. Any necessary end-product testing becomes less expensive for them while the testing and qualification process is shortened.?

Although government standards like NSF-Class 61 are just as varied as the scope of filtration applications, they are a crucial part of the filtration industry and cannot be overlooked. These standards serve as chief guidelines in creating media, and filtration media manufacturers are ramping up efforts to educate customers on what specifications are included in filtration certifications.

Decrypting Standards
Stringent filtration standards exist in all areas of filtration and have spurred manufacturers to improve performance of both their media and filters. Through increased education, end users have also become more aware of the importance of indoor air quality in recent years. 揟here is more demand for higher efficiency air filtration media to meet the minimum efficiency rating volume (MERV) ratings 52-1 and 52-2,? explained J.C. Sneyd, director of sales and marketing for Roswell, GA-based Kimberly-Clark Nonwovens. 揈nd users today are far more educated about the benefits of better indoor air quality. The pace of this education is accelerating and will continue to grow.?

While this increased customer awareness is keeping manufacturers occupied in the research and development arena, these standards have made participation in the liquid filtration market riskier than in air filtration. 揥ith an air filter, it can be easily changed if it doesn抰 work properly, but a filter that does not work in a liquid filtration product can have ramifications beyond just the filter cost,? Mr. Sneyd explained. 揗anufacturers are a little more reluctant to enter the liquid filtration market due to fragmentation and lack of industry standards.?

Despite these obstacles, Mr. Sneyd stressed the importance of making media certifications in this area highly publicized to customers.

All of K-C抯 liquid filtration products, for example, are 21-CFR approved梐 standard in the food and beverage segment. This includes the company抯 Fathom liquid bag media, a bicomponent polyolefin nonwoven. Thermal bonded for strength, Fathom media are chemically compatible with most liquid applications, such as water treatment, recirculating coolants, microfiltration prefilters and scientific separations, and does not contain binders. The media also stand out for its engineered gradient density structure that provides improved filtration efficiency in trapping solids.

Crane抯 Mr. Miller also stressed the importance of cracking filtration standards? codes to customers and end users. 揑 would be loathed to suggest we go back to the days of 憄ick any number you want? for a nominal filter rating. We have to continue to communicate with end users, so that they understand what product they are getting without burying them in standards? jargon.?

Filtration standards have also been born out of a need for more flexibility among customers. Manufacturers now offer a variety of certified, environmentally friendly filtration media products to customers, depending on the end use application. H&V, for example, launched a new solvent impregnation line in Hawkinsville, GA in August. The line allows its customers to select the level of cure for engine filtration media. Among these levels are Intermediate B-staged (IBS-15-30% cured), Intermediate Cure Resin (ICR-40-60% cured) and Advanced Cure Resin (ACR-70-90% cured).

揟his technology offers greater flexibility for our customers in meeting stricter environmental compliance measures as well as reducing energy consumption from curing media at their plants,? explained Robert Murphey, vice president of marketing and technology of H&V抯 Engine and Industrial Filtration segment. 揥e have also introduced Nanoweb, produced at our Hatzfeld, Germany location. This technology offers the ability to apply very fine layers of 0.2 micron diameter fibers on support media. These two products address environmental concerns with cleaner, lower polluting resins and finer filtration efficiencies.?

Also impacting H&V抯 engine filtration business are pending regulations regarding diesel particulate emissions and Nitric Oxide (NoX) reductions. These regulations are expected to become effective in the U.S. and in Europe in 2004 and will significantly shape the engine filtration market. 揑ncreased combustion efficiencies are required to reduce the NoX production and the level of particulates in diesel exhaust,? Mr. Murphey said. 揟he result is the need for dramatic increases in fuel filtration efficiencies and increased levels of water separation, required to support the higher injector wear.?

H&V has developed an extensive offering of composite media to meet the needs of engine filtration for the next 10 years. The company抯 composites are being developed to offer increased protection in components such as fuel injectors and gas turbine blades. This will help H&V customers meet new engine emission standards such as common rail diesel fuel filtration.

Filtration桝lways Needed
The current events, regulations and trends that are shaping the filtration industry today will also impact this market抯 future. Of particular interest to nonwovens manufacturers is the heightened awareness of impending future outbreaks of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), as well as threats of nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. Many companies reported sales spikes in the filtration business last winter and spring. 揟he SARS outbreak had a significant impact on demand and sales of our meltblown material in disposable respirators,? explained H&V抯 Mr. Abelli. 揥e have also been expanding our global presence during the last two years, with the Far East being our largest growth area.?

Growth in the Far East, Europe and South America has been so promising to filtration manufacturers, that many recently opened sales offices or constructed facilities in these regions. Lydall Filtration and Separation, Manchester, NH, opened a sales office in Asia during the third quarter of this year. The company was attracted to Asia because of its high tech industries and the rapid pace of Asia抯 economy.

Ahlstrom FiberComposites has also reaped the benefits of the booming Asian economy. The importance of this region to the company is evident in its recent $32 million investment in Hyun Poong, Korea. The company has also gained ground in Brazil, with an upgraded filtration line in Louveira, and in Europe, with the purchase of Spanish filter media and specialty paper supplier Papelera del Bes騭.

As nonwovens manufacturers look to penetrate new geographic markets, they will also seek out ways to add value to their products so that nonwovens continue to replace other conventional filtration media, such as woven, paper and glass.

揟his includes characteristics such as longer filtration life, superior performance, disposability, pleatability or inventory advantages,? BBA FiberWeb抯 Mr. Baker said. 揟he fibers in a nonwoven structure, compared to a woven, are arranged in a more open structure, providing very effective use of individual fibers. As a result, the fiber抯 shape has a pronounced effect on filtration in a nonwoven structure.?

Gas Phase Media—A Growing Niche For Filtration
AQF Technologies, Charlotte, NC, a division of BBA Fiberweb, specializes in gas phase filtration media for the indoor air and cabin air markets. AQF抯 media, which use activated carbons, attract airborne molecular contaminants either by physical or chemical adsorption. The nonwoven matrix is comprised of only two raw materials梩he bicomponent polyethylene fiber and the functional adsorbent. When heated, the outer sheath of the bicomponent fiber attaches itself to the functional particles. Since no adhesive is required to form the web matrix, a maximum amount of sorbent surface area is exposed, thereby enhancing filtration performance.

揋as phase filtration is an immature market primed for the introduction of new products,? explained Chris Sipes, account executive for the North American indoor air business. 揊iltration has been identified as a target market for many nonwovens producers in recent years, as it provides opportunities for innovative products and engineered solutions. Providing performance filtration products enables manufacturers with R&D capability to find premium products that will compliment a portfolio of commodity-oriented goods. This is certainly true for gas phase segment of the filtration market.?

How To Use This International Buyers’ Guide:

For the 34th year in a row, our annual Buyers’ Guide lists nearly every supplier and producer of nonwovens around the globe. Readers have access, in one comprehensive issue, to information on suppliers of machinery and equipment, raw materials and roll goods as well as contract service specialists, consulting services and associations. The listings include contact addresses, phone and fax numbers and e-mail and website addresses.

?? SECTION I lists suppliers of Machinery and Equipment for the manufacture of nonwovens; the company listings are complemented by cross references that follow the listings.
?? SECTION II lists suppliers of Raw Materials. A cross reference section detailing the products offered by the companies follows the listings.
?? SECTION III lists producers of nonwoven Roll Goods, along with details on processes used, fiber types, product sizes and trade names. A cross reference section organized by technology is included at the end of the alphabetical list.
?? SECTION IV contains a list of Contract Service providers that deal specifically with the nonwovens industry. Each company’s specialty and plant locations are provided. A cross reference section organized by technology is included at the end of the alphabetical list.
?? SECTION V is a listing of the key Consultants to the nonwovens industry.
?? SECTION VI provides information about worldwide Trade Associations involved with the industry.

All companies are listed in alphabetical order in the section in which we determined they best fit. Some may appear in more than one section because of overlapping capabilities, although most appear only once. Information contained in each section varies according to the requirements of that segment of the industry. See the opposite page for an alphabetical index of corresponding page numbers for all four cross reference sections.

The information in this International Buyers’ Guide was supplied by each company in response to a questionnaire; the nonwovens industry staff compiled the information in its final form. We have attempted to make this directory as complete as possible. We welcome any corrections and additions, which will appear in the 2004 Buyers’ Guide next July.

If there are any changes, please contact:

Nonwovens industry
70 Hilltop Road, Third Floor
Ramsey, NJ 07446 USA
Phone: 201-825-2552
Fax: 201-825-0553
E-mail: nonwovens@rodpub.com
Website: http://www.nonwovens-industry.com/articles/2003/07/index.htm.

This time-saving index lists the categories in each of the Buyers’ Guide cross reference sections — Contract Services, which starts on page 127; Machinery and Equipment, which begins on page 60; Raw Materials, on page 86; and Roll Goods, on page 117. Complete directory listings begin on page 38 of the printed version.
Bonding 127
Coating 127 Spooling Equipment 72
Core/Coreless Winding 127 Spray Systems 72
Creping/Building 127 Spreaders 72
Customer Service 127 Spunbond Lines, Complete 72
Cutting 127 Stands 72
Die Cutting 127 Static Control Equipment 72
Distribution 127 Stitchbonding Equipment 72
Dry Wipes 127 Surface Finishing 72
Dying 127 Tape Applicators 72
Embossing 127 Testing Systems 72
Folding 127 Thermal Bonding Equipment 74
Hot Melt Adhesion 127 Trim Removal Collection 74
Impregnating 127 Turnkey Systems 74
Laminating 127 Ultrasonic Bonding Equipment 74
Licensing 127 Used Machinery 74
Medical 127 Vacuum Waste Collection 74
Packaging 127 Water Jets/Looms 75
Printing 127 Web Accessories 75
Private Label 127 Web Forming Equipment 75
Protective Apparel 127 Web Guiding Equipment 75
Research & Development 127 Web Handling Equipment 75
Sheeting 127 Web Splicing 75
Shoe Coverings 128 Wet Laid, Complete Lines 75
Specialty Applications 128 Winders, Rewinders 75
Spooling 128 Wipes Production Lines 75
Testing 128
Water Proofing 128 RAW MATERIALS
Wet Wipes 128 Acetate 86
Windings 128 Adhesives, Hot Melt 86
Adhesives, Waterborne 86
MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT Antibacterial Agents 86
Adhesive Bonding Equipment 60 Antifoam Agents 86
Air Control Devices 60 Antimicrobials 86
Air Through Bonding Equipment 60 Antistatic 86
Airlaid Lines, Complete 60 Binders/Dispersions/Emulsions 86
Aprons 60 Coatings/Lubricants 86
Bale Presses 60 Curing Agents 86
Balers, Shredders 60 Dyestuffs/Pigments 86
Blending/Mixing Systems 60 Fasteners-Hook & Loop 86
Calendering Systems 60 Fasteners-Tape 86
Cards 60 Fibers/Staple-Acrylic 86
Chemical Bonding Equipment 61 Fibers/Staple-Antistatic 86
Chucks/Cores 61 Fibers/Staple-Bicomponent 86
Coating Equipment 61 Fibers/Staple-Binder 86
Compactors 62 Fibers/Staple-Carbon 86
Computer Control Systems 62 Fibers/Staple-Carbon 86
Conveyor Belts/Fabrics 62 Fibers/Staple-Flame Retardants 86
Crepers 62 Fibers/Staple-Flax/Jute/Hemp 88
Crosslappers 62 Fibers/Staple-Glass 88
Cutters, Knives 62 Fibers/Staple-Nylon 88
Cutting Systems 62 Fibers/Staple-Polyester 88
Data Measuring Systems 62 Fibers/Staple-Polyethylene 88
Diaper Lines, Complete—Adult 62 Fibers/Staple-Polypropylene 88
Diaper Lines, Complete—Baby 64 Fibers/Staple-PVC 88
Die Cutters, Rotary 64 Fibers/Staple-Rayon 88
Disposable Bibs Lines 64 Filaments-Nylon 88
Doffers 64 Filaments-Polyester 88
Drive Systems 64 Filaments-Polyethylene 88
Drum Forming Equipment 64 Filaments-Polypropylene 88
Dryers/Cylinders 64 Films-Apertured 88
Dryers/Ovens 64 Films-Coextruded 88
Drylaid Lines, Complete 64 Films-Embossed 88
Dust Pollution Equipment 65 Finishing Agents 88
Dyeing Equipment 65 Flame Retardants 88
Embossing Equipment 65 Fluff Pulp 88
Extrusion Equipment 66 Fluorochemicals 88
Face Mask Lines 66 Foam 88
Feeders 66 Laminates 88
Feminine Hygiene Lines, Complete 66 Odor Control Agents 90
Fiber Handling Equipment 66 Oil/Stain Repellents 90
Filtration Systems 66 Release Papers 90
Flocking Equipment 66 Resins, Acrylics 90
Foaming Equipment 66 Resins Emulsions 90
Folding Machines 66 Resins, Polyester 90
Food Pad Mfg. Lines 68 Resins, Polypropylene 97
Garnetts 68 Resins, Synthetics 97
Hot Melt Systems 68 Rubbers/Elastics-Tape/Thread 97
Hydroentangling (Spunlace) Systems 68 SAPs 97
Impregnating Systems 68 Scrim/Netting 97
Inspection Systems 68 Softeners 97
Laminating Systems 68 Spandex-Tape/Thread 97
Measuring Equipment 69 Surfactants/Wetting Agents 97
Melt Blown Lines, Complete 69 Thickeners 97
Mixers-Foam 69 Water Repellents 97
Needle Inserters/Removers 69 Wetness Indicators 97
Needle Looms 69
Needles-Felting 69
Openers 70 Airlaid 117
Packaging Systems 70 Air Through Bonded 117
Printing Systems 70 Carded 117
Pulp Fluffing Machinery 70 Chemical Bonded 117
Pulp Preparation 70 Composites 118
Recycling Systems 70 Melt Blown 118
Roll Handling Systems 70 Needlepunched 118
Roll Packaging 70 Powder Bonded 120
Rolls-Embossing/Treating 70 Spunbonded 120
SAP Applicators 70 Spunlaced 120
Sealers 71 Stitchbonded 120
Shafts 71 Thermal Bonded 120
Shredders 71 Ultrasonic Bonded 121
Slitters 71 Wetlaid 121
Spinnerets/Dies 72

The sky is falling, the sky is falling. What Chicken Little once cackled as cries of alarm might today be viewed by protective apparel manufacturers as a marketing bonanza. With governments regularly sounding alarms, sales of garments are busting at the seams as everyone from hazmat responders to housewives are looking for products that will protect them from chemical, biological and even radioactive attacks.

At a time when duct tape and plastic sheeting have become household necessities, the demand for and focus on protective apparel have never been higher. Still reeling from 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks—the frayed nerves of the American public were further inflamed when the federal government raised the national security alert status to orange—the second most severe rating-last month. The escalation sent many civilians in search of protective suits, gas masks and anything in the hardware store offering the least bit of protection.

While it may seem like rich times for protective garment manufacturers and their nonwovens suppliers, many say consumer clamor for protective wear presents as many headaches as opportunities. With some inquiries seeking suits for cows and pets, one garment maker said the security alert is “bringing them out of the woodwork.”

Even legitimate requests pose a potential problem. Safety suits are designed to protect against specific hazardous agents; a single suit is incapable of protecting against all possible hazards. Additionally, most products on the market require training for proper protection—something consumers are unlikely to undertake. Donning the garments properly with the appropriate respirator is no easy feat. Worn improperly, protective apparel can actually pose a danger to the untrained user, one apparel manufacturer warned.

While garment makers say sales are rising in these wary times, some view consumer demand with skepticism. Likening the trends to the building of basement fallout bunkers in the 1950s, protective apparel manufacturers say civilian demand will ebb and flow with the focus of the media. The bread and butter of their business, they add, will continue to be industrial customers, whose need is constant.

DuPont’s Tyvek Is King
According to INDA, Association of the Nonwovens Fabric Industry, Cary, NC, the disposable protective apparel market for nonwovens is worth $290 million in North America. Dupont’s flashspun Tyvek products account for an estimated 80% of this total, making it the unchallenged leader. Of the remainder, SMS materials account for roughly 15%, with spunbond and spunlace nonwovens making up the balance. Products included in the category are disposable apparel for industrial facilities, paint shops, nuclear plants, hazardous waste teams, agricultural sites and cleanrooms.

DuPont’s dominance stems from its role as both a supplier of nonwoven fabrics and a finished apparel maker. The company expanded its market share in late 2001 when it acquired Kappler Safety Group’s garment line to supplement its own apparel products. Wilmington, DE-based DuPont’s line includes protective garments for a wide variety of occupations. Aside from garments made from nonwovens, it also offers protective apparel using other fabrics.

The company’s success in the market can be attributed to its proprietary technology, Tyvek. This flashspun olefin offers excellent dry particulate protection as well as durability. Garments made from treated Tyvek have been tested against some 280 contaminants and even offer limited protection against biological agents such as anthrax, according to DuPont. Within the protective apparel market, competitors are all hoping to develop a substitute fabric with Tyvek-like performance.

While not as dominant as DuPont, Kimberly-Clark is another major manufacturer in the protective apparel sector. And, like the market leader, this Dallas, TX-based company produces both the nonwoven and the finished product. It offers a variety of gowns and suits using its own SMS nonwovens.

On the roll goods side of the business, producers such as BBA Nonwovens are focusing on improving the resin technology of SMS nonwovens as well as composites. According to Jeff Willis, business manager for protective fabrics at BBA, SMS will penetrate more of the market in the future because of its performance characteristics. He said that the company is focusing on laminates to optimize performance characteristics while providing comfort and strength.

“SMS is gaining share due to its excellent balance of barrier and protection,” Mr. Willis added. “Nonwovens companies that can add value by combining fabrics with different properties should benefit.”

Is It Sustainable?
Although it might seem that DuPont, Kimberly-Clark and other apparel makers stand to benefit from the country’s upgraded security concerns, few see it as a sustainable revenue source. Certainly government sales have risen, and civilians may also create more demand in the near future. However, as domestic security concerns ease, that demand may decline proportionately. Still, for now, the market is enjoying a strong boost.

“Right after the Anthrax (attack) came out, we put together technical information on our products for our team. We literally ran out of inventory on all the microporous and film laminated materials,” said Beth Hohl, manager, marketing and R&D, for Kimberly-Clark Safety Division. “Since then, we’ve had a harder time forecasting our needs.”

Indeed the surge of interests in protective clothing has helped producers such as Kimberly-Clark post double-digit growth in that segment. Some companies have even reported doubling their sales in the past two years, in part due to a growing consumer base. Kits containing a suit, respirator and other accessories are available to the public through various distributors.

Not all garment makers see explosive sales. Although it dominates the category, DuPont said growth has been tempered. “There has been more demand,” said spokeswoman Beth Huber. “Has it been dramatic? No.”

She said that despite the recent focus on safety garments, there is much confusion about the role they serve. Who needs garments? What level of protection is necessary? Who will be responsible for training users to properly wear them? Those are just some of the questions that professional emergency responders might ask. Throw in the consumer and the level of confusion rises further.

Ms. Huber said her company offers a range of products that meet just about all of the market’s needs. While DuPont is always seeking ways to improve garment performance and durability, product improvement isn’t its only focus. At a time when uninformed consumers are reaching out for products, she said the company wants to ensure that buyers understand their proper use. “We take a strong position that if you’re not trained, you shouldn’t be using these garments.”

Ms. Huber’s sentiments aren’t alone. Charlie Roberson, the marketing manager for the SoftGUARD fabric line at Precision Fabrics Group, Greensboro, NC, said his company saw a “short-term” spike following 9/11, attributed to purchases by first responders. The nonwovens producer has since seen sales resume to their normal levels.

With increased interest in protective garments came customer inquiries about product’s protection performance, requiring fabric suppliers to perform additional testing.

“Manufacturers were forced to test fabrics against chemicals that were previously considered unnecessary,” Mr. Roberson added.

Meeting Established Standards
While the vast number of biological and chemical agents available for attacks complicates suit selection, there are many standards and testing results that can help end users make the right choice. Organizations such as ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) have published standards by which testing is performed.

A battery of ASTM tests is used industry wide to gauge a fabric’s tensile strength, air and liquid permeability and chemical resistance. Manufacturers use the ASTM test results as a reference for end users.

Recently, the NFPA released its 1994 standard, which covers protective ensembles for chemical/biological terrorism incidents. This follows two other standards for garments for vapor and liquid splash protection. Bruce Teele, senior fire safety specialist at the NFPA, said the 1994 standards were issued in 2001, prior to the 9/11 attacks. They are currently under review for additional revisions to be published next year.

The current standards specify three classes of suits: classes 1, 2 and 3 for different levels of protection. It also calls for fabrics to be tested against highly penetrating agents such as VX, lewisite, mustard and sarin gas.

One of the problems of evaluating fabrics against these agents is that only military labs can access them. Fabric manufacturers must contract those facilities to conduct the testing, which is costly and time consuming. As a result, few protective garments on the market meet the 1994 standards. Mr. Teele said while he understands the difficulty facing manufacturers, he also expressed “disappointment” with those manufacturers, saying they could be more “robust” in their efforts to introduce compliant suits.

Radiation Protection
Protection against chemicals and biological agents is not enough for some; radiation attacks have also crept into the conscience of Americans. Talk of “dirty bombs” has many on edge.

One company is already employing nonwovens in a radiation-blocking suit. Miami, FL-based Radiation Shield Technology (RST) recently began offering nonwovens-based suits with radiation and chemical protection benefits. Using what the company described as a “hybrid” nonwoven, its suits offer protection against x-ray, alpha, beta and low levels of gamma rays. In testing conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Columbia University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, the company’s core technology, Demron, was shown to have radiation-blocking abilities rivaling that of lead. It was also cited by Livermore Lab officials as “effective as a radiation shield,” according to the company.

According to Jon Hefler, operations coordinator at RTS, the company’s main customer base is the military; he declined to provide additional details about his company’s work for the armed forces. However, the company will soon launch products for municipal employees as well as consumers with an emphasis on first response workers such as police officers, firefighters and hazmat crews. Other buyers could include power plant and medical workers. RST has started taking preorders for civilian suits.

It will offer class A-D garments that protects against nuclear, chemical and biological agents and fire retardent and bomb suits.

Demron was originally developed by Ronald DeMeo, a surgeon who sought to find better protection against x-rays in the operating room. The company said the material took 10 years to develop and can be incorporated into construction materials, aircrafts and other products in addition to protective apparel.

Mr. Hefler said the technology’s strongest selling point is the suits’ ability to comfortably provide radiation protection. It is also a much lighter alternative to lead. “There’s really nothing like it out there right now,” he claimed.

Everyday Applications
With the protective apparel market focused on chemical, nuclear and biological protection, it seems that the bulk of the business goes unnoticed. Safety garments used at chemical plants, paint shops, farms, machinery shops and other locations still account for the largest portion of the segment’s nonwovens sales. While garments available on the market for the most part meet customers’ performance requirements, they are also constantly asking for improvements in comfort, air flow, durability and lower pricing.

“Customers’ demands regarding the protective apparel products themselves have not changed significantly over the past few years,” said Precision Fabric’s Mr. Roberson. “All of my customers can describe the ‘holy grail’—a fabric that offers a barrier to all of the hazards in their workplace, that will breathe like a cotton T-shirt and costs half as much as one, but they also realize that this product does not exist.”

What nonwovens producers can offer, he added, is test data to guide customers in picking the fabric that best suits their needs.

Nonwovens are also growing in other niche protective apparel applications such as high-visibility safety clothing. These products are typically worn by department of transportation crews, sanitation workers and even landscapers. The key performance requirement, explained Doug Daigler, product manager for national accounts at WearGuard, is that the fabric maintains color integrity and luminosity and doesn’t shrink after washing because garment visibility is the most important criteria. Wearguard manufactures a line of high-visibility clothing, including knit jerseys and jackets made from 100% polyester.

A lesser requisite is that the garment is comfortable under hot conditions. Mr. Daigler said nonwovens meet all of his customers’ requirements, including standards set by ANSI. The company is now developing an inner-layer garment, made possibly out of nonwovens, that would help draw heat and moisture from the user to provide greater comfort.

Whether it’s brightly-colored vests or full-containment suits, the range of protective apparel applications continues to grow. A wide gamut of roll goods offered by nonwovens producers gives garment manufacturers many choices. As new resin technology emerges and improved substrates are introduced, users, whether emergency response professionals or civilians, can expect more comfortable garments that protect them from a greater number of hazards they might encounter at work or in the home.

Despite hitting a few bumps in the road during the past few years, the spunbond and meltblown markets remain two of the most versatile and diverse markets in the nonwovens industry, primarily because of the variety of end use markets in which these materials can be applied, these range from hygiene and medical to filtration, industrial and automotives.

While issues such as overcapacity and lower raw material prices are still weighing heavy on some manufacturers’ minds, these factors have not prevented many of them from forging ahead with new ideas. Whether a company has increased its capacity, created a new product or entered into a specialty-based market, the spunbond and meltblown markets have not stood still.

According to industry statistics, spunmelt, which comprises meltblown and spunbond fabrics, is the most important nonwovens technology in terms of output, collectively accounting for approximately 25% of global nonwovens production. Furthermore, approximately 65% of hygiene product components, which include coverstocks, backsheets, acquisition and distribution layers and leg cuffs, use spunmelt nonwovens. This percentage is expected to rise to 72% by 2005, when 704,400 tons of spunmelt material will be consumed in the hygiene sector. With all of this growth projected in hygiene, coupled with the growth of spunbond, meltblown and their composites in niche markets, it is not surprising that installations and expansions are underway at several companies.

Big Plans Underway
During the past year, numerous spunbond and meltblown producers and machinery manufacturers announced they had plans to increase capacity or enter into a more specialty-based market to increase their product offerings comprising spunbond or meltblown nonwovens.

Among the companies in expansion mode is Atex, Settala, Italy, which added a new spunbond line, this Fall. Approximately 35% of the company’s spunbonded material is applied to hygiene products, which lead Atex to implement its new six-layer (6XS) polypropylene spunbond line. The new line has increased Atex’s production from 12,000 tons to 25,000 tons a year, according to Guni Schiller, area manager at Atex.

“The new line offers products with extremely fine and sophisticated fiber structures and outstanding performance values,” Ms. Schiller said. “It is an alternative to the aesthetics of carded web, high bulk, softness and uniformity with the advantages of high strength and weight that the spunbond process provides.”

Another Italian producer, Tessiture Pietro Radici (TPR), located in Gandino, began operating its fourth spunbond line in February. All of the company’s machines are flexible enough for use in different markets, requiring various widths and treatment applications, such as water repellency, antibacterial benefits, hydrophilicity and anti-static abilities. “Many producers have expanded capacity, which has led to a general development of more technical applications for spunbond fabrics, explained Enrico Buriani, general manager at TPR. “This is the only way to keep prices at reasonable levels.”

While many companies are adding capacity to boost their spunbond and meltblown business, others are focusing on new product development. American Nonwovens, Columbus, MS, for instance, is launching a new spunbond product line called GenUS, which is projected to become available during the latter half of 2003. According to the company’s CEO Ronald Francher, the new line will comprise low denier spunbond products including both polyester and polypropylene fabrics. The fabrics will range from 10-100 gpsm, with deniers as low as 0.5 dpf for use in nearly every nonwovens market segment. “There is a great deal of pent-up demand for low denier products, and we see a great amount of interest in the GenUS family of products,” said Mr. Francher. “Additional interest is expected because this revolutionary fabric will provide improved performance for many current applications.”

American Nonwovens is not the only company that has noticed the growth of lighter denier fabrics. Producing materials with lighter deniers is currently one of the hottest trends in the spunmelt market, according to several manufacturers.

“In the polyester spunbond business, lighter weight is the biggest trend I have seen. More lightweight products are coming onstream,” said Lee Sullivan, general manager at Freudenberg’s Tufts Division, Durham, NC.

Among the areas where demand is growing for lighter weight products are filtration and fabric fasteners. But, as the demand for lighter weight products rises, this also poses the threat of a potential overcapacity problem.“Manufacturers have the tendency to add capacity too quickly,s which then offsets the supply and demand ratios. All companies are going to want to chase opportunities though,” Mr. Sullivan added.

Overcapacity Pressures
The fickleness of the nonwovens industry with markets constantly going in and out of fashion, is always an issue for spunbond and meltblown manufacturers. While some companies have been able to sell out their machines, many others are not operating at capacity. This seems to depend on end use market, with some segments for spunbond and meltblown, such as hygiene, facing trouble, while other markets, such specialty areas, are thriving.

“Overcapacity does not vary by region, but by the market sector as a whole,” opined Stephen Greenough, president of American Nonwovens, Columbus, MS. “There are spunbond products available but not always for the specialized type required for a specific market.”

Manufacturers are noticing the abundance of lower quality spunbond polyester materials available on the market. James Walker, vice president of Performance Products at specialty products producer, Cerex Advanced Fabrics, Pensacola, FL, a division of Western Nonwovens, Carson, CA, has also seen an increase in lower quality spunbond polyesters, which is primarily imported from areas such as the Far East.

On the other hand, higher quality spunbond polyester is seeing growth, according to Martin Moller, marketing director at Ason Neumag, Fort Lauderdale, FL. “There has been more of a dramatic shift toward spunbond polyester,” he explained. “I am seeing some manufacturers practically running away from spunbond polypropylene.” And, if all of this new capacity cannot reach potential customers, overcapacity is more likely to occur.

“If a product does not meet a customer’s specifications or if they aren’t convinced they need the product, manufacturers are then faced with overcapacity,” said A. Adali, general manager at Eruslu Tekstil Sanayi Ve Ticaret A.S. (Eruslu Nonwovens), Gaziantep, Baspinar, Turkey. The solution for this lies in increasing the range of the material by giving it better performance attributes so that it can address wider needs, produce niche products and make the material readily available to those who do not have access to it.”

Despite concerns of overcapacity and economic weakness, new lines continue to come onstream in the spunbond and meltblown nonwovens segments. Toyobo, Osaka, Japan, for instance, is pleased with its decision to add a new spunbond line, which came onstream in September. “In Japan, we are generally suffering from poorer business conditions than last year because of a heavy recession,” explained Yukio Kawasaki, general manager of Toyobo’s Spunbond Operations Department. “However, our polyethylene spunbond business has had very high sales volumes, which have achieved double-digit growth.”

Like Japan, the U.S. economic climate has left many manufacturers experiencing the effects of a shaky economy. Nevertheless, some have been able to increase sales. In a nutshell, manufacturers are predominantly concerned with how quickly some companies will start-up a new machine line, which leaves them questioning where all the new material will go.

“Instead of just updating an existing line, there are new lines on board,” said Mark Snider, marketing manager at Nordson Corporation, Dawsonville, GA. “Older lines are being shut down and new ones keep opening up.”

Despite concerns of lines beginning operation too quickly, some manufacturers are claiming they see the need for even more capacity in certain regions of the world. Even in areas of Europe where overcapacity is generally considered to be a big problem, it appears overcapacity may be subsiding because of the growth of specialty markets.

Bruno Roche, area sales manager at spunbond machinery manufacturer Rieter Perfojet, Montbonnet, France, said that Rieter’s consumers are demanding more capacity from its production lines. “The need for more capacity is back for us,” said Mr. Roche. “Customers are also really looking to join more niche markets and produce newer products with high value. They still want to use the same lines that make ‘standard’ spunbond products.”

Spunbond and meltblown manufacturers looking to join the specialty markets are much more common now as they are looking for ways to differentiate themselves in a vast sea of spunbond and meltblown manufacturers. One of the best ways to do this is to enter a variety of specialty-based markets. By focusing on offering a variety of products, manufacturers will attract the attention of newer, or once overlooked, consumers.

For example, despite the difficult market situations witnessed by executives at TPR, the company is offering technical, printed and enhanced nonwovens, under the brand name Dylar. According to Mr. Buriani, Dylar nonwovens were born out of research and development efforts tailored to the specific needs of different application sectors. This is an important part of the company’s strategy. “Especially in more difficult times, the challenge is to invest in research and development, work closely with customers in the different sectors of the market to improve the quality of the products and produce nonwovens that can successfully be used to replace more expensive materials,” Mr. Buriani added.

Roll goods producers are not the only ones focusing on consumer needs. Machinery and equipment supplier Nordson, built the Center of Excellence, 40,000-square-foot pilot facility in Dawsonville, to better serve its customers. After seeing more demands for bicomponent lines, featuring a wider range and higher speeds on its draw jets Nordson built the COE, which contains the first and reportedly only bi-component nonwovens pilot line capable of producing bico-spunbond/ meltblown/ spunbond composites on one line with speeds up to 800 meters per minute. The COE allows each of Nordson’s business units to share its technology and applications more easily, while integrating product development, engineering, marketing and customer support programs.

Working closely with consumers enables manufacturers to understand what their consumers are looking for in a product.

Manufacturers are also seeing consumers demand more composite materials, with either the combination of both a spunbond and meltblown fabric, or additional fabrics as well. The reason for this demand is composites’ abilities to add benefits to a product and help it stand out from the competition.

The Rise Of Composites
The use of composite structures containing spunbond and meltblown material is particularly in demand for use in the ever-growing hygiene and medical industries, due to the ability to provide high levels of barrier protection, which is especially required in these markets. “The most obvious applications include fabrics that provide barrier protection against water, urine and blood,” said BBA’s Mr. Price. “Composites can also provide barrier protection against alcohol and other non-polar products. Other applications can be barriers to dust or other solids. Meanwhile, they are able to maintain permeability to air or water.”

Atex has also developed some new composite products using spunbond and meltblown nonwovens, especially for the household and wipes markets. “The abrasive wipes business is an interesting area for us because it can be used in both industrial purposes and body care,” explained Ms. Schiller. “The advantages of composites are in giving multifunctionality to products.

Also, you can combine the strengths and characteristics of various nonwovens into one product. It has been Atex’s strategy to stand out against other nonwovens producers by engineering particular nonwovens, often with our customers.”

Executives at Jacob Holm Industries in France have also noticed that spunbond and meltblown manufacturers are shifting their focus from monolithic fabrics to composites as a result of the high price pressures on conventional products.

“Since there is little product differentiation, selection criteria are mainly driven by cost, convenience and runnability,” explained Hyo-Young Kim, marketing manager at Jacob Holm. “Additionally, a single property substrate can serve only a certain market. To provide several characteristics of different fabrics, the solution can be to combine monolithic spunbond and meltblown nonwovens with other materials, such as spunlaced and needlepunched. By adding different properties to spunbond and meltblown products, manufacturers benefit as clients are willing to pay more.” Additionally, Jacob Holm produces both tensile- and stability-enhanced nonwovens by sandwiching spunbond material between two spunlace layers. “This composite is equivalent to top-quality, spunlace-only products, that are currently applied in washable and institutional wipes,” concluded Ms. Kim.

A Word About Meltblown
Jentex Corporation, Buford, GA, produces meltblown material for the filtration media, medical, adhesive web and disposable wipe markets. Although executives at Jentex have not witnessed a new market emerge onto the meltblown scene recently, certain markets for meltblown are expanding through the use of meltblown material, particularly cabin air filtration and air filtration products for homes. “There is a growing desire to filter the air we breath, and this is done efficiently by adding a highly efficient fine fiber meltblown media to filtration composites,” explained Matthew Pelham, CEO and chairman of Jentex. “There are some niche markets where a longer life filtration capability is required, and I see meltblown material playing a key role.”

Some examples of these roles include longer life fuel filters and transmission filters, where combinations of meltblown filtration capabilities with durable substrates into filtration composites will experience growth, according to Mr. Pelham.

Also showing interest in meltblown is Atex. The company has shifted some of its focus away from its new line of spunbond to hone in on new areas of the meltblown market. In March, the company began supplying meltblown nonwovens for sensitive applications in the medical, absorbent core, filtration, building membrane, packaging as well as the wipes market. “A lot of applications don’t just require mechanical performance but also advanced, multifunctional abilities, such as strength, combined with high absorption, liquid retention and waterproofing, and the option of either abrasive or soft sides,” Ms. Schiller explained. With all of the available options Atex’s meltblown products provide for the market, the company now has more opportunities to supply its products to more a diverse range of markets.

New Markets On The Horizon
As new markets where spunbond and meltblown nonwovens are being developed, one manufacturer has noticed the apparel market relying on nonwovens as well.

Ritas, for example, located in Baspinar, Gaziantep, Turkey houses a 2.5-meter-wide spunbond line that produces materials for a wide assortment of end use markets, including bedding and furniture, interlinings and the show and luggage industries. The company is now promoting the use of its materials in shopping bags comprised of spunbond polypropylene, mainly because prints can easily be applied onto polypropylene fabrics.

“Many stores and markets are preferring to use shopping bags made from spunbond instead of polyethylene bags,” Aykut Peltek, general manager at Ritas said.

With the increased demand for composites and companies deciding to enter into more specialty markets, the future of the spunbond and meltblown markets is showing promise, despite overcapacity pressures and pricing.

What’s In Store For Spunmelt?
In the future, spunmelt manufacturers will continue to keep tabs on each other, especially because different niche markets are growing and the hygiene and wipes markets are continuing to grow rapidly.

“The real pressures for manufacturers pertain to keeping customers,” opined Pavel Hubaty, managing director at Ecotextil, Neratovice, Czech Republic. “Low-quality products and large quantities influence the behavior of the end users and distribution companies.”

Generally speaking, it looks as if it is smooth sailing ahead for the spunbond and meltblown industries, due to the growing population, the increasing areas of end use application and preference of nonwovens to conventional textiles, according to Eruslu’s Mr. Adali. “These will all pave the way for increased nonwovens consumption.”

On the meltblown side, Jentex’s Mr. Pelham believes that the future will not rely so much on the amount of meltblown producers but rather the quality of meltblown materials. “I think there will be a consolidation of technologies where the synergies of meltblown technology and other nonwovens manufacturing routes will create composite products that are new and improved over current materials for existing and new applications,” Mr. Pelham projected.

Looking for Safety and Comfort? Medical Workers Give Nonwovens A Try

nonwovens up the ante in innovation to give healthcare personnel what they want

By Karen McIntyre, Editor

Barrier protection and comfort. These are the two main user demands shaping nonwovens manufacturers’ offerings to the medical market. However, when you throw in market demands, namely cost efficiency, these two demands can be difficult to come by. For the most part, nonwovens’ rise in the medical market, caused largely by the materials’ replacement of reusable fabrics, can be attributed to an increased awareness among healthcare professionals, of infection control.

In fact, infection control has become such an important trend in medical nonwovens that EDANA’s first-ever In Control! conference, dedicated to the issues of and solutions for infection control, attracted an impressive 180 participants when it was held in Prague in March. The event focused on the growing issue of global infection and the vital contribution of single-use nonwoven medical devices, such as gowns, drapes and masks, in protecting against infection. Preventing infection is critical for reducing patient suffering and morbidity, protecting medical staff in the operating theater and minimizing post-operative costs caused by infections, such as Heath Care Associated Infection (HCAI) and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).

“Infection control is absolutely a hallmark for anyone making a surgical product,” said Frank Czajka, division president of drapes and gowns for Medline Industries. “It is always in the forefront but it’s on people’s minds more and more.”

Mr. Czajka is witnessing a migration of infection control efforts onto the hospitable floor. “Companies are taking the same story to the intensive care unit where you are inserting a catheter into a patient or an inclusion catheter in someone’s arteries,” he explained. “Those procedures can also present risk of infection so professionals are taking some of the surgical ideas and applying them to the floor.”

According to data furnished by EDANA, in the EU alone, HCAI, or nosocomial infections, affects one out of every 10 patients, causing roughly three million infections and some 50,000 deaths per year. It is estimated that about one third of HCAIs are preventable by improvements in infection control. By looking at the whole picture, preventing infection will ultimately save money, but savings to the hospital or agency are usually reflected in other budgets—not in infection control.

Even though medical personnel are becoming more aware of the need for barrier protection, they don’t want to sacrifice their personal comfort in achieving this protection. Therefore, nonwovens manufacturers supplying to the medical market are innovating to combine a range of attributes in one fabric.

“The medical personnel in hospitals, operating rooms, cleanroom environments and the medical personnel working in the external environment require a mix of combined functional properties, including barrier, protection, breathability, softness, drapeability, absorbency, repellency, gamma stability, and so on,” said Annelien Achkoyan of Ahlstrom.

In response to these demands, Ahlstrom has focused on developing engineered materials that are unique, functional and cost effective. “Our composite products have been broadly accepted throughout the globe,” Ms. Achkoyan continued.

The main advantage of nonwovens is that they are used only once, on one patient or during one procedure and incinerated after use, avoiding the need for handling and dismissing the potential spread of contaminants. While single-use disposable gowns can be more expensive than repeat-use garments, the savings in hospital readmittance far outweighs this, according to Ian Disley, managing director of Advanced Fabrics (SAAF).

“I think generally there is a definitely continued move to disposable from laundered, that’s a general fact, and everything we see here says that the end use consumer is very aware of the costs of readmittance to hospitals because of people going into the hospital with one disease and picking up something else,” he added. “The cost comparison is minor compared to the cost of people remaining in the hospital for longer.”

A Tale of Two Standards

While cost efficiency is a concern throughout the medical market, the extent of this varies between private and state-run institutions. “Every health service is under pressure when it comes to cost. Is it a threat of an opportunity? I think it’s an opportunity for companies willing to innovate to meet these requirements,” said SAAF’s Mr. Disley.

Basically medical market suppliers are under the gun to create barrier properties without sacrificing comfort and make comfortable gowns that are still protective. However, whether comfort or protection is more important than the other often depends on how high risk the healthcare environment is.

“Some of the less sophisticated markets can get away with standard SMS material while more sophisticated markets want alcohol repellent or antistatic properties,” Mr. Disley explained.

Doctors and nurses are very aware of the danger of cross infection and are looking for gowns with high barrier properties. The requirement to be more like a textile is less important. However, many healthcare veterans favor spunlace-based gowns because they are cloth-like and more like the reusable gowns they have used traditionally, but professionals newer to the field favor SMS and other high barrier materials because they are more aware of the barrier properties inherent to those materials. From a regional perspective, European hospitals use much more spunlaced nonwovens than in North America while in emerging markets, there is more of a mix.

DuPont provided its own answer to the conundrum between comfort and protection in spring 2003 when it launched Suprel, the first branded product to use Advanced Composite Technology, a proprietary DuPont technology that allowed the use of multiple polymers in one substrate. While nearly any two polymers can be used in this technology platform, Suprel combines the strength of barrier protectiveness of polyester with the softness, and the comfort, of polypropylene.

“In the past year, we have seen significant adoption rates of Suprel among nurses and surgeons,” said Scott Gettlefinger, North American business manager, DuPont Nonwovens. “The product offers a nice value combination of comfort and protection and infection prevention protocol has seen significant increases in the awareness of these needs.”

DuPont has worked with its launch partner Medline in further educating on this value proposition and the success of this partnership has already encouraged DuPont to expand the fabric into drapes through Medline’s Aurora brand. Aurora drapes offer a high level of fluid repellency while maintaining remarkable softness. According to company literature, this fabric creates a strong, smooth drape that hangs beautifully, conforming to the body with ease. In addition to an advanced fabric, Aurora drapes have several important “clinician-designed” advantages including manually placed premium tape, an absorbent and impervious reinforced zone, a non-slip instrument pad and exclusive velcro-style line holders are some of the features that set these drapes apart.

Beyond its agreement with Medline, DuPont is offering several medical grade fabrics using Suprel. For instance, its Isolation Wear medical fabrics are designed for use during procedures with risk of exposure such as dialysis, outpatient surgery and blood draw. It seeks to exceed the requirement of AAMMI PB70 level two (see box), provides significantly better alcohol resistance than competitive fabrics and offers im-proved softness and greater drapeability.

Additionally, Orthomax drapes, offered by DuPont, are significantly wider than standard drapes for optimal coverage in orthopedic procedures. “The superior size of OrthoMax drapes allows you to create a sterile field with one drape. Absorbent impervious zones are wider and stronger and protection is improved by incorporating wider and longer absorbent impervious zones.

Also gaining acceptance, despite higher pricing, in the medical market is SAAF’s Medalon. Originally made for the high specification, high quality end of the market, Medalon did face some initial resistance in the market, according to Mr. Disley. “It was criticized for being more expensive than typical spunmelt materials,” he said. “Now, however, the market is becoming more accepting, recognizing that it is high quality and worth the extra cost.”

In fact, Medalon’s acceptance has grown to the point where SAAF has been able to be successful in the development of an even higher value product, Medalon Plus, which has a higher hydrohead than most polypropylene-based products.

In July 2005, SAAF took steps to broaden Medalon’s global reach when it struck an agreement with Ahlstrom for its sale. This cooperation has enabled both companies to benefit from SAAF’s manufacturing expertise and innovative product range, allied to Ahlstrom’s global presence, strong relationships and wide product offering. “The strategic alliance with SAAF/Advanced Fabrics enables both Ahlstrom and SAAF to benefit from SAAF’s manufacturing expertise and innovative product range, allied to Ahlstrom’s global presence, strong relationships and product offering. SAAF’s specific knowhow allows Ahlstrom to offer a multitude of technologies to our customer base, providing a complete range to meet the guidelines provided in AAMI:PB70, from level 1 to 4.”

And, Ahlstrom’s own offerings to the medical market are nothing to sneeze at. At its Windsor Locks, CT facility, the company runs a 50,000-ton-per-year spunbond composite line largely dedicated to the medical market. Among its recent offerings is Breathable Viral Barrier, a trilaminate composite with a unique combination of materials of which the qualities are useful in stopping the spread of deadly viruses such as Avian flu. This material can be converted into overalls, hazmat suits and/or surgical gowns.

“Composites allow scientists and marketers the ability to explore the art of the possible,” Ms. Achkoyan said. “ With our breadth of nonwovens technologies, our customers have an almost limitless opportunity to design products that provide them with unique properties cost-effectively.”

Off To Asia

In the past couple of years, much of the medical gown converting industry, like the apparel market in general, has relocated to Asia. In search of lower prices, manufacturers in this segment, which unlike nonwovens, is labor intensive, are benefiting from cheaper operating costs but have been paying higher logistic costs by still sourcing much of their nonwovens from the Americas and Asia.

“We sell to a lot of American companies but a lot of them are based in Asia,” Mr. Disley said. SAAF had to establish an office in Shanghai because of the amount of conversion going on there. Even if it’s sold in the Americas, it’s going to get converted there.”

Roll goods producer PGI Nonwovens, however, showed its commitment to Asia last year when it announced it would build a new manufacturing plant in Suzhou, China, making it not only the largest spunmelt producer in China but also the country’s only vertically integrated producer of medical fabrics. Located near Shanghai, the plant, which recently came onstream, houses a new state-of-the-art spunmelt line targeted at medical, as well as hygiene, and a finishing line capable of providing customers with treated medical fabrics. “The principal change happening in today’s medical market is we are seeing a lot of conversion going to Asia, in search of lower cost labor,” said Fernando Marin, senior director of PGI’s medical business unit. “As we see that migration occurring, which is being driven by our customers wanting to set up or utilize lower cost converting operations, we see their needs shifting. They want products delivered to that region and shifted to end use markets. We see their needs are really changing on a regional basis.”

The new operation is intended to create a more efficient supply chain as medical converters can source the material in Asia, near where they are making the gowns, cutting out a major shipping expense. “The products will be there. The customers can accept them there. It’s just an all around quicker turnaround time. That is the key reason we made this investment.”

For Fiberweb, formerly BBA Fiberweb, the medical garment industry’s movement to Asia caused the exact opposite reaction. Instead of moving with it, the global nonwovens producer decided instead to deemphasize its medical garment business. While the company continues to service this market from its operation in Washington state and Mexico, these lines are more focused on the hygiene market. “Fiberweb has seen a great deal of medical converting move to Asia and has chosen not to compete heavily against newer equipment coming onstream in the market,” said director of medical fabrics, Mark Behrmann. “We haven’t exited it. We are just not emphasizing it.”

Fiberweb continues to play heavily in the woundcare segment of the medical market, a business unit that remains healthy, despite some commoditization in the segment. “We are a step away from hospitals but our customers are feeling tremendous pressures and that is impacting what they can pay us. You have higher raw material prices, lots of people making the same product and intense price pressures from the people with whom you are looking to do business. It is a tricky situation.”

Despite these challenges, the medical market continues to grow-4-5% in Europe, slightly less in North America and beyond in developing areas like Asia. “We aim to continually respond to our customers’ needs, working and growing with them,” PGI’s Mr. Marin said. “This minimizes overall risk and helps in terms of success factors.””

Standards Gauge Performance Of Medical Fabrics

Standards from the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) have provided an objective measure of liquid barrier performance of protective apparel, and a classification system as well. These guidelines, developed by a committee of healthcare professionals and based on industry-accepted test methods, are basically broken into four levels, and many nonwovens producers are aiming to provide products that fit all levels.
By specifying a consistent basis for testing and labeling protective apparel and drapes and providing a common understanding of barrier properties, the classification system, known as AAMI PB70: 2003, can assist healthcare personnel in making informed decisions when selecting the appropriate product for the anticipated task.
Level one describes gowns and drapes and other medical garments that demonstrate the ability to resist liquid penetration in a impact penetration test. Level two describes surgical gowns, protective apparel and surgical drapes that demonstrate the ability to resist liquid penetration in an impact penetration test and a hydrostatic pressure test. Gowns and drapes seeking level three designation must pass the same tests as in level one and two, but the performance is set at a higher value. Level four drapes must demonstrate the ability to resist liquid penetration in a laboratory test method by synthetic blood.
According to AAMI, this classification system is intended to set a common foundation for the different levels of barrier protection available but does not take into account potential variations in specific procedures and techniques used in health care facilities. The end use must be the ultimate judge of the appropriateness of the barrier level.

When it comes to the medical market, nonwovens are exactly what the doctor ordered. Both manufacturers and consumers are already aware of the many benefits nonwovens offer to the medical market. When compared to textiles, nonwovens are lower in cost, easier to use, more versatile, safer and feature better disposability. With this in mind, it is no wonder that nonwovens are found in hospital surgical drapes and gowns, protective face masks, gloves, surgical packs and bedding and linens.

Still, while nonwovens find a great number of end uses in the medical market, their proliferation is not yet complete, according to some industry sources. For nonwovens to further establish themselves in the medical market, several things need to happen. For one, issues concerning the impact disposing nonwovens has on the environment needs to be addressed. While in some cases, the disposability of nonwovens grows, masks and scrubs makes them more attractive in the hospital environment, it is also holding them back due to concerns over disposing of disposables. A lack of communication between manufacturers and consumers is also hindering the growth of nonwovens in the medical market. Although healthcare officials are aware of the benefits that disposable products offer in hospitals and healthcare facilities, doctors, healthcare officials and patients still remain hesitant to use disposables because of environmental factors.

Other challenges facing nonwovens include keeping up with regulations imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, D.C., and other regulatory bodies, for increased product safety. Such regulations have made hygiene safety a priority among hospitals and manufacturers because they recognize that hospitals are often a breeding ground for infectious diseases and germs.

In addition to increased environmental awareness and education, and regulations being enforced throughout hospitals, changing standards of living will also determine the fate of the medical market in the future. Due to the current global economic climate and corporate budget cuts, worldwide standards of living are constantly evolving. Where at one time healthcare facilities in countries such as Italy and China had funding needed for woven materials in hospitals, they may now have to rely on less costly options such as nonwovens.
It is clear that the role of nonwovens in the medical market is changing. Research and development efforts are currently underway to produce nonwovens with increased barrier fluid resistance, while making them softer and more comfortable. In addition, wipes and other over-the-counter (OTC) nonwovens are making headway in the medical market, along with some new products that will soon begin to further shape this diverse market.

Barricading Fluids
The most common demands placed on nonwovens manufacturers selling to the medical market include producing a nonwoven that is both soft and breathable while also offering a high level of barrier protection. Traditionally, the cloth-like quality of spunlaced materials has met these needs, but recently manufacturers have also been targeting spunbond-melt blown-spunbond (SMS) fabrics and other composites for the medical market.

“Spunlaced fabrics, while more cloth-like, are seeing their share erode as users demand higher levels of protection,” explained Bob Britton, president of the North American Hygiene/Medical Division of BBA Nonwovens’ Materials Technology Group, Simpsonville, SC. “SMS fabrics offer the highest level of protection, and their softness and comfort have improved considerably. They are rapidly becoming the dominant fabrics at the medical market.”

Pieter Meijer, vice president of sales and marketing at BBA Nonwovens Europe, noted both spunlace and SMS are the leading fabrics used in protective medical apparel and will most likely continue to be in the lead.

“Further improving the comfort of the wearer while maintaining barrier properties are key to furthering the success of nonwovens in medical applications,” Mr. Meijer said.

“Spunlaced fabrics are known for their softness and versatility that can match various end uses,” said Michael Lunde, vice president of business development at Jacob Holm Industries Group, Denmark. “Spunlaced fabrics can also be made to have breathability and comfort for all skin contact uses and can also be produced without a lack of chemical binders for open wound uses such as wound dressings.”

Atex, Settala, Italy, is witnessing a rising demand for the barrier protection properties SMS fabrics can provide to the medical market. In response to this, Atex has recently developed disposable SMS barrier fabrics with a high level of melt blown content for use in the medical market. Executives at PGI Nonwovens, N. Charleston, SC, agree that the popularity of SMS fabrics continues to grow in the medical market but they still recognize spunlaced fabrics’ importance in the medical market. “Either of these products can deliver the performance required for a majority of surgical procedures performed in today’s medical market,” said Nyle Bishop, vice president of PGI’s medical division. “One of the biggest factors in the growth of one technology over the other has been the availability of medical grade products. PGI has addressed this issue by adding additional capacity of spunlace and SMS targeted specifically at the medical market.”

This additional capacity includes PGI’s recently launched Provia medical spunlace products and Polymed medical SMS materials and composite products, which are already reportedly being used by medical manufacturers.

“Both spunlaced and spunlaid composites are major technologies found in the high volume markets such as surgical gowns and drapes,” said Mr. Meijer. “The balance between strength, barrier properties, comfort and costs will determine which technology will prevail in the long term though.”

Producing nonwoven fabrics with improved barrier protection has become a priority for manufacturers, especially with the increased awareness of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis and also the re-occurring outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease and Tuberculosis. Now more than ever, manufacturers are seeing demands for barrier protection. “Tuberculosis is an especially worrisome disease since it can only be treated with antibiotics that are becoming ineffective because they are seldom used by patients for the entire duration of the prescription period,” explained Jacob Holm’s Mr. Lunde. “Diseases are also developing strains that are resistant to medication.”

Thus, producers have no choice but to continue their research and development efforts to keep up with consumer demands.

“The rise of these diseases emphasizes the need for higher fluid protection in medical devices,” said BBA’s Mr. Britton. “As a result, design requirements for nonwoven fabrics became more acute and more specialty devices were developed. SMS fabrics are replacing spunlaced fabrics and face masks have become fluid-resistant. Diseases continue to play a part in nonwovens growth, particularly in second and third world regions where single-use devices provide the best solution to microbial challenges.”

Adel Al-Mahjad, acting general manager at Saudi Arabian Advanced Fabrics (SAAF), Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, agreed that the rise of diseases still remains a serious and growing threat, especially on a global basis. “Single-use nonwovens eliminate the potential for problems associated with the disposal of potentially infected liquids or wastewater,” he said.

Manufacturers are already aware of the benefits of nonwovens for hospital use but the worldwide medical market may be in for a turbulent ride in the future. Varying worldwide economic conditions, coupled with budget cuts in healthcare also result in a varying medical market throughout each of these countries.

A Global Prognosis
The U.S. is the worldwide leader when it comes to medical nonwovens use, but Europe is quickly gaining ground. Jacob Holm is one European company that is moving into new areas within the medical market and is hoping to eventually see the same penetration rate as in the U.S. “Overall the medical market is holding up well,” opined Mr. Lunde. “If you provide a solid and desirable nonwoven, customers view your product as a must-have.”

The medical market is a core market for Jacob Holm. The company produces its nonwovens for the medical market using its high-performance Norafin substrates. “They perform well with added treatments, resulting in a perfect material for medical gowns because they combine hydrophobicity with softness and a textile feel,” Mr. Lunde said.

Another one of Jacob Holm’s products targeting medical applications is Duplex, a composite material primarily used in gowns and bed covers. “We are seeing a lot of potential in the European hospital market, which has been somewhat of a laggard in adopting disposable nonwovens. This situation is beginning to turn around,” Mr. Lunde explained.

In addition to Western Europe, BBA’s Mr. Britton is witnessing nonwovens growth throughout Australia and Japan; however, in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America, nonwovens are not as widely used. “A high growth rate is forecast in these areas as the quality and quantity of sophisticated healthcare in these regions increases,” he predicted.

China’s economy has experienced a recent economic shift as well. The standard of living in China is not as high as those in Western countries. “We have tried to promote our surgical gowns and caps, antibacterial spunlaced nonwovens and wipes made with microfibers to the medical market throughout China and the result has not been too good,” admitted Ze Zhang, an export/import executive at Hangzhou Advanced Nonwoven Co., Hangzhou, China. “I think our consumption of disposable surgical gowns will eventually increase in China due to the shortage of water resources in most regions. When the cost of washing a reusable cotton surgical gown is high, people will make the switch to disposable gowns.”

Atex’s Ms. Schiller agreed that, like China, some hospitals in Italy are still offering laundering services for textiles, but they are not expecting a trend to return back to long-life textiles once these hospitals make the switch to disposables.

In an effort to promote the growth of nonwovens in countries such as Italy and China, PGI has implemented several strategies. “PGI has implemented an asset strategy that supports regional manufacturing on a worldwide scope,” Mr. Bishop explained. “We are supporting medical manufacturers where they are located and where the medical market is growing.”

Now that the word has been spread about the benefits of nonwovens in hospitals, manufacturers are waiting for hospitals to eventually make the change completely. Bruno Guyomard, research and development manager at Jacob Holm, further noted that textiles are associated with being tedious, in terms of care and maintenance. “When looking at the combined cycle, using nonwovens in hospitals is the right thing. With textiles, they must be cleaned with detergent, wrapped in separate plastic covers or bags and then labeled. Nonwovens are ultimately less expensive. All that is required is for the patient or hospital employee to open it, use it and throw it away,” Mr. Guyomard explained.

What’s Up Doc?
With nonwovens being so versatile in their nature, manufacturers’ options for new product ideas are limitless. Nonwovens will continue to be produced with more fluid barrier protection while manufacturers find ways to make them softer and more comfortable for patients and medical staff. However, new markets and products have already begun to crack the surface.

“The medical market needs more high-tech composites rather than just basic nonwovens,” opined Max Castellani, managing director at Atex. “High-tech composites offer more possibilities that correspond to the requirements of the medical market. For example, with our new drop cloth, one side is hydrophobic to protect the patient and medical staff while the other side is hydrophilic to absorb liquids.”

PGI is one company boosting the popularity of composites. The company is currently promoting its composite materials for use in hospitals, and PGI’s Polymed medical SMS and composite products are available to medical manufacturers around the world.

Growth Of Composites
SAAF is also witnessing the growth of composite material along with seeing a major move toward combining nonwovens, films and other products into medical garments, which are designed for specific types of protection. “Some of these products exhibit zoned areas for extreme barrier protection while still providing a reasonable level of comfort to the wearer,” explained Mr. Al-Mahjad. “Where the need for protection, comfort and cost effectiveness are present, nonwoven products will be found.”

It is no wonder nonwovens are springing up everywhere in the medical market. In terms of new interests, Atex has been exploring what Mr. Castellani refers to as the para-medical market. “The idea behind it consists of various composites that can be converted into mono-use products in the fitness or exercise area,” he explained. “This market can range from clothing to equipment.” Although this is a new end use for nonwovens, executives are watching out for it in the future.

Jacob Holm has found use for one of its products in dental sponge applications. “This is not huge for us, but it is an area we will be keeping an eye on and continue to explore,” Mr. Lunde stated.

Carolyn Green, vice president of Marketing and Sales at Precision Fabrics Group (PFG), Greensboro, NC, has noticed nonwovens are gaining acceptance in wound care and pre- and post-operative areas, due to their ability to perform in demanding settings. “Additionally, continuous filament-based products will continue to gain share for use in the medical market,” she said.

DuPont’s Tyvek brand protective material has traditionally been used, for more than fifty years, to package sterile medical devices, particularly for differentiated products and high-value devices. “Recent advancements such as drug-coated stents for heart patients and catheters that allow targeted radiation delivery to tumors have underscored the importance of protective medical packaging and the role that Tyvek plays in this,” said Miray Pereira, global business manager at DuPont Medical Packaging, Wilmington, DE.

Additional markets that show promise for nonwovens include OTC nonwoven applications and products for the elderly. However, manufacturers have mixed opinions about the use of nonwovens in OTC applications. Some forecast a low growth rate, while others are seeing heavy involvement in bandages, wraps and wound care. “Nonwovens are extensively used in personal health care items such as bandages, wipes and wrappings,” BBA’s Mr. Britton said. “As manufacturers continue to develop specialty personal care products, the use of nonwovens can be expected to grow as well. A recent application for nonwovens in this field is the development of patches for delivering medication.”

More In OTC?
The OTC market is strong in the U.S. while other world regions, such as parts of Europe and the Middle East, aren’t reporting much acceptance in this area. “In Europe, there is a slow acceptance of nonwovens into the OTC market,” Jacob Holm’s Mr. Guyomard said. “I think this is due in part to a lack of effort of manufacturers and markets not being able to incorporate OTC products.”

Mr. Al-Mahjad of SAAF agreed that the OTC market still has a way to go before it becomes a significant market for nonwovens. “The OTC market is not developed yet, and we do not expect any real significant change in the near future,” he said.

Meanwhile, manufacturers have hopes that the increasing aging population will have a big impact on the role of nonwovens in the medical market. “The aging population is going to drive nonwovens much like the baby boom drove the diaper market,” predicted Ms. Green.

With all the trends and predictions for the future of this diverse market, manufacturers admit that disposables continue to be the best role for nonwovens to play in this market. However, a lack of communication between manufacturers and consumers about how safe they are for the environment is, without a doubt, a major inhibitor to further growth.

“I believe that this industry could do a better job of promoting the use of nonwovens by providing consumers with better information,” said PGI’s Mr. Bishop. “The information would need to be specific from region to region with a full understanding of the disposal process specific to that region of the world.”

With traditional textiles being replaced with nonwovens and more regulations enforced throughout hospitals, reiterating the safety factor of disposable nonwovens has never sounded more appealing than it does right now. “We need to communicate directly to manufacturers that nonwoven products are not bad for the environment after disposal,” Mr. Lunde said. “Nonwovens provide a good role for us, and they offer no contamination. More communication about this is what really needs to be done.”

Getting the message heard with disposables may take some time though. Keith Lauritsen, vice president of marketing at Green Bay Nonwovens, Green Bay, WI, noted that doctors are slow to make changes and implementing new products is a slow process, so it will take a good deal of time before all hospitals fully switch to disposables. Manufacturers still remain hopeful that people will become more educated about disposables ending up in landfills and incinerators and that this will then change their mindsets and result in higher nonwovens use. However, education is not the only factor that will shape the future of the medical market. The changing economy will also play a role.

“Although the medical market is not recession-proof, it is less impacted by the economy than the other markets,” Ms. Green pointed out. “This is because people will still need surgery and other medical procedures. Elective surgeries are fewer when the economy is soft.”

Manufacturers, consumers and hospital personnel will have to wait and see if communication increases and how new products and markets pan out for them.

“Nonwovens will continue to provide manufacturers of medical devices with a variety of cost-effective fabric solutions that they require,” BBA’s Mr. Britton said. “To the hospital user, there is no substitute for the reliability and efficacy of single-use medical devices.”

Nonwovens have found another way to save lives. With existing applications including protective apparel, fire blankets and safety walls, nonwovens have been protecting humans for decades, and now a new consumer product has expanded this life-saving role.

Recently introduced from FMJ ChemBio, San Diego, CA, is a respiratory filter system that uses nonwovens to protect wearers from inhaling harmful smoke or biological and chemical gases. The mask lasts for 15 minutes, giving wearers valuable escape time from emergency situations. Launched at the end of June, the Quick Escape Mask (QEM) features six layers of protection, four of which are made of nonwoven material. According to FMJ ChemBio executives, the QEM is the first mask that simultaneously filters both chemical and biological substances.

A manufacturer of nuclear, biological and chemical filtration systems, FMJ ChemBio uses an enhanced form of an Activated Carbon Cloth (ACC) in its patent pending filtration system. The material is similar to what was used by the Allied Forces during the Gulf War to protect its soldiers against chemical and biological warfare agents, according to Fred Jameson, CEO and founder of FMJ ChemBio.

The QEM features an outer and inner protective layer, which are both comprised of a polyester/cotton blend woven cloth. These two layers surround four layers of needlepunched nonwovens, each of which perform a different function including: particulate and aerosol filtration, biological and chemical filtration, a harmful smoke and gas absorption and finally, microfiltration and absorption. The microfiltration and absorption layers feature the ACC.

Using a needlepunched nonwoven in the QEM’s filtration media in the QEM provides the material with a large surface area. “The activated carbon cloth has a very large surface area that is significantly greater than standard activated carbon granules,” explained Mr. Jameson. “A special version of our cloth has a surface area so great that it can actually consist of pores so small they cannot be adequately measured by standard testing equipment. Because of this ‘nanostructure,’ this cloth may be specifically suitable for capturing and neutralizing tiny biological contaminants, but it must be specially treated to do this.”

Aside from the advantages of a large surface area, the mask is compact, making it easy to carry in a pocket, purse, glove compartment or briefcase.

The QEM is geared toward anyone who may be faced with the possibility of a catastrophe. “In this day and age, the unfortunate reality is that we are individually responsible for being prepared for the unthinkable,” said Mr. Jameson. “As a former firefighter, I understand the importance of respiratory protection from toxic smoke. The QEM is designed to protect individuals in any emergency situation where respiratory safety is compromised—be it a fire, terrorist attack or other chemical or biological disaster.”

Combating Laboratory Testing
Although testing is currently not required for civilian use masks, FMJ ChemBio has subjected its filtration system to rigorous testing in numerous accredited laboratories. These tests use compounds and agents that represent the highest level of dangerous substances available for non-military product testing, company executives explained. The company is also currently preparing to submit the QEM for testing with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Washington D.C.

All of the company’s testing has been paying off so far. The QEM was able to stand up to testing conducted by New Horizons Diagnostics, a biotechnology lab in Columbia, MD that specializes in manufacturing tests for the rapid detection of bacteria and toxins in humans, environmental, surface, food and water samples for use by municipal and corporate customers.

“The results of the tests performed on the Activated Carbon Cloth used in the QEM showed a significant reduction in the number of Bacillus Spores recovered from filtered material,” explained Larry Loomis, president of New Horizons Diagnostics. “The spores used in the experiment were a commercially produced, non-pathogenic strain of Bacillus.”

Due to harmful substances that can become entrapped in the mask, it is recommended that after use the mask be disposed of in a containment area designated for hazardous materials. Additionally, any clothing articles that have come in contact with hazardous materials should also be removed to ensure safety.

Nonwovens are found nearly everywhere when it comes to the medical market. With the rise of infectious diseases and standards enforced in hospitals and healthcare facilities, it is no wonder roll good manufacturers are seeing high consumer demand for nonwovens with better protection in the medical market. Currently, nonwovens can be found in a wide variety of medical-related areas, including facial masks, surgical packs, gowns and drapes, sterilization packaging, gloves, surgical accessories and even protective footwear and hoods. Hospital rooms are also no stranger to nonwovens, as they can be found in bedding, pillows, towels and linens. Considering the number of hospitals, healthcare facilities and medical employees, it is not surprising nonwovens manufacturers cannot even begin to guess how big the medical market really is.

According to research conducted by INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, it is estimated that medical and surgical applications consume slightly more than three billion square yards of nonwoven fabric in the U.S. and Canada alone each year. The result: nonwovens manufacturers have their work cut out for them as they try to find a balance between catering to high consumer demands and producing nonwovens that offer the best protection and comfort.

One key trend being seen in this category is the push for hospitals to use disposables. While disposables are safer for hospital use, there is a question about the amount of infectious waste created once they are thrown away.

Charlie Granger, business development manager for Johns Manville’s Filtration Division, Denver, CO, sees safety as the biggest reason why nonwovens are preferred in the medical market. “Disposable nonwovens are strerilized, packaged, opened and then disposed of, so there is less risk of contamination before or after use than would be the case with a reusable product,” Mr. Granger said. Although Johns Manville’s medical business comprises well less than 10% of its roll goods sales, the company is still witnessing strong consumer demands and concerns regarding safety. “Everyone is coming up with something new they would like to see. Right now we are working to develop our surgical face mask media and we are upgrading products we already sell,” he said.

Mario Saldarini, commercial director of Orlandi SpA, Varese, Italy, believes that medical nonwovens are growing most quickly in European markets, particularly France, Germany and the U.K., but are stagnant elsewhere. “Nonwoven material is commonly being found in swabs, gauze and plaster substrates,” Mr. Saldarini added. “We are finding more nonwovens in the medical area, but in my opinion, they are seeing very slow growth.” Orlandi’s medical production makes up 20% of its business whereas 70% of the company is dedicated to the hygienic and cosmetic industry, which is seeing more rapid growth. Mr. Saldarini said that hospitals need to change their mindsets for nonwovens to gain greater marketshare in the medical market. “Hospitals have to get rid of their mentality that disposables are luxuries. Reusable cotton gauze can then be replaced with disposables. Disposable nonwovens give customers more security and peace of mind,” explained Mr. Saldarini.

Guan Tao, an import and export executive at Hangzhou Advanced Nonwovens, Hangzhou, China, credited new fiber developments for the drive for nonwovens. “Along with developments of new manufacturing, compound and finishing processes in the nonwovens industry and the development and application of new fiber and auxiliaries, nonwoven medical products have been endowed with superior functions. They have more advantages than traditional materials,” he said.

On A Wider Scale
Consumers are among the major influences on nonwovens production. Whatever consumers demand, manufacturers try to match. JM’s Mr. Granger said he noticed the highest consumer demand in more protective medical nonwovens. The rise of infectious diseases, such as AIDS, HIV and Hepatitis, and, more importantly, an increased awareness of these diseases has medical consumers requesting protective apparel.

“There is an increased awareness in the importance of barrier properties in nonwovens. The quality of disposable nonwovens has created a whole new tier of products,” said Mr. Granger. Some common advantages most manufacturers agree on is that they are cheaper, disposable and more flexible to customers’ needs. “Possibilities are really endless,” noted Mr. Granger.

Ray Dunleavy, business manager of BBA Nonwovens, Simpsonville, SC, said that in the U.S. medical market, nonwovens have more or less fully penetrated most apparel and packaging applications. These include products for the operating room such as surgical gowns and drapes, head and shoe covers, face masks, sponges, towels, wipes and sterilization wraps. In other parts of hospitals and healthcare facilities, nonwovens, including pulp-based fabrics, are found in isolation gowns, exam and patient gowns, lab coats, wipes, towels and bed linens.

“Nonwovens performance in the areas of protection, comfort and cost are the key drivers for the change in this market, and this fosters competition between different nonwoven fabric technologies. For example, the high levels of protection and low cost offered by SMS technology are propelling it to marketshare gains in the surgical gown and drape market at the expense of spunlaced technology,” Mr. Dunleavy explained. “However, further gains versus reusable fabrics that are not nonwoven will occur very slowly.”

Cost remains a huge factor when it comes to developing nonwovens and with the implementation of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) laws, came many new standards for hospitals. “Basically what we saw was a spike in demand while all the facilities took steps to fill their cupboards with disposables, and then sales returned to a more normal level,” said JM’s Mr. Granger, regarding the action many medical and dental facilities took in response to OSHA’s standards. OSHA regulations called for employers to provide protective equipment for their workers, mandating that nonwovens used is hospital and healthcare facilities have better barrier protection while still offering comfort.

“Air flow and moisture vapor transmission are what makes a garment comfortable, but with air flow also comes bacteria. Wherever air molecules can flow through the fabric means that there is a risk that bacteria can also penetrate the fabric. There continues to be growth in the use of composites, especially nonwovens matched with specialty films, to provide comfort and barrier protection, but there is always a cost-price pressure,” said Mr. Granger.

Carolyn Green, vice president of sales and marketing at Precision Fabrics Group, (PFG) Greensboro, NC, believes nonwovens are growing in the international medical market but cost will be factor. “There is always a pressure with cost. Manufacturers are always trying to find better properties with a lower cost,” Ms. Green said. PFG, which is mostly involved in the composite market, is developing several new products for its medical division and is currently a leading innovator of value-added nonwoven fabrics for the global medical products market, according to company executives. PFG targets a wide range of end uses encompassing products such as surgical gowns, drapes, masks, wound dressings and table covers. Orlandi’s Mr. Saldarini added, “Synthetic nonwovens are lint-free, pure and have more stable prices when compared to cotton, which usually sees prices jumping up and down. Synthetics tend to be more stable.”

It is clear nonwovens have advantages for use in areas of the world where consumers can afford them. However, in developing countries where health standards are not as strongly enforced as they are in the U.S., the future of medical nonwovens is questionable. Serkan Gogus commercial director for Mogul Nonwovens, Baspinar, Gaziantep, Turkey, forsees a strong and quick growth for nonwovens in the medical market. “Nonwoven material is found nearly everywhere, in emergency, surgery and patient care,” Mr. Gogus said.

Mogul is currently trying to develop its market outside of Turkey. “We expect to see growth in developing regions, such as the Far East, Eastern Europe and South America,” Mr. Gogus projected. “We are also introducing our new SMS fabrics, aside from our spunbonded fabrics.”

The use of nonwovens in the medical markets of developing countries is expected to be much lower than the U.S. and other economically advantaged countries due to significantly less household income. “As countries move from third world status to second world, they begin to focus on medical issues,” said JM’s Mr. Granger “Health and sanitary issues are a big problem in these countries, but so are financial constraints. People in third world countries are making $200 a year so they are going to have trouble affording one sanitary product that costs four dollars.”

“Western Europe and Japan have higher growth rates than the U.S. market (in the 5-10% range) while Asia, Eastern Europe, South America and the Middle East are growing even more rapidly. Education on the clinical and economic benefits of nonwovens directed at health officials and practitioners in these regions result in increasing demand,” said BBA’s Mr. Dunleavy.

The medical nonwovens industry in the U.S. has remained relatively mature, according to Mr. Dunleavy. “The U.S. market is growing at 1-2% annually. Growth is driven by increases in surgical procedures stemming from our aging population, which is offset by a reduction in nonwovens used per procedure resulting from advances in surgical technology and less invasive techniques,” Mr. Dunleavy explained.

Hangzhou’s Mr. Tao believes that nonwovens are growing very quickly in China. “Along with the continuous growth of the national economy, China is going to establish an integrated system of medical treatment and healthcare step by step to upgrade people’s health and improve the instruments used in medical treatments continuously,” said Hangzhou’s Mr. Tao.

Spunlace Comes In First
Manufacturers all seem to agree that one of the most preferred nonwovens technologies used in the medical market is spunlaced. “Spunlaced is really used most often, especially in surgical rooms or anything that involves direct contact with the skin,” said Mr. Saldarini.

Additionally, the absence of chemical treatment in spunlaced material makes it a fabric often favored in the medical market. JM’s Mr. Granger agreed. “Spunlaced and SMS are most commonly used because they are the most fabric-like. It’s a combination of barrier protection and comfort,” he said.

Spunlaced nonwovens are made by entangling polyester fibers with a layer of wood pulp, whereas SMS materials feature a composite of three layers—spunlace, meltblown and spunbonded—normally using a polypropylene resin and then being stacked together.

BBA’s Mr. Dunleavy said that nonwovens are suitable in protective medical devices for a variety of reasons. “Suitability depends on end use application, as nonwovens can be designed to be absorbent or repellent, breathable or impervious, with film lamination or soft and stiff,” Mr. Dunleavy said.

“Spunlace is most suitable because there are no chemicals used during the hydroentanglement production process and it makes it very hygienic and sanitary. Spunlace is soft and the surface will not become damaged,” Hangzhou’s Mr. Tao said. “Spunlaced nonwovens can produce both light and heavy weight products with different degrees of softness,” commented David Farrar, managing director of BFF Nonwovens, Bridgwater, Somerset, U.K.

BFF fabrics go into swabs, fixation tapes, non-adherent dressings, disposable drapes, surgical gowns, ostomy bag components and wipes.

But spunlace is not the only nonwoven technology finding application in the medical market. For instance, BBA Nonwovens uses several different technologies to manufacture fabrics for the medical market, including high barrier SMS fabrics for surgical gowns, drapes and CSR wrap applications.

Additionally, spunbonded fabrics are used more for non-sterile apparel and laminate structures and wetlaid fabrics are used more for disposable linens. Johns Manville uses spunbonded polyester, meltblown polypropylene and polyester to produce its nonwovens for the medical market.

Innovations Underway
Bacteria control must also be considered when producing a nonwoven, especially one that is going to be used in the medical market. Foss Manufacturing, Hampton, NH, has recently introduced a new antimicrobial line to assist in preventing bacteria from growing. “Fosshield Antimicrobial Technologies” effectively guards against the growth of a broad spectrum of odor-causing destructive bacteria, mold and mildew. With its added level of product protection, Fosshield fiber allows for applications across a wide range of products that are vulnerable to the effects of bacterial degradation, including bed linens, towels and wound care. The new antimicrobial technology is derived from an all-natural, silver-based inorganic composition. Silver, one of the oldest known antimicrobial agents, has been proven effective in protecting fibers and fabrics from a broad spectrum of destructive and odor-causing bacteria, mold and mildew, according to company executives.

Fosshield uses a proprietary patented process developed by Foss for incorporating the advanced silver-based agent into the bicomponent (two polymers/additives) and binder (adhesive) fibers of fabrics. A continual delivery system ensures the slow release of silver. The result is a fabric that maintains efficiency of its antimicrobial protection for the longevity of the product and can withstand multiple launderings. There are several other new Fosshield products currently under development that are intended for use in the medical industry for mattress pads, pillows and hospital scrubs.

Among the latest developments from Hangzhou are improved plaster substrates. “We have plaster nonwoven substrates that have high blood-absorbency and are soft,” Mr Tao said. “Our new plaster substrates offer a different spunlaced fabric structure that offers more comfort.”

Nonwovens sometimes need to receive a chemical treatment to prevent water, blood or bacteria from seeping through the fabric. Chemical treatments applied to nonwovens can range from a water repellent substance to a film. According to INDA surface treatments adapted or borrowed directly from traditional textile, paper or plastic finishing technologies are used to enhance fabric performance or aesthetic properties. Examples of performance properties are moisture transport, absorbency or repellency, flame retardancy and abrasion resistance. Fabric finishing is either chemical, mechanical or thermal-mechanical; chemical finishing allows for dyestuffs, pigments or chemical coating applications on fibers.

Disposables Forecast Bright
Manufacturers agree that the future of nonwovens looks promising, if certain obstacles are addressed during production. “The future of nonwovens looks bright as markets move more toward disposable products. As new treatments and methods of care are developed, the possibilities for the use of nonwovens can only improve,” said BFF’s Mr. Farrar. However, Mr. Farrar also noted that people may be unwilling to switch products if something they use already works well. Additionally, many medical products have a long development time, which can be difficult to overcome.

The flexibility of nonwovens remains a key characteristic as the future of nonwovens in the medical market is speculated. “Nonwovens will continue to adapt to meeting the changing needs of the medical market, be it in the structure or composition of the nonwoven itself or in combination with other materials or with post treatments,” BBA’s Mr. Dunleavy projected. “Flexibility and adaptability at low costs will contribute to its success. The wide variety of technologies and fibers enables nonwovens to be engineered to meet the specific needs of each different end use application.”

Nonwovens manufacturers agree that nonwovens will see success in the future with the development of newer and hi-tech materials in the medical market. “Factors that will bring success to nonwovens in the medical market also involve medicine, new-type and higher-tech materials, which will support their development,” said Mr. Tao. To achieve this growth, nonwovens have several obstacles to overcome. “The low-speed development of the fiber industry may limit the developing speed of nonwovens for medical products. Also, the degree of acknowledgement and understanding about nonwovens for medical products in different countries will limit their popularization and applications as well as development of nonwoven medical products in such countries,” Mr. Tao said.

Most manufacturers agree that nonwovens are key when it comes to the medical market. The main cloud that still lingers overhead is the question of what becomes of the disposable after it is thrown away.

“The waste treatment after usage will bring certain pressure to society and the environment due to the increased use of disposable nonwovens,” offered Mr. Tao. With manufacturers busy developing new products, they just might discover a solu-tion with disposables.

How To Use This International Buyers?? Guide:
For the 32nd year in a row, our annual Buyers?? Guide lists nearly every supplier and producer of nonwovens around the globe. Readers have access in one comprehensive issue to information on suppliers of machinery and equipment, raw materials and roll goods as well as commission converting services, consulting services and associations. The listings include contact addresses, phone and fax numbers and, for those companies that supplied them, e-mail and Internet addresses.

?? Section I lists suppliers of Machinery and Equipment for the manufacture of nonwovens; the company listings are complemented by cross references that follow the listings.

?? Section II lists suppliers of Raw Materials. A cross reference section detailing the products offered by the companies follows the listings.

?? Section III lists producers of nonwoven Roll Goods, along with details on processes used, fiber types, product sizes and trade names. A cross reference section organized by technology is included at the end of the alphabetical list.

?? Section IV contains a list of Commission Converters that deal specifically with the nonwovens industry. Each company??s specialty and plant locations are provided.

?? Section V is a listing of the key Consultants to the nonwovens industry.

?? Section VI provides information about worldwide trade Associations involved with the industry.

All companies are listed in alphabetical order in the section in which we determined they best fit. Some may appear in more than one section because of overlapping capabilities, although most appear only once. Information contained in each section varies according to the requirements of that segment of the industry. See the opposite page for an alphabetical index of corresponding page numbers for all three cross reference sections.
The information in this International Buyers?? Guide was supplied by each company in response to a questionnaire; the nonwovens industry staff compiled the information in its final form. We have attempted to make this directory as complete as possible. We welcome any corrections and additions, which will appear in the 2002 Buyers?? Guide next July. If there are any changes, please contact nonwovens industry, 70 Hilltop Road, third floor, Ramsey, NJ 07446 USA; 201-825-2552; Fax: 201-825-0553; E-mail: Buyers' Guide; Website: www.nonwovens-industry.com.

Machinery & Equipment
Adhesive Bonding Equipment 64
Adult Incontinence Lines, Complete 64
Air Control Devices 64
Air Laid Lines, Complete 64
Air Shafts 64
Aprons 64
Baby Diaper Lines, Complete 64
Bale Presses 64
Balers, Shredders 64
Blending/Mixing Systems 64,66
Calendering Systems 66
Cards 66
Chemical Bonding Equipment 66
Chucks/Cores 66
Coating Equipment 66
Compactors 66
Computer Control Systems 66
Conveyor Belts/Fabrics 66
Crosslappers 66,68
Cutters, Knives 68
Cutting Systems 68
Data Measuring Systems 68
Diaper Lines, Complete 68
Die Cutters, Rotary 68
Doffers 68
Drive Systems 68,70
Drum Forming Equipment 70
Dry Laid Lines, Complete 70
Dryers/Cylinders 70
Dryers/Ovens 70
Dust Pollution Equipment 70
Dyeing Equipment 70
Embossing Equipment 70
Extrusion Equipment 70
Face Masks & Cap Lines 72
Feeders 72
Feminine Hygiene Lines, Complete 72
Fiber Handling Equipment 72
Filtration Systems 72
Flocking Equipment 72
Foaming Equipment 72
Folding Machines 72
Garnetts 72
Hot Melt Systems 72
Hydroentangling (Spunlance) Systems 72,74
Impregnating Systems 74
Inspection Systems 74
Laminating Systems 74
Measuring Equipment 74
Melt Blown Lines, Complete 74
Mixers-Foam 74
Needle Inserters/Removers 74
Needle Looms 74
Needles-Felting 74
Openers 74,76
Packaging Systems 76
Printing Systems 76
Pulp Fluffing Machinery 76
Pulp Preparation 76
Recycling Systems 76
Roll Handling Systems 76
Roll Packaging 76
Rolls-Embossing/Treating 76
San Pro Lines, Complete 76
SAP Applications 76
Saturators-Impregnators 76
Sealers 76,78
Shafts 78
Shredders 78
Slitters 78
Spinnerets/Dies-Complete 78
Spooling Equipment 78
Spray Systems 78
Spreaders 78
Spunbond Lines, Complete 78
Stands 78
Static Control Equipment 78
Stitchbonding Equipment 78
Surface Finishing 78
Tape Applicators 78,80
Tension Controls 80
Testing Systems 80
Thermal Bonding Equipment 80
Trim Removal Collection 80
Turnkey Systems 80
Ultrasonic Bonding Equipment 80
Used Machinery 80,81
Vacuum Waste Collection 81
Water Jets/Looms 81
Web Accessories 81
Web Forming Equipment 81
Web Guiding Equipment 81
Web Handling Equipment 81
Web Splicing 81
Wet Laid, Complete Lines 81
Winders, Rewinders 81

Raw Materials
Acetate 96
Adhesives, Hot Melt 96
Adhesives, Waterborne 96
Antibacterial Agents 96
Antifoam Agents 96
Antimicrobials 96
Antistatic Agents 96
Binders / Dispersions / Emulsions 96
Coatings / Lubricants 96
Curing Agents 96
Dyestuffs / Pigments 96
Fasteners, Hook & Loop 97
Fasteners, Tape 97
Fiber Finishes 97
Fibers, Staple - Acrylic 97
Fibers / Staple - Antistatic 97
Fibers / Staple - Bicomponent 97
Fibers / Staple - Binder 97
Fibers / Staple - Carbon 97
Fibers / Staple - Cotton 97
Fibers / Staple - Flame Retardant 97
Fibers / Staple - Flax / Jute / Hemp 97
Fibers / Staple - Glass 97
Fibers / Staple - Nylon 97
Fibers / Staple - Polyester 97
Fibers / Staple - Polyethylene 97
Fibers / Staple - Polypropylene 97,98
Fibers / Staple - PVC 98
Fibers / Staple - Rayon 98
Filaments - Nylon 98
Filaments - Polyester 98
Filaments - Polyethylene 98
Filaments - Polypropylene 98
Films - Apertured 98
Films - Coextruded 98
Films - Embossed 98
Flame Retardants 98
Fluff Pulp 98
Fluorochemicals 98
Foam 98
Laminates 98
Odor Control Agents 98
Oil/Stain Repellents 98
Resins, Acrylic 98,100
Resins, Elastometrics 100
Resins Emulsions 100
Resins, Polyester 100
Resins, Polypropylene 100
Resins, Synthetics 100
Rubbers / Elastics - Tape / Thread 100
Scrim / Netting 100
Softeners 100
Spandex - Tape / Thread 100
Superabsorbents 100
Surfactants / Wetting Agents 100
Thickeners 100
Water Repellents 100
Wetness Indicators 100

Roll Goods
Air Laid 146
Air Through Bonded 146
Carded 146,147
Chemical Bonded 147
Composites 147
Melt Blown 147,148
Needlepunched 148
Powder Bonded 148
Spunbonded 148,150
Spunlaced 150
Stitchbonded 150
Thermal Bonded 150,151
Ultrasonic Bonded 151
Wet Laid 151

Participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony were (l-r) Wang Yang-Xi, CNTA; Krzysztof Malowaniec, EDANA; Leo Cancio, INDA; Tai Jung Chi, ANFA; Sheng Tao, CNITA and Laerte Guiao Maroni, ABINT.

More than 6000 members of the nonwovens industry attended IDEA 01, held March 27-29 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami, FL. With visitors from 60 countries and more than one-third of the approximately 400 exhibitors coming from outside the U.S., IDEA 01 definitely lived up to its reputation as a global show. Many exhibitors commented on the large presence of attendees from Asian and South American countries as well.

The show kicked off on Monday, March 26 with a welcome reception at the Fontainbleu Hotel in Miami sponsored by IDEA organizer INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC. On Tuesday March 27, IDEA 01 officially opened with a ribbon cutting, as well as the keynote speech “Nonwoven Based Businesses At 3M” delivered by Dr. Paul Guehler, senior vice president of R&D at 3M, St. Paul, MN. Dr. Guehler’s presentation gave a breakdown of the nonwovens capabilities of 3M mentioning that the company plans to pursue small to medium markets in the future by using higher valued products and looking for rewarding niches and turning them into canyons. As part of his speech, Dr. Guehler said that the nonwovens industry is slated for robust growth from 2001 to 2006 with industry experts projecting a 7.3% annual growth rate.

Additionally, Tuesday also saw the presentation of the inaugural IDEA 01 Achievement Awards co-sponsored by INDA and Nonwovens Industry.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the IDEA 01 Conference was held during the morning hours of March 27-29 and featured more than 40 speakers from eight end use areas for nonwovens, including products for the home, wipes, filtration, hygiene, medical, automotive, geotextiles and protective apparel. Additionally, those new to the nonwovens industry were invited to take part in a two hour “Fundamentals Of Nonwovens” course taught by Edward Vaughn of Clemson University, Clemson, SC. For conference attendees interested in learning more about e-business, IDEA 01 also featured “Enterprise Solutions,” a special conference session led by Jim Lester of Compaq Computers, Houston, TX, that discussed getting started in e-business, e-commerce and e-security.

Roll Goods Manufacturers Bring It On
The IDEA 01 exhibition drew a large crowd of roll goods suppliers from all corners of the globe who used this opportunity to highlight some of their latest product offerings.

AET Specialty Nets & Nonwovens, Middletown, DE, highlighted its new melt blown composites, its “DelNet” support netting membrane and two new medical laminates. Additionally, the company had information on its new “Plastinet FinGuard” thermoplastic netting for air conditioner condenser fin protection, which features ease of handling and specified hole size and strand count.

In its first major trade show appearance since its merger with Dexter Corporation Nonwovens Materials, Windsor Locks, CT, last year, Ahlstrom Paper Group, Arnhem, The Netherlands, showcased its wipes business. The union of Ahlstrom and Dexter created a significant new resource for convertors and marketers of wipes materials, according to company executives. The company can combine a variety of fibers—wood pulp, cotton, rayon, polyester and polypropylene—with proprietary processes and in line treatments to meet any requirement. Applications include disposable, embossable, textured abrasive and exfoliating wipes.

American Nonwovens, Columbus, MS, featured its resin bonded and needlepunched products made from “Tencel,” for which the company is currently trying areas where the special properties of these products could be used. Additionally, American Nonwovens discussed its fabrics made from “Eastar Bio” copolyester by Eastman Chemical, Kingsport, TN, which received the IDEA 01 Fibers/Chemical Achievement Award during the show.

Avgol Limited Nonwoven Industries, Holon, Israel, announced at the show that it plans to build a plant in the U.S. A detailed announcement on this move was expected to come by the end of April.

One of the most significant new product introductions at IDEA 01 was initiated by BBA Nonwovens, London, U.K. The company unveiled a line of spunbond and SMS nonwovens and announced the launch of a proprietary spunmelt forming technology and class of spunmelts. BBA also introduced “Flite 4.0,” a fourth generation spunmelt nonwoven that offers a broader range of fiber deniers, while the company’s Industrial Nonwovens business has expanded its “Ultraflo” range of filtration media (see Nonwovens News, p. 14).

Under the theme “complete solutions,” the booth of the BP Fabrics & Fibers Business Unit, Austell, GA, presented show attendees with the company’s full range of nonwovens, films and composites that can be designed to solve specific customer problems. While these problem solutions are mainly targeted towards the hygiene and medical arenas, due to the use of breathable materials BP is able to penetrate industrial markets.

Consumer Products Enterprises (CPE), Union, SC, introduced show attendees to the newest members of its senior management—new president and CEO Charles Smith and new sales manager nonwovens Richard Carr. On the technology front, CPE spotlighted the manufacturing capabilities of its new state-of-the-art needlepunching line that has the ability to run synthetic fibers and bring in colored needlepunched nonwovens. The company is reportedly seeing a lot of customer interest in colored materials for the wipes, home furnishings, geotextile and agricultural areas.

Crane Nonwovens, Dalton, MA, introduced a new family of wipe materials suitable for use in a wide range of demanding commercial and consumer applications. These hydroentangled fabrics are available in soft, absorbent cotton, high strength blends and economical wood pulp. Additionally, the company showcased “Cranemat FD,” a media for liquid and air filtration applications featuring a fine denier polyester blend.

The booth for Dounor SA, Neuville en Ferrain, France, was dedicated to the promotion of the company’s new monofilament spunbond fabrics made from a special polymer called “Metallocene” that allows for the production of a thinner filament, resulting in a softer fabric. With the new polymer, material weights can go down to 12 gpsm that were once only capable of 15 gpsm with the same or better strength and improved web uniformity. While Dounor is currently targeting the hygiene market due to the product’s softness, it sees opportunities in other applications as well.

DuPont, Wilmington, DE, exhibited its “Hytrel” polyester elastomer, which is being used in single-use surgical gowns manufactured by Allegiance Healthcare Corporation, McGaw Park, IL. Gowns made with Hytrel are breathable because the elastomer allows the diffusion and evaporation of sweat moisture. Furthermore, the monolithic film of Hydrel provides an impervious barrier to fluid penetration, allowing the gowns to resist penetration by blood-borne pathogens. Hytrel has other applications in hygiene products, outerwear and geotextiles.

Newly-named First Quality Nonwovens, Hazleton, PA—which was most recently known as First Quality Fibers—was on hand at IDEA 01 to promote its capacity expansion with the addition of two new lines at its Hazleton facility, scheduled to come onstream later this year. The move will allow the company to expand its ability to make spunbond and SMS materials.

The world’s largest roll goods producer The Freudenberg Nonwovens Group, Weinheim, Germany, showcased its new “Evolon” fabric, which was one of the three finalists for the IDEA 01 Roll Goods Achievement Award. Manufactured through a proprietary process that combines filament spinning and web formation, Evolon offers good drapability, soft hand, high tensile strength, comfort properties and good launderability for a variety of applications.

Making its IDEA debut after its acquisition of roll goods producer Fort James was Georgia-Pacific (G-P) Nonwovens Group, Green Bay, WI. The latest products showcased included air laid fabrics with SAP fibers and powders, new binders and new fiber blends and additives such as antimicrobial additives, which the company is currently producing and customizing for air laid and carded nonwovens. As for G-P’s Italian business, it is continuing to target the feminine hygiene market and is beginning to target the tabletop wet wipes area, while the French segment is continuing to increase business in the feminine hygiene and food packaging areas and develop new products, including a solvent-resistant air laid product for industrial wiping applications.

Green Bay Nonwovens, Green Bay, WI displayed samples of its spunlaced products made with a variety of different fibers and available in a variety of weight grades. These fabrics offer high strength and drapability as well as soft hand. Green Bay also offers materials produced through a resin-bonded process where natural and/or synthetic fibers are blended together and formed web through a series of cards.

Nonwovens-newcomer GSE Nonwoven Technology Company, Kingstree, SC, made its debut at IDEA 01 to announce it has commercialized ist new line ahead of schedule. Additionally, GSE has already made its first shipment of product. GSE produces needlepunch materials for a range of markets under its “GSE Symmetrec” brand name (see Nonwovens Industry April 2001, pg. 84 in the print version).

Hollingsworth & Vose, East Walpole, MA, showcased its new “Technostat” filtration product. The electret nonwoven filtration media uses electrostatically-charged fibers to offer high efficiency and low resistance. Additionally, H&V showcased some of its “AFN” high-tech glass and carbon products, as well as samples of materials from its newly-acquired roll goods producer J.C. Binzer Papierfabrik, Hatzfeld, Germany (see Nonwovens Industry April 2001, pg. 10).

ITP Sellars, Milwaukee, WI, displayed its line of chemical bonded nonwoven fabrics. The line of 10 different styles have a basis weight ranging from 34 to 85 gpsm with a number of different fibers, including 100% rayon, 100% polyester or an equal combination of the two.

Johns Manville, Denver, CO, distributed information on its European capacity expansions expected to come onstream during the next six months. These expannsions include a new polyester spunbond line and two new glass media lines (see Nonwovens Industry January 2001, p. 10).

Mogul Spunbond-Meltblown Nonwovens, Gaziantep, Turkey, was exhibiting its 100% polypropylene spunbond nonwovens with colored, hydrophilic, antistatic, flame retardant, antidust mite and antibacterial treatments.

The focus of Monadnock Nonwovens’ display was on melt blown nonwovens for liquid and air filtration media as well as disposable vacuum bags. The Stroudsburg, PA-based company produces a variety of different grades of melt blown materials.

Mytrex Industries, Taoyuan, Taiwan, promoted its “Electret” melt blown face mask media at the IDEA show. The material provides high efficiency, low pressure and good barrier properties coupled with open fiber structures, giving a tortuous path along with electrostatic attraction without compromising air flow.

National Nonwovens, Easthampton, MA, showcased its “Atvantage” and “ProTechtor” lines of products. The Atvantage composite insulating and structural cores produce moldable, needled nonwovens for thermal insulation, vibration dampening and acoustic attenuation. The moldable, lightweight ProTechtor composite ballistic shield utilizes advanced needling technology. It maintains properties when cut into small sections, making it an ideal solution for armor, blast containment, protective apparel and fire protection applications.

Despite its large booth presence at the show, Polymer Group Inc. (PGI), Dayton, NJ, had a special room set aside at the Fontainbleu Hotel to talk to customers about the latest innovations with its “Miratec” technology in a more private setting. New products included the substrate for “Swiffer” made by Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH and winner of the IDEA 01 Short-Life End Product Achievement Award. Miratec is also presently being used in outdoor seating cushions and within the bedding market for comforters, quilts and mattress pads. On the apparel side, PGI is focusing on casual pants for men and women, which are currently being marketed in Japan under a well-known brand. PGI is also utilizing Miratec in the automotive market for headliner, seat and door panel applications.

Vliesstoffwerk Chr. H. Sandler GmbH, Schwarzenbach, Germany, spotlighted a number of product innovations at the IDEA 01 show. Among these products were wet and dry wipes for various applications, such as technical, hygiene and cosmetic. These new products have reportedly come about from the growth explosion of wipes for different areas in Europe. The company also showcased its laminates for apertured topsheet applications, its grooved acquisition/distribution layer, partial lamination strip laminates, structural elements for automobiles and its new “Sawagrow” agricultural product.

Shalag Industries, Upper Galilee, Israel, introduced its “ShalagTwins” concept that produces two complementary layers in one absorbent pad. The first layer is a multihydrophilic topsheet of perfect uniformity and excellent mechanical strength. The second layer is a cost-efficient acquisition distribution layer.

Roll goods producer SI Corporation, Chattanooga, TN, displayed its “Xtinguish” line of products. The company is currently expanding this line of self-extinguishing fabric for bedding and furniture applications in the home furnishings market and automotive applications due to government regulations.

J. W. Suominen Oy, Nakkila, Finland, exhibited its nonwoven roll goods for the hygiene, medical and wipes markets. Of particular interest was the company’s “Fibrella,” a hydroentangled nonwoven that offers advanced qualities for use in health care and medical applications.

Tex Tech Industries, Portland, ME, highlighted its new product lines of tubular needlepunched nonwovens for several end use applications, including insulation and aluminum extrusion. The company also told IDEA attendees about the broad range of fibers it can process for high temperature applications.

Kowloon, Hong Kong-based U.S. Pacific Nonwovens Industry Ltd. showcased a variety of new products at the show. One such product was a spunbond nonwoven pop-up tent for outdoor activities that can be laminated to become waterproof. Secondly was a reflective survival blank made of a spunbond laminated to a metallic film or spunlace material. The blanket offers great heat retention as the metallic film reflects body heat back to the body. U.S. Pacific is currently working on deals with major automotive manufacturers to promote having the product in cars so people can use it for warmth during an emergency.

Western Nonwovens (WNI), Carson, CA, highlighted a variety of new products and technologies at the IDEA show. Among them was “Nu-Foam” densified foam replacement product for the arts and crafts and mattress markets, which is a response to interest in replacing foam because of problems with it burning and discoloring. The company also introduced its new bedding products using “Outlast” thermal polyester fiber that help to regulate temperature, as well as “PolarGuard Delta,” the latest addition to its product family that takes about 10-12% of the weight out of original product and still achieves the same warmth/weight value.

Raw Material Producers Supply Innovation
Suppliers of raw material products to the nonwovens industry, such as fibers and binders, were on hand to discuss their latest and greatest with attendees of IDEA 01.

Aegis Environments, Midland, MI, announced the full integration of its proprietary antimicrobial program “Aegis Microbe Shield.” The program uses a non-leaching technology that controls microbes by physically piercing and disrupting the ionic components of the cell membrane. It can be readily incorporated into any wet finish process and applied to any textile product to inhibit microbial odors, staining and deterioration.

Air Products, Allentown, PA, introduced a broad array of developmental products that are designed to bring unique performance advantages to nonwovens, such as the “Airflex 181 DEV” self-laminating binder and the “Airflex 114 DEV” nonionic binder that is compatible with cationic additives. “Airflex 1555 DEV” is a transport layer finder that offers excellent resiliency, acquisition and rewet and allows cellulose structures to replace synthetics. Additionally, Air Products highlighted three experimental-stage products with unique characteristics such as low-temperature cure, increased adhesion to synthetics and high-temperature performance—“Airflex LTC,” “Airflex IAS” and “Airflex HTP.”

Atlantic Extrusions Corporation, Salem, MA, featured its “StrongNet” reinforcement laminates. StrongNet is oriented in two positions to provide an exceptional high strength-to-weight ratio with each biplanar joint becoming an integral part of the netting. Produced using polyolefin polymers, StrongNet will not corrode, rot or rust and is virtually unaffected by water, most acids, gases, chemicals and organic materials.

Barnhardt Manufacturing, Charlotte, NC, used the show to launch four new products—“UltraBlock,” “UltraScent,” “UltraSorb” and “Needle-Eze.” UltraBlock features the benefits of bleached cotton combined with a durable antimicrobial finish and UltraScent is available in a choice of fragrances that do not wash off. UltraSorb is a cotton product with an increased absorbency of up to 12%, while Needle-Eze is a cotton designed specifically for the needlepunching process to help protect needles.

BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany, exhibited its “HySorb” range of superabsorbent polymers that includes the enhanced “AUL” superabsorbent polymers (SAP) that provide gel strength in compressed absorbent cores with moderate SAP concentration. Also included are anticaking superabsorbent polymers that are humidity tolerant and enhanced capacity superabsorbent polymers that provide total absorptive capacity. These polymers can be used in both disposable and durable applications.

Binder GmbH & Co., Holzgerlingen, Germany, distributed information on its “Microplast” mechanical fastening systems for disposable baby diapers. The company makes the film for the hook portion of hook and loop fasteners, which can be customized to meet customer demands for specialty nonwovens.

Bollag International, Newell, NC, promoted its services at IDEA as a buyer and seller of textile fibers and by-products. A privately-held company, Bollag handles more than 125 million pounds a year of fibers, cuttings and mill wastes, including cotton, synthetic staple fibers and tow, polyester and other products. The company manufactures staple fiber from tow and yarn for use in nonwovens.

Absorbtion was the focus at the booth of Buckeye Absorbent Products, Memphis, TN. The company displayed its “Unicore” and “Duocore” products for the baby diaper and hygiene markets, as well as its absorbent products that utilize SAP fibers and polymers for meat, fish and poultry food packaging applications.

Clopay Plastic Products, Cincinnati, OH, highlighted the breathable film area of its business. Additionally, the company discussed its latest product line of laminates with nonwovens.

Cotton Incorporated, Cary, NC, had a number of nonwoven roll goods on display at its booth, including spunlaced cotton rolls and wipes, diaper core composites, air laid rolls, cotton surfaced nonwovens and rolls of a carded/air laid/spunlaced 100% bleached cotton comber/staple composite that is currently being produced in Europe for make-up removal applications. Additionally, airlaced wipes from M&J Fibretech, Horsens, Denmark, that utilize a patented spunlace/air laid concept and an air laid feminine hygiene component that uses bleached cotton linters donated by Buckeye, Memphis, TN, were highlighted.

Achievement award winner Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, TN, attended the IDEA show to announce its re-entry into the nonwovens industry. The company showcased two raw materials—“PCT Polyester” and “Eastar Bio” copolyester—for fiber production. PCT Polyester targets applications where the attributes of conventional PET polymers do not provide the desired performance characteristics. The award-winning Eastar Bio copolyester is able to fully degrade into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within 12 weeks of active composting and is designed for fiber and nonwoven fabrics, blown and cast fill and for extrusion coating applications.

Ems-Griltech North America, Sumter, SC, promoted its “Grilene KE 150” fusible fibers and adhesives and “Grilon KA 140” monocomponent fusible fiber, both of which are examples of an upgraded process. The company also debuted its “Grilon BA 140” copolyamide sheath bicomponent to the IDEA show circuit.

At IDEA 01, raw material supplier ES Fibervisions, Varder, Denmark, promoted its “S Family” of fibers that feature economy, speed, strength and sorbency to carded nonwovens. The company’s patented melt gradient technology allows state-of-the-art fibers to offer nonwovens strength and cross-directional stretch, while the newly-developed “Hy-Soft” fibers give superior softness over conventional polypropylene fibers. The fibers are also in a crimped shape, allowing a three-dimensional nonwoven fabric structure for enhanced softness and liquid transport characteristics.

Gelok International, Dunbridge, OH, manufactures absorbent composites for specialty applications. At the show, company representatives highlighted Gelok’s flexibility and use of customer creativity in developing their products for such applications as hygiene, medical, filtration, environmental and spill control and packaging for food, transport and hazardous materials.

Henkel Adhesives, Düsseldorf, Germany, and Bayer Faser GmbH, Dormagen, Germany, promoted their joint partnership for the development of a system solution for elastic attachment on baby diapers and adult incontinence products. The system is a combination of a new elastic fiber and adhesive and is designed to reduce production costs while offering a high degree of safety and reliability in application. The core of the elastic attachments is a fixed elastic fiber that uses a hot melt. The system uses “Doralstan N 100,” a new generation elastane fiber developed by Bayer, as well as Henkel’s “Sanicare” products.

Executives at Intercontinental Polymers (IPI), Charlotte, NC, talked about the addition of a new multiple line expansion in the area of bicomponent fibers at the company’s Lowland, TN facility. The expansion has allowed IPI to increase its volume as well as the number of individual production lines. The expansion reinforces the company’s commitment to bicomponent fiber production, according to company executives.

KoSa, Charlotte, NC, has recently expanded its product portfolio of air laid fibers with smaller denier ones that are suitable for such applications as meat packaging. In the hygiene area, the company has developed new microdenier fibers for wet laid and filtration applications while the automotive market has seen the development of the first recyclable headliner made of 100% polyethylene through a one-step process, where before a combination of different techniques was needed.

The exhibit of Kuraray, Osaka, Japan, centered around the company’s new vinyl alcohol resin, “Exceval.” The resin was developed for heat-molding products equipped with diversified properties such as water solubility, water absorption, hydrophilic property, high resistance to oil and solvent and good biodegradability. The company also gave out information about “Clarino,” a man-made leather created from fiber processing technology, nonwoven processing technology, polyurethane resin technology and external finishing technology.

Lenzing AG, Lenzing, Austria, has relaunched its “Viscose,” Modal” and “Lycoell” brands, making them more attractive and modern for customers. The lines are now represented by a new spokesperson, supermodel Naomi Campbell.

At the show, Lysac Technologies, Quebec, Canada, announced it has signed new distribution agreements with six manufacturing agents that will have the exclusive distribution rights for Lysac’s “SNAP” (Safe and Natural Absorbent Polymers) superabsorbents in their respective territories. While SNAPs are currently available in North America and Western Europe, the new agreements now make them available in Asia, Central America, South America, Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The new agreements will reportedly put a minimum of 15,000 metric tons of SNAP on the market in these territories over the next three years.

National Starch and Chemical, Bridgewater, NJ, touted its new “Dispomelt Cool” low application temperature hot melt that is a brand new product for the nonwovens area, according to company representatives. By using thinner polys, the product is fully effective at 225°F, helping to eliminate char and gel build-up as well as making way for fewer burn-related injuries to plant personnel and lower energy costs.

Making its IDEA show debut was Omnova Solutions, Chester, SC. The company spotlighted its products for the wipes and filtration industries. For example, in the filtration area Omnova offers fluid repellent binders for air, home, oil and coffee filters. The company is able to take products and offer a binder product that is tailored to a customer’s needs.

The big story from Pliant Corporation, Schaumburg, IL, was the company’s new logo and tagline “Films, Packaging, Results,” which came about after the company changed its name from Huntsman Packaging Corporation due to the sale of the company to Chase Capital Partners. Among the products showcased was the company’s proprietary “Q-film,” a deep embossed film product that provides a soft quilt-like outer cover, making it an ideal choice for personal care applications and medical film products that provide barrier and protection features.

Rayonier, Jesup, GA, took the opportunity to showcase its new “NovaThin” absorbent cores during the IDEA show. NovaThin cores are patented, preformed absorbent core structures that utilize an extremely uniform distribution of specially designed superabsorbent polymer in a combined matrix of high performance and conventional fluff fibers. This proprietary composite results in an unparalleled degree of thinness without compromising fluid management or softness.

Rhodia Performance Fibers, Valance, France, devoted its IDEA 01 booth to its new “Antiblaze” family of products. The new product is a flame retardant chemical additive for nonwovens.

Making a scene with one of the most creative and inviting booths at the show was Rohm and Haas, West Philadelphia, PA. The company designed its booth with the concept of “from fibers to finish” in order to show customers all the different places the company’s products exist. At the same time, Rohm and Haas had information available on its new line of “Rhoplex” binders for nonwovens—“Rhoplex NW-4218” self-crosslinking binder, “Rhoplex GL-720” all acrylic firm polymer emulsion and “Rhoplex NW-4815” ultra-low formaldehyde, APEO-free styrenated acrylic emulsion.

Savaré, Milan, Italy, promoted its range of “Safemelt” specialty adhesives. Safemelt adhesives feature environmentally friendly technology, outstanding meltability and compatibility.

Standridge Color, Social Circle, GA, was on hand at IDEA 01 to tell roll goods producers about its color concentrate products for nonwovens. Additionally, the raw material supplier also offers antimicrobial and antibacterial additives for nonwovens applications.

For the first time ever, Tencel, New York, NY, had its own booth devoted to its eponymous line of fibers. Tencel 100% cellulosic fiber features high tensile strength and absorbency and full biodegradability. In the nonwovens industry, Tencel fibers can be used to create absorbent pads, artificial leathers, coverstock, hygiene items, wipes and medical products.

Tredegar Films, Richmond, VA, showcased a number of new films including the “X-27373” micron film with conical-shaped perforation and the “25 Penta” mid-tier feminine hygiene topsheet with 18-20% open area that features a balance of loft and skin contact area. Also on display was the “40 Mesh” boat-shaped cell topsheet, which allows hygiene articles to look more natural and feel more like fabric.

At IDEA 01, Tuntex (Thailand) Public Company Limited, Bangkok, Thailand, showed its polyester products for the nonwovens industry. These product offerings include chips, polyester staple fiber, hollow conjugate fiber and spin draw yarn.

Uniqema, Wilmington, DE, introduced two new wicking finishes at IDEA 01. The finishes—“Cirrasol PP842” and “Cirrasol PP843”—offer treated polyolefin cover stocks the hydrophilicity and durability of silicone-based finishes with improved properties to the end manufacturer of nonwoven products.

Nothing But The Greatest From Machinery Suppliers
IDEA 01 also hosted a variety of machinery and equipment suppliers to the world of nonwovens. These manufacturers talked about their newest products, including production lines, quality control equipment and other machinery for the various facets of nonwovens manufacturing.

Accusentry, Marietta, GA, displayed its diaper and disposable soft goods inspection system that uses high-powered image processing software to detect subtle defects in the manufacturing process. The system allows manufacturers of baby diapers, training pants, adult incontinence items and feminine hygiene articles to assure high quality despite high production speeds.

Adaptive Technologies Industry (ATI), Gaithersburg, MD, promoted its new “Gamma 1” solid state backscatter gauge for the measurement of basis weights. With increased detector efficiency, optimized geometry and digital signal processing, the product delivers better measurement performance than traditional photomultiplier tube gauges. Gamma 1 works in a range of 40 to 3000 gpsm and an integration of 50 milliseconds.

Albany International, Portland, TN, highlighted its custom-designed fabrics, which can be woven into highly sophisticated belts to form, convey or dry nonwoven webs. These advanced engineered fabrics are designed in dozens of styles in single, double and triple layers.

American Truetzschler, Charlotte, NC, announced it now has available a full line of long fiber preparation machinery from bale to web formation. In addition to being capable of handling staple fibers up to 130 mm, the new products feature a new “Web Profile Leveling VPR” in the “Scanfeed FBK 539” tuft feeder. By profiling the web exiting the chute feed and maintaining the profile by adjusting the front wall of the chute in 300 mm sections, the company is able to adjust web dimensions according to product specifications.

IDEA 01 exhibitor Ametek Patriot Sensors, Clawson, MI, showcased the latest additions to its family of “PLS” programmable limit switches that control high speed processes on disposable hygiene product lines. The ultra high-end “7500 UHS” has a high five microsecond scan time and has network communication capabilities via “ControlNet.” Additionally, the “Series 2500” PLS has from eight to 14 inputs and outputs with a 100 microsecond scan feature specifically designed for the manufacturing of disposables.

Autefa Automation GmbH, Friedberg, Germany, disclosed its latest development in precision crosslappers for profiling webs for various dry laid processes. The company also showcased its special winding systems for highloft that include winding, slitting and cross-cutting.

Making a lot of noise at IDEA 01 was the running melt blown system from Biax-Fiberfilm, Greenville, WI. The line, which was run in conjunction with a microspan stretching machine, featured different combinations each day. For IDEA 04, Biax reportedly plans to bring a full one meter wide SMS line to the show.

Bicma Hygiene Technologie, Basaltweg, Germany, exhibited a range of machines for the nonwovens industry. For instance, the company’s “Bi-Easy Pack” for the production of feminine hygiene materials features a production capacity of up to 1000 pieces per minute, single wrapping film automatic splicing and a three-folding device.

On display at the booth of Bikoma AG, Mayen, Germany, was the newly-developed “DD 400.” The feminine hygiene production line is two years old but has reached a new level with the addition of a completely new production procedures. The four meter long compact machine has no transfer belts inside and offers savings on investment, energy, spare parts and floor space. Bikoma also highlighted its high-speed “DD 300” feminine hygiene product line that has been updated to the latest servotechnology and can produce a range of feminine hygiene products.

Christoph Burckhardt AG, Basel, Switzerland, highlighted its work in the area of perforating nonwovens to create various effects, including three-dimensional structures of composite materials. The perforation technology has applications in the hygiene area for the topsheets of baby diapers and feminine hygiene products for better transportation of liquids. The system makes a three dimensional hole shape, where the top side of the material is smooth and soft and the underside of the hole has a dimension above the material surface.

Cavitec AG, Munchwilen, Switzerland, displayed its portfolio of coating and laminating lines for the nonwovens industry, including the “Caviscat” scatter coating system, “Cavidot” paste dot, power dot and double dot technology and “Cavicoat” knife coating plants. Also highlighted were the “Cavimelt” and “Caviscreen” hot melt coating and laminating machines as well as the “Cavibelt” lamination between continuous conveyor belts for optimum bonding, “Caviroll” reverse roll coater and “Cavipreg” impregnation plants.

A. Celli, Porcari, Italy, showcased its “Super Rewinder,” which is composed of a new winder, a defect detection/elimination system, a revolutionary “Super Slitter” rewinder, a fully automatic shaft and cores handling system and a finished reels labeling and packing station. The company also offers a range of in line winders, off line slitter-rewinders, in line/off line winder/slitter-rewinders, as well as equipment for lamination lines, unwind sands and control and drives.

New machinery highlights was the topic of conversation at the booth of Cellulose Converting Equipment (CCE), Moscufo, Italy. While the company is reportedly growing and improving the performance of its machines, it also has developed new machinery such as an automatic machine for the production of meat and poultry pads. CCE has also developed a new technology to manufacture wipes that are packaged in a strip of individual perforated packages so they can be sold one-by-one in stores for feminine hygiene and baby diaper applications.

Cofpa, Angouleme, France, highlighted its latest developments in woven plastic wire fabrics for use in spunbond machinery for the collection of filaments. The new products help form spunbond and melt blown fabrics, as well as air laid materials.

At IDEA 01, Cognex Corporation, Natick, MA, formally introduced its “SmartView ICN” automated web inspection system to the global nonwovens industry. The system can detect a variety of defects including dirt, stains, pinholes, gels, density variations and tears and step joints in nonwovens, paper, coating, plastic films, packaging and other materials. SmartView includes a modular high-speed camera configuration, digital exposure control, a configurable operator console and real-time digital outputs.

Cormatex, Montemurlo, Italy, produces a range of machines for nonwovens. Lines include cards and carding line feeding systems, carding lines for nonwovens, felt and wadding with synthetic and regenerated fibers, lap forming and needlepunching lines, slitting and winding lines and carding lines for tops.

Dan-Webforming International, Risskov, Denmark, had information available at its booth on its three advanced air laid pilot lines for the development of innovative air laid webs and core materials. The company’s high speed pilot line can produce 600 mm wide webs at a line speed of up to 600 m/min, depending on the product basis weight and raw materials being processed. Dan-Web has another plant operating at the German facility of Fleissner GmbH, Eglesbach, Germany, that focuses on the development of carded nonwovens, carded/air laid composites and hydroentangled products. The third pilot facility is for the manufacturing of test market products for evaluation by test panels and future consumers.

At IDEA 01, Dawson Textile Machinery, Greensboro, NC, presented the latest capabilities of nonwoven equipment produced by OMMI, Italiana Rigenerazione (IR) and Automatex. OMMI showcased its reliable, high precision and productive bale openers with load cell weighing that provides less than 1% variation at more than 1000 pounds per hour, while IR detailed its machinery for reclaiming post-industrial carpet waste back to usable fiber. IR also provides machinery for reopening all types of nonwovens. Automatex highlighted its 150 m/min crosslapper that produces an even web utilizing a patented drive and a simple profiling system. The company has also developed a new modular needleloom based on the oiling system of an automobile with 20-30% lower noise levels.

Dienes Corporation, Spencer, MA, highlighted its “DC Motor” with a precision pancake design that enables narrow width, high-speed slitting in converting operations. The product is for users that need to slit strip material to a very thin size and offers a continuous operating speed range of 300 to 8000 fpm. Two models of this product are available—the “E-50” is rated at 1/2 horsepower for widths down to 60 mm, while the “E-85” is rated at one horsepower and can handle widths down to 85 mm.

Achievement Award winner Dilo System Group, Charlotte, NC, spotlighted its award-winning “Hyperpunch” needleloom that allows needling with an elliptical needle beam movement. The system moves the needles in sequence with the material during the penetration phase, thus greatly reducing dimensional changes in the batt. Dilo also featured information on the “Turbo-Card” manufactured by Spinnbau GmbH, Bremen, Germany, which can be used in conjunction with Hyperpunch.

Dover Flexo Electronics, Rochester, NH, announced the launch of several new products at IDEA 01. The “MPI MultiPlexer Indicator” is a multipoint web tension display device for use on web presses, converting machinery and textile machinery. The “TensionManager” is a family of specialized controller device modules designed to reduce auxiliary equipment costs, optimize existing space and integrate neatly into machine controls on OEM web machines and presses. And “NWI Narrow Web Indicator” is a cantilevered idler roller, tension transducer and digital LED tension display combined into a single unit.

The latest products from Dukane Corporation, St. Charles, IL, include the “DDSM 20/40” ultrasonic sewing machine for the continuous sealing of pleated filter cartridges. Additionally, the 40 KHz hand-held “Mini Slitter,” which has been designed for slitting synthetic materials and blends of at least 60% thermoplastic content, can be operated by hand or easily mounted onto other machinery such as winders/rewinders, looms and traversing systems.

Edelmann Maschinen GmbH, Kleinwallstadt, Germany, highlighted its key developments for winding systems that applies to all aspects of nonwovens production, primarily spunbond, spunlace and any composites, whether for in line or off line slitting. The system has the ability to completely automate the entire process, from handling to winding to shafts.

Eniplan, San José dos Campos, Brazil, offers machinery for baby and adult diapers and feminine napkins. The company’s exhibit showcased the development of new types of machines, improvements to existing machines and other company attributes including maintenance team training and technical assistance standards.

Enka Tecnica GmbH, Heinsberg, Germany, had a range of products at the booth of its representative Fi-Tech Inc., Richmond, VA. Products on display included its complete line of spinnerettes, melt blown die tips and jet strips.

Making its IDEA show debut was the “Spectrabeam FSIR” (full sensor infrared sensor) from Eurotherm Gauging Systems, Billerica, MA. The product provides advanced measurement capabilities for web manufacturers producing nonwovens in a wide variety of sheet applications. Utilizing proprietary techniques to generate and obtain information over the entire near-IR spectrum, the sensor measures within the range of 1.35 to 3.40 ??m.

Ten new machines were introduced to the nonwovens industry by Fameccanica.Data SpA, Chieti, Italy, at the show. These included the “Model FA-X Superstar H.S.” high speed baby diaper machine and the “Model FA-X Superstar T.P.” training pants machine. The “Model FNL Premium” is a new sanitary napkin machine, while the “Model FAST” is the company’s latest higher speed panty liner machine. The “Model FIX Evolution” and “Model FA-X Profit L.I.” are for adult incontinence and light incontinence products, respectively. Also introduced were the “Model ROR” high speed sanitary napkin and pantyshield stacker, the “Model RAD-Dual” double-exit baby diaper stacker, the “Model CAR” sanitary napkin and pantyshield packaging machine and the “Model CPW” baby diaper packaging machine.

Represented at IDEA 01 by CarolMac, Greenville, SC, was Fare SpA, Olona, Italy. The company discussed its staple fiber capabilities, which include continuous extrusion for sheath core bicomponent and compact staple capabilities. Fare is also working on new spunbond and melt blown lines that are currently in product development.

Fehrer AG Textile Machinery, Linz, Austria, highlighted its new 2.4 meter aerodynamic carding line with a “K12” random card. The line can be used with needlepunching, thermal bonding or other technologies and can go up to a 5.4 meter wide line for producing acoustical insulation and door panels for automobiles and highloft waddings using both natural fibers and polypropylene. With this type of line, a crosslapper is not needed and there is no preferred direction, so the fibers are completely randomized in a completely equal way, according to company representatives. Also displayed at Fehrer’s booth was its “H-1” technology that utilizes a curved needle line. The oblique needling channels allows the path through the web by the needles to be longer, causing more fibers to be pulled up and down when compared to other technologies.

Spotlighting spunlaced/hydroentangled technology was Fleissner, Charlotte, NC. The company talked about its ability to produce various patterns on materials during production by using a special drum or wire. The patterns help to make the material more durable, adds to the structure and can be used to make the nonwoven look like a knitted fabric or to apply a company logo or other customized pattern. To date, Fleissner has reportedly sold 34 lines in the past four years, primarily to European customers.

Expanding customer service is the latest news from Foster Needle, Manitowoc, WI. The company now offers technical assistance and training courses for its customers on a global basis. According to company representatives, all the members of Foster Needle’s sales team has a background in needlepunching technology, allowing them to teach the frontline employees of a company in the company’s own facility. Additionally, Foster Needle is currently working on some new innovations.

General Disposables Machinery (GDM) SpA, Offanengo, Italy, showcased its latest generation modular high speed machinery for adult incontinence, feminine hygiene and baby diaper applications. The machine features process units, such as the drive and electronics, that are each totally independent of one another. The product offers a production speed in excess of 850 pieces per minute, drum forming and a full compression system. The new machinery also reportedly has the highest efficiency with the lowest waste of below 3%.

Gevas GmbH, Westfalen, Germany, presented its “Starfold” folding machinery for air laid materials, “Starfill” packaging machinery for soft disposable products and “Starwrap” bundling packaging machinery. Starfold allows manufacturers to deliver air laid materials in blocks thus reducing the cost of equipment needed to supply the materials to the production line and improving material handling and runnability. Starfill features fully automatic diaper packaging machines. Starwrap is designed to collect and group packages and containers of soft disposable products and wrap them under tension in polyethylene film to form a tight bundle.

GFM Maschinenbau GmbH, Erkenschwick, Germany, promoted its ability to manufacture production and packaging equipment for the disposable products industry. The company designs, fabricates and delivers production machines and complete fabricating systems for disposable products made from nonwovens, films or paper for the medical, surgical, hygiene and food service markets.

Needle producer Groz-Beckert, Charlotte, NC, was on hand to talk about some of its latest innovations for the nonwovens industry. The company has recently launched titanium nitride and chromium coatings that are put on needles to help them last longer, as well as a new conical needle mainly for specialized needling, such as waste fiber and preneedling. Groz-Beckert also had information available on its 43gg fork needle for very fine random velours and fine denier products.

James H. Heal, West Yorkshire, U.K., which was represented by Advanced Testing Instruments, Spartanburg, SC, exhibited abrasion and pilling testers, intelligent bursting strength testers and random pilling testers for the nonwovens industry, such as the “TruBurst” intelligent bursting strength tester and the “Nu-Martindale” abrasion and pilling tester.

Healthy Machinery, Taipei, Taiwan, promoted its machinery for nonwoven disposable products. Product offerings include equipment for masks, medicaps, show covers, pillowcases, headrest covers, CD sleeves, business card holders and slitting/rewinding machines

Hermann Ultrasonics, Schaumburg, IL, highlighted its new digital generator and touchscreen for continuous laminating, slitting and die cutting of nonwovens. Due to its use of a digital signal rather than an analog signal, the digital generator provides a cleaner read for users.

Machinery manufacturer Honeywell, Duluth, GA, presented the “Color Measure” on line color measurement system for use with paper, nonwovens and vinyl. The company has already launched a similar product, the “Precision Color Sensor,” into the marketplace. Additionally, Honeywell talked about its “MX Proline” PC- and “Windows NT”-based measurement and control system for measuring basis weight, moisture, thickness and coat weight for nonwovens and other industries.

Ibis International, Hoschton, GA, showed its scrap and trim collection systems for production lines, which collects leg notches and bag tails and separates and bales them for resale or reuse. The company is reportedly seeing a rekindling of interest in this area by customers. The company also highlighted is central vacuum systems for housekeeping purposes as customers do not want compressed air.

Idrosistem Srl, Bassano de Grappa, Italy, has developed a water filtration system to solve problems that spunlaced nonwovens manufacturers may have with water filtration. Either flotation or “Equicurrent” sand filters are used, depending on the situation. The system can handle all types of fibers and helps to increase on-time onstream operating, making lines more efficient.

Formerly known as Metso, Innovent, Peabody, MA, discussed its melt blown and spunbond pilot trials with IDEA 01 attendees. With two U.S. locations to run melt blown and spunbond trials, the company offers web collection systems, air handling and specialized designs. The company’s latest web collection technology allows for one step three-dimensional product capability.

Inventa-Fischer GmbH, Berlin, Germany, discussed its latest high-speed spunbond system. Customers are invited to try their products on a pilot line in Berlin or a reference line in Southeast Asia.

ITW Dynatec, Hendersonville, TN, launched its latest technology, “Laminated Plate Technology (LPT),” at the IDEA show. The new technology reportedly brings adhesive and fluid application to another level as it allows adhesive and fluid streams to be maneuvered based on the need of the application. The technology uses a number of different laser-cut stainless steel plates put together to make the nozzle, making separate sections for air and fluid. Along with being able to control the flow of the guide coming out to produce different patterns on the material, LPT technology can also coat and wrap patterns around individual fiber strands and offers users 70% adhesives savings.

Its new “Parotherm” calender was the show focus for Kleinewefers Textile Machinery, Greenville, SC. Paratherm is designed especially for thermal bonding high-speed spun fabric and staple fiber products. Featuring a simple, but highly effective pressure system and a uniquely developed, highly heatable calender roll with integrated deflection compensation, the product helps to reduce the maintenance costs of calenders and offers ease of maintenance as all rolls have the same auxiliaries.

KT Industries, Ft. Wayne, IN, displayed its custom converting and spooling capabilities including its “Superspool” system. With spools sized to fit standard trucks and containers, Superspool provides an unmatched combination of run time and flexibility that optimizes the logistics of supplying specialty nonwovens to high-volume, high-speed manufacturing operations. Also featured at K-T’s booth was “Core-Lokt”—a patented absorbent core product that features a strip of c-folded nonwoven that locks in superabsorbents. The product can be used in meat tray liners, diapers, sanitary napkins, adult incontinence products, bed liners, underpads and fluid containment pouches.

Eduard Küsters Machinenfabrik, Spartanburg, SC, told IDEA attendees about its “S-Roll 170” and “Host-S-Roll 250” thermal bonding calenders for nonwovens and its “S-Roll,” “Dydro Flex Roll” and “Hydro Soft Roll” calenders for technical textiles. All of these products are equipped with deflection-controlled roll systems.

Larson/Burton, Norcross, GA, had information available on its standard and custom converting equipment solutions. Products include zero-speed slicing unwinds, flying pasters, automatic transfer rewinds, unwind/rewind stands and in-register splicing.

Lasor/Systronics, Norcross, GA, showcased the “SVS-2000” surface inspection system to respond to the needs of the nonwovens industry. The system finds defects such as holes, shin spots, stains, eyebrows and wrinkles on 100% of webs at real-time speeds. The system identifies the defects, classifies and maps them on a hard drive and has defect image capturing for immediate study and correction by an operator resulting in improved process control, reduced scrap and returns, increased quality and customer confidence. The company also focused its exhibit on a new two-dimensional filtering technology for detecting defects in nonwoven fabrics.

M&J Fibretech, Horsens, Denmark, discussed its air laid technology for turnkey air laid plants that utilizes the company’s patented fiber forming system for the production of wide width webs. The different components of the webs can be bonded together in different ways through thermal or latex bonding or combinations of them both, as well as spunlacing. M&J also offers pilot lines and fluff pulp defibration systems.

Equipment maker Martin Automatic, Rockford, IL, promoted the “AirNertia” rollers that dramatically reduces the inertia of rollers and eliminates bearings so the nonwoven being produced rides on a cushion of air. With the intent to increase machine speeds, the product can be used anywhere for web transport and where high speed and low tension is needed. At the show, Martin Automatic had a splicer with a smaller version of the product running at 2000 feet per minute.

Micrex Corporation, Walpole, MA, highlighted its new patent-pending wet wipe process. The new technology allows nonwovens producers to enhance their standard spunlace products with increased absorbency, bulk, textile-like qualities and performances. The “Micrex/WW” process uses a specially equipped “Micrex/Microcreper” operating at speeds up to 200 meters per minute.

Machinery supplier Nordson Corporation, Norcross, GA, spotlighted a variety of new products at its show booth. The first is the “Summit” application technology for non-contact “Lycra” and lamination applications. Nordson had a live demo of this system running every half hour at the show. Additionally, the company talked about its “VL” series of melters for hot melt adhesives that offer high performance at a low investment, as well as the “ES 400” high performance, hot melt electric gun that has a long life of greater than three million cycles.

Osprey Corporation, Atlanta, GA, exhibited its “Compact” repelletizing system that helps to return film scrap into high quality granules that are easily re-introduced to the primary extrusion process. The company offers systems for roll and loose scrap recovery, as well as in line trim recycling. While the machine is now commonplace in the blown film market, it is now being targeted to the polyethylene and polypropylene areas of the nonwovens industry for manufacturers of baby diapers and film.

At the IDEA 01 show, Paper Converting Machine Company (PCMC), Green Bay, WI, formally announced its recent acquisition of the intellectual property of Atlas Valmet “Lap Splicer Unwinds” from Valmet General, Lancashire, U.K., and the assets and intellectual property of Webtron/Zigzap from DIDDE Corporation, Emporia, Kansas. The Atlas acquisition reportedly fits in well with PCMC’s current product line of wet wipes machines, while the latter addition is a manufacturer of narrow web flexographic printing presses. On the product front, PCMC highlighted its “Clipper Series” line of wet wipes machinery that features quick changeover, short run times and produces 250 cuts per minute.

Parkinson Machinery, Woonsocket, RI, displayed information on its new “Biax” laboratory capabilities for breathable films and orienting nonwovens. The technology calls for the biaxial stretching of plastic or nonwovens to enhance their properties, which is important in the formation of breathable films. Officially opened in February, the lab is through the company’s Marshall and Williams Division, which it acquired a year ago.

BF Perkins, Rochester, NY—a division of Roehlen Engraving, also of Rochester—exhibited its array of calenders, embossers and thermal laminators for the nonwovens industry. The company also had information available on its laboratory that allows customers to develop and test new equipment applications and parameters prior to manufacturing.

Pneumafil Corporation, Charlotte, NC, is a manufacturer of filtration and air conditioning systems for textile plants and waste and fiber handling systems. The company discussed its latest offering, the “Rotary Pleated Belt Filter” that is part of the “Everclean” family module system. The filter offers air conditioning for any temperature or humidity required for many processes. Pneumafil also had information available on its recent acquisition of Abington, a producer of hi-vac waste handling systems.

Reifenh??user GmbH, Troisderf, Germany, which was represented by Fi-Tech Inc., Richmond, VA, announced at the show the joint development of the new “Bico” bicomponent technology for machinery with Hills Inc., West Melbourne, FL. The machinery utilizes technology from both companies to produce core sheaths side-by-side. Reifenh??user also highlighted its new direct extrusion line for breathable film/nonwoven composites that uses a twin screw extrusion process without previous compounding.

Achievement Award finalist Rieter Perfojet, Montbonnot, France, distributed information regarding its “Jetlace 3000” and “Perfobond 3000” machines. The Jetlace 3000, which is based on the technology used for the company’s “Jetlace 2000,” features a new injector to obtain the highest random microperforated sleeve for additional bonding efficiency, as well as full patterning capability on conveyors and cylinders. The Perfobond 3000 is a spunbond line with an increased productivity of up to 3000 kg/hour per meter width per beam.

Machinery supplier Robatech, Muri, Switzerland, presented a new model of its “Concept” range of products. The “Concept 30” applicator is the solution for demanding hot melt applications in all high-output machines of the hygienic industry. The machine can operate two gear and/or piston pumps with independent pressure systems and feed qualities.

Roehlen Engraving, Rochester, NY, exhibited its new engraving and tooling capabilities for uniform engraving. Roehlen is offering a completely digital process to produce a wide variety of textures while new technology allows the company to create patterns or match an existing one with extreme precision.

The IDEA 01 booth of equipment manufacturer Rose Forgrove, St. Charles, IL, was devoted to its latest development in the packaging of wet wipes. During the show, the company ran cycles of the new machine for attendees.

Santex AG, Tobel, Switzerland, promoted its nonwovens production machinery, including thermofusion, spray bonding, impregnation, coating, thermofixation, vertical lapping and special machines. Specific products included the “Wavemaker” vertical lapping unit that creates web with maximum resilience, as well as the “Santatherm” high-capacity oven for thermal bonding and drying nonwovens.

Conveyor belting specialist F.N. Sheppard, Erlanger, KY, highlighted its diverse lines of belting products. Along with a vast array of belts, the company also offers molded parts and rollers and belt design services for improvements to existing belt applications or new designs.

Shoou Shyng Machinery, Taipei, Taiwan—represented by Georgia Textile Machinery, Dalton, GA—promoted its new filament needling system that needles continuous filament directly from the cone. The patent-applied technology offers a needled product with extreme strength characteristics with nearly equal strength in all directions, while no blending, carding or crosslapping is needed.

Sierem S.A., Cedex, France, displayed its fully-integrated configuration made up of the company’s stacker and bagger with a single electrical cabinet. This integration combines high performance and competitive costs and offers fully integrated configuration, allowing manufacturers to test the two machines together in one location.

Sonobond Ultrasonics, West Chester, PA, exhibited its customized equipment for the filtration industry. The equipment makes filter assembly easier and more dependable than ever before, according to company executives.

Spinnbau GmbH, Bremen, Germany, promoted its “Turbo-Card” and “Turbo-Unit” air laid cards that offer various advantages to the medical and hygiene markets, including random web laying, excellent web evenness and a high throughput (kg/h) at low area weight. Also, the company highlighted its universal web formatting process for spunlacing that forms fine webs in a large MD/CD range up to a strength ratio of 1:1.

SSP & Technology, Garlasco, Italy, launched its new line for disposable pull-up and training pants at the show. The convertible line is able to produce three different types of products and was developed in conjunction with R&L Engineering, Albany, NY.

The combined booths of Thibeau and Asselin, both of Tourcoing, France, and part of NSC Schlumberger Nonwoven Systems, showcased a new generation five meter wide high speed nonwoven carding line. The new line shows a web formation that was hard to achieve with older cards, resulting in products that are more uniform, soft and strong to compete with spunbond. Additionally, the booth included information on the “ProDyn” technology, which includes a redesigned web handling system and is driven by scanning gauges. A new ProDyn pilot line is scheduled to be established at the companies’ Fort Mill, SC facility.

Tokuden, Kyoto, Japan, spotlighted its “Induction Heated Heat-Pipe Rolls” that generate heat within the roll shell by using the heating effect of low frequency magnetic induction. The heating system allows users to control the roll surface temperature very accurately while evenly distributing the heat over the entire roll surface.

Making its IDEA show debut was VersaCore Industrial, Kennett Square, PA. The company, which was a finalist for the IDEA 01 Entrepreneur Achievement Award, devoted its booth to its “ThermoStack” versatile technology for the creation of 3D/honeycomb structures. The machine’s one-step process converts thermoplastic roll substrates into a higher value 3D structure, creating new market opportunities for 2D roll goods. The system offers fully automated, high speed production using flexible, patented turnkey technology.

Wintriss Engineering, San Diego, CA, debuted its “Web Ranger” web inspection system to the nonwovens industry at the show. The smart camera-based optical system, which is specially geared towards all types of nonwoven production lines, detects clumping defects and contaminants as small as 1/2 mm at 100% real-time at any speed.

Showcasing “Rollaweigh,” the latest product from Garnett Controls, West Yorkshire, U.K., was Wise Industries, Kings Mountain, NC. Rollaweigh is a precard weigh system that offers a unique fiber feed control system. The new card is currently available in Wise’s showroom and will be ready for customer trials in the next several months.

Zuiko Corporation, Osaka, Japan, exhibited its sanitary napkin machines as well as its new adult incontinence product machines, developed in anticipation of the increasing size of the aging population. The company also produces diaper machines, nursing pad machines and clean wipe machines.

Nonwovens Service Providers Make Some Noise
From commission converting to consulting, nonwovens industry service providers touted their latest offerings to the global IDEA 01 crowd.

The Nonwovens Plants Projects of Kobelco (Kobe Steel), Tokyo, Japan, highlighted its new nonwovens plants that provide the flexibility required to match production with changing market trends in the industry. The plants, which have proven technical advantages for spunbond, melt blown, SMS and next generational nonwovens, include a unique twin screw processor, multipolymer processing, fine to coarse denier spinning, high productivity and R&D services.

Larsen Converting, Green Bay, WI, told IDEA attendees about their services, including custom flexographic printing, full-service coatings, specialty laminations, calendering and substrate capabilities.

The Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center at North Carolina State University, College of Textiles, is creating a state-of-the-art melt spinning facility on the Centennial campus in Raleigh, NC. This multipurpose installation incorporates commercial technologies from JM Laboratories, Dawsonville, GA, and Hills Inc., West Melbourne, FL. The 560 millimeter wide lines include a two-beam homopolymer or bicomponent polymer spunmelt process with both spunbond and melt blown capabilities. The installation is scheduled to be complete by the end of the second quarter of 2001.

Precision Fabrics Group (PFG), Greensboro, NC, highlighted its converting capabilities for a variety of markets. Company booth representatives discussed PFG’s converting skills for different end uses, as well as its latest advancements for high-tech filtration media with specialized nonwovens and laminates and allergy and moisture barriers for home furnishings applications.

Sellars Wipers and Sorbents, Atglen, PA, presented its “Universal Point Bond” and “Sonic Bond” rolls. These rolls are designed to absorb any water or oil based fluids and help keep work areas free from leaks and spills. Sellars’ extruded industrial polypropylene absorbs up to 20 times its weight in fluid.

Web Converting, Westborough, MA, promoted its converting services, as well as its website, www.spoolingsolutions.com. The company offers narrow to wide width slitting and winding services for virtually all types of flexible materials in roll form, precision sheeting services for many types of flexible materials and spooling (traverse winding) services.

Having achieved substantial inroads in the medical field, today nonwovens are used in a variety of applications such as sterilization wraps, barrier products (drapes, gowns and germ-eliminating products), wound care applications, face masks, wipes, incontinence pads and filters. As healthcare workers and patients become more aware of the risk of cross contamination, the demand for cost-effective and convenient protection has risen. In the price-sensitive healthcare segment, some institutions have found nonwovens to be a less expensive choice than woven products in certain applications. With manufacturers reporting a range of growth levels—from 2% to 50%—many companies are looking to further penetrate the medical field in the year 2000 and beyond.

In terms of market growth, key drivers include improved nonwovens technology, the need for an increased number of surgical procedures and expansion into Europe and developing countries. As Europe begins to use more technical surgical procedures and as the Asian economy continues to rebound, the market for medical nonwovens is expected to remain one of the most lucrative in the industry.

Expansion—Up, Up And Away
One contributing factor in the growing usage of medical nonwovens is increased public awareness of cross-contamination. With AIDS, hepatitis and other transmittable diseases on the rise, there is an increased demand from hospitals for clean, sanitary and disposable products in order to protect doctors and patients. Commenting on how health awareness has benefitted nonwovens was Wang Yu Ming, sales manager at Hangzhou Xinhua Group, Hangzhou, China. “The most significant advantage nonwovens offer the medical market are their safety and convenience of usage. Most medical nonwovens are disposable, therefore they can prevent cross-infection of bacteria and protect the health of doctors and patients,” he said.

A spokesperson from DuPont, Wilmington, DE, also recognized the health benefits of using nonwovens. “Hospitals place a strong emphasis on infection control. Universal precautions have been the standard for several years. These precautions require using effective procedures and products to protect healthcare providers and patients. Hepatitis and multiple-resistant pneumonia are the biggest concerns in the industry today. Hospitals are looking for high performance products with excellent, consistent quality,” the spokesperson stated.

“Infectious disease problems have definitely increased awareness on safety precautions for patients and healthcare workers,” agreed Carolyn Green, vice president of marketing and sales for protective fabrics at Precision Fabrics Group, Greensboro, NC. “A few years back when the OSHA regulations went into effect, there was a spike in business, with hospitals and clinics stocking up on healthcare protective apparel, but it hasn’t necessarily translated into a sustainable increase for medical nonwovens,” she said.

One important consideration in how to protect doctors and patients from cross-contamination is cost, and healthcare providers are always searching for cost-effective solutions. While wovens are still being used in the medical field, nonwovens are a cheaper alternative in certain applications. With new and improved nonwovens technologies currently being developed and the rising production cost of woven products, nonwovens are expected to infiltrate a larger share of primarily woven applications.

Thierry Tavakelian, sales manager at Subrenat Expansion, Mouvaux, France, discussed the cost-effectiveness of nonwovens. “Their low cost compared to wovens has been crucial, while budget restrictions for healthcare providers have naturally made the need for nonwovens expand,” he stated.

Explaining the economical advantages of nonwovens was David Lunceford, president of HDK Industries, Rogersville, TN. “Hospitals are now leaning toward nonwovens for reasons of performance and lower cost. Nonwovens have soft and comfortable properties at much less expensive prices than woven products. For wound dressings, if you want the lowest cost possible, you turn to nonwovens. For surgical masks, you can manufacture a composite product and by including a nonwoven layer, you can give the product woven properties,” he said.

While lower costs make nonwovens a more viable option, medical nonwovens manufacturers have also benefitted from the aging worldwide population. “Improved healthcare technology has a price tag,” commented Matthew Pelham, president of Jentex Corporation, Buford, GA. “As people live longer and technology for managing diseases improves, demand increases along with rising healthcare costs.”

Richard Kiedish, general manager at Lantor (U.K.) Ltd, Bolton, U.K., considered other factors. “Medical nonwovens have grown due to a variety of social factors such as more leisure time and increased sports-related injuries. There are also greater expectations from patient for speedier treatment, healing and comfort,” he said.

Boosting growth has also increased usage of single use disposables in Europe and Asia, according to Susan Wimmers, group vice president of marketing, sales and product development, medical at PGI Nonwovens, Dayton, NJ. “With the European Union moving toward standardization, we should see more conversion to disposable products. Also, as the Asian economy continues to improve and the amount of disposable income increases, we should see the same trend,” she said.

Mr. Wang of Hangzhou Xinhua suggested the need for government regulations in order for medical nonwovens to expand further. “Due to the limited economic factors in developing countries, nonwoven medical products have not progressed to a large scale, despite larger medical markets in these countries than those of developed countries. A lot of progress needs to be made in order to extend medical nonwovens in developing countries. Governments have to promulgate statutes to speed up the process,” he said.

Improving Technology A Must
If nonwovens want to make headway in replacing certain, mainly woven medical products, some manufacturers warn that technological improvements are necessary. Commenting on this topic was Serkan Gogus, commercial director at Mogul Nonwovens, Gaziantep, Turkey. “Nonwovens need to be more drapable, easily washable, sterilizable, particularly in polypropylene and biodegradable products. Once those improvements are achieved, the medical field will make a move toward nonwovens,” he said.

Lisa Krallis-Nixon, general manager for Charter Medical Limited (a division of Lydall), Winston-Salem, NC, also expressed high hopes for nonwovens, paricularly in high-end medical fields. “Nonwovens are capable of having a lot of surface area and will be used in genetic engineering, bio-processing and cell selection/separation. Manufacturers will not be mass manufacturing your typical nonwoven but instead will be using more membrane technologies,” she explained.

Discussing the possibility of nonwovens taking over woven areas in the medical field was Mr. Pelham of Jentex. “There are certainly areas in the medical market that can and will trend toward nonwovens technologies. As technology continues to improve, there will be further replacement of woven garments by nonwoven materials due to continued increase in acquisition and processing costs of woven materials,” he said.

HDK Industries’ Mr. Lunceford recognized similar opportunities for nonwovens. “Bed sheets are a real opportunity for nonwovens, particularly in the area of reusable—rather than disposable—products. Nonwovens manufacturers need to find a way to engineer fabrics and modify technology in order for this to happen,” Mr. Lunceford commented.

Alison Kelley, medical product manager at BFF Nonwovens, Bridgwater, U.K., pointed to possibilities for nonwovens in various wound care applications. “There will be an increase in nonwovens usage in tubular and compression bandages due to new elastic scrims that are available,” she stated.

While nonwovens begin to make inroads in wound care products, surgical sponges are another growing application, said George Hargrove, vice president of sales and marketing at Barnhardt Manufacturing, Charlotte, NC. “In the past, gauze sponges have had a significant share of the market but nonwoven sponges are beginning to grow in this area,” he said.

Double Trouble
While on the one hand nonwovens continue to threaten woven applications in the medical market, on the other hand, bloodless operating procedures have somewhat diminished the need for protective medical apparel, thus impacting the development of medical nonwovens.

Discussing this trend was Precision Fabrics Group’s Ms. Green, “The increase in less invasive surgical procedures has definitely slowed medical nonwovens growth. With less invasive operations, there is less need for protection and generally fewer personnel are involved. This translates into fewer people gowning,” she said.

A spokesperson from DuPont had another point of view, “Bloodless operating techniques have had minor impact on the market for medical nonwoven materials. Regardless of the type of surgical technique, there will always be a need to operate with an aseptic field and to use proper precautions. Although it changes the balance of protection and comfort that may be required in those specific procedures, it does not eliminate the need for a product that provides adequate protection for the healthcare staff. In other words, there may be less demand for reinforced garments or specialty gowns, but the staff will still wear a protective garment in the O.R.,” the spokesperson said.

In addition to alternative surgical procedures, a second threat cited by many U.S. manufacturers is an increase in Asian imports. With cheaper labor costs abroad and the improving economic situation in Asia, U.S. companies are facing stiffer competition in global markets. Addressing this issue was Mark Dillon, president of Bio Med Sciences, Allentown, PA. “Increased imports from Asia have hurt U.S. manufacturers. The U.S. has the advantage of being the innovator in nonwovens technology but as products become a commodity, you see production move overseas,” he said.

Marty Paugh, director of marketing for Isolyser, Norcross, GA, does not necessarily see Asian imports affecting U.S. producers, although he predicted that they may have some future impact. “Materials made in China are hard to bring into the U.S. because of high tariffs. Once China joins the WTO and normal relations are established, you will see more of an effect from Chinese manufacturers,” he said.

What Are Manufacturers Up To?
Plans are underway at Barnhardt Manufacturing to introduce the “Steripocket” spunlaced nonwoven product designed to help oral surgery patients. The eight-ply, sterilized sponge absorbs bleeding from gums after tooth extraction.

Currently available from DuPont is the “ComforShield” nonwoven fabric for medical gowns. The fabric provides high strike-through protection in a single layer fabric and is 50% lighter than reinforced gowns. The company also continues to highlight “Tyvek 2FS” for medical packaging applications, which offers benefits for form/fill/seal applications such as printability, better processing and cost effectiveness.

Isolyser has recently introduced “Enviroguard” drape and gown fabric. The fabric degrades much faster than most materials and can be dissolved in hot water. The company is also working with Allegiance Healthcare, McGaw Park, IL, on the “Resolve” medical disposable waste receptacle. The companies are currently testing the disposable units that will completely process and sterilize “Orex” products and other non-pathological and non-radioactive waste. The unit will allow healthcare workers to put all red bag waste into one receptacle, instead of separating Orex products and other disposables. The system uses 260°F water to agitate the waste in order to make it soluble and/or dispersible.

In other Isolyser news, the company has signed a joint development agreement with Consolidated Ecoprogress Technology (CET), Vancouver, Canada. The deal will create a framework for the joint development of technology and products for disposable consumer goods. On the manufacturing front, Isolyser has launched Aqualace Company, Inc., Gainesville, GA, as part of an effort to secure North American capacity to supplement increased need for “Orex” fabrics for its healthcare, industrial and disposables goods businesses. Expected to come onstream in mid-2002, Aqualace’s facility will include state-of-the-art equipment designed to manufacture PVA polymer based nonwoven fabrics along with other traditional polymeric materials.

HDK Industries is concentrating on new fibers and composites for the medical market. The company will offer engineered nonwovens containing specialty fibers with benefits such as antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
French roll goods producer Subrenat is currently working on a technology that will give nonwovens certain characteristics such as releasing specific medicine to cure local diseases. Subrenat produces building, furniture and household textile products including nonwovens.

Western Nonwovens is currently looking into bandages utilizing the corn-based fiber polyactide (PLA) from Cargill Dow, Midland, MI. PLA gives bandages beneficial characteristics such as high absorbency, strength and bounce.

Mogul Nonwovens’ new melt blown line will begin production in August. The line will have SMS and SMF (spunbond/melt blown/film) capabilities designed for use in medical and other applications.

New from Bio Med Sciences is the double-sided “Dual-Dress” multifunctional wound dressing made with “Silon” fiber. One side is made with hydrophilic foam with an adhesive surface for difficult fixation conditions, while the Silon side provides a non-adherent cover for fragile and sensitive wounds.

New Kids On The Block
Several new companies have thrown their hats into the medical nonwovens ring. New to the medical nonwovens segment is yarn producer Unifi Inc., Vadkinville, NC, a producer of spunbond SMS composites using polypropylene fiber for the medical, hygiene, protective apparel, furniture, bedding and industrial markets. The company operates a facility in Mocksville, NC.

Another new company in the medical nonwovens field is Eagle Nonwovens, St. Louis, MO. Eagle began producing technical needlepunched nonwovens in July for the healthcare, aerospace, automotive, home furnishings and filtration markets. The company operates an 82,000 square foot facility with state-of-the-art Dilo equipment along with in-line calendering, heat setting, singing and glazing capabilities. Eagle manufactures soaker felts for use in three-layer adult incontinence pads. The company is also looking into developing a proprietary product for large volume use in the medical market.

Jentex Corporation, Buford, GA, has begun production of melt blown nonwovens in its newly opened facility. Jentex will produce melt blown media for medical and filtration markets worldwide (see Company Cameo, page 102 in the print version).

Just The Facts
According to INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, the medical/surgical market is the highest revenue generator in the disposable nonwovens segment with $462 million in sales for 1999. A total of 1.6 billion square yards (154 million pounds) of nonwoven material was used last year. The market is expected to sustain an average annual growth rate of 2% over the next five years, with consumption expected to increase to 1.7 billion yards by 2003. Spunbond is the most popular technology with 45% of the market, followed by hydroentanglement with 35%, both wet laid and melt blown have 10% and carded holds the remaining 5%.

the push toward thinner, lighter and stronger packaging continues in the baby diaper market, where manufacturers are keeping up with consumer demands for lower prices, larger counts and increasingly identifiable products

n the baby diaper market, good things come in small packages. And large packages. And durable, colorful and easy-to-carry packages. No longer designed to merely attract consumers, these days the latest bells and whistles in packaging are used to keep customers satisfied through the addition of other benefits such as convenience, information and price incentives.

A cursory stroll down the diaper aisle of just about any retail store confirms that, in order to compete, producers need to put their “best face” forward on shelves that are literally packed with packages. So just what are diaper makers doing to stand out from the crowd? With raw materials being an obvious starting point, it’s somewhat surprising that, while there are many ways to distinguish a product, most manufacturers reported that the use of new and different packaging materials is not one of them. “Raw materials haven’t changed considerably,” said Matthew Rinaldi, director of marketing for private label diaper manufacturer Arquest, Cranbury, NJ. “Most manufacturers are using a plastic flexographic polybag and this has been the case for the past several years,” he added.

G.M. Olita, commercial director for automated bagging machine supplier Amotek, Bologna, Italy, also pointed to a status quo situation on the raw material front. “There haven’t been any raw material changes significant enough to warrant alterations to packaging machinery design,” he commented. Mr. Olita went on to say that one area where raw materials have played an important role is at the end product level, where they allow for improved absorption and thinner diapers, which ultimately reduces packaging dimensions.

One manufacturer witnessing a recent transition in secondary packaging materials in the European sector was Jesper Dobel, director of sales for packaging machinery specialist Gevas Verpackungsmaschinen GmbH, Halle-Westfalen, Germany. “One radical change is from cardboard boxes to PE film wrapping. With the use of compression, four-sided wrapping and sealing, the supermarket gets the same hygienic product packaging but doesn’t have the problem of getting rid of the cardboard boxes used for shipment. Diaper manufacturers will see a huge savings in production costs, logistics, storage and machine manpower.” Mr. Dobel went on to explain that the most common secondary packaging method in recent years has been to group individual poly-bagged packs in corrugated cardboard boxes, which were then stacked, shrink wrapped and placed on a palette for transport. “Many European companies are already transitioning to PE film and many more are considering it,” he said.

Giampiero De Angelis, commercial director for manufacturing and packaging equipment supplier Fameccanica.Data SpA, Chieti, Italy, also described a steady market for poly bags. “In spite of an increasingly aggressive environmental movement, poly bags will be on the shelves for a long time. Degradable materials and paper have been tried and tested without success,” he said.

Taking up the issue of raw material pricing was Robert van der Laan, sales manager at Delo&Mediane International, Maarssen, The Netherlands, a hygiene packaging film supplier. “After some years of a relatively stable price level for LDPE resins in Europe, we have seen an increase of about 40% in the past eight months,” he explained. “This price increase has been the major motivation for our customers to look into alternative bag styles with less PE (weight), downgauging bag and handle thickness by using alternative PE grades.”

Packaging With A Punch
If manufacturers aren’t using raw materials to distinguish themselves, then just what are they doing to make a splash in the market? One leading branded diaper manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, is currently taking a swing at co-packaging as a new marketing approach. “We now offer an on-pack sample of ‘Pampers’ wipes on our newborn ‘Baby-Dry’ diaper packs,” said company spokesperson Tami Jones. “The sample is tipped onto the outer package and placed on the panel at the top of the diaper package,” she explained. The obvious advantage of this strategy is that it allows consumers, who may be new to the brand, to try another Pampers product.

Another company putting a new twist on things is Arquest, which now offers a combo-pack exclusively for Toys ’R Us stores. “The carton includes three packages of diapers and two packages of wipes, offering the consumer a usable inventory of quantity rather than a trial or sample pack of wipes,” said the company’s Mr. Rinaldi.

At baby diaper manufacturer Drypers, Houston, TX, a key innovation is a daycare ID box, which appears on all Drypers diaper packages. “This allows parents to place their child’s name directly on the diaper package,” explained Carrie Schnell, Drypers’ director of marketing. “This feature was actually generated by a suggestion we received from a mother who was using masking tape to identify her child’s diapers for her daycare center,” said Ms. Schnell.

Daycare ID boxes exemplify diaper packaging’s growing and increasingly noticeable role as a channel of communication between consumers and manufacturers. “An important function of the packaging is to provide customers with the information they’re seeking,” commented P&G’s Ms. Jones. “This means that customer needs are being met on the packaging and their questions are being answered. We strive to offer increased convenience for consumers and the trade. Packaging needs to be durable and cost-effective and we are always looking for ways to offer consumers more information along with an increasingly attractive package,” she said.

A similar story was told by Mark Scott, marketing director for North American disposable diaper business at market leader Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX. “Across the industry, as product improvements are introduced, violators on the package are used to inform consumers of key upgrades.” As an example, Mr. Scott pointed to the ‘Huggies’ package, which features a yellow circle with information about the company’s ‘Breathe Dry’ system. “We’re very aware of the importance of communicating product information to consumers,” he said.

In the store brand sector, packaging serves a similar purpose, according to Arquest’s Mr. Rinaldi. “Our primary interface with the customer is through our packaging. We don’t have a lot of dollars to spend on major advertising campaigns. Especially in the private label sector, packaging is a key marketing vehicle,” he said.

Is Bigger Always Better?
If there are two sides to every story then this is particularly true in the area of package size where there is a clear split between larger packages in North America and smaller ones in Western European regions. “Diaper packaging varies dramatically among different geographies,” said Fameccanica’s Mr. De Angelis. “Advanced countries are highly comparable in terms of counts, pack dimensions, materials and pattern, while less advanced markets, where counts are smaller, have completely different characteristics,” he explained.

Although it may not be the case in other parts of the world, for U.S. consumers, bigger is definitely better, and in response manufacturers across the board are pointing to a dramatic shift toward larger diaper packs. It’s clear that customers in North America are looking for more for their money, shopping in bigger stores and buying just about everything in bulk quantities, including diapers. In addition to the increased popularity of warehouse-type stores such as Sams’ Club and BJ’s (which offer “club packs” that are four to six times larger than convenience size packages), mass merchandisers are moving away from convenience packs to mega and jumbo sizes, while food and drug stores are seeing increased movement toward jumbo packs.

From the point of view of the manufacturer and the retailer, this is good news: larger sizes mean heightened customer loyalty. If consumers buy a jumbo pack, for instance, they are twice as loyal to the store and the brand than if they purchased a convenience pack. Taking this logic one step further, retailers are then less affected by competing promotions if customers have already purchased enough diapers for a long-term period.

Ms. Schnell of Drypers quantified the situation. “In 1999 at the grocery level alone, convenience packs dropped 34% to represent 32% of the category on a per pad basis, with jumbo packs holding a 48% lead and mega making up 18% of the category,” she said. Ms. Schnell added that club packs trailed with a mere 1.6%, which is indicative of crowded grocery shelf space.

K-C’s Mr. Scott described similar results and said that in the North American region consumers continue to trade up to larger packs. “During the fourth quarter of 1998 about a third of all diapers sold were in a convenience pack format compared to the fourth quarter of 1999 when only about 20% of all diapers were sold in this format. Currently almost half (46%) of all diapers sold in the U.S. are sold in the jumbo pack size package.”

Liam Buckley, vice president sales and marketing for packaging equipment supplier Rose Forgrove, West Yorkshire, U.K., offered his perspective on the trend toward larger packages. “In North America, the trend is ever-larger packs and carry handles, while the rest of the world still offers smaller packs. Larger packs are driven by consumer demand while smaller packages in third world countries are a result of economics. Price reduction continues to be a goal and cost concerns have changed some pack styles outside of North America,” he said. Mr. Buckley added that the U.S. market is also switching to larger packs of wet wipes with recloseable packs.

Drypers’ Ms. Schnell suggested one reason for the shift toward bigger packages. “Convenience packs, which have traditionally been wrapped around a price point, no longer represent a week’s supply of diapers. On the other hand, not everyone can afford to buy bigger, so convenience packs are still an important option for many consumers. Internationally, packs are smaller. South and Latin America, for instance, are not fully penetrated, which means that some people are still using cloth diapers. Customers in these regions may purchase smaller packages of diapers for trips or overnight use. In the U.S., 90% of diapering households are using disposable diapers,” she said.

The Other Side Of The Story
Pietro Tama, general manager of packaging and sealing machine supplier Komer Srl, Sambuceto, Italy, also commented on dichotomous package sizes across geographic regions. “In industrialized countries where consumers have higher incomes, the number of pieces per package is larger. In fact, in underdeveloped countries with low incomes, this number drops to one quarter of industrialized countries,” he said.

Mr. De Angelis of Fameccanica concurred. “Recent trends go toward compact packs, a requirement that was initiated in the U.S. and Western Europe a few years ago and is driven largely by issues of shelf space and warehousing and transport costs. In Western countries, by contrast, a combination of two major factors—cost savings and the increasing diffusion of the so-called ‘Great Distribution’ via ‘hypermarkets’—have boosted sales of double or economic packs and, more recently, in club packs in cardboard boxes,” he commented.

A similar comparison was offered by Mr. van der Laan of Delo&Mediane. “In Western Europe the trend is to double stack packs, which are mostly sold through supermarkets. In Eastern Europe diaper counts are generally kept low and packed into small units since diapers are sold in drugstores and kiosks on the street. Price per unit is still an issue in these countries,” he said.

Smaller packages were also on the mind of Gevas’ Mr. Dobel. “After some years with increasingly large counts in the bags, producers are starting to reduce counts. This is mainly driven by the fact that many supermarkets are offering a bag of diapers for ‘x dollars’ and the consumer is not focused on the number of diapers in the bag. Also driving lower counts in Europe is the fact that many producers are trying to enter the former East Block and Russia. Due to reduced buying power in these countries, this can only be achieved through low count packs that are sold at a low price,” he said. Mr. Dobel went on to say that another driving factor in Europe could be that most consumers—who are in the supermarket at least three times a week—don’t need to have big bags of diapers at home.

From a machinery point of view, smaller packages mean faster and better performing systems. According to Amotek’s Mr. Olita, “the move toward smaller counts in the European market necessitates increasingly fast machines that perform well.”

Juergen Schaefer, director of bagging machinery specialist Optima Maschinenfabrik, Schwaebisch Hall, Germany, agreed, pointing out that machinery needs to be as flexible as possible. “From low counts at high speeds to jumbo bags at lower speeds, everything goes. Although Latin American and Far Eastern producers may request systems that can bag three to five diapers, these machine needs to be versatile enough to also run, say, 28 counts,” he said.

Judging A Book By The Cover
In terms of graphics, color updates and printing improvements, manufacturers are doing whatever it takes to make packaging as attractive as possible to consumers. For instance, Ms. Jones of P&G referred to color as an important vehicle of brand identification. “We strive to have a clear distinction between our three baby diaper brands—‘Rash Guard’, ‘Pampers Premium’ and ‘Baby Dry’. The ribbon on our packaging is a way of distinguishing among our products, which share a similar green packaging theme,” she said. Ms. Jones added that, despite regular updates to packaging, one thing remains the same—Pampers products continue to prominently feature a familiar face. “The baby we use on our packaging is the same baby that was introduced 30 years ago in 1969,” she added.

Delo&Mediane’s Mr. van der Laan stressed the importance of top quality printing and explained that most diaper designs feature eight-color printing. “After the boy/girl phase (during which all producers were juggling with pink, blue and different colors to identify all the various references and bag counts), the return to unisex has simplified matters again. Skin tones and consistency of color shades remain important,” he said.

Drypers’ Ms. Schnell also discussed the shift toward unisex products. “This trend has now been fully implemented, with ‘Huggies’ and private labels being the last hold-outs. This change affects packaging colors because manufacturers need to appeal to parents of both girls and boys. Unisex products provide the most efficient movement on the shelf and, as one of the first producers to go unisex, we’ve found purple—our primary packaging color—to be a highly effective unisex color,” she said. Ms. Schnell went on to explain that, in the training pants area, most branded and private label products are still gender-specific due to the fact that potty training toddlers are more aware of their gender and, consequently, identify with gender-specific designs.

Arquest’s Mr. Rinaldi also cited an increased use of six to eight colors, pictures and intricately designed graphics in the private label sector. “We are seeing a trend away from knock-off packaging. While historically retail brands have offered take-offs of branded packaging, we are now seeing retailers develop their own brand or image. In fact, the term ‘private label’ is actually somewhat passé—now they are referred to as ‘corporate brands,’” he said. Mr. Rinaldi added that, particularly in the mass merchandise sector, many retailers are not even putting their name on the package. “Overall, this has led to more complex printing,” he said, “with private label diaper makers spending more money on the development of more detailed artwork than ever before.”

The Bottom Line
Despite such updates, cost remains a key issue and manufacturers are continuing to strive to make the most of their packaging dollars. P&G’s Ms. Jones referred to cost-saving improvements as a driver for recent packaging trends. “Improved film performance has led to thinner packaging, less waste and an overall cost reduction. Our packaging includes 25% post-consumer recycled materials that are derived from recycled milk jugs,” she said. P&G has also moved from roll stock to wicketed materials in an effort to improve performance and reduce costs.

Optima’s Mr. Schaefer characterized cost-effective packaging as critical in today’s competitive marketplace. “For this reason, diaper companies will always look in the direction of cost improvements. Cost reductions may come in the form of reduced gauge bag material, higher yield raw materials or the reduction of waste and delay on the production line,” he said.

According to Mr. Buckley of Rose Forgrove, cost concerns are driving a trend toward pre-printed roll stock polyethylene bags in areas beyond North America. “Flow wrap packaging is generally considered the low-cost solution for wet wipes, diapers or feminine pads. The ability to use polyethylene from roll stock as opposed to pre-made bags presents cost savings on a per-pack basis,” he said.

with stakes at an all-time high, air laid manufacturers are on the move, ready to make good on their promise of an unprecedented, millennium-style market break-through

A decade ago the big news in filtration was that nonwovens were gaining ground over traditional textiles. Today, as we approach the millenium, nonwovens continue to represent an inexpensive, durable, versatile and disposable alternative to non-nonwoven competitors. In fact, so much growth has taken place in the overall filtration market that nearly everyone seems to have a specialization in this niche-oriented business. Despite growth levels of about 3-5% per year, manufacturers report price pressures from customers as well as for raw materials—which can represent up to 60% of the cost of media—and in some areas of production, overcapacity has lead to consolidation. In low- and medium-end markets, price is often a key parameter over performance. Because it is often easy to substitute different medias to achieve similar performance, a buyer will often make decisions based largely on price.

In terms of applications, the market is made up of two sectors—liquid and air filtration, with the former including applications such as aquarium cartridges and filters for the pet industry as well as water purification filters in residential or municipal arenas. Air filtration end uses include HEPA and ULPA products, as well as HVAC and ASHRAE units. Other uses for nonwovens in filtration include melt blown fabrics that go into food and beverage applications for liquid separation and fabrics that are used in respirators, face masks and vacuum bags.

No Where To Go But Up
Having grown from $850 million in 1988 to $1.3 billion in 1995, the nonwovens filtration market is anticipated to hit the $2 billion mark worldwide by the year 2000 according to Filter Media Consulting, La Grange, GA. At the finished product level, the total value of the global filtration market is estimated at $3.25 billion according to consulting firm The McIlvaine Company, Northbrook, IL, a figure that can be broken down into 41% for the Americas, 35% for Europe and Africa and 24% for Asia. Looking ahead, McIlvaine forecasts that U.S. marketshare will fall from 22 to 20% in the next four years and Japan’s share will decrease from 9 to 8.5%, while China, on the other hand, will enjoy a 12% marketshare with a 10% increase.

While there are differing opinions about where certain geographical locations will fare in the future of the filtration market, most manufacturers believe the U.S. to be the largest market or the area with the most potential for development in the short term. John Reeves, president and CEO of AQF Technologies, Charlotte, NC, said, “The air filtration market in the U.S. is much larger than in Europe in part because most Europeans do not have air conditioners. Much of the air filtration market is represented by HVAC systems.” Mr. Reeves estimated U.S. marketshare at roughly 50%, with Europe and Asia each representing 25%.

In terms of geographical growth sectors, many companies pointed to the U.S., particularly the Midwest, as an area of growth potential. “In the U.S., the Midwest, specifically Detroit, MI, has the highest potential,” said Steve Copperwheat, plant manager for Knowlton Nonwovens, Utica, NY. “I would put the South second,” he added. After the U.S., Western and Eastern Europe as well as China were cited by many companies as areas of growth. “Today the North American and European markets are the largest,” commented Dianne Newman, director of market development and planning for Hollingsworth & Vose, East Walpole, MA. “For the future one would look to China and India, but they’re clearly not there yet.”

As far as which segments or processes are the most widely used in the filtration market, answers range from needlepunched and wet laid technologies to melt blown and spunbonded processes. Many manufacturers pointed to growth in the melt blown sector, which is considered a very strong, growing area. More melt blown composites are being introduced and there is more emphasis on combining materials in order to receive the best possible performance at the most reasonable cost. Mr. Copperwheat of Knowlton Nonwovens shared this viewpoint, “Wet laid nonwovens right now are popular, but I think you’re going to see a gradual shift toward composites where you’re using a different number of fabrics.”

Global Market Conditions—Weak Or Strong?
Another important issue in the filtration sector is excess capacity, which is currently affecting profitability and is expected to lead to consolidation through joint ventures and acquisitions. Two recent examples of consolidation are the purchase of filter manufacturers Puralator-Facet Products Air Filtration, Henderson, NC, and Facet International, Torino, Italy, by Clarcore Inc., Rockford, IL. A second example is the acquisition of Environmental Filter Corporation (EFC), Santa Rose, CA, by Filtration Group, Joliet, IL (see sidebar on page 48 for more details).

Although certain manufacturers defined the filtration market as weak, most characterized it as either strong or on an even keel with small growth percentages. Roger Hattersley, manufacturing representative for Bernard Dumas SA, Bergerac, France, commented on market conditions. “Currently, it’s a very competitive market. I think we’ll see more consolidation of companies because there are just too many companies in the market presently.”

Steve Lister, general manager of the Filtration Division for Johns Manville, Denver, CO, was more hopeful. “The filtration market is still quite healthy. The HVAC market is growing at about 4-5% worldwide and in the HEPA/ULPA cleanroom area, we’re starting to see some signs of recovery in the second half of 1999. Liquid filtration continues to be a very high growth segment at about 6-8% in North America.”

Tony Centofanti, president of National Nonwovens, Easthampton, MA, described the market as steady and pointed to an increased demand for filtration media. In response to such demand, he explained, the company is under way with efforts to create new products and enhance existing ones. Jim Iaquinto, product manager of Carlee Corporation, Rockleigh, NJ, also mentioned new product development initiatives. “We’re working on a HEPA-type filter for air/gas applications and also on our ability to laminate nonwovens or wovens. Our new product is a very high efficiency depth filter, which may be combined with electrostatic properties. We’re also looking to maximize life expectancy of our media.”

Diversity At Its Best
Another key trend in the nonwovens air and liquid filtration markets is an increasing number of niche segments. “The filtration market is slowly gravitating toward specialty products rather than commodity products,” said J.R. Turgeon, filtration sales manager of Tex Tech Industries, North Monmouth, ME. On the one hand there are commodity products—high capacity, ready-to-be-purchased items—and on the other hand companies are treating customers more as clientele, indicating increased cooperation between suppliers and customers necessitated by an increasingly specialized market.

Another related trend in the filtration market is the manufacture of finer and smaller fibers—up to 250 nano-meters in diameter—especially important in cleanrooms and medical uses. Commenting on this trend was Mr. Copperwheat of Knowlton Nonwovens, “I think you’re seeing many high-tech, specialty fibers out there and everyone is becoming more of a specialist within filtration. The filtration market is no longer a case where the customer is coming to you and saying, ‘I need fabric X. They’re now saying ‘I have a need for a fabric that will do X, what can you make for me?’”

One example of such increased cooperation is a recently established distribution agreement between AQF Technologies and Shinwa Corporation, Kawanoe, Japan. Mr. Reeves of AQF commented on the brand new arrangement, “We’re in essence turning over the marketing of our technology to another company and I think that’s a bit different than you would have seen five to eight years ago. It makes more sense for Shinwa to handle it because they know more about the Asian culture and have a reputation with channels in place.”

Other manufacturers agreed on the subject of heightened specialization, referring to the filtration market as an area that is quickly becoming a “science.” “Many more people are starting to understand filtration better and because of that you’ll see more composites in the market,” commented Mr. Reeves. “For instance, taking a melt blown, combining it with a spunbond and then electrostatically charging it makes for a more effective material than any of those materials would ever perform individually.”

Not only is the market becoming more scientific, manufacturers are more aware of the effects products have on the larger community. “Overall, the filtration market will become a more scientific market where companies are trying to market filtration media rather than commodity nonwovens,” predicted Fabrice Werner, director of marketing at Ahlstrom Filtration, Mount Holly Springs, PA. “More filtration OEM’s are now selling filtration performances that bring values to the end user, for instance, health protection, cleanliness and longer life. An excellent example of these values in action can be found in the vacuum bag market with the “Endust” program, which promotes the filtration performance of the bag.”

And The Battle Continues...
Another trend noticeable in the market is an increased usage of synthetic melt blown materials compared to glass wet laid fabrics. While overall manufacturers were divided on this subject, certain companies described glass as a diminishing market. “The synthetic market is gaining remarkable ground on organic products. The death toll has been sounded for organic (glass) products,” said one manufacturer. “That [separation] occurs in very high volume businesses,” said Mr. Iaquinto of Carlee. “There’s a significant amount of capacity and glass usage to reinsulate houses has probably been reduced, which has been the case for the last 15 years or so. There’s an increase in activity for glass in roofing and that’s the area where you’ll find the two (glass and synthetics) will bang heads.”

Offering another viewpoint on the glass versus synthetics division was Mr. Reeves of AQF, who cited a changing of the guard of sorts. “There is a strong trend toward the use of synthetics because they are more durable and possess many positive attributes. As technology evolves, anyone could see synthetics taking over the traditional glass markets.”

Dr. Christian Sandler, managing director of C.H. Sandler GmbH, Schwarzenbach-Saale, Germany, commented on the positive attributes of synthetic materials for use in filtration. “More and more developments of thermal bonded synthetic filter media are carried out, which are very efficient with regard to their arrestance and life. Furthermore, synthetic materials can be processed on high performance machines so that less expensive products can be offered to the end user.”

Despite the bad press glass has received in the past, it has retained its place in the filtration market. “Glass is so inexpensive that in many cases people just wear protective garments to overcome its negative attributes versus switching over to synthetics,” said Mr. Centofanti of National Nonwovens. Other encouraging news regarding glass is that more and more companies are offering a biosoluable microfiber-based material, which is highly absorbent in lung fluid, in addition to a low-boron fiberglass. o

More than 2000 professionals from around the world will gather at the Filtration ’99 International Conference and Exposition at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL this month. Sponsored by INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, the exposition, which will be open Wednesday, November 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday, November 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will include more than 200 exhibitors showing the latest in filter media, raw materials, filtration components and services. (A complete list of exhibitors begins on page 54.)

The Filtration ’99 conference will take place Tuesday, November 2 from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Thursday, November 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday’s line-up will feature a tutorial session on the fundamentals of filtration followed by an “Ask The Experts” panel. On Wednesday, Robert McIlvaine of McIlvaine Company, Northbrook, IL, will present the keynote address and Thursday’s lectures will look at the end use side of the filtration market. A reception will be held in the Expo Hall on Wednesday night from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Also scheduled to take place during Filtration ’99 is the second annual Filtration and Separation Product Achievement Awards Dinner, which recognizes outstanding filtration and separation products selected through a vote by readers of Filtration & Separation magazine. The event will take place Wednesday, November 3 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on the Riverwalk and will include a four-course sit-down dinner, drinks and entertainment. Award categories will include the following: Environmental Innovation Award, Best Website Award, Filter Media Award, Cartridge Filters Award, Liquid Filters Award, Liquid Separators Award, Membrane Filters Award, Air and Dust Filters Award, Gas and Hot Gas Filters Award, Filter Applications Award, Testing and Monitoring Award, Overall Product of the Year Runners-up Award and the Overall Product of the Year Award.

What follows is a complete list of upcoming sessions and topics for the Filtration ’99 conference:

Tuesday, Nov. 2—1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“Filtration 101—The Fundamentals Of Filtration,” Ken Rubow, Mott Corporation, Farmington, CT; Anthony Flannery, AF Nonwovens; David Paul, DHP Inc.

“Ask the Experts,” Moderator: Lutz Bergmann, Filter Media Consulting, La Grange, GA; Anthony Flannery, AF Nonwovens; William Gregg, Mikropul Environmental Systems, Summit, NJ; John Kroha, Flexon Inc., Leetsdale, PA; David Paul, DHP Inc.; Ken Rubow, Mott Corporation; Tony Shucosky, Memtec America, Timonium, MD.

Wednesday, Nov. 3—

Cartridge And Crossflow Filtration—Moderator: Rob Bender, Evanite Fiber, Corvallis, OR.

“New Pleated Fiber Media For High Temperature Applications,” Stephen Stark, W.L. Gore & Associates, Elkton, MD.

“Nonwovens For Industrial Dust Removal Applications,” Stefan Berbner, Freudenberg Nonwovens, Weinheim, Germany.

“Sorption Removal Of Colloid/Turbid Particles,” Tod Johnson, PhD, Filter Flow Technology, League City, TX.

“Crossflow Microfiltration,” John Richardson, Westech Engineering, Salt Lake City, UT.

For more information on Filtration ‘99, contact INDA, Association of The Nonwovens Industry, P.O. Box 1288, Cary, NC; 919-233-1210; Fax: 919-233-1282; Website: www.inda.org.

Three new absorbent core innovations. Two large-scale capacity additions. One major cross-continental merger. Nowhere is the countdown to the new millennium more apparent than in the air laid market, where the big Y2K question has less to do with computers malfunctioning than with whether air laids have finally reached the “Holy Grail”—the absorbent diaper core. Following years of speculation and industry rumor—stemming from concerns over capacity, cost, run times and delivery systems—it looks like air laid nonwovens have finally “arrived.”

Needless to say, their arrival has not gone unnoticed. With key capacity increases slated for the near-term future and a prominent acquisition about to take place, the air laid market—poised for an unmatched market breakthrough—has earned a reputation as a technology sector well worth watching. And the industry is doing just that.

The Countdown Begins...
Beginning with the topic of growing capacity both Concert GmbH, Berlin, Germany and Buckeye Technologies, Memphis, TN, are under way with plans to significantly boost current air laid production. Expected to start-up in December and reach full production levels late in 2001, Concert’s DM 70 million expansion will triple annual capacity at its plant in Falkenhagen, Germany and will center on the addition of what the company calls the most modern air laid cellulose fiber production facility in the world.

For its part, Buckeye also uses superlatives to describe its expansion plans, which involve the addition of the world’s largest air laid machine. The new 50,000-ton per year system is expected onstream in late 2000 at a yet-to-be-revealed location. The line will be triple the size of traditional machines and will be specifically designed to manufacture a new family of heavier basis weight, multifunctional products for various absorbent applications.

On the acquisition front, Buckeye’s purchase of Walkisoft is another factor set to change the air laid industry as we know it. The deal—which was expected to be finalized early this month—involves the acquisition of air laid manufacturer Walkisoft GmbH, Steinfurt, Germany, the nonwovens business of UPM-Kymmene. The $120 million purchase doubles Buckeye’s air laid capacity to approximately 85,000 tons per year.

While most manufacturers were wary of predicting just what the merger would mean for the market at large, many agreed that its ramifications are not expected to significantly change the face of the business and that the acquisition is not indicative of a trend toward widespread consolidation. This is not to say that manufacturers are not keeping a watchful eye on this area of the market, however. “We are interested to see how this works out,” commented Olof Lundin, marketing manager at Duni AB, Bengtsfors, Sweden. “This is quite a new story and we have yet to see what the effects will be. Buckeye has shown a strong interest in air laids, first through its Merfin acquisition and now through this purchase. One thing is clear,” he added, “a merger of this magnitude is a recognition of air laid technology and its possibilities,” he said.

Susan Stansbury, nonwovens marketing manager at Fort James, Green Bay, WI, described a certain level of consolidation as a positive sign for air laids. “Some of the consolidation in the market suggests air laid technology has moved from a small niche position to taking its place among the larger volume nonwoven fabrics. Converters and customers with larger products can be assured of both capacity and commitment to this business,” she said.

Reaching For The Grail
If there’s a hot topic in air laids, it’s hygiene, and more specifically, the coveted baby diaper core. It seems that anybody who’s anybody—and that means just about everybody with even a peripheral interest in the hygiene sector—is watching this market very, very closely. Just how high are the stakes? According to John McNicol, president and chief operating officer of Concert Industries, Quebec, Canada, “The replacement of traditional fluff pulp/SAP-based materials with air laid nonwovens in diaper core applications would require four times the world’s air laid capacity.” Duni’s Mr. Lundin also described this as a substantial market change. “The air laid baby diaper core will have a huge influence on the business as we know it. This is the next big move for air laids.”

Who will place first among diaper manufacturers in the race toward the air laid diaper core remains to be seen. Jill Langevin, marketing manager for Buckeye Technologies, offered a prediction. “I don’t think we’re going to see the big players taking the lead. We will likely see a small but significant player go first, with other manufacturers following.”

Another question worth asking is when penetration into the baby diaper market can be expected and that—like many questions in the nonwovens industry—is a matter of perspective. In the feminine hygiene and adult incontinence markets, air laid nonwovens have reached at least an initial level of acceptance, with air laids used in both absorbent core and acquisition layer applications. In feminine hygiene, manufacturers report that most progressive panty shield and panty liner SKU’s feature air laid components. So when exactly will the baby diaper frontier become a reality?

According to Paul Boynton, director-specialty pulp sales and marketing at Rayonier, Jesup, GA, air laid cores may already be on retail shelves. “Due to the highly secretive nature of this business and the number of proprietary arrangements, it’s very possible that these products are already available in one form or another without wide acknowledgement of this fact.”

Offering an update on European market penetration was Alexander Maximow, sales director at McAirlaid’s Vliesstoffe GmbH, Steinfurt, Germany, which made its debut early this year. “Trial marketing is already under way in Europe and the first product of this type should hit the shelves in Europe by January.” He added that there is one European baby diaper manufacturing line with air laid converting capabilities already up and running.

“Although there has been a lot of speculation about the potential for air laid in diapers over the past several years,” said Ms. Langevin of Buckeye, “I believe we’re finally there. Several air laid cores developed specifically for diaper applications are now commercially available and a large number of manufacturers are seriously testing them.”

Concert’s Mr. McNicol also predicted an imminent transition. “The missing factor was speed, but now that issue has been addressed. The standard for air laids has been set in the feminine hygiene market and we will see a similar transition take place across hygiene markets in general—in adult incontinence and then in baby diapers. Large-scale capacity investments will help break this open.” He added that the merits of thinner, increasingly advanced air laid structures—along with increased productivity and an ability to hit key value points—make it hard not to replace with air laids.

Even if issues of adequate capacity and production speeds have been addressed, another important challenge remains convincing baby diaper manufacturers to reconfigure existing converting equipment to handle air laid absorbent cores. According to Mr. Maximow of McAirlaid’s—which manufactures “SuperCore,” a brand new modified cellulosic fiber-based product—this is not a significant obstacle for air laids. “It’s really just a matter of modifying existing diaper lines. The hammermills and drum formers need to be eliminated and an unwind system must be added to unpack the layered (festooned) material. Companies can save waste by eliminating these components.”

Ms. Langevin agreed, explaining that Buckeye’s new “Unicore” multilayered, composite technology—which is currently in the process of becoming commercialized—is designed to run easily on existing diaper and feminine hygiene lines. “Manufacturers should be able to simply bypass certain equipment components rather than undertake substantial machine modifications.”

Looking at things from the perspective of R&D was Concert’s Mr. McNicol, who pointed out that while novel product designs may not require drastic machinery changes, a significant amount of research and development work is required behind the scenes. “The first part of the challenge is to prove that the material will provide benefits with value. For instance, there are 12-16 materials involved in a baby diaper and if that number can be reduced to four or five, that’s a real advantage.” Mr. McNicol added that a composite core would allow the replacement of several products, providing improved economics and value through a simpler, better performing product. “Ultimately, this is the vision,” he said, “first the absorbent core and eventually other components such as acquisition layers.”

Rayonier’s Mr. Boynton also cited an array of possibilities for air laids and specifically for the company’s new “NovaThin” product, which was launched earlier this year. The new product—which incorporates SAP and fluff pulp directly into a hydrogen bonded air laid structure—represents Rayonier’s debut as a manufacturer of preformed cores and propels the specialty pulp supplier into a new arena. “We are assessing our options about whether to develop this and future generations of NovaThin on a larger scale through an expanded manufacturing base, in-house or otherwise. We may also form partnerships and/or licensing agreements. No matter what the outcome, these discussions will lead to a broader scope of possibilities. This is a long process and NovaThin is not a one-size-fits-all product. It’s a platform technology, not a single answer. The absorbent core could be a starting point, but there are a lot of possibilities,” said Mr. Boynton.

Fort James’ Ms. Stansbury also commented on product opportunities and variations. “In addition to transfer-acquisition layers and a greater emphasis on absorbent cores, another key product development trend focuses on composites of all kinds, including multilayered laminates, top sheets combined with inner layers and barrier back side webs. In absorbent core markets, customers look at the entire structure’s performance, so even if you provide just a single layer, you must understand how it works in a complete structure. In other markets, customers are seeking additives like antimicrobial treatments, special surfaces, high loft and other features tailored to their segment,” she said.

How Goes The Market?
By most accounts, current conditions in the air laid sector are very strong in terms of sales, with pricing and capacity both acting as important market influences. Offering a hygiene market update was Concert’s Mr. McNicol. “We have seen very strong growth in the market driven largely by hygiene applications. There has been a push in the feminine hygiene sector toward more sophisticated products and better performing structures with improved designs. This transition has increased demand for air laid capacity in its own right, but other sectors have also reported growth.”

Ms. Stansbury described dynamic market conditions and said that major markets, such as feminine hygiene and baby wet wipes, are being carefully monitored as changes occur globally. “Some geographies lead change in some markets and they may be entirely different in other segments,” she said.

Playing a key role in the air laid market is raw material pricing, a fact that is not surprising considering the reliance on fluff pulp in parts of the market. Mr. McNicol offered an overview of the situation, “The case has always been that one apple in the cart is more of an issue than the others. With the exception of fluff pulp, the other raw material markets are generally stable. Capacity for SAP, for instance, has increased when needed, but fluff pulp has always been a moving target with continual ups and downs.”

Mr. Maximow of McAirlaid’s agreed. “The game in air laids is very cyclical; it is a steady wave of change. Anyone who has been in the business for a while is not surprised by this fact. There has never been a steady fluff pulp price—this is an area where you see very dramatic hikes and falls.” He added that there has been slight overcapacity recently in the air laid market, but that fluff pricing is increasing and is expected to go back up by the end of the year.

Rayonier’s Mr. Boynton emphasized the importance of price, particularly in the hygiene sector. “The baby diaper market offers very low margin for retailers. As a result, the price of materials will always be an important factor in diaper design.” He added, however, that lower cost is not the focus of the trend toward thinner, preformed cores. “It’s about increasing manufacturing efficiency with higher throughputs, improving comfort levels and decreasing package sizes to take up less retail space,” he said.

Ongoing Technology Upgrades
Technology improvements—in the form of new machinery twists as well as upgrades to bonding technologies—are also helping to drive air laid growth. “Certainly there has been a lot of progress made,” said Mr. McNicol of Concert. “Ten years ago machines were a lot different. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of machinery designers, manufacturers and customers, we have seen unparalleled technology improvements and the achievement of new thresholds.” Mr. McNicol went on to credit the use of thermal and multibonding technologies as well as other improvements for leading the way to a broader shift toward air laids.

Ms. Stansbury attributed certain improvements in air laid technology to the flexibility of forming systems. “The use of various fibers, additives and layering are all possible. Technology changes in other areas will certainly become part of the air laid line-up. For example, changes in melting points for bicomponent fibers will play a role in thermal bonding improvements. New bonding technologies go beyond just holding fibers together. Functional attributes for use in converting are being developed for improved post-embossing, laminating, resiliency and other characteristics. Developments in superabsorbent powders, fibers and specialty binders continue to offer new air laid possibilities,” she said.

Ms. Langevin of Buckeye also addressed the issue of technological change. “Air laid technology has evolved significantly since the original ‘latex’ or emulsion bonding process was introduced in the 1970’s. In recent years there has been substantial market penetration of multibonded and thermally bonded materials.” She went on to characterize these bonding processes as extremely flexible, allowing for a broad range of fibers to be incorporated—from wood and cotton to various synthetics—as well as superabsorbents, odor control agents and other raw materials in all sorts of combinations and layers. “There are a nearly endless number of design options for highly engineered structures with a range of fluid management functions,” she said.

What Else Is New?
Despite the attention garnered by the up-and-coming air laid baby diaper core application, life goes on in other arenas, where product development trends are under way both within the hygiene sector as well as in other niche and non-absorbent markets.

Discussing this subject was Ms. Stansbury, who explained, “We continue to offer absorbent core options, but may not see the same urgency to commit a major part of our future to webs for baby diaper cores and other commodity, large volume markets as companies who are pulp suppliers to these markets,” she said. Ms. Stansbury added that, as a diversified manufacturer involved in a range of product areas, Fort James is interested in specifically tailoring to converting and user requirements rather than limiting its focus to a few commodities.

Ms. Langevin of Buckeye also alluded to other areas of opportunity. “There is a lot of uncharted territory and market potential for air laid nonwovens. The major air laid players are very busy keeping up with growing demand in traditional hygiene and wipes markets. However, we have R&D resources committed to exploring new applications and some of the smaller air laid producers also claim to be investigating niche markets such as filtration and medical. Based on the early growth stage and flexibility of air laid technology, there is still a lot of evolution to come,” she said.

Scalpel. . . Suction. . . Nonwoven

our annual ‘check-up’ on recent trends and issues in the medical market

The medical market is a booming business for nonwovens. While the medical disposables segment equals $700 million worldwide, $400 million of that is spent on medical apparel, according to consultant John R. Starr, Osterville, MA. Thanks to recent medical market trends such as an increased need for barrier products and cost-effective healthcare materials, everywhere you look, companies are reporting increases in sales figures. These trends reveal that no matter where the medical industry turns next, there is always room for nonwovens and always a company to take up future challenges. One leading market trend is the recent increase in “bloodless,” non-invasive operating techniques such as laser surgery, which not only cut down on the amount of protection needed by both medical worker and patient, but also result in less time the patient actually spends in the hospital. “One of the big factors that nonwovens rested on is cleaning up blood during the operation,” stated a spokesperson for U.S. Nonwovens, Brentwood, NY. Vice president of sales and marketing for American Nonwovens, Beaver Dam, KY, Ken Knudsen agreed. “People are in hospitals less and there are a lot more out-patient procedures, so people are moving in and out more quickly. There are just fewer nonwovens needed per procedure per stay,” he said.

At the same time, some medical roll goods companies suggested the opposite is occurring. According to a spokesperson for DuPont, Wilmington, DE, the use of more increasingly bloodless operating techniques has had a minor impact on the market for nonwoven materials. “Regardless of the type of surgical technique used, there will always be a need to operate with an aseptic field and to use proper precautions,” the spokesperson commented. “Although it does change the balance of protection and comfort that may be required in those specific procedures, it does not eliminate the need for a product that provides adequate protection for the healthcare staff.” In other words, there may be less demand for reinforced garments or specialty gowns, but the staff will still wear a protective garment in the OR.

Src=images/sept9921.gifAccording to some manufacturers, the increase in non-invasive surgery has actually driven demand in some parts of the medical market. Lynda Kelly, business unit manager for the medical and consumer fabrics group of BBA Nonwovens, London, U.K., reported a slight increase in the general wound category as more patients are discharged immediately after surgery and have to personally manage their recovery at home, increasing the use of sponges and bandages. “Here consumers are managing their recovery and the consumer mentality is, ‘I’ll go buy this to fix it,’” Ms. Kelly explained.

One company positively impacted by the increase in laser surgery is Bio Med Sciences, Bethlehem, PA. With a product line almost exclusively made up of medical nonwovens, the company manufactures wound care and scar treatment products. According to sales manager Mark Dillon, Bio Med has seen a significant increase in the number of laser surgeries due to the smaller reimbursement levels doctors receive from managed care in the U.S. for certain surgical procedures.

A Need For Protection
On the flip side of the coin is the increased need for barrier products, such as drapes and gowns and germ-eliminating products used to treat hospitalized AIDS, hepatitis and multiple-resistant pneumonia patients. “Universal precautions have been the standard in place for several years and these require consistent use of effective procedures and products to protect healthcare providers and patients,” explained DuPont’s spokesperson.

An increase in medical product sales was also cited by Isolyser, Norcross, GA, which it attributes to the recent launch of its “EnviroGuard” spunlaced material for gowns, drapes and other medical applications. “In markets where reusables dominate, concerns over cross-contamination, strike-through and nosocomial infections appear to be shifting the emphasis towards disposables,” stated Marty Paugh, marketing director of Isolyer’s “Orex” Technologies International’s Healthcare Division.

Wovens Vs. Nonwovens
As is the case in many market segments, the medical sector sees its share of competition between nonwovens and other textiles. Disposability is one of the main reasons hospitals and operating rooms prefer nonwovens over woven fabrics, say most suppliers to the medical industry. “In the hospital there is a freshness factor,” explained a spokesperson from U.S. Nonwovens. “When you are finished with disposables, you throw them away and that’s it. Other textiles retain stains even after washing, which people don’t want to see in a hospital.”

Other manufacturers feel nonwovens offer more possibilities than wovens, allowing them to better adjust their product lines to potential customers. Lantor (U.K.) Ltd., Bolton, U.K., is one producer that credits dry laid nonwovens for offering maximum flexibility in specialty medical products. “This is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with woven or knitted products,” stated Richard Kiedish, general manager.

Src=images/sept9922.gifNonwovens’ ability to meet specific needs have helped them slowly steal the show from woven products in various areas including gauze. At Hainan Xinlong Nonwovens Industry, Xinlong, China, spunlaced medical gauze products account for 20% of sales, which is an increase from last year that is expected to continue. “Spunlaced products will increasingly replace traditional gauze thanks to characteristics such as breathability, absorbency, lint-free, soft hand, low cost, antibacterial and anti-adhesion properties,” commented Guo Kaizhu, chairman.

Malik Industries, Kennett Square, PA, is also looking for its needlepunched gauze to take the place of traditional woven gauze materials. According to Abdul Malik, president, the conversion from gauze to needlepunched nonwovens has been slower than anticipated due to corporate red tape, along with the time needed for R&D, lab and clinical trials and FDA approvals. “The future of nonwovens has arrived and it is only a matter of time before we see a gradual replacement of gauze and woven fabrics in many applications,” Mr. Malik declared.

Medical wipes have experienced a similar trend toward nonwovens over the past two years, according to Mr. Knudsen of American Nonwovens. “Doctors want to move toward nonwoven wipes due to their disposability and the education that goes along with them—less cross-contamination and less cross-infection,” Mr. Knudsen explained.

‘Examining’ New Products
Src=images/sept9923.gifIf nonwovens are the fabric of choice for medical applications, then new product developments are needed to maintain this trend. At AET Specialty Nets and Nonwovens, Middletown, DE, Mark Abrahams, vice president and general manager of the Specialty Nets and Nonwovens Division, reported that the company this year has begun to manufacture melt blown products for use in face masks, blood filters and specialty medical areas. AET is also currently experimenting with combining melt blown material with its existing “Delnet” apertured film and other nonwovens to make composites for the medical industry. “I think when you start looking at face masks, wound care products or some specialty gowns and drapes, combining different nonwovens has extra benefit,” Mr. Abrahams explained.

Also on the new product front, U.S. Nonwovens will be introducing an antimicrobial wipe that prevents the growth of different types of bacteria within a certain amount of time. The company is working on placing an indicator within the wipe that will let the user know when the antimicrobial within the wipe has expired. At BBA Nonwovens, “Softex” spunbonded nonwovens have recently been launched for the gown and scrubsuit markets. For its part, DuPont is broadening its “Tyvek” product line with “Tyvek 2FS” for less demanding flexible packaging applications.

Is There A Medical Nonwoven In The House?
As medical nonwoven manufacturers concentrate on the new products of today, they are also contemplating what will be required tomorrow. One up and coming trend is increased global market demand in Europe for medical nonwovens, which continues to drive nonwovens growth. “Outside the U.S., the conversion of textiles to nonwovens remains significantly lower than in the U.S.,” said Randy Davis, vice president sales and marketing, Dexter Corporation, Windsor Locks, CT. “We expect that nonwovens will play an increasingly important role in these markets in the future.”

Another future focus for medical disposable nonwoven producers is pollution, which continues to grow on a yearly basis. This is especially true considering the size of hospitals and the number of patients and employees that use medical disposables each day. “As reusables markets move to disposables, there will be a corresponding increase in the amount of waste generated,” Mr. Paugh of Isolyser said. “We believe that this is a critical issue from both a cost-of-disposal and environmental perspective.”

Another factor expected to play a part in the future of medical nonwovens is the Y2K issue and contingency plans set up by hospitals. “I do think we’re going to see some growth in late 1999 more attributable to Y2K contingency planning by hospitals than true market growth,” explained Ms. Kelly of BBA.” Hospitals are very concerned about Y2K and the easiest solution for contingency planning is to build inventory.”

No matter how you slice it, there will always be a place in the medical market for nonwovens. Thanks to their flexibility, disposability and cost-effective nature, nonwovens will continue to tighten their hold in the marketplace through new products and innovations into the next century and beyond.

a quick peek at the ins and outs of this key bonding technology

By Guy A. Gil
National Sales Manager Chase Machine & Engineering

The uses for nonwovens continue to increase dramatically. Applications include hospital gowns, face masks, hygiene products, wound care, wipes, air and liquid filtration media and many more. New uses continue to be found every day as both nonwoven materials—and the methods and equipment for handling and working with them—improve.

Ultrasonic bonding has opened doors to many new nonwoven product opportunities. For applications that require high loft, softness, breathability and/or high absorption, ultrasonic bonding provides precise bonding without stiffening of material. Ultrasonic laminating and slitting also produce a finished edge without loose fibers, critical for medical applications and filtration media.

There are two major ways to apply ultrasonic bonding: through a plunge mode, for single-strike bonding such as spot welding, button holes and attaching ties and straps; and through a rotary drum for continuous web bonding. Maintaining the integrity of the media while maximizing throughput and production speeds is critical.

Sometimes the products or manufacturing methods require that the nonwoven media be modified in order to make manufacturing a new product possible. One such example is the area of extended pocket air filters (pictured at right) using ultrasonics, where the inconsistencies in nonwoven materials can be a major problem. When using melt blown materials, polymer “pellets” can occasionally turn up in the fibers and get stuck between the ultrasonic horn and anvil, and tear the web.

In addressing this problem, nonwovens manufacturers have greatly improved the consistency and quality of the nonwoven media. Using ultrasonics to manufacture filters eliminates the puncture holes required by conventional sewing with needles and thread, and there are no puncture holes to be sealed.

The ability to modify the structure of nonwovens to adjust porosity, strength, hand and durability creates an almost limitless potential for nonwovens. Production of nonwoven products by ultrasonic bonding, laminating and slitting has improved dramatically as throughput, bond quality and web handling techniques have advanced.

Nonwovens 101

VCU students fuse fashion and function to create innovative disposable clothing designs

By Ellen Wuagneux
Associate Editor

This spring, fashion design and merchandising students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA were asked to meet a unique challenge—creating functional, limited-use clothing made of nonwovens. The possibilities and limitations of disposable nonwoven clothing intrigued Kimberly Guthrie, an assistant professor at VCU’s department of fashion, so she offered a class in which students would explore the topic. “It’s just nice for them to have the opportunity to work with something nontraditional and for them to experience touching something other than muslin,” Ms. Guthrie said.

A woven fabric, muslin has no stretch. In this class, the fabrics were man-made laminate and elastic films typically used to make diapers and personal care products. The stretch, width and sheerness were different and presented students with novel construction challenges.

Richmond, VA-based Tredegar Film Products supplied elastic laminate materials for the students and provided an overview of their function and properties. “Ms. Guthrie approached Tredegar about using our elastic laminates for her class and exposing the students to nonwoven materials,” explained LaShara Smith, product development engineer for Tredegar.

Tredegar supplied three elastic laminates—two from its FabriFlex product group and a proprietary elastic laminate. The students were constrained to only use the white elastic laminate material in its original form (no dyeing or printing), but could use other sewing notions (hooks, eyes, D-rings, piping, colored thread, etc.) as accent pieces. Spunbond nonwovens were used in the laminates, adding the aesthetic appeal of a fabric.

Personal care products and clothing obviously present different challenges in terms of performance, fit and appearance. Compared to personal care products, which are designed and created around controlling and containing body fluids, the main function of most apparel is to cover. “One of the primary performance criteria for an elastic laminate is fit,” said Ms. Smith. “Fit for clothing and diapers is similar in that it needs to maintain the same level of performance for one hour, up to 24 hours. The laminates supplied were designed for use as side tabs and/or side panels in diapers. The fit or amount of stretch a product has depends on the application and the end product it will go into. Our products are roll goods that will be converted and are designed to endure conversion processes as well as meet the end consumer’s needs. When a bolt of fabric is supplied, the fabric is in final form for the apparel maker,” she said.

Key attributes for clothing are aesthetics such as visual appearance, cloth-like feel, cloth-like drapeablity and comfort (softness, breathability), according to Ms. Smith. “The challenge in designing clothing applications is incorporating all these attributes. Clothing requires more material (standard width 60 inches) than typically needed for personal care applications (say a 5 inch side tab). The benefit is that garment construction is the conversion process, which is not as demanding on the material as a high-speed converting line,” she pointed out.

In comparing her interactions with students in Ms. Guthrie’s class to typical discussions with sales and technical staff at manufacturing or converting companies, Ms. Smith likened the experience to talking with an operator who handles the material and runs the equipment. “You are getting the day-to-day feedback, immediately and unfiltered,” she said. “Working with students was a unique experience because I was able to witness the creative evolution of each finished piece. The students shared their inspirations for the pieces and a few interviewed their peers to see what attributes were important to them. This was a refreshing experience because it is outside our current market scope.”

This project was actually the second collaboration between Tredegar and VCU’s Ms. Guthrie. The first joint effort was the SmartChoices single-use panty, which targets the postpartum segment. “Tredegar contacted the VCU fashion department for someone to help design a postpartum panty prototype that was stylish and exhibited good fit using one of our elastic laminates,” recalled Ms. Smith. “The need for the postpartum panty was identified through a global consumer research initiative designed to help Tredegar better understand the needs of the end consumer in feminine hygiene. Tredegar conducted the research to better serve and innovate for our customers. The panty is designed to provide minimal protection and for use with disposable absorbent products.”

The postpartum panty is one of four products currently offered in the SmartChoices product line. SmartChoices was officially launched last June and is currently focusing on meeting the needs of today’s new moms. Products are sold online (www.smartchoiceswomen.com) and across the country in small independent pharmacies and maternity/baby boutiques. “Demand for the panty products needs to be monitored and maintained and hopefully sales will increase as more consumers realize the benefits and other uses (travel, during periods),” offered Ms. Guthrie of VCU.

Going forward, Ms. Smith foresees the long-term potential for mainstream acceptance of disposable nonwoven clothing as dependent on society’s perception of the value of such items. “Disposable clothing using film laminates is already a reality in items that can be found primarily in the medical market (e.g. gowns, coats, face mask, smocks, etc.) and even the spa industry as protective apparel,” she pointed out. “Opportunities for growth in the protective apparel arena will materialize more quickly as function is incorporated in the garment. The key challenge is psychological because acceptance requires society to find higher value in semi-durable clothing This is a paradigm shift in thought and behaviors on how we view and purchase clothes,” she said.

“The impact of fashion on acceptance is based on quality, look and feel. Does it look cheap and industrial or does it have fashion appeal (stylish, tailor-made)? This is why we partnered with VCU to explore the possibilities of blending fashion and function, thus blurring the line between film and fabric.”

Nonwovens Industry recently sat down with assistant pr ofessor Kimberly Guthrie, who taught the “Innovations In Nonwoven Fashion” course, to find out more about her project and the students’ designs.

NWI: What was the inspiration behind your “Innovations In Nonwoven Fashion” course?

KG: The development of the post partum panty was very successful and I was curious as to what other types of apparel products could be developed with this unique fabrication. I approached Tredegar about sponsoring a course in which their fabrics would be used to design and create apparel that focused on the concept of function. A fashion design studio course is an ideal environment to experiment with the possibilities of nonwoven and film laminate fabrics as applied to apparel design.

NWI: What types of clothing did your students create?

KG: The design concepts for the clothing included activewear for running and trail biking, a flight attendant outfit, a post-partum outfit, flight ramp crew apparel, a house cleaning outfit, children’s art and play clothes, artist’s apparel, an outfit for dramatic weight loss, men’s all condition/climate gear (ACG), martial arts fight gear, waitress uniforms, apparel for storing and using hands-free audio and communication devices, and women’s apparel that is both fashionable yet convertible.

NWI: Specifically, what materials did your students use to create the clothing?

KG: Tredegar donated two bolts of Fabriflex, medium stretch, 60-inch-wide and two bolts of Flexaire, high stretch, 15-inch wide. The Flexaire bolts were narrow because they were produced to make the disposable panties but can be produced in wider widths. The students piece the narrow width to make blocks large enough to house their pattern pieces. Both fabrics were white. The weight and thickness of the Fabriflex makes it more opaque compared to the Flexaire, which is thin and somewhat sheer.

NWI: What are the performance requirements, challenges and benefits of film and nonwovens in clothing applications?

KG: Based on feedback from the students, the fabrics have good elasticity, maintain their shape and are easy to cut and sew. Washability is a big benefit as well. On the other hand, students reported that the fabrics have a plastic-like smell, and that the medium stretch fabric is itchy and not as soft and breathable as the high stretch. Students found the high stretch to be very soft, easy to wear and fit to the body. They also noted that the fabrics (especially the medium) can become staticy, attracting dust and dirt. In terms of cost, the designs need to be simple to keep labor costs down so the garments will be considered inexpensive enough to throw away. There is also a need to select findings and trims that are inexpensive to keep overall production costs down.

NWI: Specifically, what role did film/nonwovens play in the final clothing pieces?

KG: I instructed the students to approach Fabriflex as a woven that happens to have one-way stretch. This meant that they assigned this fabric as if it were a bottom weight for apparel to be used to create pants and skirts. It was also appropriate for jackets and shirts. The Flexaire was assigned to garments that you would traditionally use a lightweight cotton knit, such as t-shirts.

NWI: How would you compare having students work with woven versus nonwoven material? What are the key differences? Similarities?

KG: Fashion design students begin their studies of garment design by working with traditional muslin. Grain and understanding grainlines is extremely important. Muslin has no stretch on the straight and cross grains, thus requiring fitting devices such as darts and seams to create a specific fit or silhouette. All of this would apply to nonwovens that have no stretch.

The biggest differences occur during construction, specifically seam finishing and pressing. Traditional wovens ravel and have to either be serged or flat fell seamed (ie. jeans) to control the raw, cut edge. With nonwovens, construction is simplified because seam and hem edges can be left cut/unfinished. The actual sewing of the nonwovens didn’t present any problems. Cut edges didn’t stretch out, which can happen with cottons and silks. It was difficult to insert straight pins into the medium stretch nonwoven. Proper pressing procedures ensure that a garment maintains its shape and appearance. Since this fabric cannot be pressed/ironed, the patterned shape becomes very important.

NWI: Would you teach this course again?

KG: Absolutely. The theme for this class was function. Each garment had to have a function and/or be used for a specific activity and that was really the creative element for the students. They had to consider what the garment “did,” its functionality and wearability. I really feel the class was a success and appreciate that the students were so open to working with these non-traditional fabrics.

NWI: What surprised you most in the process of designing and manufacturing nonwoven clothing?

KG: What surprised me most was that in the end, the finished garments looked like “normal” apparel constructed as if you could buy it off the rack. Not until you got closer and touched it did you realize the unique fabrication. Students from other classes would continually visit this class to check on the project’s progress. The more familiar the students in the class and outside of the class became with the fabrics, the more they appreciated the concept.

NWI: Were the garments intended for single or multiple use? Did you and your students discuss the issues of recyclability and waste? How about washability? Where did those discussions lead?

KG: The garments were intended for both types of use but probably focused more on multiple use. Keep in mind that these students are potential consumers of this type of product, so recyclabilty and waste were definite concerns. That the garments can be washed and re-used is big positive. We talked briefly about reducing water consumption as a positive result and hope that maybe there is a way that these fabrics can be re-processed and re-used in some way to determine if this is a sustainable product.

Also, the textile industry is not innocent in its contributions to water and air pollution. As you probably know, within the last 10 years, the EPA has been requiring textile and fiber manufacturers to list their pollutants. If producing nonwovens can be a more environmentally friendly option compared to traditional textile manufacturing, then striking a balance between environmentally conscious and cost efficient production with environmentally conscious consumption would be a major goal.

NWI: In terms of the long-term potential of nonwoven/film disposable clothing applications, what are the key challenges that lie ahead?

KG: We currently live in a world where travel and convenience are very important, so the potential for limited use and disposable clothing is huge. One challenge for the future will be educating the consumer about this type of apparel and clearly defining when it is beneficial to make use of these types of products.

NWI: How about the pricing factor? Do you believe nonwoven-based disposable clothing could compete cost-effectively in this market?

KG: To use a specific garment example (and this is a very generalized example), I went to Target’s website and found a two-pack sports bra that retails for $13.99. According to a designer contact of mine that works in that market, the fabric and labor costs to produce a single sports bra (at this price point) is less than $3, of which approximately $2 is spent on total fabric costs. How cost-effective a sports bra produced in a nonwoven fabric is will be determined by what price the nonwoven is sold to the garment manufactures. The panties sold under the SmartChoices brand sell for $5 for three pairs, averaging $1.66 per panty. That amount is considerably less than most cups of coffee. It becomes an issue of value and whether you are getting your money’s worth.

fiberglass continues to hold its rightful place in nonwovens despite competition from synthetics

No doubt about it, fiberglass has been around for a long time. It was 1932 when an Owens-Corning experiment aimed at improving the production of architectural glass mistakenly resulted in fine glass fibers. Since then, glass-based roll goods have found their way into key markets such as filtration, roofing, insulation and composites, not to mention a host of high end, niche technical applications.

Belying its popularity in certain sectors, glass has undergone an almost unparalleled degree of scrutiny over its health effects and, for a while anyway, had earned the “bad rap” of a potentially dangerous carcinogen. It’s not surprising then that when synthetic media came on the scene, many guessed this more glamorous alternative would threaten the hard earned marketshare of its traditional precursor, particularly in markets such as filtration.

Although in some arenas—such as lower efficiency filtration applications—the battle between synthetics and glass wages on, for the most part each seems to have found its place in a market that is typically believed to be big enough for both. Certain value-oriented geographical areas such as Europe, for instance, have traditionally shown a predilection for glass, while synthetics have achieved great inroads in high turnover applications worldwide.

And how have synthetics managed to avoid being subjected to the same rigorous testing standards as glass? The answer is twofold: synthetic fibers are a newer entity and, secondly, they are not thought to pose the same risks because of their larger size, which makes them less soluble and less readily airborne. Generally speaking, synthetic fibers are not small enough to inhale and therefore are not assumed to be directly transported into the lung.

As for growth, synthetics are taking the lead and growing at a double digit rate, while glass is plodding along at a more conservative 5% or so (compared to a previous high of about 11%). Just the same, glass continues to serve the vast majority of high efficiency air filtration applications and—because of its mechanical properties and performance advantages—is expected to maintain this position for the long term future.

In terms of price, glass has an advantage—it can cost as much as 50% more in some cases to replace glass with a comparable synthetic product in sub-micron sizes. In the air conditioning filtration arena, the largest area supplied by blanket glass, synthetics and wet laid paper have begun to erode glass’ historically strong marketshare. In the HEPA air filtration market, some companies are shifting from a dependence on glass to an expansion into melt blown materials, a trend with obviously significant potential long term implications.

One company responding to increased demand for specialty synthetic media for cleanroom, HVAC, indoor air quality and face mask/respirator segments is roll goods producer Hollingsworth & Vose (H&V), East Walpole, MA, which recently finalized plans to add a third melt blown line at its Floyd, VA plant. The $4.8 million, 44,800 square foot capacity increase—which is expected to be up and running within the next 12 months—is reportedly a response to a combination of current market demand, anticipated growth and increased sales resulting from a new set of NIOSH standards, which became effective last month.

Roll goods producer Lydall, Manchester, CT, has also increased activity in this sector with its recent entrance into the melt blown arena. The company has added two 60 inch wide machines at its Technical Papers Division in Rochester, NH, which complement its wet laid and needlepunched nonwovens portfolio. The new lines, Lydall’s first foray into melt blown technology, target air and liquid filtration end uses, with an emphasis on liquid filter applications.

The Economy: A Waiting Game
On the economic front, most insiders report that the glass market is in a state of quasi-suspended animation, with only a select few manufacturers adding capacity and most waiting for a reprieve from lowered stock prices, reduced demand and the fear of further economic downturn. Following a peak of robust activity and capacity increases in late 1995, the glass market has been more or less on hold ever since, with improvement glimmering either near or far on the horizon, depending on your perspective. Many manufacturers are expecting improvement in the short term future and are biding their time by making plans cautiously and concentrating on current demand.

In response to these market conditions, Evanite Fiber, Corvallis, OR—like many of its competitors—has undergone what it calls several “mini expansions,” which have improved its ability to respond to future demand. Commenting on the move was Robert Bender, Evanite’s director of sales, “We have made changes to our infrastructure in order to handle future waves of growth over the next three or four years,” he said. Mr. Bender added that the company is responding to this comparatively slow period by being very judicious about expenditures and future deals.

Another glass fiber supplier looking ahead with cautious optimism is Lauscha Fiber International (formerly Fibron International), Summerville, SC, which recently completed a 25% capacity increase at its facility in Lauscha, Germany. This completes its first phase of expansion, with the second phase expected to be implemented by the year 2000.

As for roll goods producers, Ahlstrom Filtration, Mount Holly Springs, PA, recently initiated proprietary machine upgrades to improve the efficiency of its production of high quality glass grades. A substantial volume run at its Mt. Holly Springs headquarters was shifted to the Taylorville, IL mill, providing additional capacity for glass. The company also recently expanded its binder-free glass nonwoven product offerings for specialty filtration and medical device applications and—in support of its engine filtration business—developed a range of glass fiber grades for hydraulic filters; media with retentions of 7, 12-15, 20-25 and 50 microns is available.

Such capacity expansions may be causing other less positive repercussions in the market as well, with manufacturers such as Johns Manville, Denver, CO, reporting heightened levels of competition. According to Ann Doelling, director of filtration, “There is extreme pricing pressure and it is a very tough market. Prices in some segments are eroding faster than the market is growing and in the end, this means a loss in net dollars. There is currently slow growth due to the Asian recession in many areas and JIT delivery requirements have become more stringent as well,” she said.

Christopher Coates, vice president, general manager of Ahlstrom Filtration’s Technical Specialties unit, cited a strong level of competition in the HEPA market. “The most significant trend here seems to be the swing from tight supply to excess capacity. Deliveries have gone from months to weeks and the market is much more competitive. For us, however, the economic climate has been positive as our specialized applications are somewhat insulated from the pressure in other market sectors.” Mr. Coates added that raw material prices are currently flat with much more pressure on suppliers to stay cost competitive.

R. Vijayakumar, director of marketing for high efficiency filter media at H&V, also offered an update on the current economic climate. “The glass market is a bit mixed and will be for the next 12 months; however, the rest of the filtration market remains relatively strong.” Mr. Vijayakumar then pointed to the Far East as an exception. “Very minimal new semi-conductor construction is going on in Asia,” he said, “and almost all projects are on delay. This is devastating for some companies, which have been forced to scale back as much as 80%.” He added that the current crisis in Asia has had a significant but not catastrophic influence on business at H&V due to the company’s level of diversification. “By the most optimistic estimate, things will improve by the end of this year, although it will probably be mid-1999 before we see any real change,” said Mr. Vijayakumar.

Ms. Doelling also discussed the effects of the Southeast Asian economy.

“This geographical sector represents a substantial portion of the market,” she said, “and manufacturers are attempting to compensate for this loss in other markets such as Europe and North America. This will be very difficult to do. As a result, we are seeing more aggressive pricing because less of the ‘pie’ is now available,” she said.

Environmental Action Upped
The glass market, perhaps because of its deep roots in the filtration industry, has always been concerned with environmental issues, albeit not always as a direct result of actual regulations or formal legislation. In many cases, advancements in product development—such as the addition of an environmentally friendly product feature—are more a result of marketing savvy than actual environmental compliance. As one manufacturer put it, “The adoption of new bells and whistles more often stems from hyper-competitiveness in the market than from actual environmental concern.” Nevertheless, several environmentally-related topics have been attracting attention recently, most of which specifically impact the filtration sector of the glass business.

Heading up the list is a developing EU directive that regulates the use of fiberglass in certain filters. “This will increase the use of more bio-soluble glass in order to avoid warning labels on roll goods,” said Ms. Doelling. “The new regulation will call for glass fibers that, when breathed in, can break down faster in lung tissue and body fluids,” she said. Ms. Doelling added that Johns Manville is moving toward more bio-soluble glass and has developed a range of new glass products such as “902” glass, which was developed for the European market but will soon be available worldwide. Johns Manville is currently converting all its equipment to produce this product. “This regulation will necessitate compliance throughout the entire industry, including U.S. manufacturers exporting into the European market,” said Ms. Doelling. “The new glass will compete with synthetics and may affect the use of synthetics in certain markets,” she said.

H&V’s Mr. Vijayakumar offered a different perspective. “There are ongoing discussions about the labeling of glass microfiber out of Germany and the EU but it is not yet clear what effect this will have on roll goods producers. Testing is not yet complete and since glass fiber is not being sold directly, it may not really be an issue.”

Another environmental concern relevant to the glass market is a proposed ASHRAE standard for electrostatically charged (synthetic) media. The new standard will separate synthetic from glass media and will offer synthetics higher efficiency status though a distinct ASHRAE rating. The standard, which was delayed due to strong challenges from glass manufacturers, is currently in the process of being adopted. At the heart of the debate lies the industrial HVAC market, a business that is obviously valuable to both glass and synthetic media manufacturers.

Another recent “green” issue is the review of “PM10,” which is an EPA regulation that has been in effect for approximately two decades. Essentially the regulation allows the release of particulate matter (PM) that is smaller than 10 microns. The agency recently decided, however, that the standard needs to be revised to allow the release of only that particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns. The regulation, which will take effect following a three-year testing period, will impact the nonwovens filtration industry directly because it will require the use of baghouse filtration systems, which are almost always made of synthetic media.

The EPA is also underway with a regulation concerning antimicrobial claims. The action stems from concern over false or misleading product labelling and is not expected to have a drastic effect on fiberglass-based products such as filters since most do not yet make antimicrobial claims. The EPA regulation’s most significant influence is on manufacturers of filtration media who may be holding off on getting involved in antimicrobial air filtration products until the issue is settled.

A Shrinking Supply Chain?
While some companies look on a potential trend toward integration in the glass sector as a lot of fuss over a single acquisition—last year’s purchase of Evanite by a company owned primarily by H&V—others contend it is the start of a vertical and horizontal integration blitz that will have a long lasting impact on the future of the glass market. These manufacturers claim that this trend is being driven by an overabundance of players in the filtration sector and incessant pressure to cut costs.

“The real story,” said one manufacturer, “is too threatening for most of us to even talk about. In filtration there is a move toward fully integrated producers, a trend that has taken hold in Japan already. Filter manufacturers are buying melt blown lines and are starting to produce their own media. Roll goods producers are also beginning to make their own fiber (H&V’s purchase of Evanite is an example of a type of soft integration at least). The question is ‘how long will it take before second parties do not exist any more?’” 31.Japan Vilene Launches Mask - Nonwovens Industry

John’s Manville’s Ms. Doelling did not agree. “Integration is not a major trend in the filtration sector,” she said. “Forward integration is a very tough move that the market may not support. Customers—filter manufacturers—do not want to compete against one of their roll goods suppliers. As for filter manufacturers integrating backwards, we have seen a few but they generally lack the required technical expertise and purchasing power—they are at a cost disadvantage when it comes to purchasing raw materials,” she said.

Mr. Vijayakumar, of H&V, saw vertical integration as a possibility but one that is limited generally to the synthetic market. “A glass machine is much more expensive to purchase,” he explained. “It also requires production expertise and a water source. The cost of melt blown lines has also come down, so it is much cheaper to acquire this technology.”

Evanite’s Mr. Bender agreed. “Licenses are not expensive and melt blown technology is being bought up right and left. This may lead to overcapacity in the melt blown area eventually, which will be a problem for synthetics,” he said.

Study Charts Disposable Medical ApplicationsPosted on March 20, 2008 @ 06:48 am
With increase in range of infectious diseases and regulations put into effect in healthcare and hospital facilities, nonwovens has emerged as a goldmine for roll manufacturers fuelled by consumer demand, according to a new report published by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Nonwoven disposables are rapidly making inroads into the medical sector, principally driven by growing consumer awareness against spread of infectious diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis. The stringent standards being imposed by various regulatory agencies globally are also impacting the use of nonwovens positively. Though the medical market is increasingly moving towards non-invasive surgeries, overall impact on the nonwoven disposables market remains miniscule. Not surprisingly, nonwovens industry is witness to developments of new manufacturing, compound and finishing processes. Consumer demand higher protective apparel largely influences production of nonwoven materials.

The U.S. is the largest medical nonwovens market in the world and is projected to exceed $3.4 billion by the year 2010, according to the report titled Medical Nonwoven Disposables: A Global Strategic Business Report. With volume of sophisticated hi-tech surgical intervention growing rapidly, Europe is projected to experience high growth in medical nonwovens sector in the coming years. Alternatively, Asia-Pacific offers massive potential in the long run largely driven by some of the fastest growing global economies, including China and India. A large consumer base in these countries coupled with improving healthcare system and safety awareness bodes well for the medical nonwovens disposables market. Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing medical nonwovens market and is projected to register a CAGR of more than 5% during the 2000-2010 period.

About 3.3 billion square yards of nonwoven material is used in medical and surgical applications in North America alone. This indicates the potential of the market lying ahead and opens up newer avenues for the producers. Aging population worldwide is also fueling demand for medical nonwovens disposables. The old age is characterized by increased incidences of acute diseases, necessitating the need for more number of surgical procedures. Nonwovens disposables are more preferred in such procedures due to higher safety and usage convenience. As the population of old people continues to grow alarmingly throughout the world, surgical procedures using nonwoven disposables such as surgical gloves, masks, and adult diapers are also expected to multiply.

Among product segments, surgical nonwoven products market is the largest and the fastest growing segment and is projected to cross $5.0 billion by the year 2010, at a CAGR of about 5%. Though the medical nonwovens disposable market offers significant growth prospects, few hurdles do exist that are likely to pose as a constraint to market growth. The continuing slowdown in the fiber industry on which the nonwovens market is largely dependent could restrain the market from rapidly achieving its potential. The issue of proper comprehension of nonwovens disposable applications in medical industry among consumers in various countries is also likely to influence the market. Countries with low awareness about the product's medical usages would experience low market development, thereby limiting the overall market growth.

More information: Global Industry Analysts, Inc.: 408-528-9966.

Posted on April 19, 2007 @ 01:01 pm
As part of the U.S.-based Glatfelter Company, two long-established players in the European paper industry, Schoeller & Hoesch and Lydney (formerly JR Crompton), are operating jointly as Glatfelter Composite Fibers effective of last month. “The aim of this move is to pool the expertise of the mills in Germany, France and the U.K. in order to provide even better service to long-standing customers throughout the world by enhancing our products and services,” said Martin Rapp, vice president and general manager of the business unit. Following its acquisition of Schoeller & Hoesch in 1998, Glatfelter has demonstrated its confidence in its European operations by making major investments in a new plant and equipment and by acquiring another business.

Glatfelter Composite Fibers holds leading global positions in long-fiber papers and wetlaid nonwovens. In the technical specialties segment it offers a variety of products for use in general industry and in the medical and consumer goods sectors. These include nonwovens and specialty papers for the manufacture of car batteries, wet wipes and adhesive tapes. The range also covers materials for further automotive applications, the air and liquid filtration market, the apparel and consumer textiles industry and surgical masks.

Borealis To Bring Meltblown Line Onstream
Posted on March 1, 2007 @ 08:48 am

Plastics solutions provider Borealis is investing in a polyolefin meltblown line to increase nonwoven innovation. The investment includes the installation of an in-house pilot line alongside other laboratory equipment. According to Borealis, this is the first time a polyolefin supplier has installed an in-house meltblown pilot line.

Located in Borealis’ international innovation center in Linz, Austria, the new pilot line will support the cost-effective testing of meltblown concepts together with customers and enable the delivery of innovative products to the market more quickly. Polyolefins for the meltblown industry are used predominantly in hygiene applications, such as baby diapers and feminine care products, for medical and protective clothing, and facemasks and other air and water filtration applications.

Axel Becker, international sales manager for machinery manufacturer Reicofil, who supplied the new line, said: “Borealis’ investment opens up new opportunities for the meltblown industry to research advanced applications. The in-house pilot line will make small-scale testing of a large number of samples economically viable. This will encourage exploratory testing that pushes existing boundaries, expanding meltblown into exciting new application areas.”

K-C Sales Hit New Quarterly High

Posted on January 30, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

At Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Dallas, TX, net sales in the fourth quarter of 2006 rose 7.4% to $4.3 billion, a new quarterly high. Operating profit was $611 million in the fourth quarter of 2006, compared with $572 million in 2005. For the full year of 2006, sales of $16.7 billion were up more than 5% from $15.9 billion in the prior year, as a result of a 2% rise in sales volumes, along with improvements of 1% each in net selling prices, product mix and currency exchange rates. Highlights included strong performance in the company's health care and personal care business segments, with gains of 11% and 9%, respectively, along with a ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth in developing and emerging markets.

The improvement in adjusted earnings per share versus the year-ago quarter was driven by higher sales, the company's continued success in reducing costs and excellent results at K-C de Mexico, all of which helped overcome inflationary cost increases totaling approximately $90 million.

Chairman and CEO Thomas Falk said, "Our performance in the fourth quarter capped another year of delivering on our commitments. Throughout 2006, K-C teams around the world executed our Global Business Plan well and made rapid progress implementing our strategic cost reduction program. Thanks to their efforts, we improved our competitive position and met our top- and bottom-line growth objectives for the year, even though inflationary pressures were far greater than originally expected. Moreover, we continued to generate significant cash flow, enabling us to fund targeted growth initiatives and return healthy amounts of cash to shareholders. With solid organic sales growth in the fourth quarter and sequentially improved margins, we are entering the new year with good momentum."

The increase in fourth quarter sales was driven by sales volume growth of more than 3%, along with higher net selling prices and favorable product mix, each approximately 1% better than the prior year. In addition, stronger foreign currencies benefited sales by more than 2%.

Sales of personal care products climbed 9% in the fourth quarter, driven primarily by sales volume growth of 8%. Currency effects of about 2% and favorable product mix of 1% also benefited sales, while net selling prices declined approximately 2%.

Personal care sales in North America increased about 5% compared with the fourth quarter of 2005, as a 6% improvement in sales volumes was partially offset by lower prices to match competitive activity and support product initiatives. Sales volumes for Huggies baby wipes were up double-digits and Huggies diapers grew at a high single-digit rate, boosted by innovations to the brand's high-margin, super-premium offerings in both categories.

The company's Pull-Ups training pants and Depend and Poise incontinence care products also experienced good volume gains. Kotex feminine care sales volumes, however, were below the year-ago level. In Europe, personal care sales increased more than 11%, due primarily to currency benefits of about 8% and a 4% increase in sales volumes. Net selling prices were down somewhat compared with the prior year. Diaper volumes in the region were up 8%, on the strength of a 10% improvement in sales volumes of Huggies diapers in the company's four core European markets—the U.K., France, Italy and Spain.

In developing and emerging markets, personal care sales rose about 15%, with higher sales volumes, up 12%, accounting for most of the increase. Sales grew at a double-digit rate in all four D&E regions—North Asia, South Asia, Latin America and Middle East/Africa/Eastern Europe.

Sales of K-C Professional & other products were 6.4% above the year-ago quarter. Sales volumes increased about 2% and net selling prices rose approximately 1%, while favorable currency effects added 3% to sales. K-C Professional generated solid increases in sales of its differentiated apparel, glove and wiper products for the workplace and safety markets in North America and Europe. In addition, sales grew double digits in Asia and Latin America.

Sales of health care products went up a robust 11.4% in the fourth quarter, driven primarily by continued strong volume growth of 8% and increased selling prices of 2%. Highlights of the volume growth included double-digit gains for face masks, medical devices and sterile wrap in North America and in Europe's largest category, surgical products. Overall sales continued to benefit from the company's highly successful new Sterling Nitrile exam glove.

Finalists Named For 2007 Visionary Award

Posted on October 10, 2006 @ 07:20 am

Six consumer products from the U.S. and Europe—ranging from advanced hygiene products to pet care to beer can construction—have been nominated as finalists for the 2007 Visionary Award by INDA, the North American nonwovens association. Now in its sixth year, the award, which is given annually to a new consumer product that utilizes nonwoven fabrics in its final form, will be presented at the Vision 2007 consumer products conference, January 21-24, 2007 in Denver, CO. The finalists will make presentations during Vision 2007 and conference attendees will vote on the recipient of the 2007 Visionary Award.

The six finalists include cotton feminine hygiene products from Italian producer Corman SpA; DuPont’s Cool2Go insulating wrap for beer cans; Johnson Baby Extracare wipes from Johnson & Johnson Europe; Petsleeves petwear from U.S.-based Petsleeves; Pampers Cruisers by Procter & Gamble; and Swim Pants from Tyco Healthcare Retail Group.

Last January at Vision 2006 in Denver, Chicopee was presented with the 2006 Visionary Award for its Disaster Relief Blanket. As has become a tradition at the Vision Conferences, Chicopee will make a presentation at Vision 2007 to provide an update on the winning product.

Other previous winners include BBA Fiberweb’s Resolution Print Media (2005); Brillo Scrub ‘n’ Toss (2004), FMJ ChemBio for its Civilian Quick Escape Mask (2003) and Procter & Gamble's Swiffer cleaning system in 2002.

For more information on Vision 2007: www.inda.org.

EDANA Tackles Infection Control

first-ever IN CONTROL! conference held in Prague

EDANA’s first-ever IN CONTROL! Infection control conference took place in Prague March 20-21, 2006 and featured 15 speakers covering many aspects of infection control, ranging from the various emerging infections throughout the world, such as the Avian Flu, SARS, Ebola and HCAI and the critical role the nonwovens industry is playing in this field. Preventing infection is critical in reducing patient suffering and morbidity, protecting medical staff and minimizing post-operative costs.

The conference, was organized by EDANA (International Association for the Nonwovens and Related Industries) and supported by EFHSS (European Forum for Hospital Sterile Supply), EORNA (European Operating Room Nurses Association), EUCOMED (European Medical Technology Association), WHO (World Health Organization) and several national health care departments and associations. It marked an important step forward in the strengthening of the vital partnership between industry, healthcare establishments and national and international organizations.

Health Care Associated Infections (HCAI)

Professor Barry Cookson, director laboratory of Healthcare Associated Infection, Center for Infections, Health Protection Agency, Colindale, U.K., and Ronny Russell, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology; Moyne Institute of Preventative Medicine at Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland. Both highlighted the paradox of HCAI. It carries a high physical and financial burden, but infection control budgets are often small and relatively little action is taken in this domain, or worse, the problem is not even recognized. Infection prevention is a complex problem with no ‘easy’ solution, requiring a multi-disciplinary approach and is sometimes perceived to be an almost superfluous expense.

It is estimated that in the EU alone, HCAI, or nosocomial infections, affects one out of every 10 patients, causing roughly 3 million infections and some 50,000 deaths per year. This leads to not only a high cost in terms of human suffering and loss, but when looking at the bottom line, it costs in excess of 6.3 billion to annual health care budgets, not including litigation costs. It is estimated that about one-third of HCAIs are preventable by improvements in infection control.

Professor Cookson outlined some pragmatic approaches to HCAI prevention and pan-European experience in controlling the spread of epidemic MRSA strains. Preventing infection is a feasible goal and is achieved much faster and more efficiently with industry/health care/public policy partnerships, which foster teamwork, synergies and exchange of best practices, he said. Cooperation at the European level has great potential to bring benefit, and indeed several European networks operate already, including HELICS (Hospitals in Europe Link for Infection Control through Surveillance), EARSS (European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Scheme) and ESAC (European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption). With the possibility of HCAI rapidly spreading between countries, these organizations play a vital role.

Healthcare Procurers Must Make The Right Choices to Prevent Infection

Mr. Russell confirmed that the use of barrier fabrics is now more necessary than ever to protect the staff and patients and also the medical devices used in their treatment. It is therefore critical for those procuring medical devices to be knowledgeable about them and make the correct choices regarding quality and suitability for purpose. Infection prevention must be seen in a more holistic way, so cost should not be the main factor in making decisions regarding products to reduce the risk of infection. By looking at the whole picture preventing infection will ultimately save money, but savings to the hospital or agency are usually reflected in other budgets—not in infection control.

The struggle goes on to produce better barrier fabrics, offering even better protection under the most difficult of circumstances while microbes continually change their properties in order to overcome the obstacles put in their way.

Infection Prevention

Melanie van Limborgh, Immediate Past Chairman of the Association for Perioperative Practice (UK), provided a fascinating insight into the role of the operating department in infection prevention.

There are a number of critical areas that help determine the effectiveness of infection control, ranging from the environment, design and preparation of the operating room to the preoperative preparation of personnel and the patient. Using the right surgical barrier and protective gowns, masks and head- and footwear are some of key means to achieving optimal protection from infection.

European Standard EN 13795

The need for preventing the transfer of infection between patient and medical staff has never been greater. The introduction of the three-part European standard for surgical drapes, gowns and clean air suits, used as medical devices, EN 13795, has been put in place for the protection of patients, clinical staff and equipment.

Part 1 provides the framework for the standard, lists the characteristics that are to be used for evaluation of the product's performance and what information the manufacturer has to provide. It also describes the manufacturing and processing requirements. Part 2 is a list of test methods to be used for each of the characteristics listed in part 1. Part 3 relates to performance requirements and at the time of the conference, this had not been yet adopted. However in terms of the structure of the performance requirements, it is confirmed that for both drapes and gowns, there are four possible categories of performance—standard and high performance for both the critical and less critical product areas.

The Role of Nonwovens In Infection Prevention

For decades nonwovens have been used as the material of choice for medical fabrics in the operating room and for the prevention of disease and infection. The principal advantage of nonwovens is that they are used only once on one single patient and incinerated after use, thus avoiding the need for handling and the consequent potential for spreading contaminants.

For use in the operating room single-use medical nonwovens meet all the requirements stipulated by EN 13795:

?? the avoidance of bacterial penetration and the spreading of contaminants;

?? water-repellency, which is not only a matter of comfort, but is essentially aimed at preventing bacteria from penetrating the fabric;

?? softness, breathability and drape - all relating to the comfort of the user.

Nonwovens provide the additional attributes of low linting and cost-efficiency. The type of nonwoven used in the operating theater depends on the desired properties.

Hydroentangled carded or so-called spunlaced fabrics are very comfortable for the wearer, offering optimal breathability, drape, moisture vapor permeability and other comfort related properties. Their barrier properties, however, compare less favorably with other types of nonwoven fabrics.

The other technology of choice for medical fabrics is known as SMS, which is a polymer-to-web sandwich construction including at least two spunlaid webs and an increasingly large number of meltblown webs. Meltblown technology provides the highest water penetration resistance without the need for additional, subsequent repellency treatment—and still, it is air permeable. Better results can be achieved only with fully impervious film laminates, which are also breathable. The introduction of an increasing number of meltblown webs is viewed as a way of increasing water repellency and consequently bacterial barrier properties. Resistance to water penetration above 800 mm water column can be achieved with SMS fabrics.

Nonwovens Used To Combat SARS in China

The nonwovens industry has demonstrated the ability to rapidly respond to natural and man-made disasters with products that aid in the prevention of disease transmission, and it continues to develop enhanced performance materials to meet these demanding applications.

Over 100,000 tons of nonwovens were used in the fight against SARS in China in 2003. Nonwovens' outstanding bacteria filtration capabilities, barrier properties, splash resistance and breathability made it the material of choice for the thousands of millions of masks and protective apparel used by Chinese citizens and health workers during the crisis.

Sterilization and Packaging

Packaging not only makes it possible to store sterile medical devices and to use them when needed, it also makes it possible to have the devices treated in a specialized and dedicated unit namely the central sterilization department.

The choice of packaging for nonwovens is extremely important as it has to meet its primary aim which is to guarantee the sterility of the content until the time of use. Sterility always implies that the packaging is intact because otherwise the microbial barrier is compromised.

Wim Renders, Chairman of the European Forum for Hospital Sterile Supply (EFHSS) reported that today anonymous committees make the decisions on almost everything including purchases for hospitals’ Central Sterile Services Departments. When decisions are made the cheapest quotation is often preferred. The committee members often lack the necessary product knowledge and thus savings on packaging materials are easy ways of saving money.

A trend toward outsourcing sterilization is growing and is supported by a number of decision makers inside the hospital who do not think that sterilization activities are a core business of the hospital and thus can be outsourced in the same way as cleaning, catering and technical services.

M鰈nlycke To Close Mexican Plant

Posted on May 18, 2006 @ 11:11 am

M??lnlycke Health Care, G??teborg, Sweden, a manufacturer of single-use surgical and wound care solutions, is permanently closing its Juarez, Mexico converting facility in June. The plant produces patient and instrument drapes, surgical gowns, caps and masks for operating staff. Bid It Up (www.biditup.com) will be auctioning the machinery and equipment on July 13, 2006.

Five Finalists Named for 2006 Visionary Award

Posted on October 28, 2005 @ 08:09 am

Five unique consumer products—ranging from a disaster relief blanket to a host of personal and household care items from the industry’s leading manufacturers – have been nominated as finalists for the prestigious 2006 Visionary Award.
Now in its fifth year, the Award – which is given annually to a recently introduced consumer product that utilizes a nonwoven fabrics in its final form—will be presented at the Vision 2006 Consumer Products Conference, scheduled for January 15-18, 2006 in Denver, CO. The finalists will make presentations during Vision 2006 and conference attendees will vote on the recipient of the 2006 Visionary Award.
“The Visionary Awards recognize achievement by manufacturers and their suppliers in incorporating nonwovens technology into consumer products,” explains Visionary Award Chairman Michael Jacobsen, of INDA. “We had close to two dozen nominations this year and the Selection Committee spent a considerable amount of time analyzing the products before naming these five products as finalists for this prestigious award.”
The five finalists are:
?? Cotton Enhanced Baby Wipes, PGI Nonwovens. The company's Apex technology enhances the performance of cotton, imparting a three-dimensional image onto the nonwoven, creating a thick, soft wipe. The engineered composite nonwoven structure forms a cloth-like premium wipe that is strong, tear and puncture resistant.
?? Disposable Mitt with Body Wash, Kimberly-Clark. The new Disposable Mitt with Body Wash helps toddlers learn how to bathe themselves and allows parents to be able to finish the job. The textured Coform basesheet is formed into a mitt that allows for both baby and mom to use. It is also a technology first for printing multiple colors on highly textured Coform.
?? Stayfree Advanced Protection, Johnson & Johnson. Stayfree Advanced Protection is designed for use both for menstrual and bladder protection.
?? Disaster Relief Blanket, Chicopee. The blanket incorporates Apex technology and spunbond fabric and one version is offered with a metallized SB back, which also allows for the attachment of disposable heat pads for Extreme Climates. It is a two-sided (63% by weight polyester face/37% by weight polypropylene back) blanket designed for indoor or outdoor use.
?? Mr. Clean MagicReach, Procter & Gamble. Launched in February, Mr. Clean MagicReach consists of an implement to be used with two types of disposable nonwoven pads. One pad is pre-moistened for mopping the floor and cleaning countertops, and the other pad is water-activated for cleaning soap scum from your tub/shower.
Last January at Vision 2005 in New Orleans, BBA Fiberweb was presented with the Visionary Award for its Resolution Print Media product. BBA will make a presentation at Vision 2006 to provide an update on the Resolution Print Media.
Other previous winners include Brillo Scrub ‘n’ Toss (2004), FMJ ChemBio for its Civilian Quick Escape Mask (2003) and Procter & Gamble's Swiffer cleaning system in 2002.

Visionary Award Competition Kicks Off

Posted on May 19, 2005 @ 11:13 am

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2006 Visionary Award, which in its five years of existence has become one of the most prestigious awards in the nonwoven and consumer products industries. The award, presented by INDA, annually recognizes consumer end products that use nonwoven fabrics or employ nonwovens technology during their manufacturing processes.

The 2006 Visionary Award will be presented at the Vision 2006 Consumer Products Conference, scheduled for January 15-18, 2006, at the Sheraton New Orleans in New Orleans.
INDA will accept nominations for the 2006 Visionary Award until September 1. The nominees will then reviewed by an INDA selection committee, and five finalists will be selected to make presentations at Vision 2006. Conference attendees will then vote on the recipient of the award.

Last January at the Vision 2005 Conference in New Orleans, BBA Fiberweb was presented with the Visionary Award for its Resolution Print Media product. The BBA product was selected by Vision attendees over five other finalists from such well-known consumer products companies as Gillette, Tyco Healthcare and Kimberly-Clark.

Other previous winners include Brillo Scrub 'n' Toss (2004), FMJ ChemBio for its Civilian Quick Escape Mask (2003) and Procter & Gamble's Swiffer cleaning system in 2002.

To be considered for a Visionary Award, products must contain a nonwoven for use a nonwoven technology during manufacturing, been introduced in 2004 or 2005 and have not been considered in any previous Visionary Award competition.

Products will be judged on their novel use of nonwovens technology, as well as on their consumer and trade acceptance. Eligible consumer product categories include disposable diapers, feminine hygiene product, adult incontinence products, household wipes and home filters, among others.

Companies can nominate their own products. While any number of products can be nominated, only one product per company will be selected as a finalist.

More information: Michael Jacobsen, Visionary Awards coordinator; mjacobsen@inda.org; 201-612-6601.

Improving quality while lowering costs. This is the paradoxical challenge suppliers to the hygiene industry face daily. Particularly in the baby diaper market, where intense competition, pricing pressures and market maturity have created an unwillingness among producers to increase prices, leaving the makers of superabsorbent polymers, elastics and other product components caught in a balancing act between price and performance. Striking this balance continues to be harder as raw material prices skyrocket and intellectual property becomes more fiercely protected.

“The big challenge is ‘make it better and make it cheaper,’ which is a contradiction in itself,” explained Frank Priessdorf, director of sales at films producer RKW. “The solution has been to reduce materials and reduce weights. The same pressure is on all suppliers throughout the industry.”

This intense rivalry in the market has actually driven down diaper prices. In 1990, the price of a standard disposable diaper was 22 cents. Today it’s 15 cents. Considering the remarkable technological advances witnessed by the market during the period, this trend is astounding. Within the past 15 years, diapers have become thinner, more absorbent, more textile-like, better fitting and are now an overall better product than ever before.

Also to blame for pricing issues in the diaper market is the ever-increasing dominance of Wal-Mart and other mass merchandisers in the consumer goods market. These retail outlets demand constantly lower prices from their vendors and, considering Wal-Mart alone is responsible for about 60% of diaper sales in the U.S., diaper manufacturers are extremely dependent on these chains for sales.

Despite these obstacles, in recent months, there have been some rumblings that diaper prices are set to rise. During the past six months, nearly every major nonwovens producer and raw material provider has announced pricing increases, blamed largely on rising petroleum costs brought on by tension in the Middle East and natural disasters in the gulf coast. And, in early November, Kimberly-Clark announced it would levy 6% increases on its consumer tissue businesses. While no mention has been made of diaper prices, many industry pundits feel increases in that segment will be next.

And, suppliers to the diaper and other hygiene markets are hoping this will give them more success in levying increases to their customers. “Tredegar was fortunate to have both global capabilities and strong supplier relationships in place to be able to meet customer needs.” said Rebecca Hoberland, global market man-ager—absorbents of Tredegar Film Products, a major supplier of apertured, breathable, elastic and nonwoven laminates and films.

The Three Fs

In recent years, the hygiene market has ascribed to a three-point holy grail that defines product success—form, fit and function. The form has been achieved through the incorporation of superabsorbents, which make products thinner, and textile-like backsheets, which make them softer. Fit continues to be honed through the increasing use of elastics and other stretchable materials throughout the chassis of the diaper. Once found only in the leg cuff, elasticized material is now found in the waistbands, on the side panels and is even being incorporated into closure systems. Larger sized baby diapers as well as adult incontinence products are becoming more pant-like and less discrete, meaning more comfort for the wearer.

While form and fit are increasing in importance, they can never surpass function in performance. After all, what is the point of a disposable garment, if it doesn’t achieve its function? For baby diapers, this means no leaking and less frequent diaper changes; for adult incontinence, this means a more active lifestyle and for feminine hygiene, this means discretion.

What’s Inside

According to a diaper market sustainability report issued by EDANA, Brussels, Belgium, the average baby diaper is comprised 43% of fluff pulp, 27% superabsorbent polymer, 15% polypropylene, 7% polyethylene, 3% adhesives and 1% elastics.

Disposable baby diapers were first introduced in the early 1960s and since then have been marked by continuous product innovations including the addition of SAP, resealable tapes and elasticized waistbands. In fact, diapers today are much thinner and more absorbent than they were even a decade ago. Modern diapers have a layered construction, which allows the transfer and distribution of urine to an absorbent core where it is locked in. The top sheet, made from a soft nonwoven material, is closest to the skin. It transfers urine quickly to the layers underneath. The distribution layer receives the urine flow and transfers it to the absorbent core, which is made of a mixture of cellulose pulp and SAP. The backsheet, or exterior of the diaper, is made from a breathable polyethylene film, or more recently, a nonwoven and film composite, which prevents wetness transfer.

Comprising the largest portion of the diaper, fluff pulp, and its availability, has a large influence in the diaper market with leading suppliers including Rayonier, Koch Cellulose (Georgia-Pacific) and Buckeye Technologies. Because pricing of these materials is largely dictated by the market, success or failure for these suppliers is driven by economies of scale.

Meanwhile, the SAP market has been characterized by extreme shortages in recent years. In fact, run ups in SAP prices have presented major challenges for smaller and mid-tier diaper producers. According to one industry supplier, SAP producers have been able to name their price in the market, particularly with smaller and mid-tier hygiene producers.

Increases in petroleum and other feedstocks have driven up pricing of polypropylene and polyethylene, which have created ominous conditions for the nonwovens suppliers that use these materials to make products for the hygiene market. While all of these companies have levied pricing increases in recent months, industry observers wonder how accepted these increased have been.

The role of elastics in the baby diaper, now only 1%, has been steadily increasing in recent years, as manufacturers try to achieve better fit. Whether it be elastic strands, films or netting, stretchable nonwovens or a composite material, stretch is being added to landing zones, waist bands and other parts of premium diapers, in addition to more traditional areas such as the leg cuffs, to minimize leakage and achieve better fit.

Supply Shortages

The hygiene market is constantly characterized by the struggle between supply and demand. A market can experience an oversupply one year that turns into a shortage the next year. Most recently, the hygiene market had to respond to rapidly changing conditions in the superabsorbent polymer business. “Two years ago, there was a glut in the market and now there’s not enough,” explained Jim Cree, CEO of topsheet maker Pantex. “In any segment, it can just take one company to enter or leave a market to dramatically change conditions.”

Caused by a shortage of acrylic acid, which can be attributed to increased demand from China as well as an overall failure among manufacturers to bring more capacity onstream, this shortage has impacted the global diaper market, the largest consumer of SAP worldwide. While capacity expansions are underway in all of the world regions, small and mid-sized hygiene producers are feeling the pinch of short supply. “The balance (of supply and demand) is returning to the industry in the medium term,” said Frithjof Netzer, business director for BASF’s Superabsorbent and Acrylic Monomers business in the Americas. “BASF is monitoring the demand growth and will strive to align its capacity with the long-term market trend.”

A major supplier of SAP, with plants in North America, Europe and Asia, BASF is also a maker of acrylic acid, making it well poised to serve the hygiene market. The company is currently consolidating the capacity of its two North American plants which will be closed, in Virginia and Mississippi, into one single plant of equal capacity at its Freeport, TX, facility, near BASF’s acrylic acid operation. Dr. Netzer said that increases in BASF’s SAP capacity would coincide with market growth.

As the SAP market awaits new capacity, component suppliers are working to lessen the diaper market’s reliance on the material. Tredegar’s AquiDry family of products can reduce SAP use by as much as 25% without compromising performance, according to third party test reports. The AquiDry transfer layer family covers a full range of specialty needs from a full brief’s high void volume to bladder control pads with AquiDry Lite and new AquiSoft to meet needs for extreme softness.

Likewise, superabsorbent producer Lysac Technologies has introduced Lysorb for feminine hygiene items and Actofil for baby diapers. Both products enhance the diffusion of superabsorbents in hygiene items to reduce SAP levels by up to 20%, according to Vladimiro Nettel, business development executive for Lysac Technologies.

Lysac is well positioned to benefit from another problem facing the hygiene industry—its dependence on petroleum-based raw materials. Founded in 1999 to explore the use of natural-based materials in superabsorbents, Lysac’s starch-based ingredients are receiving attention from companies eager to cut their raw material costs, which have been driven up as much as 30% in the past 12 months alone. “Two years ago, people saw us as dreamers,” Mr. Nettle said. “Now companies that we tried talking to years ago are knocking on our door. This is because two years ago, they didn’t see any reason for a change.”

In fact, research into non-thermoplastic fibers is permeating the hygiene market. While spunbond nonwovens lines can only handle polypropylene—a plastic—other materials like thermal bonded or carded nonwovens, as well as films, can be made from alternative fibers. “This has been receiving more attention recently as raw material prices have escalated so sharply,” said Pantex’s Mr. Cree. “It’s still at its infancy but once a major producer makes a commitment to support these types of fiber, resin prices would immediately stop their spiraling out of control.”

Economies of Scale

Rapid raw material increases have forced hygiene suppliers to cut costs creatively. While their customers want costs to be minimal, they don’t want to sacrifice on performance, aesthetics or any other feature visible to the consumer.

For many hygiene suppliers, costs have been cut by lowering basis weights and lowering the overall amounts of raw materials consumed per unit. “The solution demands less expensive, better performing products is often reducing weights or the amount of material used,” RKW’s Mr. Priessdorf explained. “The same pressure is on everyone in the market.”

Even hygiene producers themselves are cutting costs. One trend being witnessed in the diaper market is manufacturers moving away from laminated backsheets. Instead, the companies are buying films and nonwovens separately and then putting them together during diaper production, according to executives.

Tape closure specialist Koester has responded to the need for economy with a new budget-friendly line called ECO-Line. “For this range we defined raw materials in a close cooperation with our suppliers,” one executive told Nonwovens Industry. “Despite the cost savings these product line still meets the requirements of our customers completely.”

Koester has been able to create this cost-effective product by using proprietary machine processes that have been optimized continuously, according to executives.

Make Way For Comfort

Tredegar continues to focus on consumer-noticeable innovations that differentiate themselves from competitors’ offerings in the hygiene market. Most recently, the company added ComfortAire to its line of coverstock products. Designed for the feminine hygiene market, ComfortAire is a high loft nonwoven laminate. The result is more like a fabric than a film.

Launched in early 2005, ComfortAire has successfully targeted the feminine hygiene market because of its ability to offer comfort with the required performance, according to Ms. Hoberland.

Tredegar had been combining nonwoven and film technology since the early 1990s and market research conducted in 2002 found that women want softness and protection in a marriage of two products.

While the bulk of Tredegar's film-based hygiene business is conducted in the feminine hygiene market, the company sees the need for a hybrid product like ComfortAire throughout the hygiene segment. As the need for active-lifestyle adult incontinence products continues to rise, so is the need for soft, smooth products that materials like ComfortAire, can provide. “There is a need for products to be more garment-like,” Ms. Hoberland continued. “New coverstocks can create products that are thinner, lighter and more comfortable to the skin that are designed for increased volume and can be worn every day.”

She continued, “The products need to let (their wearers) feel as if they are going about a normal life.”

A Stretch, For Some

In recent years, much of the hygiene market’s innovation has centered around stretch and 2005 is no different. The incorporation of more stretchable materials—in the leg cuffs, at the waistband or even through the overall chassis of the diaper—has been ongoing and component suppliers have been eagerly coming up with their own solutions to adding stretch.

The challenge here is adding stretch to the diaper in both the machine and cross directions. While the use of spandex fibers has contributed to improved stretch in leg cuffs and waist bands, now manufacturers are examining ways to add stretch into the entire diaper, particularly in the topsheet or backsheet, to not only make the diaper more comfortable but also to better control leakage. While there have been some developments in stretchable spunbond nonwovens, the costs of these materials have been prohibitive to date. Still, there are a number of other options out there for diaper manufacturers looking to add stretch.

Conwed Plastics, for example, has used its experience in providing netting solutions to industrial markets to develop Rebound, a stretchable netting that is ideal for baby diapers and pull-on style training pants. Among this product’s attributes are its breathability and its ability to stretch in all directions. “It can replace single-strand spandex fibers, which break and impact the appearance of the diaper,” said Keith Misukanis, strategic business manager. “Appealing to the aesthetics of the diaper is very important.

“This product has really allowed private label suppliers to find something that works without stepping on other patents,” Mr. Misukanis added. Additionally, netting, in place of individual strands can be more efficient for machines because rethreading is not needed after breakage.”

And, the breathability of nettings has made them more attractive than films and they are more stretchable than recently developed stretchable nonwovens, Mr. Misukanis said. Rebound is capable of stretching up to 10 times its original size.

Also incorporating stretch are film producers who are hoping these efforts will increase the amount of film used in each diaper.

All of this interest in stretch could eventually expand the use of pull-on style diapers. Similar to training pants, pull-on style diapers are already popular in Asian markets and already K-C is offering a product that can be pulled on or side fastened, Huggies Convertibles. As this type of product gains popularity, expect to see fewer traditional training pant products and more hybrid items that can serve the purpose of both diaper and pant, industry observers predict.

That’s not to say that there is no more room for standard spandex threads in the diaper market. Invista, formerly DuPont Textiles & Interiors, continues to dominate the diaper market and RadiciSpandex, a Gastonia, NC thread maker, has been honing its product line to make it more attractive in hygiene. Once targeted only at apparel applications, RadiciSpandex’s Dry Spin product has been made stronger and more robust to better handle the riggers of diaper machinery, according to Radici’s Marty Moran. “The challenges are to make threads stronger and smaller,” he said. “The smaller the fiber, the more customers can save on poundage costs.” Of course less poundage means less volume but spandex manufacturers have no choice. “If we want to be successful in the business, we have to lower our customers’ costs.”

Also optimistic is Hyosung. The Korean maker of Creora spandex called the market “very competitive in general.” “We are able to remain competitive through our inherent competitive advantage in manufacturing and technology and our constant drive for innovation, product and research development,” said Greg Hearn, global business manager personal hygiene. For future growth, Hyosung is increasing its capacity, seeking out new Greenfield opportunities, expanding global staffing and launching new brand campaigns.

Beyond threads, elastication is also being added to closures. Tredegar’s products include StretchTab laminate, a combination of elastics, nonwoven and hook-on-one roll for closure systems, and ForceField and UltraMask surface protection specialty films. And, Aplix is offering a mechanical fastener with an elastic hook. “All of our new products are designed to import comfort, softness and aesthetics while reducing costs,” said David Keough, vice president, global marketing and sales. “We are seeing new opportunities for growth by increasing the penetration of stretchable products. Only premium products have stretch in their systems.”

The premium-tier products is where innovation lives in the hygiene market. But, what is one year new and exciting for the premium market become de rigeur in mid-tier products the next year. For instance, once textile-like backsheets were considered a frill in diapers, but now they are standard on most diapers. Today, the newest thing to hit premium diapers is stretchable closure systems, but these features, like ones before them, will likely become standard before long.

And, this constant upgrading has kept hygiene producers constantly looking for new ways to wow consumers, decrease costs or, preferably, both, and their suppliers are finding a way to help them.

Regional Spotlight: China
INDA reports growth will slow but still remain high by Western standards

In 2004, China accounted for nearly half of the nonwovens output within the Asia-Pacific region. In the past 10 years, its production capacity increased more than five-fold, from 115,000 to 650,000 tons. This represents industry growth exceeding 18% a year during the past decade. INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, in its report examining the Asia-Pacific region, estimated that China's nonwovens industry will continue to expand but at a more moderate rate of 12% a year.

One of the main risks facing China is a potential shortage of raw materials, electrical power, which is already strained, and oil. Demand for oil has risen sharply and within the past few years, China has changed from a small exporter of crude oil to a net importer. The country currently consumes nearly six million barrels of oil per day and accounted for 40% of the global growth in demand during the previous four years. The U.S. Energy Department projects that China's oil consumption will rise to nearly 13 million barrels per day within 20 years.

Table 1 illustrates a decade of China's nonwovens production by technology from 1994 to 2004 with a forecast through 2009. Currently, the country has an estimated 500-600 nonwovens manufacturers producing nonwovens on an estimated 1000 to 1500 lines. This volume will require the addition of an estimated 60-80 nonwovens production lines to meet the country's forecast needs.

China is industrializing and the government is encouraging private enterprise to expand with efficient factories-a policy they have pursued for two decades. The country is also investing in communications, highway and transportation infrastructure and modernizing its cities. However, the country is still very much an agrarian economy with incredible rural poverty.

One example of the development of the rural nonwovens industry was the establishment of small carded thermal bonded factories that produce cover stock for locally made feminine sanitary napkins. From a western business perspective, these nonwovens producers are inefficient. Often the workers are local farmers and work only part time. While the nonwovens quality leaves a lot to be desired, these plants have expanded the industry to the agricultural areas of the country where there is little industry.

While there are many small rural operations, most of the nonwovens industry is centered in the eastern industrialized areas of the country. For example, the province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, is one of the principal nonwovens production areas within China and accounts for one-third of the country's total nonwovens production. The region has 140-150 nonwovens producers with about 330-340 production lines representing each of the various nonwovens technologies. Many of these facilities are relatively new with state-of-the-art nonwovens technologies. Reportedly, about half of Guangdong's nonwovens are exported as roll goods. The other main nonwovens production regions of China are the provinces of Fujian, which also borders Hong Kong, as well as Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Hebei in the north.

Spunlaid Technologies

Spunbonded and SMS Polypropylene: China's spunbonded polypropylene and SMS polypropylene nonwovens output in 2004 was estimated at 240,000 tons. This production came from at least 120-130 production lines by 75-90 producers. The first spunbond production lines were installed in the late 1980s and were built mainly by western companies such as Reifenhauser, STP Impianti, NKK, NWT and Mechannica Moderne. Since the 1990s, Chinese domestic machinery producers have entered the market. Their production lines are single-beamed, 3.2-meter-wide units with an annual capacity of 2000-2500 tons per year but in fact many of these lines operate at a much lower rate of output, in the 1000-1500-ton-per-year range. INDA has located nearly 25 of these domestic lines throughout the country and understands that there are others.

The domestic machinery producers' technology is based on the Lurgi circular spin pack technology rather than on the curtain drawing system typical of the Reifenhauser system. Nonwoven spunbond quality from many of these domestically built lines still does not meet world quality standards, particularly lightweight materials such as coverstock. Thus, spunbonded producers using this technology target the medium and heavy weight markets of furniture and bedding, banners, disposable apparel, shopping bags and the like.

These domestic machinery producers have been successful in selling their technology in China and the prices are reasonable-reportedly less than $5 million. We are aware of only one possible sale outside of China to a company in India, which could begin production next year. The country has four spunbonded/meltblown composite lines that have been operating for several years. Most of the output fuels the coverstock and medical apparel markets. Further SMS technologies are scheduled for start-up in 2005 by PGI, Liaoing Petroleum & Chemical and the Avgol/Hubei Goldking joint venture. These lines are Reifenhauser systems. Two other SMS lines are being installed by Nordson with a 2007 start-up planned.

While actual spunbonded polypropylene output in 2004 is estimated at 240,000 tons, total production capacity is estimated around 330,000-360,000 tons, indicating that the industry is operating at about 65-70% of capacity. However, spunbond polypropylene and SMS production is forecast to double to 480,000 tons by 2009, indicating that roughly 48,000 tons per year during the next five years of spunbonded and SMS will be added to China's production base. To meet this projected rise in output, an additional four to seven high capacity, state-of-the-art spunbonded polypropylene lines will need to be installed in China each year.

Spunbonded Polyester

China produced an estimated 24,000 tons of spunbond polyester in 2004 on at least nine production lines. These nine lines have a capacity estimated at 30,000-35,000 tons. The first two lines were installed in 1995 with the most recent in 2002 and 2003. All the lines are technically up-to-date and principal markets for their output are geotextiles, modified bitumen roofing substrates and small quantities of filtration materials. We forecast that the spunbonded polyester technology will produce at least 43,000 tons of material by 2009. Yizheng Nonwovens is possibly the largest producer, operating two 4.3-meter lines using Toray technology.


Monolithic meltblown production in China was at 13,000 tons in 2004 and there are about 30 lines using the technology in China. This technology had a major boost in China with the outbreak of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). A considerable amount of the material is consumed annually in disposable masks used by medical and dental professionals. When SARS broke out, Chinese producers were working hard to meet demand for these masks from China as well as North America and Europe. Other markets for meltblown in China are liquid filtration, battery separators and thermal insulating materials used in footwear, gloves and outerwear.

Carded Technologies

Thermal and resin bonded: China's carded thermal and resin bonded production nearly tripled between 1994 and 1999, rising from 51,000 to 143,000 tons. Since 1999, these technologies have been declining and volume output has dropped about 2% a year since 1999 to an estimated 130,000 tons last year. This drop is expected to continue because of the replacement of carded coverstock with spunbond and SMS materials and the growth of spunlaced and airlaid pulp technologies replacing carded resin bonded materials. Resin bonded materials are also decreasing worldwide but some lines are being revitalized by the use of the material as a transfer layer in absorbent hygiene products. PGI Nonwovens, for instance, is installing a carded resin bonded line in its Hainan plant to service that market.

Spunlaced: This technology has grown rapidly in China since the first production lines were installed by Hainan Xinlong after 1994. From 1999 to 2004, output rose from 8000 tons on 10 lines to 49,000 tons on 44 lines.

Needlepunched: Needlepunched nonwovens continue to advance in China, rising from 39,000 tons in 1994 to 103,000 tons in 1999 and 165,000 tons in 2004. Demand is growing in several end use markets including geotextiles and automotives, two markets that are growing extremely quickly in China.

Needlepunched technology was one of the first nonwovens technologies developed in China in the early 1970s. Since then, a number of lines have been imported from western machinery producers. Shoo Shyng, a large Taiwanese producer, has been a major supplier of production equipment over the years but domestic producers have equipped the bulk of the machines.

Airlaid Pulp

INDA estimated that 23,000 tons of airlaid pulp nonwovens were produced in 2004. There are at least six known producers. Most of the 23,000 tons come from a BBA operation that is producing wipes materials but making primarily absorbent hygiene core materials for feminine sanitary products. Two other companies, Nanning Quaohong New Materials Company and Honggao Industrial Development, announced their intention to install a single, high capacity, multibonded line to make absorbent core and wipes materials. These two lines make 50,000 to 60,000 tons per year.


An estimated 6000 tons of wetlaid nonwovens were produced in China in 2004. Hangzhou Xinhua Paper Making Company is the principal wetlaid producer, producing at least two-thirds of the country's wetlaid output. Several other paper mills are also producing small quantities of specialty wetlaid nonwovens. Major markets include disposable vacuum cleaner bags and stencil papers.

Table 1
Overview of China's Nonwovens Production By Technology
1994 2004 Forecast 2009 Growth Rate
Growth Rate
Spunbond Polypropylene and SMS 24 240 480 25.9 14.9
Spunbond Polyester 0 24 043 developing 12.4
Other spunbonded 0 0 5 0 Embryonic
Subtotal Spunlaid 25 277 555 27.2 14.9
Carded thermal / resinbonded 51 130 98 9.8 (5.5)
Needlepunched 39 165 255 15.5 9.1
Spunlaced 0 49 127 developing 21.0
Subtotal Carded 90 344 480 14.3 6.9
Airlaid pulp 0 23 85 developing 29.9
Wetlaid 0 6 11 developing 12.9
Total China 115 650 1131 18.9 11.7

Attention nonwovens brand owners, product managers and salespeople. Take the nonwoven product that you make, market or sell, hold it up and examine it. Think carefully about how all of its parts梪nique fibers, layers, finishes, elastics or adhesives梬ork together to provide the end user, the consumer, with a valuable, trustworthy product. That is precisely what raw material suppliers must do everyday.

In order to improve the performance, functionality and marketability of nonwovens, it is helpful to think as a raw material producer would. This can not only help enhance an existing product offering and innovate new ones, it can help you better understand the benefits and features of nonwovens to better market and sell your nonwoven materials and brands.

These goals are particularly important as nonwovens applications begin to compete more closely with those of traditional textiles. Raw material providers and nonwovens producers have to continue to work together to make a better, more affordable product with greater performance and functionality.

Do Not Underestimate The Value of Adhesives
In the nonwovens industry, hot melt adhesives have a public image problem to overcome. Because very little of the adhesive is visible to the product end user, and as their purpose is largely internal to the end product, adhesives are often viewed as commodity ingredients by nonwoven goods producers. In reality, the picture is quite different: there is real value in an adhesive抯 ability to bond dissimilar substrates under a wide range of process conditions梐nd to keep them together afterward. Imagine a diaper that falls apart on a child as it comes into contact with baby lotion, or a car mat that softens and becomes sticky in the excessive heat of the noonday sun. Adhesives formulated with the right tackifier resins and polymers can help overcome these challenges.

New tackifiers and polymers for adhesives are set to revolutionize the production, structure, look and disposability of nonwoven products. Formulated into low viscosity adhesives, they enable adhesives to be applied at lower application temperatures than before. This enables the use of thinner, softer substrates, helping the nonwovens producer to develop innovative designs with improved customer appeal. Using tackifiers with better thermal stability improves the appearance of and reduces odor in the final product, reassuring the end user of its sterility and integrity.

Novel polymers for adhesives are leading to the development of readily disposable products such as diapers, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products. These polymers are engineered to hold together when in contact with bodily fluids, but to break apart in tap water. In an age where convenient, environmentally friendly products are key selling points, adhesives matter.

Understand the Function and Value of Polymers
Polymers are the basic building blocks of a nonwoven, affecting the key properties brand owners seek in a finished nonwoven. They can impart softness, absorption, elasticity, strength, elongation, drapability, moldability and rigidity to a nonwoven product. Yet the choice of polymer for a nonwoven is generally removed from the brand owner. In most cases, a brand owner goes to a roll goods supplier for a sheet of pre-fabricated nonwoven material and handles the assembly of the complete product in-house.

In medical gowns and drapes, for example, the choice of polymer in the base structure can provide several benefits to the end user. A low-melt viscosity polymer will create a nonwoven with finer denier fibers, offering enhanced water and viral resistance to medical nonwovens. At the same time, the breatheability of these fibers helps to keep them comfortable. Certain polyesters and co-polyesters are engineered to better handle hospital sterilization processes, such as gamma radiation. Others may more readily accept certain dyes, which will enable them to maintain their color through launderings and UV exposure. The right polymer will enable the product to last and look better longer.

In choosing a polymer, brand owners must also consider polymer adaptability and suitability to specific processing technologies, such as staple fibers, spunbond and meltblown polymer fabrics. Raw material suppliers can work with fiber and roll goods manufacturers and brand owners to select materials that balance production and performance needs, such as processibility and ease-of-assembly with fabric softness, temperature-resistance and sterility.

Distinguish Yourself with Fiber and Surface Enhancements
The addition of additives in polymer or topical treatments can be a cost-effective means to enhance the performance of nonwovens without a significant investment in new equipment.

The addition of an antimicrobial to a polymer fiber, fiber blend or nonwoven can help to retard odor, maintaining fabric freshness. Such treatments offer huge, marketable benefits to the makers of bed linens, worker uniforms and sportswear. By retarding body odor, antimicrobials keep fabrics smelling fresher for longer.

Nonwoven wipes treated with cellulose esters also have enhanced product delivery capabilities. This benefit helps end users get more from each wipe, offering a real sense of value to end-users. For example, a medical wipe treated with cellulose esters can better transfer a sterilizing cleaner from the wipe to a surface. Less of the cleaner stays in the wipe and more is transferred to a surface, actually improving the ability of a single surface wipe to do its job.

Imagine how important that benefit is in a hospital setting where patient safety is paramount. Similarly, facial wipes treated with cellulose esters can ensure that more of the skincare product reaches a consumer抯 skin in each wipe, reducing product waste.

Advancements in bicomponent fiber technologies can further extend the benefits of nonwoven substrates. The latest in these technologies actually increases the surface area of the unique fibers in a nonwoven, enabling a household wipe, for example, to pick up more dust in a single wipe. That is a powerful selling tool in the competitive market for household cleaning goods.

Think in Terms of Layers
The use of multilayered materials in a single nonwoven item can provide significant moisture management attributes. Such an approach can wick moisture away from the skin in one layer, absorb it in another layer, and, if need be, release moisture into the air though yet a third layer. For example, consumers demand a thin diaper that is dry next to a baby抯 skin but also retains moisture to prevent messy leaking. In athletic and active wear, the ability to manage moisture is of critical importance. Athletic socks, head bands, ski wear and running gear can all be enhanced by new nonwoven fabrics that pull perspiration away from the skin and then slowly release that moisture into the air to keep skin dry and comfortable.

While polymer selection, discussed previously, can help provide these performance attributes, varying the extrusion techniques of nonwovens within one single item can also help. In SMS fabrics, a single layer of material extruded using meltblown (揗?) methods is sandwiched between two spunbond (揝?) layers of material. The spunbond layers provide strength and durability and encase a more fragile, but tighter-woven melt-blown layer. SMS fabrics are ideal for medical and surgical gowns and masks because the spunbond support layer holds the item together and prevents splattering blood from absorbing into the gown or mask, while the meltblown layer, engineered for smaller pore sizes, actually traps viral germs. Such an item might help prevent the spread of viruses in emergency rooms or surgery, freeing up staff to treat patients while reducing the threat of the spread of disease.

The challenge for raw material suppliers and nonwovens producers is to engineer and combine these materials in the most efficient, cost-effective manner. Today, researchers are actively working on developing extrusion systems that will enable the varying layers of a nonwoven to be produced simultaneously in-line, leading to significant increases in production speed and making these moisture management technologies more affordable.

Add Value by Combining Multiple Polymer, Adhesive and Film Technologies
During the past 10 years, the nonwovens industry in North America has gone through considerable consolidation, which has led to the commoditization of many nonwoven goods. Commoditization in the industry has opened the door for inventive producers and brand owners to innovate in order to gain a competitive advantage. Engineered, multilayer composite fabrics can help nonwovens producers and brandowners de-commoditize their product offerings.

Think of it this way. The addition of each value-added feature to a nonwoven product increases the return on investment in that product. The more value-added features in its nonwovens, the more a company can distinguish its products from the competition, and the more product it will sell.

For instance, in athletic wear, as discussed earlier in this article, the padding on a baseball cap can be engineered to manage perspiration. In addition, polymer fibers in the padding can be extruded to add acoustical properties that dampen or sharpen sound. Or, a lightweight ski jacket can be made with enhanced insulating properties, while offering absorption properties and remaining breathable. These are serious value-adds to downhill skiers, who may perspire coming down the mountain but otherwise sit cold in wet skiwear riding the ski-lift back up to the summit.

This philosophy can even be applied to something as simple as a household sponge. You can adhere a rougher, scrubbing side of a sponge to a softer layer extruded for better breatheabililty, then treat the entire sponge with an antimicrobial to prevent food odors from holding in the sponge. The sponge scrubs better and lasts longer.

With the increasing complexity of needs, the best raw material suppliers continue to work to ensure that their materials are compatible and stable under an array of manufacturing processes and end use applications. They work closely with nonwovens producers and brand owners from product development, manufacturing and assembly to ensure that the materials that are used can be manufactured affordably and efficiently and to enable brand owners to deliver the best performing product possible to the marketplace.

About the author
Robb Lovegrove, global business segment manager for Eastman抯 nonwovens group, has been working in consumer and industrial marketing for more than 15 years. He works with a team of scientists and material engineers at Eastman, many of whom have more than 35 years of experience serving the nonwovens industry.
Demographic Data
Population: 1.05 billion
Median age of population: 24.2 years
Population growth rate 1.47%
Birth rate: 23.28 out of 1000 population
GDP: $153 billion
PPP: $2.6 trillion
PPP/per capita: $2800

India is a unique blend of modern scientific talent and ancient world mysteries. The country has made the most super computers, providing cost-effective software solutions to the whole world and still has bullock carts on some of its roads. This special situation, combined with its large population (ranked second in the world), makes the country an exciting place for marketing and product development companies. The world giants in consumer products such as Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble have all modified their strategies to suit Indian conditions prior to achieving any success. The potential for nonwovens usage in India is great and there are many reasons why it will form an important sector.

Population Factor
Nearly 48% of the Indian population falls within the 18-to-35 age group. This group of consumers is receptive to new products and is well exposed to international situations and practices. This population of nearly 500 million residing in urban and rural areas makes it a potential consumer for many disposable nonwoven products. This section of the population is also well educated and has high enough disposable income to afford nonwoven disposable products.

The strong Indian middle class of 250 million has purchasing power and living standards nearly equivalent to the middle class of developed countries. They tend to use the products based on availability and convenience. The children in these families are potential customers for all kinds of baby diapers, baby wipes, etc. The currently low penetration of these products provides an untapped market for new entrants to India. However, Indian customers are value-driven, hence only a product with a true value will succeed. The high birth rate also ensures a recurring huge demand for infant-related nonwoven products.

The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of India is $153.3 billion. The Indian economy encompasses village farming, modern agriculture, a wide range of modern industries and a multitude of support services. Private industries have grown rapidly and privitization by the government has been quite quick in the last few years. The economy has grown at 6% on average in the last few years and is poised to grow at 8-10% in coming years. India has a trade surplus in the export markets, and import restrictions are being dismantled rapidly. The import duties are 5-25% for most of the goods.

Unique Indian Situation
? India is the largest democracy in the world
? India has the second largest pool of engineers and scientists
? India is the second largest producer of cement in the world?100 million tons per year
? The stock exchange has 6000 listed companies, which is next to the NYSE
? India railway has the largest railway network at 63,518 kilometers
? The highway road network in India is 3.4 million kilometers
? India consumes one-fifth of the world's gold output
? 50% of India抯 population is younger than 25
? Nine out of 10 diamonds sold in the world pass through India as it is the main center for cutting and polishing

The purchase power parity (PPP) of the Indian population is nearly $2.7 trillion, which is higher than the total PPP of the South American continent (Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Columbia, Venezuela and others put together).

The cost of living in India is much cheaper than in the U.S. or Europe. As the purchasing power increases, there is more income available to spend on consumer products. The average income is $2800 at present and has been rapidly increasing during the last few years.

The consumption of nonwovens is rising rapidly. This has been caused by increasing imports of disposable products in the country by private marketing companies and also established players such as K-C and P&G. It is well known that the per capita consumption of nonwovens will increase as the nation抯 per capita income rises. The per capita consumption of nonwovens in India is 0.001 kilograms, which can only rise given the industry抯 potential to grow by a thousand times during the next few years. The per capita consumption level is approximately 2.25 kilograms in developed countries. This makes India a nascent market in which the nonwovens industry worldwide can invest.

Table 1
Converted Disposable Nonwoven Products-Sales Estimates
Category 2003 2009
Consumer 120 222
Medical 30 88
Industrial 20 30

Market Overview

The value of nonwovens consumed in India was estimated at $200 million in 2002. No previous study was made and the industry is very fragmented, with many manufacturers operating under different industry headings. A large quantity of disposable nonwovens is also imported as tissue and paper. The garment industry also imports substantial quantities of interlinings material, which accounts for nearly $75 million in additional imports. Geotextile applications have picked up under various world bank infrastructure projects and this has amounted to nearly $35 million in 2003. As there is no high quality producer of spunbond and thermal bonded materials, the disposable manufacturers such as K-C, Johnson & Johnson and P&G import substantial quantities of nonwovens. The nonwoven uses and the industry are growing rapidly. High value and performance filter fabrics made with Nomex, glass, Teflon and other fiber types are also in demand. With the economy poised for a rapid growth of more than 8% during the next five years, nonwovens production and consumption is expected to see rapid growth.

No accurate estimate is available on the exact quantity of disposable and durable nonwovens production. However, by discussions with various manufacturers and end users, we estimate that the total consumption of durable nonwovens is 60,000 tons and 38,000 for disposable nonwovens. A substantial portion of disposable nonwovens is currently imported for various reasons. By discussion with industry personnel and output figures from major companies, a realistic estimate of the sale of converted disposable nonwoven products is made in Table 1.

The disposable surplus is increasing rapidly and the disposables market in India is expected to grow at 10-15%.

The most important consumer disposable markets are hygiene and medical disposable products. J&J, K-C and P&G dominate the hygiene market. A considerable quantity of bleached cotton wool and woven bandages is still used in the medical market. As better products, such as spunlace, become available, this market is expected to rise rapidly. The substitution of traditional markets for nonwovens will be rapid due to tremendous economic and performance advantages.

The market penetration of feminine hygiene is only 15% and sales are mainly in the urban areas. When the price barrier is broken, this market will explode in a big way. Increasingly, small local manufacturers have arrived on the scene competing with large multinational companies. With more than 250 million eligible customers of hygiene products, India will be a huge market when penetration reaches 60%.

One can see that the consumer wipes market is negligible at present. The improvements in this market will come when spunlace is made locally. Premoistened baby wipes have been recently introduced and have become popular in urban settings. The market is expected to grow 10-15%.

The industrial disposable nonwovens market essentially revolves around packaging and insulation products. And, disposable wipes usage will pick up as resources increase, as labor is very cheap in India. Reusable cotton wipes and rags are still the most popular cleaning tools.

Most of the disposable gowns and surgical drapes are still imported as this type of spunbond, meltblown and spunlaced materials are not made in the country.

Among the disposable markets, the diaper market is still in its infancy in India. Diapers are still very expensive as they are mostly imported to or repackaged in the country. With the urban population increasing and the increasing trend of working women with higher earnings, the diaper market will grow rapidly in the next few years. Pampers and Huggies are already present in the market, but the pricing is at a level where it cannot stimulate demand.

The average life expectancy in India is only 65 years. This means the population over the age of 65 is not high. The problems of incontinence associated with old age are less of a concern in India so the adult diaper market at present and in the immediate future is not expected to be big. The diapers needed for surgical procedures will be in demand.

Table 2
Nonwoven Fabric Sales in Disposable End Uses
Application 2002 2007
Absorbent Hygiene 323,000 56,490
Wipes 760 925
Medical 2280 3988
Domestic producers 380 462
Filter disposables 380 462
Other 1900 2585
Total 38,000 64,912

Raw Materials For Nonwovens
Reliance Industries in India is the second largest polyester producer in the world. However, most of the fibers available are commodity-type, which are suitable for use in textile and general nonwoven applications. The microfiber and specialty low shrinkage polyesters are still imported from beyond India. Located in India, Grasim is the second largest viscose fiber producer in the world, with more than a 30% marketshare. This bodes well for developing India as a base for absorbent nonwoven materials.

There is only one PP fiber producer making standard PP fibers for carpets, nonwovens and spun yarns. A new PP fiber producing line is currently under construction. Acrylic fiber is available and produced in large quantities.

Bleached cotton fiber is also available in large quantities. India is the third largest exporter of this product for surgical and other end uses. Unfortunately, there is no spunlace plant in the country to help the situation but several projects are rumored to be in the planning stages.

Disposable Applications Market
It may be observed that feminine disposable hygiene is the biggest market in India. With the advent of medical insurance and improvement in the healthcare systems across the country, medical disposable markets are poised for rapid growth. The healthcare industry grew 23% in 2003.

The penetration of the market by sanitary napkins is hardly 15% of the theoretically available market. With the increased affluence and urbanization of India, this market is expected to grow very fast in the coming years. This fact is reinforced by the entry of many private label manufacturers in the last few years. K-C, P&G and J&J have a strong presence in the market. With the younger population ready for new products, this is an important market for nonwoven disposables. A typical potential estimate based on per capita consumption of 50 units per annum by the eligible population of nearly 300 million users (age group 15 to 40) will give a theoretical total market size of approximately 15 billion pieces. This could result in market sale value of $1.5 billion at 10 cents per piece.

Baby wipes is expected to grow rapidly among the urban population, whereas the general moistened wipes will take some more time for the concept to be accepted by the Indian population. Overall the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector is growing more than 10% in most categories in India.

Infant diapers are expected to grow at the same rate as FMCG products through high niche market penetration. The incontinence products will have much slower growth. The low penetration level of diapers in the theoretically available market shows a huge potential in this segment.

Some 24 million babies are born in India every year. If we typically calculate that 25% of these infants in the period between birth and 24 months use at least 28 diapers a week, the theoretically available market for diapers is 8.7 billion pieces per year. This is a big number for any industry. With rising income levels, the consumption levels of this order is achievable in the near future, if the prices are kept right.

Training pants as a concept has not been introduced in the country.

Widespread penetration of wet wipes for household uses in the near future is not expected. India is the right place to introduce wet wipes as it could save a lot of water use for cleaning桰ndia has scarce water resources梙owever, for reasons unknown wipes have not expanded in the country. As a concept, the wet wipes in the beginning can catch up only in restaurants and in travel situations. Carded chemical bonded and spunbond polypropylene is the most common wet wipe used in the country by airlines and other establishments. On the supermarket shelves, some local converters offer the wet wipes made from spunlace nonwovens.

Table 3
Disposable Products Market
Area Marketshare Growth Rate
Absorbent Hygiene 85% 15%
Wipes 2% 5%
Medical 6% 15%
Disposable Products 1% 5%
Filtration 1% 5%
Others 5% 8%

The medical products considered in the study include surgical gowns, packs, caps, masks, shoe covers, nonwovens used in surgical gauze, sponges, disposable pillow cases and sheetings are difficult to estimate individually. Cotton wool and woven gauzes are still popular in the country as spunlace material is not made locally and imports can be expensive. Doctors exposed to the new types of surgical disposables in the west and coming back to the country to set up specialty hospitals have created demand for nonwoven disposable products. Otherwise the health care industry is still using reusable caps, gowns and drapes. A significant portion of this market will remain with woven reusable material until necessary legislation for hygiene standards are introduced by the health authorizity in the government. However, a high growth rate and demand is foreseen in this segment in coming years due to proliferation of private hospitals in the country. The penetration of spunlace products into the traditional cotton wool and woven bandages will provide a strong demand for these products.

Table 4
Estimated Segment Sizes (tons)
2003 2009
Automotives 10,000 23,414
Geotextiles 1500 3110
Coated/laminated fabrics/shoe linings 2500 3401
Carpets 3500 4354
Interlinings 6000 7298
Furnishings/bedding 1500 2196
Filters 4000 5243
Others 11000 14965
Total 40000 64878

The typical estimate of disposable products market in India in terms of percentage is shown in Table 3.

There are numerous other disposable applications, such as shopping bags, tablecloths, towelettes, airline head rests, pillow cases, sorbents, sponges, etc., which are made and marketed in a small way. These applications? volume will grow proportionately to the rising income and is estimated to grow at 8%.

Durable Nonwoven Uses In Asia
Indian nonwovens consumption in 2003 was nearly 60,000 tons for durable applications, including 20,000 tons of fiberfill material. This market is expected to grow rapidly in coming years due to increased spending in infrastructure projects such as highways and overall higher industrial activity.

Table 5
Durable Market Segments
Automotives 10,000
Geotextiles 1500
Coated/laminated fabric 2500
Carpet 3500
Interlining & wadding 6000
Furnishing & bedding 1500
Filters 4000
Other durables 11,000
Total 40,000
Fiberfill products 20,000
Grand Total 60,000

A 25% growth in the automotives industry during the last year is expected to be maintained. This includes a sizable amount of interlinings, geotextiles and shoe felts that are imported regularly into the country. As the industry is extremely fragmented, only major applications can be analyzed and projected.

In the last two years, the Indian automotive industry has grown rapidly at nearly 25% a year. About 1.1 million cars are currently produced in the country. The major producers are Suzuki, Hyundai, Tata, General Motors and Toyota. India also has a large transport truck production by Iveco, Leyland, Tata and Volvo. This is an important segment using nonwovens. Typically about nine square meters of nonwovens is used in the car for the headliners, trunk liners, seats, hood liners, trim insulation, etc. Needlepunched nonwovens are the most common material used in the country for this purpose. For many uses, the fabric is used in composite form. Including the trucking industry, about 10,000 tons of nonwovens are used in this industry. The industry is expected to maintain this momentum and grow 20% in the next five years. Colored polyester and polypropylene fibers are the predominant raw materials used in this industry. India has only one polypropylene fiber producer, limiting the competition and availability of a variety of fibers. Plans for a new polypropylene fiber plant are underway and this should help increase nonwoven consumption for automotive end uses.

This has become an important segment of the Indian nonwovens industry. The increasing investment in the infrastructure of industry, particularly new coastal roads connecting the major cities in the country has spurred demand for geotextiles. A large quantity of these geotextiles are imported as only one company has installed a wide-width needlepunching machine. As is the case elsewhere in the world, woven geotextiles compete with nonwovens in many applications. It is estimated that the nation consumed about 700 KM of geotextiles in highway projects. Indian railways use geotextiles extensively to reduce track maintenance costs. With more than 10,000 kilometers of coastal roads planned for the next five years, the market is expected to have exponential growth. Major players like DuPont and Amoco are present in the market. India is also implementing a project to connect all the rivers in the country; this would again use a large quantity of geotextiles. This market is expected to consume about 5000 tons of nonwovens every year based on current projects. Indian rural road projects are underway, which are also expected to consume large quantities of geotextiles.

Coated and Laminated Fabrics/Shoe Linings
The shoe lining segment is quite important in India as the country is the manufacturing base for many European brands. The lining for these shoes is made locally by needlepunch manufacturers. If any special product or performance is required, the felt is imported from Europe. The athletic shoe market uses needlepunched nonwovens coated with PVC/PU for shoe uppers. This is a growing segment and has very good potential in India. Increasingly spunlace material is being considered as backing fabric in place of knitted fabric. Indian exports in the shoe sector are growing and this market has good potential for nonwoven material.

The automotive segment consumes a substantial amount of fabric for seat backs, door panels, instrument panels, stick shaft covers, panel coverings, airbag covers, etc. The consumption in this market is proportional to market growth.

The hot and dusty weather conditions in most parts of the country restrict the use of carpets extensively. Carpets are used essentially in commercial buildings for noise suppression and insulation in air conditioned buildings. To a limited extent, they are used for aesthetic enhancement and to aid in interior decoration.

Needlepunched nonwovens are essentially used in commercial buildings and public places. The major producers of needlepunched nonwoven carpets are also supplying to the automotive markets. With increasing affluence, the carpet usage for domestic purposes is likely to increase; however, the lack of availability of colored PP fiber has restricted the growth of this market.

Interlinings and Waddings
India has a significant need for interlinings in its domestic market. There are a few established manufacturers of chemical bonded nonwovens and thermal bonded nonwovens. But, a large quantity of product is also imported as special colors and copolymer products are not made in the country. Many small-scale manufacturers have spray and dot paste coating conversion for interlining. The non-availability of special types of polyester fibers has restricted the expansion and export of these products. Essentially, interlinings are used in collars, pockets, fronts and dresses. Women's dressy articles also use interlinings in significant quantities.

Waddings for shoulder pads, thermal insulation, etc. are made by many manufacturers. Both chemical and thermal bonded products are made in the country. Waddings are also used in quilts in large quantities. The volume of wadding requirements is growing steadily as wadding has replaced the soaking mat in Desert Coolers, which is extensively used during dry summer days in most of the north and western states of India.

Furnishings and Bedding
The beds used in India are very traditional and do not have the sophistication of springs, backings, dust covers, etc. The climatic conditions and traditions do not demand sophistication in beds. Only high-end hotels use the beds similar to those in European countries.

Table 6
Nonwovens Production By Process
Process Tons Percent
Spunbond 8000 14
Carded thermal bond 4000 7
Carded chemical bond 8000 14
Needlepunched 27000 47
Stitchbonded 2000 3
Others 2000 3
High Loft 7000 12
Total Nonwovens Made in the Country: 58,000 tons
Total Imports: 20,000 tons
Total Nonwovens Consumption: 78,000 tons

Dry filtration process is the main consumption area for nonwovens. Needlepunched polyester fiber-based filters are mainly used in industry. A few needlepunch fabric manufacturers cater to the basic requirements of industry抯 filtration needs. This segment is growing fast with increasing emphasis on pollution control and product recovery. India, being the second largest cement producer in the world, has a lot of bag house units. Mining, the mineral processing industry and power generation plants are significant users of nonwoven filters. The high-end filters from PTFE, P84, ceramics, etc. are not made in the country. Some efforts have been made to use Nomex successfully. The future for this industry is very bright in India. India still doesn't have the filter fabric classification rating such as BIA of Germany. Most of the membrane-laminated filters are imported. HVAC filter for air conditioning, automotive filters, cleanroom filters, etc. are made within the country using thermal bonded and chemical bonded nonwoven systems.

Wet filtration in the food processing industry imports the filters due to specific FDA requirements. The general requirements of the fertilizer and mineral process industries are met by local suppliers. Indian filter equipment manufacturers like FLakt, ABB, Door-Oliver are original equipment suppliers operating worldwide.

Other Applications
Agriculture and landscape application is limited to the size of the farms in India, which are small with farmers not educated in the use of the materials. The country's legislation is currently undergoing a change and corporate farming is being introduced. This will increase demand for nonwovens used in agriculture. Horticultural companies are already using some sort of films for mulch and weed control. Nonwovens, when available at the right price, can find use in the segment.

Bitumized roof linings in India is an established market for glass fiber nonwovens and jute woven material. The nonwoven substrates of needlepunch types are more expensive than the glass tissue, which appears to do the work. Spunbond polyester is not made or available in the country. The National Building Code in India is not very strict on the roof lining material; hence the use of nonwovens will be dictated by the economics rather than performance.

Battery separator and cable wrap are two important end uses. India has a large manufacturing capacity for both products. Nonwovens for the jelly-filled cable wrap with special treatment are imported from Europe and the battery separators are imported from Japan. No specific study was conducted to estimate the quantity, but these are high-value products and will be produced within India once the volumes increase to an economical level for production.

Papermaker felt nonwovens are made in India by two companies that have been established for many years. The paper industry in India has been very stagnant due to non-availability of local raw material; therefore the growth of these felt makers over the year is also limited.

Consumption of Nonwovens By Process
Table 6 summarizes the products from different technologies consumed in the country. A small portion of others include spunlace for meltblown materials imported into the country for specific end uses.

The needlepunch area has grown steadily during the last three years due to increases in automotive, filtration and geotextile end uses. This technology is expected to grow rapidly as more applications are adapting to this technology.

Spunbond has seen a sudden growth in business both in domestic markets and exports. More capacity is planned and steady growth is predicted as two companies are already in the advanced stages of installing the technology in India. The product is already imported and is under test marketing. The response to these products has been good. There are very few converters in India to make the roll goods into a consumable product. This missing link in the business has delayed the development of many nonwovens projects in India.

Thermal bonded nonwoven manufacturers have a limited range of production and supply interlining and hygiene markets. Commodity polyester and polypropylene is available in the country. Most of the specialty, bicomponent andspecial finish fibers have to be imported. This has led to slow growth of this technology in the country. The four manufacturers present in this market have low width product set up and limited capability.

Chemical bonded nonwovens are essentially made with viscose fiber and viscose polyester blends. This is catering mainly to the interlinings market and to a small extent to the wipes market. Interestingly, a large quantity of chemical bonded nonwovens have been used as a substitute for paper for invitation cards and packaging material. About 10 machines are making these products in India.

More than 18 small- and medium-sized companies manufacture needlepunched nonwovens. Those catering to the automotive and filtration field have good equipment whereas the remaining companies make products with used equipment. The range of products made is quite wide considering the limited availability of raw materials. One plant with a more than five-meter-wide machine is now able to deliver goods to the geotextiles market.

There are five highloft material manufacturers using thermal bonded and chemical spray technology. This equipment is primitive but adequate to meet the none-too-critical requirements of the filter market, waddings and insulation. Increasing air conditioning markets is seen as a good avenue for these manufacturers.

Stitchbonding technology has been started successfully on a commercial scale by one manufacturer for shoe linings and mops. The progress is being watched keenly by many entrepreneurs.

Existing manufacturers are examining meltblown technology. The market for sorbents is small as of today. For further use, the establishment of a converting capability (for laminating with other substrates, calendaring, conversion to wipes and filters, composite technology, etc.) is the key to the use of such products.

India has a very small manufacturing base for nonwovens. Currently, the market for durable nonwovens is bigger than for disposables. Blessed with a large population of over one billion, the country is poised for high economic growth that will make it one of the largest consumer markets in the world during the next decade. Given the geographic and logistic complexity, there is an urgent need to create manufacturing and converting capacities within the country for disposable and durable nonwovens. The availability of raw materials, skilled personnel and environment for growth, make it the right time for India to establish a manufacturing base for nonwovens. The author sees a good market in India for nonwovens made using the spunbond, spunlace and needlepunched technologies.

Return to Table of Contents

Vision Gears Up For New Orleans
annual competition will be a highlight of consumer products conference

This month, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, will hold its fourth annual Vision Consumer Products Conference in New Orleans. Like in past editions of the conference, a highlight of the event will be the annual Visionary Awards competition, which continues to attract a diverse pool of entries.
The requirements for the competition are simple. To qualify, a product must be available in consumer markets, must comprise a nonwoven material and have been launched since the last Vision conference. As the Vision conference has gained in popularity, so has the awards competition, and this year, more than 30 products were entered. Of these products, six, which were deemed the most impressive and innovative uses of nonwovens, were narrowed down as finalists by INDA抯 technical advisory board (TAB). Attendees of Vision will hear presentations on these six finalists, including a filter, a feminine hygiene product, a diaper, a tooth cleaner, a disposable wash cloth and print media, and will then be asked to vote on the winner, which will be announced the last day of Vision. Past winners have included Procter & Gamble for its Swiffer product, FMJ ChemBio抯 Civilian Quick Escape Mask and Brillo Scrub 憂 Toss disposable cleaning pads, marketed by Church & Dwight.

This year抯 finalists are:

Resolution Print Media, BBA Fiberweb
Resolution Print Media, developed by BBA Fiberweb, represents an entry into a market where nonwovens have not yet ventured梩he consumer at-home printing industry梐ccording to company executives. Able to outperform photo paper in terms of water resistance, tensile strength, uniformity and drying time, Resolution Print Media is engineered from continuous polyester filaments permanently bonded by heat and pressure. Its super white appearance gives excellent color vibrancy for photo quality output. It is available with a standard surface or with BBA抯 coating enhancement for rapid drying, higher resolution and color saturation.

Introduced in April 2004, Resolution Print Media comes at a time when sales of digital cameras are at an all-time high as are sales of inkjet printers and photographic paper. Its applications include photographic prints, where it provides excellent resolution for artwork reproductions, for flexible packaging and wraps, when high print quality and color depth is needed, banners, trade show graphics, backdrops and signs, where its polyester composition works well for outdoor use and its highly printable surface allows signs and banners to stand out. Other applications include tags and labels because of its strength and durability, even when wet.

Oral-B Brush Ups, The Gillette Company
Introduced in June 2004, Oral-B Brush-Ups comprise a proprietary combination of nonwoven materials to create a new way to keep breath fresh and a smile bright on the go. The disposable, textured dental wipes provide discreet 揵rush-ups? that can clean teeth without water or paste. According to Peter Gladstone, oral care business management for The Gillette Company, the cleaning side梞ade from alternating layers of fiber and polyethylene梙as been formed to create the textured 慴ristles? that collect and remove plaque from the tooth抯 surface while also protecting the finger from moisture. The elastic backing provides a comfortable fit to almost any size finger.

揃rush-Ups were designed to be an effective and convenient method for cleaning teeth and freshening breath while on-the-go,? Mr. Gladstone explained. 揟he textured surface cleans teeth and the burst of mint flavor freshens breath. The single-use finger wipes are individually sealed for convenient portability.?
The use of nonwoven material was critical to making Brush-Ups a reality because it made them disposable, one-size-fits-all and sanitary by creating a moisture barrier. 揟he material is disposable, the elastic backing accommodates a variety of finger sizes and the nonwoven front creates a moisture barrier so germs are not passed from the finger to the mouth,? Mr. Gladstone continued.

Automotive Oil Filter, Mann + Hummel (Germany)
Introduced in September 2003, this new oil filter is described as 搕he world抯 first fully synthetic oil filter element for automotive applications.? The filter material uses a polyester fleece, which is up to 15 times more resistant to aging than cellulose. The two-layered filter medium consists of a support and drainage layer as well as an active filter layer.

The first fully synthetic oil filter media, the Automotive Oil Filter was developed by Mann + Hummel of Germany. Unlike typical automotive filters, which are cellulose based, this filter is not attacked by the lube oil while the car is running. This allows these polyester-based filters to last three to five times longer than paper products, depending on the vehicle, according to Markus Kolczyk, head of filter development.
Launched at the Frankfurt motor show in 2003, these filters comprise a support and drainage layer as well as an active filter layer with an optimized layer set-up. This set-up and the individual layers are specifically matched to one another to guarantee maximum filtration performance with regard to filter fineness, dirt-holding capacity and pressure loss. The completely synthetic filter element technology and the filter media can be used for all engine applications and designs of filter elements and can also be used retro-compatibly for existing applications. Additionally, this filter抯 disposal is more environmentally pleasing than cellulose materials.

Soft-Fit Training Pants, Tyco Healthcare Retail Group
Tyco Healthcare Retail Group抯 Soft-Fit Training Pants are made using a filament core instead of a fibrous core that is typical in baby diapers and absorbent products. Calling it 搕he first true step out of differentiated core technology,? vice president of research and development Don Sheldon said, 搕his new technology was created by marrying technologies developed by companies acquired by Tyco in recent years.? Originally applied to a pull-on style training pant, the technology could be used in virtually any absorbent product.
Among the benefits of this product, which is being described as the next step in the evolution of diaper technology, is simpler processing for manufacturers and better fit and improved comfort for the consumer. The absence of fluff pulp in the diaper also eliminates the need for various diaper line components and creates a more environmentally friendly, lighter weight product.

In development for one year prior to its October 2003 launch, Soft-Fit Training Pants are already performing at 20% above marketing projections. To protect its investment, Tyco has applied for more than 30 U.S. patents covering the technology and has already received eight.

A private label supplier, Tyco tested the product with one of its major retail partners, Wal-Mart, and expects the product to be extremely popular with store brands. As for taking it on the branded front, Mr. Sheldon said that Tyco will probably leave marketing efforts to its customers. 揑 don抰 see us going through the expense of forming a marketing and advertising department,? he said. 揥e would rather focus on innovation and product performance and development. The absorbent products diaper market is a commodity market and the performance of a product should overshadow marketing efforts.?

Love扤 Sanitary Napkin and Panty Liner,
W.I.P. (Wellness Innovation Project)

Love 慛 sanitary napkin and panty liners were introduced in Italy in 2004. Featuring a mix of eco-friendly raw materials, the product hopes to reverse the trend of limiting innovation in disposable markets. 揑nnovation in disposable markets has been limited,? said Marco Benedetti, general manager. 揜eally, most decisions are made on cost.?

The products use eco-friendly PLA fibers, which are developed from natural resources by Far Eastern Textiles, a natural superabsorbent, Lysac, developed by Lysac Technologies and Mater-Bi biodegradable film from Novamont. Packaging also incorporates the Mater-bi biodegradable film.

According to Mr. Benedetti, there is no marked difference between these biodegradable products and conventional products. 揅ommunicating this to the customers is our biggest problem,? he said. 揥e really don抰 want to mention the biodegradable thing prominently. We just call it 慹co-friendly.挃

The decision to market an environmentally friendly product was born as much out of environmental consciousness as it was from a goal of diversity. The products create a new niche in the disposable market, providing nice growth opportunities for WIP. 揥hy should we do something that everyone can do?? asked Mr. Benedetti. 揥e have no chance when competing head to head against a giant corporation unless we do something different.?

Huggies Wash Cloths, Kimberly-Clark
Huggies Wash Cloths, part of Kimberly-Clark抯 expansion into baby toiletries, are made from a proprietary, multi-layered, composite material manufactured to provide optimal strength, flexibility, thickness, softness and texture as well as gentle cleaning with cloth-like durability. To further enhance product performance, a secondary process impregnates lathering baby wash solution capable of lasting throughout the bathing experience.

Available in an unscented version, without soap, or in lavender and chamomile or extra gentle scented, soaped varieties, Huggies baby wash cloths, are preferred by parents who overwhelmingly agree that they make bathtime much easier, according to K-C. The product, which was launched in early 2004, makes Huggies the only brand with a presence in all four major non-food baby categories-diapers, training pants, wipes and toiletries. In December, K-C company expanded its presence in this category with the introduction of a full line of bath and body products including a liquid powder, a shampoo, baby lotion and disposable wash mitts.

This month, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, will hold its fourth annual Vision Consumer Products Conference in New Orleans. Like in past editions of the conference, a highlight of the event will be the annual Visionary Awards competition, which continues to attract a diverse pool of entries.
The requirements for the competition are simple. To qualify, a product must be available in consumer markets, must comprise a nonwoven material and have been launched since the last Vision conference. As the Vision conference has gained in popularity, so has the awards competition, and this year, more than 30 products were entered. Of these products, six, which were deemed the most impressive and innovative uses of nonwovens, were narrowed down as finalists by INDA抯 technical advisory board (TAB). Attendees of Vision will hear presentations on these six finalists, including a filter, a feminine hygiene product, a diaper, a tooth cleaner, a disposable wash cloth and print media, and will then be asked to vote on the winner, which will be announced the last day of Vision. Past winners have included Procter & Gamble for its Swiffer product, FMJ ChemBio抯 Civilian Quick Escape Mask and Brillo Scrub 憂 Toss disposable cleaning pads, marketed by Church & Dwight.

This year抯 finalists are:

Resolution Print Media, BBA Fiberweb
Resolution Print Media, developed by BBA Fiberweb, represents an entry into a market where nonwovens have not yet ventured梩he consumer at-home printing industry梐ccording to company executives. Able to outperform photo paper in terms of water resistance, tensile strength, uniformity and drying time, Resolution Print Media is engineered from continuous polyester filaments permanently bonded by heat and pressure. Its super white appearance gives excellent color vibrancy for photo quality output. It is available with a standard surface or with BBA抯 coating enhancement for rapid drying, higher resolution and color saturation.

Introduced in April 2004, Resolution Print Media comes at a time when sales of digital cameras are at an all-time high as are sales of inkjet printers and photographic paper. Its applications include photographic prints, where it provides excellent resolution for artwork reproductions, for flexible packaging and wraps, when high print quality and color depth is needed, banners, trade show graphics, backdrops and signs, where its polyester composition works well for outdoor use and its highly printable surface allows signs and banners to stand out. Other applications include tags and labels because of its strength and durability, even when wet.

Oral-B Brush Ups, The Gillette Company
Introduced in June 2004, Oral-B Brush-Ups comprise a proprietary combination of nonwoven materials to create a new way to keep breath fresh and a smile bright on the go. The disposable, textured dental wipes provide discreet 揵rush-ups? that can clean teeth without water or paste. According to Peter Gladstone, oral care business management for The Gillette Company, the cleaning side梞ade from alternating layers of fiber and polyethylene梙as been formed to create the textured 慴ristles? that collect and remove plaque from the tooth抯 surface while also protecting the finger from moisture. The elastic backing provides a comfortable fit to almost any size finger.

揃rush-Ups were designed to be an effective and convenient method for cleaning teeth and freshening breath while on-the-go,? Mr. Gladstone explained. 揟he textured surface cleans teeth and the burst of mint flavor freshens breath. The single-use finger wipes are individually sealed for convenient portability.?
The use of nonwoven material was critical to making Brush-Ups a reality because it made them disposable, one-size-fits-all and sanitary by creating a moisture barrier. 揟he material is disposable, the elastic backing accommodates a variety of finger sizes and the nonwoven front creates a moisture barrier so germs are not passed from the finger to the mouth,? Mr. Gladstone continued.

Automotive Oil Filter, Mann + Hummel (Germany)
Introduced in September 2003, this new oil filter is described as 搕he world抯 first fully synthetic oil filter element for automotive applications.? The filter material uses a polyester fleece, which is up to 15 times more resistant to aging than cellulose. The two-layered filter medium consists of a support and drainage layer as well as an active filter layer.

The first fully synthetic oil filter media, the Automotive Oil Filter was developed by Mann + Hummel of Germany. Unlike typical automotive filters, which are cellulose based, this filter is not attacked by the lube oil while the car is running. This allows these polyester-based filters to last three to five times longer than paper products, depending on the vehicle, according to Markus Kolczyk, head of filter development.
Launched at the Frankfurt motor show in 2003, these filters comprise a support and drainage layer as well as an active filter layer with an optimized layer set-up. This set-up and the individual layers are specifically matched to one another to guarantee maximum filtration performance with regard to filter fineness, dirt-holding capacity and pressure loss. The completely synthetic filter element technology and the filter media can be used for all engine applications and designs of filter elements and can also be used retro-compatibly for existing applications. Additionally, this filter抯 disposal is more environmentally pleasing than cellulose materials.

Soft-Fit Training Pants, Tyco Healthcare Retail Group
Tyco Healthcare Retail Group抯 Soft-Fit Training Pants are made using a filament core instead of a fibrous core that is typical in baby diapers and absorbent products. Calling it 搕he first true step out of differentiated core technology,? vice president of research and development Don Sheldon said, 搕his new technology was created by marrying technologies developed by companies acquired by Tyco in recent years.? Originally applied to a pull-on style training pant, the technology could be used in virtually any absorbent product.
Among the benefits of this product, which is being described as the next step in the evolution of diaper technology, is simpler processing for manufacturers and better fit and improved comfort for the consumer. The absence of fluff pulp in the diaper also eliminates the need for various diaper line components and creates a more environmentally friendly, lighter weight product.

In development for one year prior to its October 2003 launch, Soft-Fit Training Pants are already performing at 20% above marketing projections. To protect its investment, Tyco has applied for more than 30 U.S. patents covering the technology and has already received eight.

A private label supplier, Tyco tested the product with one of its major retail partners, Wal-Mart, and expects the product to be extremely popular with store brands. As for taking it on the branded front, Mr. Sheldon said that Tyco will probably leave marketing efforts to its customers. 揑 don抰 see us going through the expense of forming a marketing and advertising department,? he said. 揥e would rather focus on innovation and product performance and development. The absorbent products diaper market is a commodity market and the performance of a product should overshadow marketing efforts.?

Love扤 Sanitary Napkin and Panty Liner,
W.I.P. (Wellness Innovation Project)

Love 慛 sanitary napkin and panty liners were introduced in Italy in 2004. Featuring a mix of eco-friendly raw materials, the product hopes to reverse the trend of limiting innovation in disposable markets. 揑nnovation in disposable markets has been limited,? said Marco Benedetti, general manager. 揜eally, most decisions are made on cost.?

The products use eco-friendly PLA fibers, which are developed from natural resources by Far Eastern Textiles, a natural superabsorbent, Lysac, developed by Lysac Technologies and Mater-Bi biodegradable film from Novamont. Packaging also incorporates the Mater-bi biodegradable film.

According to Mr. Benedetti, there is no marked difference between these biodegradable products and conventional products. 揅ommunicating this to the customers is our biggest problem,? he said. 揥e really don抰 want to mention the biodegradable thing prominently. We just call it 慹co-friendly.挃

The decision to market an environmentally friendly product was born as much out of environmental consciousness as it was from a goal of diversity. The products create a new niche in the disposable market, providing nice growth opportunities for WIP. 揥hy should we do something that everyone can do?? asked Mr. Benedetti. 揥e have no chance when competing head to head against a giant corporation unless we do something different.?

Huggies Wash Cloths, Kimberly-Clark
Huggies Wash Cloths, part of Kimberly-Clark抯 expansion into baby toiletries, are made from a proprietary, multi-layered, composite material manufactured to provide optimal strength, flexibility, thickness, softness and texture as well as gentle cleaning with cloth-like durability. To further enhance product performance, a secondary process impregnates lathering baby wash solution capable of lasting throughout the bathing experience.

Available in an unscented version, without soap, or in lavender and chamomile or extra gentle scented, soaped varieties, Huggies baby wash cloths, are preferred by parents who overwhelmingly agree that they make bathtime much easier, according to K-C. The product, which was launched in early 2004, makes Huggies the only brand with a presence in all four major non-food baby categories-diapers, training pants, wipes and toiletries. In December, K-C company expanded its presence in this category with the introduction of a full line of bath and body products including a liquid powder, a shampoo, baby lotion and disposable wash mitts.

NC-56 Automatic Ear-Loop Mask Making Machine
NC-57P Automatic Tie-on Mask Making Machine
NC-567P Automatic Ear-loop & Tie-on Mask Making Machine
NC-15 Blank Mask Making Machine
NC-1510 Chamber Mask Making Machine
NC-1520 Dust Mask Making Machine
NC-1530 Duck Bill Mask Making Machine
NC-16A Inner Ear-Loop Mask Making Machine
NC-1605 Head-Loop Mask Sealing Machine
NC-16B Outer Ear-Loop Mask Sealing Machine
NC-17 Tie-on Mask Sealing Machine
NC-17P Tie-on Mask Sealing & Packing Machine
NC-18 Pillow Case Making Machine
NC-19 Bouffant Cap Making Machine
NC-1910 Surgical Cap Making Machine
NC-20 Shoe Cover Making Machine
NC-30 Mop & Wiper Making Machine
NC-40 CD Sleeve Making Machine
NC-60 Ice Pack Body Making Machine
NC-6010 Ice Pack Tie Sealing Machine
NC-6020 Ice Pack Band Sealing And Cutting Machine
NC-7020 Pocket Filter Making Machine
NC-90 Ultrasonic Quilting / Bonding Machine

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