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.
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
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.|
|Creping/Building||Spunbond Lines, Complete|
|Cutting||Static Control Equipment|
|Die Cutting||Stitchbonding Equipment|
|Dry Wipes||Tape Applicators|
|Folding||Thermal Bonding Equipment|
|Hot Melt Adhesion||Trim Removal Collection|
|Laminating||Ultrasonic Bonding Equipment|
|Medical||Vacuum Waste Collection|
|Private Label||Web Forming Equipment|
|Protective Apparel||Web Guiding Equipment|
|Research & Development||Web Handling Equipment|
|Shoe Coverings||Wet Laid, Complete Lines|
|Specialty Applications||Winders, Rewinders|
|Spooling||Wipes Production Lines|
|Water Proofing||RAW MATERIALS|
|Windings||Adhesives, Hot Melt|
|MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT||Antibacterial Agents|
|Adhesive Bonding Equipment||Antifoam Agents|
|Air Control Devices||Antimicrobials|
|Air Through Bonding Equipment||Antistatic|
|Airlaid Lines, Complete||Binders/Dispersions/Emulsions|
|Bale Presses||Curing Agents|
|Blending/Mixing Systems||Fasteners-Hook & Loop|
|Chemical Bonding Equipment||Fibers/Staple-Antistatic|
|Computer Control Systems||Fibers/Staple-Cotton|
|Conveyor Belts/Fabrics||Fibers/Staple-Flame Retardants|
|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|
|Drum Forming Equipment||Filaments-Polypropylene|
|Drylaid Lines, Complete||Films-Embossed|
|Dust Pollution Equipment||Finishing Agents|
|Dyeing Equipment||Flame Retardants|
|Embossing Equipment||Fluff Pulp|
|Face Mask Lines||Foam|
|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|
|Hot Melt Systems||Rubbers/Elastics-Tape/Thread|
|Hydroentangling (Spunlace) Systems||SAPs|
|Measuring Equipment||Surfactants/Wetting Agents|
|Melt Blown Lines, Complete||Thickeners|
|Needle Inserters/Removers||Wetness Indicators|
|Packaging Systems||Air Through Bonded|
|Pulp Fluffing Machinery||Chemical Bonded|
|Recycling Systems||Melt Blown|
|Roll Handling Systems||Needlepunched|
|Roll Packaging||Powder Bonded|
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
|??||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:
70 Hilltop Road, Third Floor
Ramsey, NJ 07446 USA
|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.|
|CONTRACT SERVICES||MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT - Cont...|
|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|
|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|
|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|
DuPont’s Tyvek Is
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
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
|ON FOUR LEVELS . . .
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.
How To Use This International Buyers??
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.
Adhesive Bonding Equipment 64
Adult Incontinence Lines, Complete 64
Air Control Devices 64
Air Laid Lines, Complete 64
Air Shafts 64
Baby Diaper Lines, Complete 64
Bale Presses 64
Balers, Shredders 64
Blending/Mixing Systems 64,66
Calendering Systems 66
Chemical Bonding Equipment 66
Coating Equipment 66
Computer Control Systems 66
Conveyor Belts/Fabrics 66
Cutters, Knives 68
Cutting Systems 68
Data Measuring Systems 68
Diaper Lines, Complete 68
Die Cutters, Rotary 68
Drive Systems 68,70
Drum Forming Equipment 70
Dry Laid Lines, Complete 70
Dust Pollution Equipment 70
Dyeing Equipment 70
Embossing Equipment 70
Extrusion Equipment 70
Face Masks & Cap Lines 72
Feminine Hygiene Lines, Complete 72
Fiber Handling Equipment 72
Filtration Systems 72
Flocking Equipment 72
Foaming Equipment 72
Folding Machines 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
Needle Inserters/Removers 74
Needle Looms 74
Packaging Systems 76
Printing Systems 76
Pulp Fluffing Machinery 76
Pulp Preparation 76
Recycling Systems 76
Roll Handling Systems 76
Roll Packaging 76
San Pro Lines, Complete 76
SAP Applications 76
Spooling Equipment 78
Spray Systems 78
Spunbond Lines, Complete 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
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
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.
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.
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?
New Kids On The Block
Just The Facts
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
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
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.”
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Overview of China's Nonwovens Production By Technology|
|1994||2004||Forecast 2009||Growth Rate
|Spunbond Polypropylene and SMS||24||240||480||25.9||14.9|
|Carded thermal / resinbonded||51||130||98||9.8||(5.5)|
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Raw Materials For
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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|