On November 23, EPA sought to clarify Federal standards regarding the handling, transportation and disposal of wiping products that are treated with industrial solvents.
For the first time, regulations would include laundered shop towels into the RCRA program. Since Congress passed RCRA in the 1970s, the EPA has exempted laundered shop towels from RCRA waste disposal standards as long as the state governments regulated the laundering of shop towels.
Shop towels have historically fallen under jurisdiction of EPA’s Office of Water Management because their solvents are removed in the laundering process and returned to public water supplies for processing. This exempts them from the definition of solid waste and by extension hazardous waste. Unlike laundered wipes, since day one, disposable wipes have been regulated under the Office of Solid Waste and could earn the hazardous waste definition if certain criteria are met.
Generally speaking, laundered shop towels remain exempted from solid waste classification, and thus may never be classified hazardous waste. Generators must store and transport them in covered containers after use, and ensure they are not dripping with solvents, a condition that would allow launderers to refuse a shipment. Once a laundry accepts the shipment, the generator’s responsibility is finished.
Disposable wipes, if certain conditions are met, can be exempt from the definition of hazardous waste but have always been classified as solid waste.
They too must be stored after use by the generator in a covered container but, when transported to a disposal facility, the container must clearly identify the cargo as contaminated with solvents. If disposal is to occur at a municipal solid waste incinerator, the non-laundered wipers must contain no free liquids. Disposal at a municipal solid waste landfill requires the rags be dry and contain no more than five grams of solvents. Therefore, removing solvents is yet another responsibility placed on the generator.
Additionally, EPA has published a list of solvents, such as acetone, that under no conditions can be placed in a landfill.
The nonwovens camp finds the EPA’s inequitable disposal requirements between the wipes and towels questionable, since contaminants possessing the hazardous characteristics of ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity must be disposed of according to guidelines set under RCRA, regardless of the wipe style.
“The industrial laundry rhetoric is that laundered shop towels are environmentally friendlier than non-laundered wipes, which simply isn’t supported by the facts,” said Robert Peterson, business manager, new business development, for DuPont Nonwovens, Wilmington, DE.
“The soil on the laundered wipes ends up in the landfills, via launderers sludge. If it isn’t captured in sludge it can be released into public rivers and streams. So really it’s a charade.”
Although the primary EPA goal is to establish a Federal framework for the handling and disposal of industrial wipers and the solvents applied to them, the conditions, as written, can be viewed as both advantageous and par for the course for laundered shop towels. A fringe benefit for the laundered towels, regardless of the proposed rule change, is end users with an eye on the bottom line will be reluctant to pay extra disposal fees for wipers deemed hazardous.
Hidden Costs for Laundered Shop Towels
In terms of inequities, INDA’s concerns lie in the fact that identical solvents require labeling for transport to landfills and incinerators but notfor release into public drinking water sources. Eyebrows are raised because non-laundered products destined for landfills, must be dry; yet laundered towels containing the same solvents need only meet non-dripping standards. “RCRA is not about the towels; it’s about the waste they contain,” warned Ralph Solarski, of Kimberly-Clark, who serves as president of INDA’s Focused Interest Committee for Wipers. INDA believes all wiping products should be exempt, under certain conditions, from the designation of hazardous waste, but conditions regulating disposal should be equitable for both types of wiping products and related to the solvents they contain.
Peter Mayberry, INDA director of governmental affairs, Washington, D.C., said that INDA agrees with a standard of no dripping. To remove the maximum solvent, INDA feels generators should hand wring the wipes before placing them in disposal receptacles. “Hand wringing should be required because it would…facilitate recycling of used solvents and ensure minimum negative impact on human health and the environment,” added Mr. Mayberry.
|Rental shop towels can come back unclean or otherwise impaired, causing concealed dangers.|
Nonwovens Wipers Advantages
Despite regulations hampering a nonwovens’ bid for a greater market share, industry leaders cite education as an invaluable tool in expanding that segment.
Several reports laud productivity advantages of task-engineered wipers over laundered shop towels. Advances in fibers, production and dispensing technique make task customization simple. The right wiper can be used for the right job, ensuring consistency in performance.
Nonwovens wipers also benefit workplace safety with a consistently clean environment that is free from contamination, while rental shop towels can return from the laundry unclean or impaired, causing concealed dangers. These include metal shavings from lathing operations that can injure faces and hands and residual oils and chemicals to cause skin rashes. Furthermore old, worn, less-absorbent rental shop towels may allow chemicals to come into contact with hands.
A recent study conducted by environmental consulting firm Gradient Corporation, Cambridge, MA, evaluates potential exposure to metals in laundered shop towels. Samples of towels, which had been used and then laundered, were collected from 23 locations in 14 states. They were then submitted to an independent lab, which analyzed them for 27 metals, as well as for oil and grease.
All of the laundered shop towels contained oil and grease, and many contained elevated levels of metals, such as lead. The study concluded that metals on these towels can get onto hands and then inadvertently get into the mouth and be swallowed. Based on using 2.5 towels per day, the study also showed that the amount of lead that someone might accidentally ingest from the laundered shop towels was essentially equivalent to California Environmental Protection Agency’s (CalEPA) Maximum Allowable Daily Level (MADL) for reproductive toxicity. More frequent daily use of the laundered towels was shown to have more dire results, including higher exposure to antimony and cadmium.
|DuPont has enjoyed success in the industrial market with its Sontara EC engineered-cloth wipers. They are more versatile than cloth rags, stronger and more durable than paper and less expensive in use than both.|
|With nonwoven material, industrial wipes producers can guarantee customers wiper size and quality control.|
Based on public feedback about the proposed rule change, the EPA has three avenues to choose:
Approval, as published in November; make changes based on public input or simply decide not to issue a final ruling on this matter.
Regardless of the decision, every day hazardous materials are dumped into the environment through loopholes in the rules that govern them, and INDA will be on the front lines as long as it takes.
“We are encouraging EPA to address this issue and to go final with a rule that accomplishes increasing solvent recovery/recycling, protecting human health and the environment and providing clear, simple guidance to the hundreds of thousands of businesses that will be impacted,” said K-C’s Mr. Solarski.
The right thing to do is for EPA to take action and eliminate the confusion and complexity that has existed for years.”
“We have spent the last year making sure our product line is what our customers need—no more and no less,” G-P’s Mr. Eckmann explained. “That benefits them by balancing simplicity with completeness of the offering.” G-P’s latest product, GoRag uses hands-free innovation technology to dispense disposable wipers and shop towels. “There are many benefits of this electronic dispensing system including cost containment, hygiene, safety and reduction of clutter,” Mr. Eckmann added. “Costs are reduced because the locked cabinet helps eliminate pilferage and the amount of product employees grab unnecessarily. Because the enclosure on the dispenser must be locked to operate, the product stays free of contaminants in the environment, thus potentially providing even greater safety than traditionally dispensed disposable wipers.”
Beyond usage control, other key demands include health and safety, productivity and cost containment. In fact, most users of disposables chose them because of increased safety, cleanliness and more consistent quality. Of course, the cost savings is also a factor.
Chicopee has taken advantage of the flexibility of nonwoven materials by introducing new food service towels containing wipes with inherent benefits to meet the needs of specific applications. For instance, Chicopee’s new Quat-Safe towels are engineered with a patented chemistry designed not to deplete quaternary sanitizer solutions, which are used to sanitize wiping cloths and food preparation surfaces. Unlike traditional cloths, which deplete sanitizer solutions by as much as 62% after four hours, these nonwovens performed above the 200 parts per million level assuring food code standards are being met.
Launched in 2005, these Quat-Safe towels are soon to be followed by similar products that maintain the integrity of other cleaning agents such as bleach and ammonicals. “If you use a fabric that isn’t designed to work with these sanitizers or disinfectants, the fabrics can render them ineffective. They are absorbed into the rag rather than being used as a delivery tool. These nonwovens are effective in releasing the sanitizer on the surface,” Mr. Tracey explained.
Other new products from Chicopee include new designs in its Chix Utility and Chix Food service Towels with Microban antimicrobial Product Protection. Made through a spunlace manufacturing process, these towels feature better scrubbability and more apertures to capture food particles and easily rinse for reuse. The towels are color coded to prevent cross contamination. Chicopee’s All Day towels, made of pulp and polyester, are more durable compared to regular paper products, making them ideal for multiple cleaning jobs in a day. These absorbent towels with textured surfaces pick up particles and rinse easily.
Also focusing on Quat compatibility is Kimberly-Clark Professional with its WetTask Prep wipers for disinfectants and sanitizers. Billed as an ideal alternative to the use of a spray bottle or open bucket and rag, this product is available in a choice of three base sheets designed for the chemical solutions that fit a specific cleaning tasks. Users can choose the wiper that best works for their task and then add a chemical solution.
Other products available from K-C Professional include Wypall food service towels for quick-serve restaurants, convenience stores and grocery stores. The most recent introduction to this line, originally launched five years ago, is a microfiber cloth that is durable, remarkably absorbent and environmentally friendly. It can be laundered up to 300 times.
Another area seeing a great amount of play is antimicrobials, particularly in the food service area where contamination is a major concern. According to CTG/IFC Disposables’ president Bob Briggs, customers are willing to spend more on antimicrobial-based products because their benefits far outweigh the costs. “Restaurants would rather use these products even if they last for only a couple of days,” he said. “When it comes to rental towels, once they are contaminated, they stay contaminated, until they are laundered.”
Mr. Briggs’ company previously made both woven and nonwoven wipers but has phased out its rags business due to decreased demand. The company has a four-tier product line, depending on the end use requirements. Tier three and four products are launderable, spunlaced nonwovens. While they can be reused, they are not intended to be sent back to a rental company. Instead, the user can reuse them until they wear out and then throw them out. Products in the lower tiers are also made from nonwoven materials but are not designed for reuse.
The many uses for wipes in the industrial and institutional setting will continue to allow room for more nonwovens. “Nonwovens are absolutely ideal to use in these applications,” said PGI’s Mr. Tracey. “Wiping up and rinsing out is also a benefit in terms of food safety concerns. We believe the growth will be significant as education continues.”
In the healthcare sector of the nonwovens industry, R&D efforts remain focused on improved breathability, wearer comfort and increased barrier resistance for a variety of applications in both commodity and specialty markets. Meanwhile, despite ongoing technological innovation, the message from the healthcare market is clear: costs must be cut.
In response to this dilemma, some companies have adopted a broad, long-term approach to healthcare costs. “Cost reduction efforts may not mean that nonwovens manufacturers will offer cheaper products,” explained Paul Farren, vice president and general manager of nonwovens for Georgia-Pacific. “Ultimately there are many cost factors involved, whether they relate to labor, energy or the environment.”
Other companies are also seeing strong pressure from the market to control costs. For its part, roll goods giant BBA Fiberweb expects an increase in acceptance and demand for nonwovens and a continuation of the push to drive costs down. “Nonwovens have proven themselves as more cost effective than traditional fabrics for a number of reasons,” opined Betty McVey, director of BBA’s medical business, “but now we need to focus on how we can optimize the use of nonwovens in different applications.”
Looking ahead, she predicted more opportunities for nonwovens. “We will see growth in Europe and Asia, which are really still in their infancy stages. In the U.S., the question is how to utilize new technologies in existing nonwoven products to make them more effective and cost-efficient while finding new applications,” she said.
Ms. McVey referred to the recent effect of the Association of the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) standards as an opportunity for BBA to upgrade its products and offer higher levels of protection than before. “While in the past, some customers had been buying lower end spunbond products from China, these standards have led customers to rethink this decision. However, the medical market remains a challenging market where there is continuing pressure from the healthcare industry to keep costs down,” she added.
Another response to cost concerns in the healthcare arena has been an increased use of spunbond nonwovens in certain disposable apparel applications. With its recent launch of MediSoft at IDEA04, N. Charleston, SC-based PGI is one roll goods producer leading the shift toward spunmelt fabrics. A blend of spunmelt and spunlace properties, MediSoft is a proprietary spunmelt product enhanced with softness and breathability. Produced at the company’s facility in Nanhai, China, the product is offered in the U.S. and Asia and targets disposable apparel applications such as gowns and facemasks.
The new MediSoft fabrics exhibit a 50% increase in softness compared to standard spunmelt fabrics used in medical applications, according to the company’s internal test results. The new fabrics also exceed industry standards for protection against fluids for their targeted class of applications. MediSoft fabrics exceed the AAMI gown and drape industry standard (PB70) for Level III garments of 50 centimeters in hydroheads, a measurement of barrier properties, according to test results.
“There has been a shift in this market to spunmelt,” commented Dennis Norman, vice president strategic planning and communications for PGI. “The focus on controlling costs has led to an increase in the use of spunmelt fabrics because they offer better barrier properties on a more economical basis,” he suggested.
Wilmington, DE-based DuPont has also introduced a new spunmelt-based proprietary medical fabric as part of a new family of medical fabrics. DuPont Acturel is made of three layers—including a polyester nonwoven inner layer, DuPont Hytrel as a breathable membrane layer and spunbonded polypropylene as an outer layer. The first two layers are formed by an extrusion coating process, and the final outer layer is attached to the layer of Hytrel by an adhesive lamination process.
|Texel’s nonwoven Bathfelt product competes against reusable wash cloths.|
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.”
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.
Industrial Wipes - Delivering New Value
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.
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North American producers of industrial wipes are in an
unusual situation. Business is good, often great. Still, they see
potential threats all around. From the strong wovens, reusable
laundered-towels lobby to foreign threats of invading economy towels—North
American manufacturers are monitoring the climate for their
To their credit, these same producers have weathered a lot to get where they are. Nonwoven wipers for industrial usage have undergone steady growth, taking share from “shop towels” and wovens. Estimates of the last few years had nonwovens up to a 40% share, and now there are some estimates that the number is closer to 50%. One industry participant put it this way, “It will not surprise me if nonwovens has made the ‘crossover’ this year to slightly more than a 50% share.”
According to Steve Pouliot, director-global marketing and sales for Tredegar, Richmond, VA, “Nonwovens are gaining share even as overall North American industrial wiping is contracting as an industry due to increased overseas manufacturing.”
Wet Versus Dry
To many in the industry, industrial wipes are dry wipes. However, surface wiping with wet wipes has gained its own strong place in manufacturing. Some approaches to wet wipes “systems” have garnered particular attention. A combination of strategy, training and total cost-in-use have led automotive and factory users to realize improvements. Wet wiping impacts their factory processes and employee attitudes. Products they make have better in-process cleanups, saving re-work in later steps. Additionally, employees are free of contamination that occurs when old, solvent-laden or grimy towels are reused.
There is a lot of quiet “buzz” regarding new potential with water-activated wipes for industrial and cleaning applications. It is an area being studied, prototyped and planned. Some janitorial and industrial wipers with cleaning additives have been around for years, with producers in this arena having a ready comfort level. Branching out and committing more resources will be a natural evolution.
Four to six wiper types generally comprise the basic
industrial lineup. “We offer hundreds of variations of industrial wipers
when you consider product weight, size, color, folding type and package
put-up,” said Robert Cohen, president of Four Star Converting, Milwaukee,
WI. “However, the top categories consist of four basic fabrics for varying
tasks, at different price points.” The main four are:
?? Airlaid with various textured emboss patterns, an economy choice
?? Double-recrepe paper, for all purpose wiping, a mid-price point
?? Scrim reinforced tissue or reinforced airlaid, a mid-price point
?? Spunlaced, for softness and high strength, a premium wiper
The Rub On Wovens
While marketers all want to promote “cloth-like” features
in terms of strength, softness and a certain level of durability,
increasingly they turn to nonwovens to deliver performance. Wovens don’t
lend themselves to fabric design in nearly as many ways as nonwovens.
When it comes to industrial wiping, from water to oil and grease cleanup, solvent and abrasion resistance, absorbency on contact and many other features—nonwovens can be targeted to the application.
Whether product developers choose a particular nonwoven; blend webs as in hydroentangling; or select from fibers and additives—the have a formidable arsenal of choices. The rub on wovens is that they just are not evolving to meet the latest niche-specific needs.
Driving nonwovens sales for industrial wipers are
price/value, functionality, convenience, safety and regulatory aspects.
Overall, industrial wipers used in North America are undergoing an
evolution in all these areas. Price is linked to value-in-use,
functionality and convenience, plus increasing attention on the safety and
To return to the example of the automotive industry’s use of nonwoven disposable wipes, total value in-process is everything. According to Carla Kalogeridis of Automotive Industries, “A new range of advanced nonwoven fabric technologies is gearing up to challenge the market dominance of conventional textiles in the automotive interior supply chain.”
According to reports from Robert Eller Associates, Inc. (www.robertellerassoc.com), “Nonwovens are gaining momentum in the automotive marketplace either as a direct substitute for wovens and knits currently used in face fabrics or as layers in the construction of most interior modules.
Beyond the automotive world, the latest nonwovens fabrics take specific task wipers well beyond the four primary categories previously cited. “We are rolling out additional wipers to meet customer niche needs constantly,” said Four Star Converting’s Mr. Cohen. “Some are beginning to move to significant volumes as our customer-distributors introduce them in factory and janitorial markets.”
Nonwoven abrasives are another developing industrial specialty in MRO (maintenance, repair and operation) settings. “Hand pads” are used to scrub work surfaces without gouging or altering the finish, for example, in the metalworking industry. According to Michael Armitage and Julie Meldrum of Arc Abrasives, nonwovens represent roughly 4% of all abrasive products sold in the U.S. market, “but as advances (occur), these percentages will rise substantially.”
A closer look at the emerging abrasives category shows a partial list of the ways nonwovens are used, according to MROtoday.com:
?? Removing corrosion on steel parts
?? Polishing cutlery or pots and pans
?? Cleaning steel and aluminum
?? Imparting decorative finish on stainless steel
?? Removing weld marks
?? Blending scratches and marks
?? Removing paint from boats
?? Deburring of industrial molds
Industrial niche needs taking full advantage of designed nonwovens include geotextiles, landscaping and spill control products. In the geotextiles category, nonwovens have been used everywhere from highway development to stabilizing runways in Baghdad. Spill control products line sharps containers in medical settings, serve as haz-mats in factories and as liquid pickup, high absorbency pads.
According to Alan Fankhanel, president of Mercantile Development, Shelton, CT, “Textiles have held their own and certain segments such as food service are still heavily textile-based.” Mercantile was one of the first to focus on spunlaced nonwovens to demonstrate high-performance features, according to Mr. Fankhanel.
Nonwoven substrate producers could drive sales further, said Mr. Fankhanel, by moving to add more pulp in spunlaced structures, for economy. Producers point out that the lack of “squareness” with one-way stretch works for baby wipes, but a better quality spunlaced product is needed for tough, industrial wiping.
Planned spunlace machines with three webs in the hydroentangling process and designed for comparable multi-directional features are expected to change this picture, according to Mr. Pouliot of Tredegar. New machines coming on line worldwide will bring about a new generation of nonwovens.
Project Performance Corporation, an environmental
consulting firm, describes disposable wipers as the preferred choice.
Utilizing three parameters—energy used, water used and waste produced—a
life cycle analysis was conducted. To be consistent with EPA guidelines,
the life cycles of both disposable wipers and laundered shop towels
spanned raw material acquisition, manufacturing, industrial usage and post
Project Performance Corporation concluded (according to www.americantex.com) that disposable wipers are preferable in at least two of three parameters analyzed. Disposables often cross-over to reusability, so their versatile range also favorably extends the comparison with laundered towels and wipers.
“These findings are similar to a Lockheed Martin life cycle analysis that was commissioned by EPA a few years back,” noted Peter Mayberry, director of government affairs for INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry. “A key finding of the Lockheed Martin review was that laundered shop towels actually produce more solid waste going to landfills in the form of laundry sludge than would be generated if the same amount of disposables were allowed to be thrown away as regular trash.”
This has been a frustration for producers of nonwoven wipers who believe that laundered shop towels have a market advantage largely due to the “powerful laundry lobby” that helps maintain the status quo in which laundered and non-laundered industrial wipes are regulated by two different divisions of EPA.
“What has been going on for decades,” Mr. Mayberry explained, “is that EPA’s Office of Water is responsible for overseeing industrial laundries, and has adopted a policy that allows state and local governments to make up their own rules on what these laundries can discharge to public water works. But non-laundered wipes are regulated by EPA’s Office of Solid Waste, which maintains a national policy that prohibits disposal of soiled wipes as anything other than hazardous waste anywhere in the U.S.”
The result is that industrial laundries have a tremendous market advantage because facilities that use disposables have to pay to have them treated as hazardous waste while those that use laundered shop towels do not.
EPA estimates, in fact, that laundered shop towels account for approximately 90% of the industrial wiper market. “And the crazy thing about this dichotomy,” Mr. Mayberry continued, “is that EPA’s only concern should be controlling the environmental release of material that is on the wiper, not the treatment or disposal of the wipers themselves.”
Indeed, minimizing the environmental release of used solvent is the stated goal of a proposed regulation that EPA’s Office of Solid Waste published in 2003, but is not expected to finalize until sometime in 2007. Another goal of the proposed rule is to ensure that laundered shop towels and non-laundered wipers face similar regulations when it comes to treatment or disposal.
“The final ruling by EPA will ultimately determine how much of the market disposables will eventually be able to obtain,” said Jeff Slosman, president, National Wiper, Asheville, NC, a producer of wipers across a number of markets. He also noted, “The EPA has been working to level the playing field and regulate laundered shop towels and disposables equally, but it is frustrating that the new rules are continually being delayed.”
On the industrial employee side, workers are increasingly conscious of contaminants that may be on reusable “rags.” They prefer disposables, and reportedly are requesting that they be used.
“Imports are a challenge when you can buy a canister at an
auto store for $0.99; U.S. products go for $3.95 with much better
quality,” said Mr. Slosman. “I see more and more imports coming from
the Far East at rock bottom prices while our costs are increasing.”
Despite foreign competition, National Wiper’s industrial wiping business
is currently strong on its more than a dozen converting lines serving
markets ranging from aerospace to military supply.
Also commenting on this issue was Mr. Cohen of Four Star Converting. “U.S. producers are holding their own and even growing because they are staying ahead of foreign competition with niche-targeted, high-performance wipers.”
Ian Butler of INDA noted strong growth in the electrostatic category. It’s a segment hard to keep up with and track because of its high growth rate, which is above 6%.
Industrial wiping crosses lines with other major wiping
segments when some of the same wipers are used for both consumer and
industrial applications. Segments include: industrial-factory-shop
cleaning; maintenance-repair-operation; janitorial-commercial cleaning;
food service; automotive-military-aerospace; geotextiles-landscaping and
spill control-absorbent mats.
Task applications include: general and surface cleaning; skin cleansing; tough task, scrubbing; dusting and electrostatic; critical task-controlled environment; polishing and glass cleaning.
A number of converters specialize in serving industrial wiping markets and many serve multiple markets. In addition to Four Star Converting, Mercantile Development and National Wiper, there are: Atlantic Mills, Lakewood, NJ; Converting Specialists, Green Bay, WI; Midwest Towel, Winneconne, WI; Tranzonic Companies, Cleveland, OH; and large corporations including Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark and SCA.
Emergency uses of disposable wipes have grown
significantly. They are packed in medical/ambulance kits and used in
military postings around the world and in disaster relief
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, clean-up in the form of absorbent products, antibacterial wipes and every type of disposable wiper will be used to help the region get back to normal. Specialty spill and cleanup wipes will play an important niche role.
Industrial wipes are impacting general cleaning procedures in factories, offices, restaurants and every type of institution. The advantages of targeted features, from high-absorbency to superior scrubbing strength, are projecting a substantial future for nonwoven wipes.
em>Susan Stansbury, a long-time industry marketer, provides consulting and promotional services through Right Angle Concepts (www.RightAngleConcepts.com) and maintains industry information via her website www.WisconsinConvertingIndustry.com.
L’Oreal’s Sublime Bronze self-tanning towelettes are a good example of diversification in the personal care wipes market.
Vagisil has introduced medicated wipes containing its anti-itch formulation in the feminine hygiene market.
Kirkland baby wipes, sold at Costco, contain 15% cotton. Experts expect more personal care wipes to contain cotton in the future.
In its 11th edition, INDEX, the European
nonwovens exhibition, broke records for attendance, exhibitors and
exhibition space. Held April 16-19 in Geneva, Switzerland, the event saw
an 8.4% increase in the number of visitors (11,187). Additionally, more
than 470 exhibitors from 39 countries filled approximately 21,000 square
meters of exhibition space at PalExpo in Geneva.
The attendance levels can be attributed, to some extent, to interest in the many technological innovations in the areas of raw material production, conversion and finishing of manufactured products and development of special machines, according to event organizer EDANA, The European Disposables and Nonwovens Association, Brussels, Belgium.
According to a survey conducted by EDANA, exhibitors were pleased with the quality and number of visitors, the attendance of new potential clients, the show venue and the quality of the services available at the event. In addition to the exhibition, INDEX also featured a Congress, held parallel to the event and featuring a selection of themes important to the nonwovens industry. Conference topics included: “Reinforcing The Position Of Well-Known Processes And Their Established Benefits,” “Opening The Door To Innovative Products With Novel Properties And Applications,” “Pioneering New Markets” and “Answering Consumers’ Needs.” Additionally, INDEX 02 was host to a 60-minute “Introduction To Nonwovens” session given by Colin White of MCW Technologies Limited, which was held everyday.
Roll Goods Manufacturers Shine
The INDEX 02 Exhibition attracted many of the world’s leading producers of roll good materials as well as a wide variety of niche players in the industry. Nearly every kind of nonwovens technology, ranging from airlaid to thermal bonded to melt blown and spunlaced, was on display as producers from every corner of the globe came out to promote their latest innovations and developments for the global industry.
Ahlstrom Fiber Composites Group, Helsinki, Finland, had its largest presence ever at the INDEX show. A range of recent acquisitions, most notably the nonwovens division of Dexter Nonwoven Materials, Windsor Locks, CT, has made Ahlstrom one of the world’s leading producers of nonwoven materials. Ahlstrom produces wetlaid, spunlaced and composite materials for a wide variety of end markets.
Akinal Sentetik (a.s. Nonwovens), Basinpar, Gaziantep, Turkey, was at INDEX to introduce its business to the global nonwovens industry. The company was founded in early 2000 as the first spunlaced nonwovens manufacturer in Turkey. The company’s materials are offered in basis weights ranging from 30-300 gpsm, roll widths up to 1600 millimeters and an outer diameter up to 120 cm. Polyester, viscose, polyamide, microfibers and bleached cotton can be used.
A new concept was being promoted by Atex, Settala, Italy, at INDEX. The company has been working on developing roll goods with functionality, such as biocidal protection, rather than basing sales solely on weights. The function comes from the polymer, which is created in-house. Atex develops spunbond, melt blown and composite materials.
Avgol Nonwovens Industries, Holon, Israel, was showcasing its line of spunmelt nonwovens for hygiene and industrial markets. Avgol operates five spunmelt lines in Israel and a sixth in North Carolina.
Buckeye Absorbent Products, Memphis, TN, was promoting its line of airlaid nonwovens. Of particular interest were new products targeting the food packaging industry, where airlaid materials continue to replace fluff and tissue products.
A new family of wipe materials suitable for use in a range of demanding commercial and consumer applications was seen at Dalton, MA-based Crane Nonwovens’ booth. Crane’s wipes are hydroentangled for strength and creped for ease of use and enhanced performance. They are available in soft, absorbent cotton, high strength blends and economical wood pulp configurations. Crane was also promoting its Craneglas 500 high temperature, chemical resistant wetlaid nonwoven materials for use as gas or liquid filtration media, support and drainage layers, thermal and acoustical insulation and fire barriers.
Airlaid specialist Concert Industries, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was promoting its products for the hygiene, food packaging and filtration markets. The company’s business has broadly expanded in recent years due to acquistions and expansion projects.
Newly created company DelStar Technologies, Middletown, DE, was on hand at INDEX. The new company is the result of the merger of AET Specialty Nets and Nonwovens and Naltex. It engineers, manufactures and laminates a plethora of custom net structures and fine fiber melt blown nonwovens for filtration, medical, textile and industrial applications. Additionally, the new company displayed its collection of Naltex Aquaculture netting with 200 and 300 micron-rated diamond openings. This netting is commonly used to filter unwanted organisms, brine scrim culture and larval fish culture.
Roll goods producer, Dounor, Neubille en Ferrain, France, was showcasing its polypropylene-based roll goods for the hygiene, medical, wipes, bedding/furniture, building, filtration, packaging and agricultural industries at INDEX 02. Some of the products being promoted included Dounorsoft, a carded thermal bonded nonwoven used in baby diapers, feminine care, wipes and medical applications and Hysoft, a fine denier spunbond material for adult incontinence products, textile-like backsheets, medical products, baby diapers and underpads.
Duni, Bengstfors, Sweden, was displaying its airlaid products for tissue and hygiene applications. The company offers both embossed and non-embossed options within its product range.
At the booth for Jacob Holm Industries, Soultz, France, were high quality spunlaced and needlepunched nonwoven roll goods for many industries including personal care and hygiene, medical, home and automotives. The company recently introduced Rough n’ Soft material for cosmetic and household/industrial applications. Additionally, the company offers Duplex, a spunlaced nonwoven laminated to a polyethylene film; Triplex, a three-layer construction designed as a cleaning wiper and Bi-Active, a melt blown/spunlaced composite for wipes.
Lohmann Vliessetoff, Dierdorf, Germany, and TWE Group, Emsdetten, Germany, were promoting themselves for the first time as sister companies. Lohmann, a producer of drylaid, chemical bonded, thermal bonded and needlepunched nonwovens, was purchased by needlepunch producer TWE in Spring 2001.
Roofing and construction specialist Johns Manville, Denver, CO, announced an expansion of its nonwovens roofing, specialty and filtration businesses. Supporting this expansion are a new production site in Trnava, Slovakia and new production lines in Berlin and Wertheim, Germany. Additionally, JM was spotlighting its CombiMat product, a versatile inlay for roofing substrates that combines the advantages of polyester and glass fiber nonwovens in a single product. The company has also developed Dynaweb PBT for liquid filtration in the medical and industrial hydraulic area.
Airlaid producer McAirlaids, Steinfurt, Germany, has partnered with Biotec to develop the world’s first softshell tray for food packaging and medical tray applications. Named 100 Pro B, the tray is 100% biodegradable, isolating, sterilizable and features a pleasant hand-feel. It can be provided as a self absorbing material and is available in different colors. Based in Emmerich, Germany, Biotec develops and manufactures biodegradable resins based on sustainable raw materials.
Mogul Spunbond Nonwovens, Basinpar, Gaziantep, Turkey, was showcasing its full line of spunbond and melt blown materials for bedding, furniture, medical, agriculture, luggage and shoe lining, lamination backing, hygiene, protective clothing, filtration, wipes, packaging, oil sorbents and roofing markets. Of recent interest to Mogul is the sorbents market, where the company is targeting spill control applications in North America and around the world.
Orlandi Spa, Varese, Italy, was promoting its cleaning cloths. The company’s Orlandi Panni division is a leader in the manufacture of T.N.T. articles for domestic and industrial cleaning. Additionally, Orlandi has recently introduced its Wax and Fast product line for the professional sector, which enhances the wide range of microfiber products Orlandi manufacturers.
On display at N. Charleston, SC-based PGI’s stand were Miratec products used for the medical industry. Also on display were Proviar medical fabrics for patient care, gowns, drapes and wound care. In other news, PGI used the INDEX show to announce the addition of a state-of-the-art spunmelt line in Latin America. This new machine will be located in the Bonlam facility in San Luis Potosi, Mexico to support growth in the Latin American medical, industrial and hygiene markets.
Rayonier Performance Fibers, Jesup, GA, was promoting its NovaThin airlaid material for absorbent core applications. Made from high performance cellulose fiber and superabsorbent polymers, Novathin provides enhanced fluid mobility with a balance of thinness, absorbency, suppleness and pad integrity, according to company executives. Rayonier also manufactures fluff pulp for the hygiene industry.
Ribond spunbonded nonwovens developed by Ritas, Basinpar, Gaziantep, Turkey, are ideal for hygiene, industrial and furniture and bedding applications. The company currently operates only one spunbond line but hopes to increase capacity in the near future.
Sandler Nonwovens, Schwarzenbach, Germany, presented several innovative products for hygiene and technical applications for which it received two INDEX awards (see Nonwovens Industry, May 2002, page 118). Sawatex spunlaced nonwovens feature customized fiber blends for wet and dry wiping applications. The sawabond topsheet fabrics feature hyrophilicity and softness for acquisition and distribution layers. Sandler was also displaying products for feminine hygiene, incontinence, filtration and automotive applications.
Tenotex, Terno D’Isola, Italy, was promoting its recent entry into the spunlaced market. The company’s range of TenoLace spunlaced nonwovens are produced by a staple fiber/wood pulp process. The fabric features enhanced absorbency, softness and isotropic properties, making it ideal for wipe products.
Unimin India, Mumbai, India, produces polypropylene spunbonded fabrics in a range of grammages, colors and specifications. Unimin is able to offer printed and coated fabrics, disposable apparel, makeup wipes and consumer packs.
U.S. Pacific Procurement Company, Kowloon, Hong Kong, was promoting the use of biochemical protective clothing, a technology for which it has recently applied for a U.S. patent. The company is reportedly using a variety of nonwovens technologies to target this area, which has not yet been penetrated by nonwovens.
Raw Material Producers Showcase Innovation
A wide range of suppliers of fibers, binders, hygiene components and other raw materials for the nonwovens industry showed their latest developments at INDEX.
Air Products Polymers, München, Germany, was showcasing its vinyl acetate-ethylene (VAE) and ethylene-vinyl chloride (EVCL) dispersions for the nonwovens industry. These products are based on the versatile vinyl acetate monomers (VAM) and are the result of sharing polymer binder expertise across the nonwovens, adhesives and paint industries, according to company executives. These binders provide excellent wet/dry strength, dimensional stability, solvent resistance and soft hand in disposable applications such as wipes, towels, personal hygiene applications and surgical packs as well as in automotive and furniture applications. Air Products Polymers is a joint venture between Air Products and Chemicals and Wacker Chemie.
The booth for API Coated Products, Cheltenham, U.K., spotlighted personal hygiene release liners, which feature siliconized film for pouch-wrap packaging and diaper closure tapes. The company’s technical capabilities include thermal and UV-cured, solvent-free silicones, thermally cured emulsion silicones and fire retardant chemicals
A manufacturer and exporter of bleached cotton in Europe, Aslanli, Kadikoy, Istanbul, Turkey, was established in 1997. The company is now a leading manufacturer of bleached cotton with an annual capacity of 16,000 tons. Aslanli also has a cotton waste cleaning and processing facility with an annual capacity of 7000 tons.
Polypropylene fiber supplier Atofina, Feluy, Belgium, was exhibiting spunbond nonwovens made from its more advanced products. The products feature strength, elongation, softness, barrier properties and fiber titre and can be used in new ranges that were previously not cost-effective.
A manufacturer of antimicrobial treatments, Avecia Protection and Hygiene, Wilmington, DE, exhibited a range of products for nonwovens, particularly wipes. The company’s Reputex treatments provide wash-fast, durable benefits to cellulosic fibers and fabrics through their highly effective binding actions. Vantocil treatments are used in disposable disinfectant surface wipes, and Cosmocil CQ can be used in a wide range of fine quality cosmetic wipes such as body, deodorant and facial products, which require a gentle active ingredient.
Avery Dennison, Turnhout, Belgium, was promoting stretchable nonwovens for the hygiene industry. Among the products on display was an elastic closure that uses a spunbond nonwoven material, and a hook-and-loop closure system that provides the desired softness for hygiene products.
BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany, was promoting its range of binders and dispersions at INDEX. The company’s Acrodur liquid binder is designed for natural fibers. Additionally, the company was exhibiting binder systems for airlaid materials, wet wipes, shoes, clothing and transfer layer sheets in nonwovens.
Bayer Faser GmbH, Dormagen, Germany, was promoting its elastane/spandex fiber, Dorlastan, which was specially developed for personal hygiene products. Dorlastan yields high stretchability and increased production and is dermatologically and toxicologically safe. Additionally, Dorlastan can be installed on all common unwinding machines and features continuous processing with no machine downtime or wasted material.
Boehme, Geretsried, Germany, was promoting a spinfinish for durable hydrophilic polypropylene spunbond materials. Synthesin SB 36 is a 100% active product with improved water solubility. The product features high concentration, clarity and stability, and it is easy to dissolve, silicone-free and does not corrode machinery parts. The company manufactures spin finishes for PP spunbond, PP staple fibers, PET staple fibers and PA staple fibers.
Elastic supplier Caligen Foam, Accrington, U.K., was promoting its SoftSeal elastic system, which provides the tensile strength, flexibility and durability of polyurethane foam while remaining soft in application. SoftSeal provides a stronger gasket seal than traditional thread elastic systems, and the flexible nature of the material conforms easily, making it an ideal choice for feminine hygiene and disposable diaper applications. SoftSeal comes in a tape form and is pre-spooled for ease of application. Caligen was also promoting its Creative Foam Technology concept, which is responsible for an ever-increasing range of high specification foam products across a multitude of applications and markets.
Cera France, Villars, France, was demonstrating its ultrasonic ear and tape applicators for diapers. The company’s latest developments have primarily involved diapers, combining the mechanical cutting system and the rotary ultrasonic technology for the attachment of the ear to the diaper’s backsheet.
Cognis, Düsseldorf, Germany, was exhibiting its internal hydrophilic additives for polyolefins and its CareMelt system solution for diapers and feminine care items. The company offers internal additives for staple fibers and spunbonded and melt blown nonwovens. CareMelt features compositions of cosmetic waxes, which melt at least partially at body temperature and transfer onto the skin.
Purbond HCM, a unique adhesive system suitable for pre-application developed by Collano AG, Sempach-Station, Switzerland, guarantees reliable composites of nonwovens, textiles or leather. Also featured was Ecomelt A 7, a moisture curable, reactive polyolefin adhesive designed for applications where challenging flexible laminations are facing higher tensions or vibrations.
Delo & Mediane, Maarsen, The Netherlands, produces flexible films for the hygiene industry. The company has a capacity of 30,000 tons of PE film per year. Machine capabilities include printing of up to 10 colors with the company’s 10 printing machines. The company offers laminating, slitting and converting and its applications include packaging films and bags, as well as barrier films for diapers and sanitary and adult incontinence products.
DuPont Textiles Interiors, Wilmington, DE, introduced two innovations that allow the continuous running of elastic fibers. The Lycra knot splicer uses an individual standby thread and an active running thread to allow continuous thread feeds without production stops. This eliminates machine down time, lowers the cost of elastification, allows splicing of one tube at a time and offers precise control of the fiber. Additionally, the Lycra Over End Take Off System spool-to-spool transfer allows continuous thread feed without having to stop the production process.
In other news, DuPont Textiles Interiors was at INDEX introducing itself as a wholly-owned subsidiary of DuPont. The division was spun-off from DuPont in February.
Executives from FiberVisions, Varde, Denmark, were promoting the company’s fibers for hygiene and technical applications. The company supplies fibers for materials used in diapers, sanitary napkins and incontinence products while its technical fibers are used in paper and wetlaid nonwoven products as well as products for the filtration segment and needlepunched materials. Some of the company’s fiber products on display were the HY-Strength fiber, which adds 25% additional strength to applications, and the HY-Soft fiber, which provides softness along the nonwoven surface.
Elastic supplier Fillattice, Gervasio, Italy, was highlighting its new Linel TP fibers which were designed specially for diapers, incontinence products and feminine hygiene items. The fiber reportedly gives products exceptional qualities of comfort and fit.
Fil. Va, Varese, Italy, exhibited its tricomponent and bicomponent sheath-core bonding staple fibers for technically advanced nonwoven applications. These staple fibers, called Trilon, can be blended by other solid fibers such as polypropylene, polyester, viscose and cellulose fluff pulp.
Golden Isles EF-100 fluff pulp from Georgia-Pacific, Atlanta, GA, are high-performance fluff pulps that provide superior absorbency as well as fluid retention, liquid distribution and pad integrity in products. They can be used for diapers, feminine hygiene items, incontinence products, airlaid nonwovens and meat and poultry packaging. G-P also produces filter grade pulp for coffee filters, vacuum cleaner bags, automotive filters, cigarettes and medical filtration media.
Ihsan Sons, Lahore, Pakistan, was promoting its range of capabilities for the nonwovens industry. Among these capabilities are cotton and yarn bleaching, cotton yarn spinning and glove knitting and fiber processing. The company’s bleached cotton fiber is produced using high quality hydrogen peroxide to meet the standards and specifications that have been laid down around the world, according to company executives.
Kolon Chemical, Kwacheon City, Korea, was promoting its new generation of K-Sam superabsorbent polymers being marketed under the GS-4000 series. These SAPs feature high permeability and excellent gel strengths and only 14-15 grams of the polymer is required per diaper, making it ideal for superthin diapers.
Lenzing, Lenzing, Austria, was exhibiting its Viscose, Lyocell and Modal fibers that are commonly used in nonwovens. Lenzing’s Viscose fiber is available in several variations, including chlorine-free, super crimp and colored. The company’s Lyocell fiber is ideal for nonwovens because of its high dry and wet tenacity and is currently used as a filling material for duvet covers. Lenzing’s Modal cellulose fiber is available in micro-fine quality and is ideal for use in apparel. Also available from Lenzing is its Lenzing FR fiber, which is used in many protective garments, uniforms, home textiles and upholstery fabrics, due to its permanent flame resistance capability.
Superabsorbent polymer producer Lysac Technologies, Boucherville, Quebec, Canada, was promoting its Lysorb SAPs for personal hygiene products at INDEX. Made from naturally modified polysaccharides, these top-quality polymers meet consumer demand for safe, ecologically sound comfort and reliability in disposable personal hygiene products. It is produced from 100% safe, natural, renewable resources. Additionally, Lysac’s Sorbfresh SAPs for food packaging applications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada.
National Starch & Chemical, Bridgewater, NJ, was displaying its Dispomelt 7 Series, a new range of adhesives specifically developed and designed for bonding elastics in all application methods. Also being promoted was the company’s Dispomelt 250 construction adhesive for diapers and femcare products and Dispomelt 402, which laminates/bonds polyethylene and nonwovens in textile backsheets.
Under the motto, “Evolution in Films,” Nordenia, Greven, Germany, presented elastic and breathable films and components that, like human skin, can adapt to movement and thus provide a perfect fit in baby diapers. The company owes its developments in the hygiene segment to intensive investment in research and development and strategic partnerships with customers who are market leaders.
In addition to product and process enhancements for its legacy Type S-7 spandex fiber products, RadiciSpandex, Gastonia, NC, introduced new elastane fibers engineered specifically for the elastication needs of disposable personal care products. The new elastane Type S-17 and Type S-72 have improved power-to-yield ratios, feature compatibility with hot melt adhesives and are available in packaging suitable for every manufacturing delivery system on the market.
Film supplier RKW, Worms, Germany, was exhibiting at INDEX as a recently expanded company. RKW, the owner of Ace Films, recently purchased four German plants from BP PlasTEC, Rottenacker, Germany. The four plants, located respectively in Gronau, Nordhorn, Wasserburg/Inn and Michelstadt, have a combined workforce of 750. The products from the new locations will increase the hygiene unit’s capacity, allow RKW to offer a wider range of films and netting and expand the company’s industrial packaging business. RKW now operates 15 factories and expects to generate annual sales of $500 million with the acquisitions. RKW acquired the films division of Guial, a producer of cast embossed polyolefin films, to form RKW Guial in September 2001
Primal WR-33 from Rohm and Haas, Croydon, U.K., is a water-resistant polymer emulsion designed for the nonwovens industry. It allows the incorporation of new hydrophobic acrylic monomers. Primal WR-33 is the first of a series of polymer emulsions that will form a new class of acrylic emulsions exhibiting superior hydrophobicity versus conventional acrylic or styrene-acrylic emulsions.
Executives at Savaré Specialty Adhesives, Milan, Italy, were busy promoting specialty adhesives. Savaré is a leading company in the hygiene and medical industries. Its Safemelt environmentally friendly technology for the production of hot melt, pressure sensitive adhesives is suitable for various types of glues, including low and high viscosity, soft and cold flowing and for use in severe transportation and warehouse conditions.
Stora Fluff EF is a high brightness fluff pulp developed by Stora Enso, Düsseldorf, Germany, that is bleached without chlorine gas. The company was also promoting Stora Fluff EC, which is also bleached without chlorine gas, and Stora Fluff LKC, which provides superior disintegration properties and excellent fluff pad integrity.
Valberg, Sweden-based Svenska Rayon’s Swelan viscose fibers are well established in a variety of drylaid nonwovens applications. At INDEX, Svenska Rayon was introducing a new product to its Swelan line, Swelan NW Mix, which can be used in dual spinning and features excellent blending properties. Main end uses for this new material include wipes, medical and hygiene, products, interlinings, filtration media, household, linen and protective apparel.
On display at Richmond, VA-based Tredegar Film Products’ booth were several new three-dimensional apertured film products and medium and low stretch elastic laminates for hygiene applications. Tredegar’s process forms tiny cones called mircofunnels that can quickly direct fluid away from the skin and prevent it from wetting back. This helps wearers feel clean and dry. Also new from the company is a laminate for the personal and home care wipes market.
Trevira, Frankfurt/Main-Niederrad, Germany, was promoting fibers used as fill material in many nonwovens applications such as pillow covers and duvets. Waddings made from Trevira fiber are used in many industrial and everyday applications. The company’s fibers demonstrate functionality, both in hygienic products such as diapers, surgical textiles and wet wipes and as high quality lining fleeces. In the aircraft and automotive industries, the fibers are processed for filters.
Machinery And Equipment Suppliers Shine In Geneva
Ranging from turnkey nonwovens production lines and machinery for the manufacture of disposable hygiene products and wipes to quality control inspection systems and accessories for large-scale machinery lines, suppliers of machinery and equipment had a large presence at INDEX. Some set up actual lines to showcase their offerings, while others showed videos or offered literature highlighting their latest developments.
Spunbond nonwovens machinery producer ABK Machinery, Tullins, France, was exhibiting its web former for spunbond airlaid production as well as pulp and paper production equipment. ABK specializes in the supply of machinery for spunbonded nonwovens production.
Accusentry, Marietta, GA, was exhibting its range of inspection systems for nonwovens. The company’s systems monitor high-speed diaper, training pants and feminine hygiene manufacturing lines.
Acrison International, Manchester, U.K., was exhibiting its superabsorbent polymer applicators for the hygiene industry. These applicators, which range from entry level to premium range, ensure consistently accurate dosing of SAP.
Albany International, Portland, TN, was displaying a number of new apertured conveying devices for the production of such nonwovens-based products as wipes. The company also offers high temperature resistant conveyor belts for thermal bonded nonwovens.
American Trützchler, Charlotte, NC, was promoting its shoot feed system for airlaid, drylaid, cards and needled felts. The system provides automatic leveling to control weight in the cross direction and machine direction and is the company’s springboard for new products, according to executives.
Executives at Amotek, Bologna, Italy, displayed products created through the use of the company’s packaging systems. Amotek was promoting its Model PB154, an automatic packaging machine for compressing and bagging baby diapers. The company specializes in the manufacturing of horizontal, fully-automated bagging machines, suitable to bag single or multiple products of various shapes and sizes into bags obtained from tubular, flat and/or centerfolded film in reels or into pre-made bags in wicket.
Webmax is a new development for the manufacturing of drylaid nonwovens from Autefa Automation, Friedberg, Germany. This new development positively influences the profile of a crosslaid web by giving the nonwovens producer the ability to optimize the weight profile of the final product. The patented Webmax will be quoted in combination with Autefa’s Topliner series of crosslappers from Autefa and can be retrofitted on existing installations of this crosslapper series. A main advantage of Webmax is that the technological process for the web crossprofiling occurs exclusively within the crosslapper and can be integrated into any nonwovens line with traditional web forming and downstream bonding.
ATS Engineering, Villanova, Italy, designs and produces task-dedicated quality control and industrial automation systems. The company serves the automotive, hygienic, food and beverage, biomedical and refigerator markets. ATS Engineering joined the GDM Group in 2002
Machinery manufacturer Befama, Bielsko-Biala, Poland, showcased its entire range of equipment at INDEX. The company manufactures blending lines, willows, carding sets for woolen as well as semi-worsted systems and nonwovens, spinning frames, recycling systems and auxiliary equipment.
Biax Fiberfilm, Greenville, WI, was displaying its bicomponent spinnerette line. The process extrudes two polymer streams through the same spinnerette simultaneously, resulting in one attenuated filament producing a sheath core/fiber. Biax Fiberfilm’s melt blown machinery features 10 times the capacity of a conventional design, with 332 spinning holes per inch, arranged in up to 20 rows.
On display at Bikoma AG’s stand was the DEDE 400 sanitary napkin and panty liner machine with a capacity of 1000 pieces/min. The DEDE 400 offers up to 50% less energy consumption with less wear and spare parts.
Hygiene machinery manufacturers BHT Bicma, Mayen, Germany, and SSP Technology, Garlasco, Italy, operated a joint booth at INDEX to promote the BI1128HS diaper production machine, developed through a partnership between the two companies. Capable of producing 700 diapers per minute, the machine ultrasonically bonds diaper pieces.
Bombi Meccanica, Barberino del Mugello, Italy, was exhibiting its ovens for thermal bonding recycled felts and spray bonding equipment and perforated drum ovens for the nonwovens industry. The company also manufactures a 5.5 meter wide thermal bonding oven, knife coating machines, foam machines and coating lines.
Christoph Burckhardt AG, Basel, Switzerland, was exhibiting its perforating tools for nonwovens. Burckhardt’s latest generation of rotative perforating systems can create three-dimensional volume, transform flat films into structures with nonwoven properties and thermally bond combinations of webs into composites.
A. Celli, Porcari, Italy, was showcasing its range of slitters and rewinders. The company offers a range of in-line winders, off-line slitter-rewinders, equipment for lamination lines, unwind stands and control and drives.
Cellulose Converting Equipments (CCE), Moscufo, Italy, was promoting its CCE??AN flex wing/wingless napkin machine for sanitary napkin production with or without standing cuffs. The company was also promoting its CCE??Zero Time universal wing/wingless sanitary napkin machine. This machine can produce ultrathin and fluff filled products and elasticized standing cuffs and features zero time product changeover.
Cofpa, Angouleme Cedex, France, was displaying its woven fabrics conveyor for spunlaid and airlaid materials. Also available from Cofpa are woven plastic and metal wire belts, forming fabrics and dryer fabric transport belts.
Specializing in surface inspection systems for paper and nonwovens, Cognex Vision Systems, Natick, MA, was promoting modular vision systems that check uniformity in webs. The company has supplied more than 100 systems to the nonwovens industry, and nearly 250 million square meters of nonwovens are inspected daily using a Cognex system.
Dan-Webforming, Risskov, Denmark, displayed a full-scale commercial forming head as well as a smaller complete forming unit in operation. The company also had latex and thermal bonded sample material produced by Dan-Web and Kamas technology on hand.
Delta Systems, Castelleone, Italy, constructs converting lines for hygiene products such as feminine hygiene napkins, pantyshields, incontinence items and baby diapers. The company’s machines feature low maintenance and spare part requirements, minimal power consumption and low noise levels.
On display at Diatec, Collecorvino, Pescara, Italy, was the Diana Tiny high-performance panty liner machine. The Diana Tiny can produce straight and three-folded pantyshields and can convert, stack and pack all accessories assembled in one block. The machine runs at a production speed of more than 1000 ppm and can produce pantyshields with wings, continuous layer fluff, airlaid cores and anatomic fluff core.
The fully automatic positioning system module IV Nonwoven Star is the latest development from Dienes, Overath, Germany. The Nonwoven Star can be equipped with special top knifes, bottom knifes and knife folders for nearly dust-free results and reduces the amount of cutting dust to a minimum.
Dilo, Eberbach, Germany, was exhibiting its latest development in needleloom technology. Among the developments is Dilo’s Hyperpunch elliptical needling technology.
Edelmann Maschinen, Kleinwallstadt, Germany, was promoting its technology for automatic, high-speed winding and slitting systems for nonwoven fabrics. Its products include master roll winders, slitter/rewinders, roll transfer systems and winders with in-line slitting.
Electronic Systems, Momo, Italy, manufactures measurement control solutions and defect inspection systems that allow its customers to control, visualize and classify the different defects that occur in the course of production; measure the real basis-weight values, on a continuous line, on 100% of the material produced; analyze the homogeneous distribution of fibers (visual aspect), survey the moisture percentage in the product and regulate automatically the devices for correcting on line the values of basis weight and moisture, respecting the tolerances stated in the contract.
Elsner Engineering Works, Hanover, PA, is a manufacturer of automatic machinery for rolled or folded products including round form wet wipes, Z- and C-folded wet and dry baby, adult, medical consumer, cosmetic floor cleaning and industrial wipes, filter membrane folding, surgical drapes, medical swabs, dental headrest covers, dental bibs, fabric softener (round and dry folded), table and bed covers and other related medical and disposable products. Elsner recently introduced its new servo-drive modular Model F-800 Versatile Wipe folder, Model ERI-50 Canister Loader for rolled wipes, Model CWF Cross-Wipe Folder and new servo-driven modular Model ZFV Wet Wipe folder out on the market.
Unique spinneret manufacturing capabilities, including the ability to produce long plate spinnerets up to six meters long, was showcased by Enka tecnica, Heinsberg, Germany. The company also makes spinnerets for melt spinning, dry spinning and wet spinning.
In addition to promoting its wide range of hygiene machinery for the production of baby diapers, adult incontinence items and feminine hygiene products, Fameccanica invited INDEX attendees to view its Pescara headquarters through a satellite feed to its booth. Attendees were able to watch a live show of Fameccanica’s powerful production machinery at the exhibition. Among the highlights of Fameccanica’s booth was the baby diaper converter model FA-X Special, a medium capacity machine with an output of 350 pieces per minute. This machine builds on technology developed for the creation of its sister machine, the higher performing FA-X Superstar.
The AquaJet spunlace line was among the highlights of machinery supplier Fleissner’s booth. The Egelsbach, Germany-based company also displayed its AquaTex Enhancement technology as well as thermal bonding, chemical bonding and spray bonding lines. Fleissner supplies turnkey spunlaced installations for all types of bonded nonwovens and composites with impregnation and printing equipment for performance.
F.O.R. Ing., Graziano, Biella, Italy, was showcasing the latest evolution of its injection card, which was first introduced in 1995. F.O.R. completely redesigned its web doffing system for increased flexibility without altering the textile surface and increased card productivity.
Formfiber, Hasselager, Denmark, used INDEX to introduce the revolutionary Spike air forming system that allows unseen flexibility in production and improved cost efficiency. The technology uses a unique feeding technique where the fibers are blown into the formerhead along the production line.
Foster Needle, Warwickshire, U.K., was promoting its new upholstered fabric coating. The company was displaying its HDB, a new needle style that yields strong results in many applications. Some applications include needlepunching spunbonded materials for geotextiles and applications where surface smoothness is most important, and also as a finishing needle in a multiloom needling line.
Showing a big presence at INDEX was hygiene machinery supplier GDM, Offanengo, Italy. The company ran a complete sanitary pad line at its booth three times per day to show attendees the benefits of using GDM equipment. This was the first year that GDM brought a complete line to the show. Additionally, the company promoted its new portfolio of production lines for baby diapers, fem care products, underpads and incontinence products, which are designed to offer advanced product design, flexibility, ease of operation, modularity and cost savings.
Packaging equipment supplier Gevas, Halle/Westfalen, Germany, had three new products on display at INDEX. The Starfill is a machine used for the packaging of feminine sanitary napkins and light incontinence products with a speed of 100 bags/minute. The StarWrap is a bundling machine for packages of soft disposable products including baby diaper packages, or similar products with polyethylene film used to replace cardboard boxes in shipping worldwide. Starfold machinery is used for airlaid and nonwoven materials and improves the handling and storage of highloft materials.
Groz-Beckert, Albstadt, Germany, recently became a supplier to the weaving industry through its acquisition of Grob Horgen, AG, Switzerland. In its Swiss facilities, the company makes healds, heald shafts, warp stoppers and drop wires. Today Groz Beckert’s range comprises knitting machines, sewing and shoe machine needles, felting and structuring needles and tufting needles and modules.
HB Engineering, Helsingborg, Sweden, was exhibiting its RCF and FCF series of filters, which were designed especially for industrial air processes sensitive to pressure fluctuations. Pressure fluctuations when using the filters are less than 10 PA across the filter, giving no noticeable difference in the process air duct. HB Engineering was also promoting its LP 40 OH series baler, which is perfect for the waste generated by soft disposable lines, as well as four sizes of hydraulic briquettes, which are used in the soft disposable industry to facilitate the handling and disposal of waste dust from the forming process.
On display at Idrosistem, Bassano del Grappo, Italy, was a new sand filter for spunlace lines. The filter’s patented backwashing system guarantees no loss of sand and maintains perfect water quality in the jet water circuit with a water loss of less than 1%. The company also designs and builds hydroelectric and cogeneration plants around the world.
The Robotics Plastic Lid applicator was the focus of Newtown, PA-based packaging supplier Ilapak’s booth. This off-line system for wet wipe packaging lines automatically applies a plastic lid on wet wipe packaging. The robotics system is equipped with a visual camera to assure the proper positioning of the lid within a tolerance of plus/minus 2mm lengthwise and crosswise. A visual camera detects the label position on every single product, giving flexibility to the system and allowing process packaging even if it is not perfectly aligned or defective. The system can apply up to 60 lids per minute.
ITW Dynatec, Hendersonville, TN, demonstrated its new Laminated Plate Technology (LPT). This non-contact application method applies ultra light adhesive weights. This technology is ideal for hot melt, cold glue and lotion applications and offers better fiber control and flexibility, which result in improved quality of the finished products. Also demonstrated was the DynaFiber Omega for adhesive and lotion application.
Executives at Kampf GmbH & Co. Maschinenfabrik, Wiehl/Muehlen, Germany, were busy promoting Kampf’s packaging machinery. Also sharing booth space with Kampf was Niederkassel-Mondorf, Germany-based Lemo, a worldwide leader in packaging for diapers and sanitary napkins.
Kampf is a systems supplier in the field of film/foil processing and converting. Among some of the machines being promoted were the company’s Ecomat and In-Liner machines, which are turret winders for in-line operations.
Lemo executives were showcasing the Intermat S-ST, a single lane production line for wicketed bags, the Intermat 850 DKT/CT and DKT/CT Short, a new generation of Patch Handle Carrier bag making lines, featuring more output and Autopack DKT Packaging Robot for quality and performance.
Festooning equipment supplier Kortec, Mehlingen, Germany, was promoting its latest Monoliner festooning system, which is 100% tailored to airlaid materials. The machinery is ideal for thicker materials such as diaper cores because it can compress layers up to 60%. The machine can festoon up to 10,000 linear meters when used for feminine hygiene core material and up to 5000 linear meters for diaper cores.
Executives at Labayan Y Labore, Tolosa, Spain, were showcasing counter knives for cutting sanitary napkins, slip protectors, facial tissues and disposable towels. The company was also promoting sealing and counter-sealing cylinders, built-in units for credit cards, coffee filters, stamping cylinders and products for cutting, embossing and sealing.
Mahlo GmbH, Saal/Donau, Germany, displayed its Qualiscan QMS-10A at its booth. This quality control system monitors and controls critical process-related parameters such as weight per unit area, weight or thickness of applied coating and moisture retention. Qualiscan is a modular system and can accommodate up to four traverse assemblies in each, with facilities of attachment of up to three types of sensors. The QMS-10A can be used in such applications as nonwovens, carpeting, artificial leather and self-adhesive material.
PS Mako, Michelbach/Bilz, Germany, was showcasing its semi-automatic machinery for baby diaper and sanitary protection products. The company also offers fully automated packaging machinery for the medical industry as well as converting machinery for breast pads.
The rotary die HY 25 from Mathec, St. Mathieu de Tréviers, France, features a standard unit composition with a frame, two rollers, press system, exhaust vacuums and lubrication felts, a maximum speed of 600 pieces per minute, low maintenance costs and greater accuracy. The unit produces four or five times more than a typical knife and can make up to 12 million cuts without resharpening.
Metso, Biddeford, ME, was promoting its web handling solutions and thermal bonding and drying systems for the nonwovens industry. For web handling solutions, the company’s Honeycomb roll design allows a uniform application of the vacuum to the entire surface of the web. In the area of thermal bonding and drying, Metso has expertise, knowledge and experience designing its Thru-Air thermal bonding system.
M&J Fibretech a/s, Horsens, Denmark, was promoting its forming technology that makes the production of multilayer absorbent airlaid cores possible. In this technology, each layer is engineered for a specific function—acquisition, spreading, absorption, boosting and reinforcement/bonding—in the core, and each of the layers are bonded together into one structure by synthetic fibers. This technology can be produced on an M&J Fibretech forming station with five forming heads. The company has also developed a wood pulp forming system to create an airlaid/spunlaced combination, called Airlace 2000. Commercialized through a partnership with Rieter Perfojet, Montbonnot, France, this machine allows the substitution of expensive rayon or viscose fibers or Red Cedar tissue with cheaper fluff pulp fibers and features properties similar to traditional spunlaced products using low cost raw materials.
The K40 Aqua Munchy reprocessing system from Munchy Ltd., is the smallest system currently available for multimaterial reprocessing. It complements the company’s range of plastics reprocessing systems.
The focus of the booth operated by Nordson Fiber Systems Group, Dawsonville, GA was the company’s recently inaugurated Center of Excellence bicomponent nonwovens pilot line and laboratory facility, which feature a 1.2 SMXS bi- component pilot line with a maximum speed of 800 meters per minute. The company demonstrated a video to highlight this new investment.
Nordson Nonwovens System Group, Dawsonville, GA, was promoting a family of Universal modules that accommodates all of Nordson spray technologies, including summit, Controlled Fiberization, melt blown and bead and dot applicators on a single platform, eliminating the need for application-specific module designs. The module’s simplistic design minimizes spare parts requirements and reduces inventory costs. Also new from the company was the ES-400 Electric high speed applicator that accurately dispenses adhesives at speeds up to 3600 cycles per minute with durations of less than one millisecond. The applicators can accommodate a wide range of viscosities and deliver superior repeatability of plus/minus one millimeter at 300 meters per minute. Additionally, the company’s new Speed-Coat applicators are ideal for high speed intermittent and continuous applications.
In other news, Nordson Corporation has launched an Equipment Services program for the convenient and cost-effective rebuilding of Nordson adhesive application equipment.
Lecco, Italy-based Omet was demonstrating its automatic TV 505 line for the in-line manufacturing of pointed, embossed, folded and packed napkins with a high quality standard. The line includes an embossing station, a cutting and folding section and a calendering and flexo-printing unit. The napkins are automatically transferred to the wrapper in speeds up to 55 packs/min.
Optima Filling and Packaging Machinery, Schwaebisch Hall, Germany, was running stacking and bagging machinery that indicates how many products are packaged in each row. Optima’s latest machinery allows the packaging of machinery from converting to shipping in one continuous movement. The machinery can package in sizes ranging from small to value added.
Atlanta, GA-based Osprey was showcasing its compact scrap repelletizing system, which is designed to return film and nonwoven scrap into high quality granules that can be reintroduced into an extrusion process. The series is available in a variety of sizes, and Osprey is currently running a line in an Atlanta test facility.
Paper Converting Machine Company, Green Bay, WI, announced new developments to its Calypso Crossfolder Series I, II and IV for nonwovens. According to the company, the new Calypso is the most flexible crossfolder in the world and features a breakthrough hypocycloidal development that eliminates the need for complete vacuum systems. PCMC has applied for a patent on this crossfolder, which has a variety of hygienic options available and was built using 316L stainless steel and other noncorrosive materials. PCMC also announced the formation of a new Nonwovens Group within its Special Product Division. This group is responsible for the sales, engineering, manufacturing and service of all PCMC nonwovens machinery.
Woonsocket, RI-based Parkinson Technologies was exhibiting machine direction orientators (MDO) for producing breathable films and nonwovens. Arranged in a vertical stack, the MDO is ideal for use with blown or cast polyolefin films. Integrated into an existing production line or coupled with winding equipment for a stand-alone system, the MDO provides value enhanced products.
The Reicofil 4 spunlaid technology from Reifenhauser, Troisdorf, Germany, was presented for the first time at INDEX. The Reicofil 4 technology increases specific throughput, produces the same product with the same line speed and less beams, creates a softer product and allows for the control of the multidimensional/crossdirectional ratio. The main optimization of this technology is the independence of the cooling, stretching and lay down process steps. Reifenhauser was also promoting its latest developments in bicomponent filaments for spunlaid nonwovens (developed in partnership with Hills, West Melbourne, FL) as well as its melt blown technology.
Several new developments were presented by Rieter Perfojet, Montbonnot, France, which used INDEX to celebrate the sale of its 100th spunlace line. Additionally, the company, which merged with its sister company Rieter-Automatik in December to form one business group with two companies, was promoting its spunlace/spunbond technology to create products for the wipes market. With a strong background in spunlaced technology, Rieter Perfojet continues to perfect its spunbond technology, most recently through an agreement with Avgol Nonwovens Industries, Holon, Israel, a leading lightweight spunmelt producer. Under the agreement, Rieter Perfojet will work with Avgol to perfect its spunbond technologies to comply with Avgol’s stringent specifications for the hygiene market.
On display at Lugano, Switzerland-based RML Raynworth’s booth were videos of its full range of services concerning completely rebuilt converting lines for baby and adult diapers and feminine hygiene items. The company offers innovative technology for new converting lines and retrofitting services on existing converting lines.
Robatech, Muri, Switzerland, had its PFC, Precise Fiber Coating technology, for use with construction gluing, on display. The PFC offers neat, contactless spraying technology for low and high-speed application in dusty environments. Robatech also offers spray heads for adhesives and Concept 30 hot melt application systems.
Robo Products, Meersen, The Netherlands, exhibited developments that increase downtime in nonwovens production lines. The company offers the Eco Cleaner Type 150 for continuous wire cleaning, the Shock Cleaner for discontinuous wire cleaning and the Combi Cleaner for continuous and discontinuous wire cleaning.
RR Rotary A/S, Herlev, Denmark, provides rotary tooling for continuous motion manufacturing. The company designs and delivers rotary dies, machine modules and complete manufacturing systems.
Hygiene machinery supplier Ruggli, Mellikon, Switzerland, was showcasing the Ruggli CL-3 tampon machine. Able to produce 120 digital tampons per minute, the machinery complies with sophisticated requirements in terms of both output and design, according to company executives.
Baby diaper machinery supplier Sanimac, Rufina, Italy, presented the latest advancements in its machinery offerings. Sanimac’s machinery is easy to run and maintain, versatile, robust and is easily upgraded.
SDF Schnitt-Druck-Falz Spezialmaschinen GmbH, Monheim, Germany, was showcasing several machines for the conversion of airlaid and nonwoven materials. Among the machines were SpeedStar single- and double-lane folding machines made for unprinted napkins and wipes; EcoLine single- and double-lane folding machines for napkins and wipes with a printing station; VariPlan single-, double- and four-lane folding machines for products with cross fold and the OmegaPlus single- and double-lane folding machines for napkins with maximum eight-color printing. These machines are based on suction cylinder technology and are highly flexible in terms of product sizes, type of folding and raw materials, according to company executives.
Sierem, Comines, France, was demonstrating its Type PM1, and automatic packaging machines for baby and adult diapers at its booth during INDEX. The machine is designed for pre-made bags or bag tube rolls and can be equipped with various options such as automatic refeeding for pads, an insert device for advertising leaflets and a coding device for bags.
On display from sister companies Thibeau, Turcoing, France, and Asselin, Elbeuf sur Seine, France, both companies of NSC Nonwovens, was the Airweb machine, which combines properties of carding and airlaying to increase web widths without increasing fiber fineness. Also available from NSC is ProDyn, which the company deems the future of batt forming. ProDyn can eliminate expensive irregularity and weight variances, which can result from the process of carding, crosslapping and all the different bonding processes.
Roller and engraving specialist Ungricht, M??lchengladbach, Germany, was exhibiting its ultrasonic anvil rollers featuring special engraving technologies, which can be used for laminating, bonding, embossing and cutting. The company has recently increased its capacity for complete calender rolls (engraved or smooth) for nonwovens processes such as spunmelt, carded, spunlaced and airlaid as well as for the complete manufacturing of calender rollers and technical rollers. Ungricht has also recently started up two grinding machines for expanded services and two new laser technologies for the engraving of calender rolls. The company offers services for the complete reworking of engraved or smooth rolls and special stainless steel rolls for chemical or resin bonded applications.
Executives at Varemac, Marnate, Italy, were demonstrating a video of its plant and machinery lines for spunbond production, staple fiber machinery and technology for the polypropylene and medium and high tenacity markets.
Hygiene machinery supplier M.D. Viola Macchine, Valle Salimbene, Italy, was promoting its MD. 400 machine, capable of producing up to 400 baby diapers per minute, and its MDA. 200, capable of producing 200 adult diapers per minute.
The Basic Line machine concept from Winkler + Dünnebier, Neuweid, Germany, offers flexibility and efficiency in hygiene product manufacturing. Performance features include second-to-none quality output with exact reproducible product parameters, allowing modular construction, single drive, quick change-over and CE marketing. The machine can accommodate either fluff pulp or airlaid cores in hygiene production.
Wintriss Engineering’s vision processing smart line scan camera can acquire and process a 5150-pixel line in real time before the data leaves the camera. This camera, which can stand alone or share processing tasks with a host computer, can be used for web inspection, product gauging, surface defect analysis, three-dimensional measurement, projectile tracing, defect scanning, medical imaging and document scanning. Wintriss was also exhibiting its Low Contrast Web Ranger 2000 Inspection System, a high performance line scan web inspection system designed to provide a complete solution to optically inspecting continuous materials.
Zuiko Corporation, Osaka, Japan, was promoting its baby and adult diaper machinery, sanitary napkin machinery and pulp fluffing and feeding systems. Zuiko’s pulp fluffing systems de-fibrate roll or sheet pulp into a fine, cotton-like fluff. Zuiko also offers fluffing systems, which feed the fluffed pulp directly into the converting machines.
Consumer products represent
attractive markets for nonwovens because of the huge size of the
established categories, the stability of disposable consumer products
throughout economic cycles and the continuing growth prospects as emerging
new products rejuvenate the growth outlook in mature categories. The
established nonwoven applications in consumer products include:
?? hygiene absorbent products
?? pre-moistened and dry wipes
?? bedding and home furnishing fabrics
?? apparel interlinings
?? components for residential carpets
?? coated and laminated fabrics for wall coverings, upholstery, luggage, shoe components and table cloths
?? fabric softener dryer sheets
?? home air filters
?? tea bags
Collectively, the 2000 sales of nonwoven fabrics for these consumer products exceeded $1.5 billion.
Although some durable consumer products that are nonwovens are cyclical, the largest disposable nonwoven applications exhibit steady demand throughout the economic cycles. Hygiene absorbent products have stable consumption trends and growth driven by demographics and market presentation, not by economic cycles.
And Value Of Established Products
Many of the consumer products that already are highly penetrated in the mature markets of North America, Western Europe and Japan continue to generate growth for nonwovens by expanding their functionality. In the case of hygiene absorbent products, advanced design features increase the nonwoven usage per unit. In recent years, the penetration of cloth-like outer covers on disposable baby diapers and the growing volume of adult incontinence products have dramatically increased the demand for hygiene nonwovens. The functional performance and value of nonwoven components continue to progress. For example, the trends toward the use of elastic composites for stretchable tabs and upgraded fluid acquisition and distribution layers have driven the development of higher value nonwovens offering improved properties.
In the baby wipes category, the mature market regions are upgrading to premium composite substrates for top-of-the-line wipes. Packaging innovations are facilitating increased usage beyond diaper changing. Consumers of all ages are developing wet wiping habits for hand and face cleaning needs ranging from sticky fingers in the home or car to germicidal hand wipes. Specialized pre-moistened wipes continue to develop to conveniently address these needs.
The functionality of fabric softener impregnated dryer sheets has expanded beyond static control and fabric softening to fabric refreshing and color protection. “Bounce Color Smart” from Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, is an excellent example of the addition of color protection to the original functions of fabric softener sheets.
Emerging New Products
In the recent past, we have seen an explosion of new consumer applications for nonwovens. Examples include:
?? Household cleaning wipes
?? Floor cleaning cloths
?? At-home dry cleaning kits
?? Fabric refreshing kits
?? Facial cleansing cloths
?? Facial pore strips
?? Pre-moistened roll wipes
?? Body cleansing wipes
We are closely monitoring the progress of these new products and others still in development to evaluate whether they are candidates to become the next major new consumer category, strong product line extensions, niche specialties or, inevitably in a few cases, failures that are withdrawn from the market. John R. Starr has just published two profile comment letter reports, “Personal Care Nonwoven Products—North America” and “The Evolving Markets for Nonwoven Home Care Products,” covering these new markets and the outlook for several types of nonwovens.
Almost all of these new products are extending the life cycles of categories that are otherwise quite mature in the developed markets of North America, Western Europe and Japan. In many cases, the new nonwoven products are fueling growth in previously low-growth, reusable product categories by substituting reusable products with new disposable product concepts.
In the laundry and fabric care category, detergent products are now in the maturing or declining phases of their life cycles and fabric softeners are reaching maturity. This category is being rejuvenated by home dry cleaning and fabric refreshing products and stain removal wipes that are in the embryonic phase of the product life cycle. Home dry cleaning/garment refreshing products are new disposable product concepts that are more cost-effective and convenient than traditional dry cleaning. The major global leaders of this category that have introduced new products include P&G, Cincinnati, OH, Kao, Tokyo, Japan, Unilever, London, U.K., Clorox, Oakland, CA and a joint venture between Dial, Scottsdale, AZ, and Henkel, Düsseldorf, Germany.
In the household cleaning category, new floor cleaning systems with disposable nonwoven cloths are transforming the reusable mop segment. The long term objectives of the marketers of these new floor cleaning systems are to generate high sales turnover from refill packs of the high performance nonwoven cloths. The repeat buying of disposable products substantially increases the value of the category compared to traditional reusable mops. In addition to floor cleaners, disposable nonwoven cloths impregnated with cleaning ingredients of all sorts are replacing reusable textiles traditionally used for household dusting, cleaning, disinfecting and polishing. Thus, the household cleaning category is being rejuvenated and substantially enlarged by new nonwoven products that are more convenient and effective. The major global marketers that have prioritized new nonwoven products in this category include P&G, Kao, Unilever, Clorox, Oakland, CA, SC Johnson, Racine, WI, Reckitt Benckiser, London, U.K., and Freudenberg, Weinheim, Germany.
In the beauty care category, a glamorous array of new facial cleansing clothes extend their functionality beyond removing dirt and makeup to provide spa-type facial hydration for home use. Cloth-like nonwovens impregnated with facial cleaning and moisturizing ingredients offer highly effective facial cleaning and the convenience of disposability replacing laundered washcloths. Procter & Gamble, Kao, Unilever and Beiersdorf, Hamburg, Germany, are leading marketers with new nonwoven applications in beauty care products.
Even in the mature soap and body wash category, the marketing leaders are finding new growth opportunities with body cleansing wet wipes. These nonwoven products provide the convenience of disposability and can be used for effective washing when water is not available. Unilever is an example of a global leader in this category that has introduced a nonwoven body cleansing wipe.
In the bathroom tissue category, we have seen significant growth in flushable nonwoven wet wipes for feminine hygiene, adult incontinence care, hemorrhoid treatment and wet wiping. Now these wipe applications are expanding from folded products to water dispersible rollwipes that are as accessible and as safe for flushing as toilet paper rolls. Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX, is currently rolling out its new “Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes,” a product that—although not technically classified as a nonwoven—the company claims is covered by more than 30 patents and is the result of an investment of more than $100 million in research and development and manufacturing facilities. Kimberly-Clark anticipates that retail sales in this new product segment will be very significant in the not-too-distant future.
New Nonwoven Consumer Products
An inventory of the new nonwoven products launched in recent years by the major global marketers in these consumer categories yields an impressive list of products from leading companies such as P&G, Clorox, Kimberly-Clark, Unilever, Kao, S.C. Johnson,and others.
P&G’s array of new consumer products based on nonwovens include:
?? “Swiffer,” “Swiffer Wet” and “Swiffer WetJet” floor cleaners
?? “Dryel” home dry cleaning kits
?? “Mr. Clean Wipe-Ups” in the U.S. and “Flash Wipes” and “Mr. Proper Wipes” for household cleaning in Europe
?? “Olay Daily Facials” and, very recently, “Noxzema H2Foam Cleansing Cloths”
?? “Always Feminine Wipes”
Clorox is aggressively competing with Procter & Gamble with:
?? “Clorox Disinfecting Wipes”
?? “Clorox FreshCare Fabric Refresher”
?? “Armor All Wipes”
K-C’s new products in these categories are:
?? “Just for Me” flushable moist wipes
?? “Splash ’n’ Go” hand and face wipes
?? “Depend Cleansing Cloths” for adult incontinence care
Unilever’s Chesebrough-Ponds business has launched:
?? “Ponds Cleansing Make Up Towelettes”
?? “Dove Hydrating Cleansing Cloths”
Unilever has also introduced:
?? “Lever 2000 Moisturizing Wipes”
?? “Glorix” and “Domestos” house hold cleaning wipes in Europe
?? “Persil Revive” dry cleaning kit in Europe
Kao’s Andrew Jergens business in North America has introduced new nonwoven-based products based on its personal care product innovations in Japan. Kao has partnership arrangements around the world. In Japan, Kao also initiated the “Quickle Wiper,” “Quickle Hand Wiper” and “Wiping Quickle” household cleaning products. SC Johnson markets and distributes the “Pledge Grab-It” floor cleaner system licensed from Kao. SC Johnson has also introduced a nonwoven extension to its “Shout Stain Remover” brand called “Shout Instant Stain Remover Wipes.” Beiersdorf has several new nonwoven products in the personal care category.
Berkshire, U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser’s “Lysol Sanitizing Wipes” are successfully extending its “Lysol” cleaning production. Freudenberg Nonwovens, Weinheim, Germany, has introduced its “Vileda ExStatic” and “Vileda ExStatic Wet” floor cleaners. Additionally, there are a number of smaller companies that have introduced new nonwoven consumer products. For example, Springfield, OH-based O-Cedar Brands’ “Static Sweeper” and “Light & Thirsty Cloth Mop” contain nonwovens. Private label wipe and fabric softener converters are also preparing to supply major retailers with private label imitations of the most successful new products in these categories.
We note that the major global marketers clearly consider these new nonwoven consumer products to be crucial to corporate growth. P&G has positioned Swiffer for significant growth. Clorox has indicated that Clorox Disinfecting Wipes were one of the company’s most successful new product launches in history. Unilever stated that its Domestos household cleaning wipes are very successful.
The major marketers that have introduced these new products have the benefit of building on established brand and category franchises. Many of the new products use brand names that have wide consumer recognition within their categories such as “Clorox,” “Pledge,” Lysol, “Mr. Clean” and “Olay.”
In other cases, major marketers created completely new brand names because their new products involved completely novel concepts. P&G’s Swiffer and Dryel products are examples of new product concepts with new brand names. These marketers made substantial investments in marketing, advertising and promotional programs. They appreciated the need to fully fund new product launches in order to cultivate new product usage habits. These major new product introduction programs included direct mail sampling, significant in-store
Evidences Of Success To Date
Several new products turned in rapid rates of sales increases shortly after launch. The most important objective of a new product introduction is to drive the formation of usage habits so consumers will make repeat purchases without major promotional incentives and several of these products have met this criteria. An indication of enduring success is competitive imitation of new products, initially by other branded product leaders and ultimately by major retailers with private label offerings. Decisions by the new product marketers to introduce product line extensions to build on the progress achieved by the initial new product are also key signs of new product success. In the case of Swiffer, for example, P&G has launched Swiffer Wet and Swiffer WetJet.
Opportunities For Nonwoven Manufacturers
These new consumer products employ a wide range of nonwoven technologies. Figure 1 shows the primary types of nonwovens used in new home care and personal care products which have stimulated the demand for spunlaced fabrics. In the new floor cleaning and wipes products, spunlaced, spunbonded, carded and other technologies such as air laid are used. Spunlaced, carded and other nonwovens are used for facial cleansing cloths, acne pads and towelettes, Spunbonded polyester fabrics continue their dominance in fabric softener substrates. Flushable and dispersible air laid nonwovens are providing materials for new wipes for body washing and moist cleansing after toileting.
These new consumer products require distinctive nonwovens with advanced functionality and attractive aesthetics. “APEX” technology spunlaced fabrics from Polymer Group Inc. (PGI), Dayton, NJ, are examples of materials that have unique features for facial cleansing wipes. Bicomponent spunbonded nonwovens and flushable, dispersible air laid materials are also examples of advanced technology nonwovens that offer distinctive properties for new consumer products.
Advanced composite and converting processes are also contributing unique capabilities for new consumer products. “Ultramesh” carded thermal bonded composites from BBA Nonwovens, London, UK, are examples. Kennett Square, PA-based VersaCore’s three-dimensional forming technology offers interesting potential for new durable nonwoven applications based on honeycomb structures. VersaCore 3-D nonwoven structures are being developed for applications in floor coverings, structural components for furniture and bedding and sound absorbing material for wall insulation.
The nonwovens companies that successfully invest in research and development partnerships with key customers reap the rewards of advantaged incumbency positions for the nonwoven compositions of new consumer products. By developing and protecting sources of enduring differentiation in nonwoven performance and aesthetic properties, nonwoven manufacturers earn and hold value in the emerging value chains for these significant new consumer products.
Conclusion For The Nonwovens Industry
Opportunities for new nonwoven applications abound in consumer product categories. These new products are not based on commodity materials so producers should be motivated to develop truly differentiated materials to exploit these opportunities. To achieve enduring success, nonwoven manufacturers must strive to build a diversified portfolio of new product applications to minimize exposure to failure of any individual new products. This diversified innovation is not easy to achieve but the rewards in volume growth prospects and higher value products are clearly worth the effort.
market growth on the order of 4% expected
By John R. Starr John R. Starr, Inc. Osterville MA
By the end of 1998, U.S. and Canadian nonwoven roll goods sales will have grown at a 4% per year average to $3.3 billion, from $2.9 billion in 1995. A similar rate of growth is projected for the next four to five years. Fabric volume will be almost 22 billion square yards, or just over two billion pounds in North America in 1998. These estimates exclude wet laid chopped strand fiberglass (almost 600 million pounds) used primarily for roofing reinforcements, and fiberfill (almost 700 pounds) used in furniture and bedding, apparel, sleep products, filter media and other applications.
Revenue from nonwoven fabric sales splits approximately two-thirds/one-third single use disposables/durables. Revenue from sales of disposable nonwovens—an 18.5 billion square yard business in North America—has been growing faster than revenue from nonwovens for durable uses—a 3.1 billion square yard business. Volume in disposable uses has been growing faster than end product sales because fabricators, particularly disposable diaper makers, have been utilizing more nonwoven per unit to provide customers with new features and benefits.
Consumer products account for almost 80% of the $11.5 billion in end user sales of converted disposable products that will occur in North America in 1998. Medical and industrial products represent 15% and 7% respectively.
Future growth prospects for nonwoven fabrics vary by end use sector. The overall outlook for hygiene nonwovens in North America is for modest growth. Diaper unit volume in the U.S. and Canada is expected to decline slightly; training pant, sanitary napkin and panty liner unit volume should grow only very modestly, but consumer adult incontinence products will grow at an attractive rate. Institutional adult product consumption will grow very slowly. Baby wipe end product volume will grow modestly.
In the medical sector, only very modest end product growth is expected overall and no growth is the outlook for several large product categories, including surgical packs, parts, gowns and CSR wrap. Nonwoven medical sponge and bandage roll volume will grow modestly, as will other single-use medical items. The volume of industrial barrier garments will grow at a reasonably attractive rate and industrial/institutional wipers will likely grow slightly faster. Nonwovens used in filter media will also grow at an attractive rate in volume and faster as new, more costly and higher performance products gain share.
In durables, the interlining business will show only minimal growth. The home furnishings construction sheeting business will grow modestly and other home furnishing markets, such as textile replacements, could grow more rapidly, but from a small base. Nonwoven consumption in roofing and geotextiles will grow at about the industry average, or slightly above, and nonwovens in automotive applications will grow faster. Nonwoven carpet components will show some growth in the automotive area and in specialties applications, but not in broadloom.
Spun melt processes (spunbonded and melt blown) will continue to grow more rapidly than the industry as a whole because of superior cost/performance. Spunbonded and melt blown material now represents over 40% of total industry volume (tonnage). Spunlaced, air laid pulp and needlepunched will grow at above the industry average and carded and wet laid nonwovens below the industry average. In each process sector, companies that have proprietary technology that allows cost effective manufacture of high value-in-use fabrics will continue to be more profitable than those that do not have proprietary technology or are not cost effective producers.
Consolidations have been occurring in the industry at both the fabricated end product and roll goods manufacturing levels. The fabricated end product producers that have strong brand franchises, high marketshares and technology that allows cost effective manufacture of products with consumer-noticeable points of difference—such as Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, and Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX—have been strengthening their positions in nonwoven products in North America and worldwide through acquisitions and joint ventures. Smaller factors in the various end product businesses have been making add-on acquisitions to increase size and diversify their product lines.
In roll goods, there have been a number of consolidations. Perhaps the most visible have been those made by Polymer Group, Inc. (PGI), Dayton, NJ, and BBA, London, U.K. Polymer Group has acquired, during only the last few years, the nonwoven fabric-making businesses of Scott Paper, Bonlam (formerly Cydsa of Mexico), Chicopee (Johnson & Johnson), Fitesa (formerly owned by Petropar of Brazil), and Dominion Nonwovens (formerly owned by Dominion Textile). BBA, a ??1.1 billion turnover diversified group with interests in friction materials, nonwovens and aviation services and products, now has a nonwovens division that accounts for about one-third of the company’s total revenue. This excludes the most recent (1998) acquisition of Veratec, which will add another large increment. BBA has acquired Reemay, Terram, Fiberweb, Corovin, Korma, Bidim, AQF (a specialized filter media company) and the Veratec division of International Paper. Several other roll goods acquisitions have occurred in North America recently. Johns Manville has acquired the Hoechst spunbonded polyester operations (after previously having acquired two melt blown producers) and Buckeye Technologies acquired Merfin, an air laid pulp producer, because of a growing interest in absorbent cores made by this technology, and for business diversification reasons. Lydall, Foss and others have made acquisitions and Western Nonwovens, a producer of highloft and needlepunched nonwovens in the Western U.S., has combined five West Coast highloft/needlepunched producers and then acquired Mid America Fiber and certain units of Reliance Upholstery, with the goal of becoming a dedicated national supplier.
In North America, combining all nonwoven converted products categories (all hygiene absorbent products, wipes, fabric softeners, medical and industrial disposables), K-C and P&G account for about two-thirds of manufacturers’ level sales. These two plus J&J, New Brunswick, NJ, Paragon Trade Brands, Norcross, GA, and Tyco International, Exeter, NH, account for almost 85% and including Playtex, Westport, CT, and Drypers, Houston, TX, eight companies represent 90% of manufacturers’ sales of converted disposable nonwoven products.
At the roll goods level in the U.S. and Canada, two companies, K-C and DuPont, Wilmington, DE, now account for one-third of the total value of production and six companies—these two plus PGI, BBA, Freudenberg, Weinheim, Germany—with U.S. headquarters in Durham, NC—and Dexter, Windsor Locks, CT—represent more than 60% of the total value. There are several other important competitors with significant roll goods positions.
In hygiene, a technology shift (carded to spun melt) involving large capital investments has been one of the factors stimulating consolidating acquisitions. Additional consolidations in the hygiene sector are possible, for example, in absorbent cores because of technology shifts and heavy investment needs. The medical products segment has been reasonably stable with three major competitors—K-C, Allegiance, McGaw Park, IL, and J&J—having strong positions at the end product level. K-C recently acquired Tecnol, which is an excellent fit for the company’s Professional Health Care unit. While the three majors have relatively stable positions, there are further opportunities for add-on acquisitions. The major medical nonwoven roll goods producers are DuPont, PGI, and K-C. Dexter is also a factor and BBA and others have small businesses.
The premoistened and dry wipes areas in North America are also reasonably well rationalized at the end product level. At the roll goods level for premoistened wipes, which is one of the largest segments, two-thirds of business is supplied captively and one-third by several merchant manufacturers. The dry wipes business is also largely captive. Several companies participated in specialty wipes segments and there are acquisition opportunities.
Filtration is an area where there have been some acquisitions and there are likely to be more. Several companies are focusing on filtration as an opportunity area because growth and margin prospects are excellent—and because there are acquisition candidates. There are also a number of attractive opportunities in durable specialty nonwoven roll goods and fabricated products.
The previous article is based on a recently published report “The North American Nonwoven Products Business Outlook To 2003” by John R. Starr, Inc., Osterville, MA. For more information: John R. Starr, Inc., P.O. Box 649, 749 Main Street, Osterville, MA 02655; 508-428-0070; Fax: 508-420-3171; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Technology In Search Of Markets
notes on air laid nonwovens of yesterday, today and tomorrow
By Ivan Pivko NotaBene Associates Inc. Longboat Key, FL
A Scandinavian businessman lands at the Atlanta International Airport and passing through the U.S. entry, encounters a rudimentary question on his professional affiliation. For our visitor it is not advisable to admit he is involved in nonwovens. “Non-what?” will likely be the answer. “What type of business defines itself by telling what is it not?” The officer searches his database but cannot find nonwovens on the list of approved “reputable” activities. And our friend might be lucky not to miss his connecting flight.
Later that night, after checking into his hotel somewhere in the Midwest, the visitor orders at the local bar a much appreciated bourbon on the rocks. If he answers the bartender’s casual inquiry on what he does for a living by admitting “air laying,” a distinctive moment of silence will replace the lively conversation around, guaranteed!
Never mind that neither nonwovens nor air laids are recognized household terms yet. Even within the industry we have a dilemma: under the scrutiny of the 1992 INDA Definition of Nonwovens, the predominantly wood fiber-based air laids do not deserve to be included in the nonwovens family.
This is not the first—nor will it be the last—time we are encountering obvious disparities in nomenclature and classification of nonwovens. The conflicts and inconsistencies are results of variants involved in evolution of the given nonwoven processes. Let’s face it: our playing field is an interface industry benefiting from its three principal technological roots: conventional textiles, paper making and polymer processing. And the participants arriving from these diverse backgrounds carry with them, and subsequently apply, a different and often confusing lingo.
Although not all nonwovens are created equal, there are some basic steps common to all as we construct a particular nonwoven fabric. At the beginning one needs a fiber and to modify /condition its form and shape in order to make it suitable to process it into a particular web structure (a web is not the fabric as yet). Then, the web must be exposed to a bonding method that creates a fabric of structural integrity. Finally, one may apply to that “raw” fabric some finishing treatments to enhance its desirable physical properties.
In the case of air laid nonwovens, the web formed is neither wet laid nor melt blown. It is a dry-state formed, dry laid structure. As the web is formed from the air stream suspended fiber, it is not carded dry laid. Under the general umbrella of dry formed nonwovens it is, distinctively, the air laid web consolidated by a number of available bonding techniques to the air laid fabric.
Hysterical About History : Who Is The
Since the late 1940s the web forming concept developed by Rando-Weber offered machinery to commercially produce air laid nonwovens. This, today labeled as a “classic” air laying method using predominantly textile fiber, is alive and doing rather well. Sort of.
Rando air laid lines, often heavily modified in-house, produce a variety of high loft fabrics in 10-3000 gram per square meter range used in filtration, home furnishings, automotive interiors and some medical specialties. The units’ capacity has been limited by the process speed, typically under 100 m/min.
Noticeable exceptions are two spin-offs from the “old-fashioned” Rando.
The first is the ex-Scott’s baby wipe operation in Dover, DE. The two lines on site, the second retrofitted in the early 1990s with the hydroentanglement capabilities, have been delivering, most recently to new owner Procter & Gamble, some 20,000+ annual tonnes of a functional quality air laid wiper.
At Johnson & Johnson, since the mid 1960s a potential for air laid fabrics in-house manufacturing had been seriously explored. The patented “Dual-Rotor” concept (a Canadian invention) was put in a useful application as a diaper facing until the company decided to terminate its presence in the diaper market. Air laying, although not as a major nonwoven technology, survived at J&J and it has still a presence at PGI.
And there was, from the late 1960s through the 1970s, Kimberly-Clark’s heroic, yet failed, attempt to air lay a single-ply facial tissue, the original “Softique.”
Over the last quarter of the century the fastest growing and the most successful dry formed nonwovens—by far—have been the wood fiber, wood pulp or pulp-based air laids, not formed in the Rando fashion.
Honshu, Kroyer/M&J and Dan-Web—from the late 1950s and through the ’60’s and ’70s—pioneered the tools to make that “other kind” of air laid. The proprietary forming sections of the lines built by these companies are commonly labeled as the horizontal screen or rotary drum formers.
In Japan the Honshu Fuji-Shi plant, in Europe all the way from Scandinavia, through France and Germany to Italy, and here in North America at American Can, Fort Howard and Merfin (now Buckeye), thanks to those companies’ dedicated scientists and engineers, backed by entrepreneurially driven executives and encouraged by their customers, within one generation life-span, the “air laid pulp industry” evolved from its humble beginnings into what is today a major nonwoven technology.
How Did It Begin?
In what is a very secretive community, it is difficult to determine who did what and when. Historically, the Scandinavian conceptual thinking appears to be ahead the others. Karl Kroyer was always convinced that the invention belongs to him. Yet, it was a Finnish engineer Hejtl’s work in the early ’50s that inspired air laying thoughts of Kroyer. On the other hand, the Japanese were, undoubtedly, the very first to advance the process commercialization and for a long time Honshu made—and arguably is still making—the best air laid around.
All Those Diligent Paper Makers
Karl Kroyer, right from the beginning of his involvement in air laying and for the rest of his life, believed that he had invented a process that, some 2000 years after the original Chinese invention, would make a better paper. Mr. Kroyer was also a skillful promoter and a good number of Europeans as well as North Americans followed that promise.
Likewise, Honshu was, during the decades of air laid pioneering, always a paper company. Did the technology, in its infancy and through the initial growth stage, fall in the wrong hands?
Being challenged by new business opportunities, the early air laid corporate executives and their marketing visionaries responded in a classic fashion that reflected their paper-product related background. “Let’s make the high-tech (yet mass commodity) wipe of tomorrow!” was the direction given to their R&D troops. “Give me an industrial wiper that will replace the rug. A single-ply toilet tissue. A superior (bulletproof) kitchen towel. The most luxurious Kleenex for her beautiful nose...” Scientists and engineers obliged and indeed delivered some rather attractive air laid fabrics. The only disappointment was that the consumer was not quite ready to pay the premium for what was still a basic commodity article.
By the mid ’80s Hoshu’s first thermal bonded air laid fabrics hit the market, while Coloplast in Denmark and DFP in Sweden started to explore niche applications for thermal bonded materials.
In the early ‘90’s air laids participated (although only marginally) in the feminine hygiene business by supplying customers like J&J and P&G with a latex bonded air laid component for the composite feminine hygiene absorbent core. In the noticeably thin feminine hygiene design—with dramatically reduced leakage—since fluid was now locked in the SAP gel, the old “sponge- inspired” core became rapidly obsolete. Consequently, air laid producers received an open invitation from the feminine hygiene converters and marketers to offer more. And the new composite core imperative for the personal hygiene segment was born! Air laid “paper” practitioners discovered the technology’s nonwoven side potential and never looked back.
Since 1989, every air laid pulp line installed or on order—some dozen units—have been or will be equipped with thermal bonding capabilities. A Walkisoft installation in the U.S. is soon to be retrofitted and the same is expected at Havix in Japan.
Most importantly, improved margins achieved with nonwoven air laids fueled aggressive expansion activities among the technology participants. Merfin’s unprecedented 1992-1997 growth period is the prime example.
Capacity Versus Output
Worldwide installed air laid capacity has been presented by different parties at different forums in a broad 200-350,000 annual tonnes range. The higher numbers are typically subscribed to by equipment suppliers who labeled some carding lines, retrofitted in the past with the air laid formers, as well as today’s aggressively promoted wood fiber air laying component as a complement to spunlacing lines (most recently Dan-Web machinery at DuPont’s Asturias installation or the M&J unit at Albaad, Israel) as incremental air laid capacity.
If we adhere to those definitions offered above and agree with a premise that the process component that gives the dominant character to the fabric determines categorization of the technology, neither the above noted production units nor Suominen’s, Personal Care’s or Spontex’s lines belong to the list of the “genuine” air laid installations. (Still the fact that air laid is finding its way to expand beyond the “original” applications is, indeed, a measure of success of that technology.)
Any capacity numbers are meaningless if we do not appreciate the importance of the past, current and projected product mix of the output at the given time. Without understanding the product mix dynamics, we are unable to think strategically. Our data shows that in 1998, globally, the air laid producers generated “only” about 205,000 tonnes of first quality pulp-based air laid fabrics. The split between European and North American production is almost equal (45% and 43%), with a further 12% contribution from Asia Pacific. The last year was the very first for air laid manufacturers as a group to produce an unprecedented volume (one fifth) of nontraditional air laid fabrics, 11% thermal-bonded, 7% multi-bonded and about 2% of X-bonded.
Back to The Future: It’s The Diaper, Stupid!
SCA Hygiene Products (M??lnlycke) commercialized the “Nana FH” branded product, McAirlaid’s just installed its very first line and Rayonier has a newly developed “EAM NovaThin” material; all are pursuing their own proprietary air laid web consolidation. (At this stage, we have grouped and labeled these approaches under the umbrella term, X-bonded.) Decreased fiber cost—CTMP at M??lnlycke, in-house/in-line fiber processing by Rayonier and reduction/elimination of the external binder—removes a large roadblock to the next air laid hurrah.
In our judgment, a new chapter in air laying is being currently written by two companies knowing the cellulosic fiber the best. Each of them has chosen a very different path, yet still leading to the same objective: to protect, and preferably, grow their specialty pulp business.
Buckeye Cellulose has bought, at premium, an instant entry to air laying through the 1997 acquisition of Merfin International. Rayonier, on the other hand, committed years of significant R&D effort into development of the EAM, an X-bonded material. Both are prime industry candidates to have (and to operate successfully) a super-capacity air laid machine. Those lines will have at least three times, and preferably more, of the production capacity of today’s state-of-the art air laid installations.
At the current capacity the industry can effectively participate, as it does, in the feminine hygiene business. Some, although not yet substantial, inroads were made as well into the adult incontinence segment. A number of diaper manufacturers and marketers “really like” the super thin core made out of the most advanced air laids. Yet, to shift the major brand of diaper in that direction, the air laid volume required is not available.
The technology is here. Both principal equipment suppliers have the super-capacity machine on their engineering drawing boards. The courageous one, a company with deep enough pockets and marketing savvy, will be rewarded for its move with the tool, tailored to a specific product type (diaper, of course) and will enjoy unbeatable economics of scale and the industry will be changed forever.
About the author:Ivan Pivko is the ex-CEO of Merfin International Inc. He is currently writing a book on air laids and keeps his consulting firm, NotaBene Associates Inc., focused on air laid nonwovens affairs. He can be reached at 597 Yawl Lane, Longboat Key, FL 34228; 941-383-8404, Fax: 941-387-8924; e-mail: email@example.com.
nonwovens are beginning to ‘wipe up’ the competition as they continue to expand their marketshare
With the worldwide market for nonwoven wiping products estimated in the $700 million range according to some industry estimates—and with an expected growth rate of 5-6% per year—nonwovens are making quite a name for themselves. Throughout the market— whether it be on the consumer, cleaning or industrial end—many nonwoven roll goods producers are reporting sales growth and are beginning to move into niche areas. Across the board, the emphasis is on continuing to develop new products to meet the demands of both customers and end users.
In the case of baby wipes, one key trend is a desire for premium quality products from both branded and private label customers. “Manufacturers of both air laid and spunlaced products have introduced higher basis weight wipes to compete,” explained marketing manager Jill Langevin of air laid producer Buckeye Technologies, Memphis, TN. Tom Marth, vice president sales for Green Bay Nonwovens, Green Bay, WI—a manufacturer of both apertured and nonapertured resin bonded nonwovens—agrees. “Customers want products with a good hand, softness and fairly good tensile strength. Softness has really been one of the key things they have been looking at, as well as ways of improving it.”
Another trend that has affected both baby and cleaning wipes involves packaging. U.S. Nonwovens, Brentwood, NY, has seen a trend in private label packaging toward brighter and branded-looking packaging for retail markets. “Everyone used to think of supermarket private label products as just a generic product,” said Shervin Zade, vice president of sales for U.S. Nonwovens. “Now private label products look just as beautiful as brand name products and you have trouble telling them apart.”
In the private label baby wipes area, manufacturers are trying to keep up with branded label products through new packaging features aimed at consumer convenience such as “pop-up” formats. “Baby wipes just used to be stacked and would pull off one at a time,” Ms. Langevin of Buckeye explained. “In pop-up packaging, pulling up one wipe draws the next one up, like a box of tissues.”
Wiping Out Wovens
On the industrial end of the nonwoven wipes market, the biggest trend has been attempts by manufacturers to increase the marketshare held by nonwoven wipes over competitors, rags and rental shop towels. The latter dominates about half of the industrial wiping market, while nonwovens represent around a third and rags take the remaining marketshare. Over the years, however, nonwovens have made significant strides in increasing their marketshare, mostly at the expense of rags, thanks to their ability to be customized to meet the changing needs of customers. “Overall, the markets we serve are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are demanding wiping products that serve a particular need,” said W. Keith Beddingfield, director “Sontara” wiping products for DuPont, Wilmington, DE. “The game is not to take one fundamental product and make it fit into lots of different places, but to create a more engineered type of product that fits the application it is going to be used for.” Mr. Beddingfield continued by stating that this mass customization is not possible for rags and rental shop towels since their characteristics—strength, texture, absorbency—cannot be easily changed. “This makes nonwovens a better candidate for products when faced with environmental needs,” he said.
Concern over the environment is another recent trend affecting the industrial wipes market and—according to some manufacturers—is one of the reasons why nonwovens have not taken marketshare from rental shop towels. Mr. Beddingfield explained this is because many people are used to rental shop towels and they have a misconception about the environmental impact of shop towels that need to be laundered after use.
Ralph Solarski, manufacturing market segment manager for Kimberly-Clark, Roswell, GA, agrees, “It is very important that we as an industry educate users about the potential liabilities that they have with rental shop towels used with hazardous solvents. You cannot escape Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and liability if you are a user of hazardous solvents.”
Although the conception has been that disposable products are more hazardous to the environment than rags and rental shop towels, this has changed in part to new studies by the EPA. According to such studies, industrial laundries discharge more than 13 million pounds of hazardous contaminants into public water treatment systems every year and 80% of that comes from the waste water of laundered rental shop towels. “Launderable products put a strain on the environment with the disposal of water and soap,” said Mr. Zade of U.S. Nonwovens. “Disposables, if they degrade in the environment, are a better choice.”
One nonwovens producer whose sales have been helped by all the attention to the environment is Sorbent Products, Somerset, NJ, which manufacturers nonwoven sorbents for cleaning up oil and chemicals in both environmental and industrial settings. Pointing to recent concerns over dumping, Mark Johnson, vice president sales and marketing of Sorbent Products reported that companies are starting to use polypropylene products as to eliminate chemicals without damaging the environment. “As people go from environmental concerns to clean plant and higher productivity issues, polypropylene makes more sense for the clean-up of spills and drips because it can be incinerated,” he explained.
Another company looking at the recent interest in the environment is PGI Nonwovens, Dayton, NJ. According to president and COO Jim Schaeffer, some manufacturers are looking to reuse nonwoven wipes to generate a type of in-between category in an attempt to help the environment. “This may provide some additional opportunities for nonwovens as people start thinking about the concept of being environmentally friendly,” he added.
At the same time, addressing customers’ environmental concerns highlights the many tangible benefits of nonwovens over woven materials, explained Doug Reid, business manager wipes products for Dexter Corporation, Windsor Locks, CT. “Disposability, convenience and cleanliness are just some of the more apparent benefits of nonwovens and they are improving quickly in each of these areas,” he stated. “There are already successful products on the market that offer wipes users the option of biodegradability and/or flushability to address environmental concerns.”
Environmental awareness is not only being reported in the U.S., but internationally as well. According to Susan Stansbury, nonwovens marketing manager for Fort James, Green Bay, WI, Japan has expressed a greater interest in the use of air laid nonwoven fabrics for its oshibori, or “hot towels,” over launderable woven towels due to the impact laundering has on the environment. “There has been growth in our wipes segment because of this,” she added.
Everybody Has To Wipe
As is the case throughout the nonwovens industry, the wiping market is becoming increasingly global. This can be seen in increased export sales to European markets from North American-based manufacturers. “Europe is growing expedentially, while the U.S. market is flat with a 4-5% growth, so all of our sales increase has come from overseas,” stated U.S. Nonwovens’ Mr. Zade. “In the U.S. people want low-cost, low-quality, products, but overseas customers are looking for more quality and they are willing to spend money for it,” he added. He went on to say that the market in Asia has been very competitive this year, while there is a small but stable market in South America.
The market in Europe for baby wipes is different than the North American market due to the fact that the major branded and private label products use spunlaced material, making it a tough area for air laids. “Sales of air laid for baby wipes in Europe have not decreased, but they probably have not increased either,” stated Buckeye sales manager Frank Iezzi. As for the Far Eastern market, only Japan has significant market penetration of baby wipes and again the dominant material for them is spunlaced. In this region, Buckeye sells air laid material for both oshibori towels (see this month’s cover) and cooking paper, which is used to absorb excess grease from fried foods. Mr. Iezzi also discussed new wiping market opportunities that are slowly being established such as a commercial disposable disinfectant wipe for kitchen and household use that has become quite popular.
Making It A Clean World
Although antimicrobial wipes have been popular in Europe for some time, this idea is now starting to become an influence on the nonwoven wipes market in the U.S., as these types of wipes are under development by a number of North American roll goods manufacturers. One company active in this area is U.S. Nonwovens, which will be releasing an antimicrobial wipe that has the ability to convey to the user—through a structural change—when the potency of the antimicrobial has elapsed. The wipe, which targets food preparation, medical/hygiene and retail markets, is intended to give a sense of confidence to the user who is relying on the agent inside the wipe to be active while in use.
K-C offers a wiping system for the food service industry under the “WetTask” brand name. According to Mr. Solarski, this system enables the user to pre-saturate wipes in the product’s bucket with their own cleaning solution. The wipers dispense through a center-pull dispensing port. With this system, cross-contamination is minimized because each pre-saturated wiper is clean and fresh. “Users want a wiping system that is more hygienic than the traditional rag-in-a-bucket approach where the cleaning solution gets used over and over again, oftentimes becoming dirty yet still being used for cleaning tables and other surfaces,” Mr.Solarski explained.
At PGI, the company has started manufacturing its “Chix” brand wipes with a value-added feature called “Microban” for killing germs and bacteria within the wipe. According to the company’s Mr. Schaeffer, wipes sales for the first quarter were up 31% and 38% in the second quarter. “The addition of Microban is one of the advantages and drivers that helped us increase sales,” he said.
So why the sudden worry over germs? According to Buckeye, the media and consumer product companies have helped to sensitize the general public to the issue of cleanliness and infection. “Growing up 20 years ago, we did not worry about a lot of the things that we worry about today,” stated Ms. Langevin. “There is more sensitization about the hygiene issue and it can only benefit companies who like to target specialty applications such as antibacterial wipes and so on.”
Think I Can. . . I Think I Can
Speaking of niche markets, many manufacturers see this as the future direction of the nonwoven wipes market. “There is a lot of ‘niching’ going on. For example, companies that have been very strong in the baby wipes market are now branching out into more niche segments,” explained Ms. Stansbury of Fort James. Ms. Langevin of Buckeye agreed, “There have been a lot of specialized wet wipes emerging for niche markets. Manufacturers discovered that consumers are using baby wipes for different types of applications and they are taking advantage of this by developing wipes that strictly target specific uses.” Examples of niche markets include cosmetic, antimicrobial, sports and home cleaning wipes. “There are a number of products out there in the home cleaning area that have just been introduced and will continue to grow that whole market,” stated Mr. Marth of Green Bay. “I think there is going to be a big increase within the next year or so in the home cleaning area, similar to what happened a number of years back.”
Green Bay is also seeing a possible adoption in the U.S. of the current nonwoven technology of choice in Europe for wipes—spunlaced. “If spunlacing comes over to the U.S. and any of the major branded companies decide to use it for baby wipes, I think a lot of private label companies would follow suit,” Mr. Marth said. According to Mr. Marth, this would bring about a significant increase in the market. Such a transition would receive a warm welcome from Green Bay Nonwovens, which is adding an 8000-ton-per-year spunlacing line to its plant in May 2000. “Spunlace is a big growth area and we do not see a problem selling our capacity in the future,” he concluded.
The year 2001 may be called the year of the snake in Chinese
astrology, but as far as nonwoven roll goods producers are concerned, it
should be called the year of the wipe. Over the last year, retail store
shelves have been inundated with nonwoven wiping products of all shapes
and sizes in application areas ranging from household cleaning to skin
care to pet care. While in the past consumers could purchase liquid-based
products only in pourable or sprayable bottles, they can now find them
impregnated in wipes. “Where before somebody would have had to buy a
liquid and then apply it to a cloth to apply it, manufacturers are coming
out with complete systems that avoid that change. You just pull out a wipe
and you have a ready applicator,” stated Keith Lauritsen, vice president
marketing and purchasing for Green Bay Nonwovens, Green Bay,
Steven Barrington, marketing director for BFF Nonwovens, Somerset, U.K., agreed. “There is no reason why anything you can get in an aerosol can or bottle can’t be put into wipe form for convenience. Instead of two processes with spraying and then wiping you would have just one,” he said.
Manufacturing products with the user’s convenience in mind is a sweeping trend both on the consumer and industrial ends of the wiping category. Manufacturers want to deliver products to customers that meet their application needs with added benefits such as a two-in-one system. This concept’s realization, however, begins with the nonwoven roll goods producer whose job it is to make a material that can meet these demands. “The major change that wipes are experiencing right now is the movement to more value-added products,” explained James Schaeffer, president of PGI Nonwovens, Dayton, NJ. “Using nonwovens for wiping products allows for more innovative ways to enhance performance characteristics. Whether it is incorporating a cleaning solution directly into the wipe for household cleaning, skin care additives for cosmetic use or designing an electrostatically-charged wipe for dusting, innovation has opened a whole new arena for nonwoven wiping products. It’s this type of convenience and value that nonwovens are able to accomplish that traditional textiles cannot.”
Serkan Gogus, commercial director for Mogul Nonwovens, Gaziantep, Turkey, expressed a similar idea. “Nonwoven products are quickly replacing conventional textiles and you can see this on the shelves of supermarkets. All the wipes you see now are nonwoven,” he said.
Due to the high level of growth some of these new wet wipe application areas are experiencing, some roll goods producers are predicting a change in volume leader at the top of the wet wipes hierarchy. “Easily baby wet wipes are the largest volume category in wet wipes, comprising 60-80%,” stated Douglas Reid, director of sales and marketing, wipes products for Ahlstrom (formerly Dexter), Windsor Locks, CT. “Non-baby wet wipe product applications, however, are growing much faster than baby wipes, particularly in consumer applications such as household cleaning, but also in the areas of adult, cosmetic and other personal care niches.”
Keith Beddingfield, global business manager for industrial and specialty absorbents, DuPont, Wilmington, DE, expressed a similar sentiment. “The household cleaning category is an important, emerging subcategory of consumer wipes. These are all products that are relatively new within the last couple of years and my sense is it won’t be very long before the household cleaning category is larger than the baby wipes market for nonwovens, if it’s not already,” he stated.
At Milyon S.A. de C.V., Canela, Mexico, the company has recently invested in new converting capabilities to manufacture make-up removing wipes due to growing customer interest, according to general director Salvador Rojas. “The wet wipes market is growing and continues to grow. Because of this, we have installed new machinery to cater to new customers interested in wet wipes. Additionally, we have bought machinery specifically for the manufacture of make-up remover products. That area is growing,” he added.
Spunlace Vs. Air Laid
Although the consumer wipes category may be unified in its thoughts on the growth of the market, it remains split as far as which nonwoven material—spunlace/hydroentangled or air laid—is most suited toward wiping applications. While spunlace is touted as a more textile-like material, air laid manufacturers see their product as more effective during wiping procedures. The final say in this case comes from consumers and their preference.
For air laid and carded nonwovens producer Georgia-Pacific Nonwovens Group (G-P), Green Bay, WI—which was most recently known as Fort James—air laid nonwovens offer wiping applications a strong, soft, clothlike product that is embossable and offers value for performance.
“In North America, hydroentangled wipes are at the premium end and air laid plays in every category, but not as much in the premium end,” explained G-P’s marketing director Susan Stansbury. She went on to say that much of the current competition within the market stems from the amount of spunlaced and air laid material that is being imported and exported from country to country, due to a certain areas’ preferences. “There is still a lot of hydroentangled material being imported into North America and that may impact fabric choices and which fabrics are selected,” Ms. Stansbury added.
On the European front, there has been a partial move from spunlace to air laid as the fabric of choice for wiping products during the last couple of years, according to Per Johannesson, marketing director for Duni AB, Bengtsfors, Sweden. “Air laid wet wipes are a bit better for actual wiping because they have a rougher surface that gives them better wiping properties,” he explained. “Spunlaced wipes might be softer, but some customers like air laid’s wiping properties better.”
With the European wet wipe market being dominated by spunlaced over air laid materials—and with the opposite being the case in the U.S.—some roll goods suppliers to European markets are required by customers to produce spunlaced materials. According to Milyon’s Mr. Rojas this is true for his company, which has currently undertaken a large project to acquire spunlacing technology. “This is a newer technology that we will use to make wipes because it produces a much softer wipe and customers are looking for wipes with a softer touch,” Mr. Rojas explained. The project calls for a new production facility, which is scheduled to open by the end of this year. The new plant will be entirely devoted to the production of spunlaced nonwovens for the wipes market and will cover demand for spunlaced products in Europe and the U.S.
Some European manufacturers, however, are concerned about the number of competitors that have added capacity in the spunlacing market. According to Mario Saldarini, commercial director for Orlandi SpA, Varese, Italy, there are a lot more competitors within the market compared to 1999 and all have installed new lines that have already come onstream or will come onstream in early 2001. “In spunlace, this has become a problem area,” Mr. Saldarini detailed. “The production capability in Europe is now almost double the demand. This is a huge problem that will only become bigger.”
Walter Hofmann, sales director for Jacob Holm Industries, Soultz, France, believes the number of suppliers of nonwoven substrates has decreased due to competition, however there is still an overcapacity problem in the converting area. “In Europe today you have an overcapacity in converting and a small overcapacity in the production of spunlace, which will go on at least during this year,” he explained. “We have a total market growth projection this year of 20-30% so a lot of converters have increased their capacities dramatically.”
The Battle Wages On
While the consumer side of the nonwoven wipes market is concentrating its energy on numerous new applications, the industrial area continues to fight for marketshare. Although most roll goods producers would agree that nonwoven wipes have continued to take marketshare away from other types of materials, such as wovens, rags and rental shop towels, some believe there is still territory to be won. Although some woven materials may offer cost advantages and hold a certain familiar degree to users, nonwovens’ customizable and disposable qualities are turning out to be upperhand strategies.
According to DuPont’s Mr. Beddingfield, the intrinsic value of nonwovens is its best battle tactic. “Nonwoven wipes have continued to take marketshare from wovens due to their customizability benefits versus wovens and rags,” he explained. “With a nonwoven, you have more knobs to change and customize it to a particular application. Wovens and rags can’t readily do that. Nonwoven technology gives us the ability to customize and develop engineered solutions rather than just take something off the shelf and find another use for it.”
To this end, DuPont offers a variety of nonwoven wiping products that are engineered for a specific task. Products such as “Sontara SPS (Surface Preparation System)” automotive refinishing wipe system, “Sontara AC (Aircraft)” aerospace/aircraft wipe and the “Chef Towel” food service wipe show that designing nonwoven wipes to meet the needs of specific applications can give nonwovens an edge in the market over wovens. “The secret is being willing to invest and exploit what is still probably under-utilized potential in the customizability of nonwovens technology,” Mr. Beddingfield added. “We can develop new products by combining existing technologies in creative ways. That requires a commitment on the part of the manufacturers and requires a level of investment rather than just continuing to offer what we’ve already sold in its present form. It’s really up to us.”
In the war against wovens and rags, customizability is just half of the battle. Manufacturing products that fit the needs of certain applications is one thing, but making them attractive from a regulatory standpoint to potential buyers and users is another. For this reason, the Wiper Focused Interest Group of INDA, Association of the Nonwovens Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the last few years to level the playing field between nonwoven wipers and laundered shop towels, according to Ralph Solarski, manufacturing market manager for Kimberly-Clark, Norcross, GA, and chairman of the wiper group.
Mr. Solarski explained that many states do not currently consider rental shop towels a hazardous waste when they come in contact with a hazardous solvent, such as acetone. Nonwoven wipes, on the other hand, are deemed hazardous when they come in contact with a hazardous solvent. “The federal EPA recognizes that the shop towel and nonwoven wiper should both be treated equal. If one is exempt, they both should be exempt and if one is hazardous, they both should be hazardous,” he reported. EPA plans to have a proposed rule published in the Federal Register some time this year that will tackle this problem and put nonwoven wipes and rental shop towels on level ground.
It’s A Wiping World
Although the consumer and industrial segments have certain similarities, from a global market perspective there are differences between the two. While on the industrial end, both Europe and North America are nearly equal in terms of demand, in the consumer area, sales of wet wipes are reportedly much stronger in Europe and Asia than they are in North and South America.
“In the industrial area, the needs throughout the world—especially the industrialized world—are similar, but there are a lot of differences in the distribution infrastructure that services those industries,” Mr. Beddingfield of DuPont said. “These differences in infrastructure between regions have had a marked effect on how successful nonwovens have been in getting into those markets.”
Expanding on this topic was Randy Kates, director of marketing North American wiper business for K-C, who stated that Europe and North America tend to have very similar needs and opportunities. At the same time, he also sees South America and Asia as potential hot spots in the future. “South America and Asia are still both rapidly developing industrial markets and offer tremendous future growth potential,” Mr. Kates explained.
Another section of the industrial wipes market are sorbents, which are heavy duty products used to clean up spills, leaks and drips in industrial and environmental applications, according to Mark Johnson, sales manager for roll goods producer Sorbent Products, Somerset, NJ. This highly competitive area has slightly different global dynamics than the overall industrial wipes market. “The U.S. market is the largest market and is continuing to grow,” Mr. Johnson said. “Europe is beginning to show signs of growth in industrial segments, while Asia and Latin America are still largely environmentally focused with regard to sorbents.”
On the consumer side of the wipes market, some roll goods producers are reporting an Asian market that is quite developed and growing. According to BFF’s Mr. Barrington, Japan is a well developed country and in some ways the true market leader in terms of innovative ideas for products. “Japan is very developed in terms of its wipes market and tends to be a world leader in terms of the number of differences in wiping applications,” he assessed. “A lot of these applications start in Japan and then come to Europe, with the U.S. sometimes behind Europe in receiving new wiping applications.” In China, however, Mr. Barrington stated the market is getting more dynamic but there is a large domestic supply of wiping products making market penetration difficult.
On the consumer side of the European wipes market, there is a global split in terms of what type of material is used. “With wet wipes, spunlace is very strong in Europe, stronger than in the U.S,. and I think that is just the way the market developed,” suggested G-P’s Ms. Stansbury. She also mentioned that in Europe there are more players in the European wet wipes market, making more leaders for others to follow. In North America there are a few key brands that the private labele companies are trying to emulate. This can be difficult as some of the North American manufacturers utilize unique fabrics that they manufacture inhouse.
Mr. Hofmann of Jacob Holm also agreed that the market for spunlace wipes is greater in Europe where both South and North American producers are favoring air laid material, especially in the baby wipes arena. “A lot of market leaders are still using air laid due to the cost issue,” he added. “Consumers like spunlace, but they want it for the same price as air laid, which is hardly possible. On top of that, there is not enough spunlacing capacity in the U.S. to cover the demand. This is why I suspect big companies are hesitating to introduce something when they have to import it from other countries. But it will change—I’m convinced that America will sooner or later turn to spunlacing.”
For Eastern European-based Novita SA, Gora, Poland, the company describes the wipes market in Western Europe as mature but is also seeing the implementation of wiping products in Eastern European countries. “This stage is not only connected with awareness of the product, but also with style and standard of living, which we hope will keep growing,” stated sales manager Radoslaw Muziol. “There is the potential for growth and of course there is a difference in volumes and percentage increase.”
For The Future
While it is obvious that there is still a good deal of global growth for nonwoven wipes on the horizon, roll good manufacturers agree that growth for the market as a whole depends both on innovative ideas and consumer acceptance of them. “The wipes area is one of the more interesting areas open to nonwovens because there is a great deal of innovation possibilities and a great deal that has happened,” explained BFF’s Mr. Barrington. “There is still a lot to come and I see it playing a big role, but it’s going to be more demanding and is going to require the markets to be more specialized and technically demanding. The wipes markets will probably change more quickly, so it’s not going to be just a matter of turning on machines; it’s going to require a lot of marketing and a lot of thinking.”
Duan Tao, import and export executive for Hangzhou Advanced Nonwoven Co., Hangzhou, China, agreed. “With new performance levels and new materials, the nonwoven wipes market is expected to grow a great deal in the near future. Nonwoven wipes are expected to represent 80% of the wipes market in the future,” he added.
One issue that many nonwovens producers are saying could possibly having an effect on the future of the wipes market is the environment. Although the industrial segment of the market is currently trying to resolve this issue on a governmental scale, as the consumer wipes market expands it will probably begin to raise a few eyebrows over how “environmentally friendly” disposable wipes are.
At Orlandi, the company has yet to see a great deal of concern among customers over this matter but it is predicting a possible problem in the short term future, according to Mr. Saldarini. “It is not a true problem now but we know that we have to think about it because one day, very shortly, we will have to solve this problem. We are currently producing products using viscose and polyester, which are not recyclable or flushable and we have to think about this,” he said.
Environmental concerns were also on the mind of Mr. Lauritsen of Green Bay, although he predicted that consumers will not begin to totally move toward environmentally friendly products until the price is right. “There has been a lot of talk about the landfill problem, but people don’t seem to be taking action accordingly. I think people are aware of it but when it comes down to supporting it or not, they are really looking at dollars and cents first. If the economics are right and environmentally correct, then they will take advantage of it. If it’s more expensive, I don’t see people moving toward environmental products.”
While the nonwoven wipes market might experience some hurdles in the future, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the market is poised for growth in all of its current market areas, as well as those that have yet to be discovered. “Nonwovens are and will continue to be effective in the wipes market,” concluded Ahlstrom’s Mr. Reid. “The key objectives of convenience, better hygiene, affordability and superior cleaning are achievable with nonwoven products.”
To state the obvious, the Internet is a powerful place. Once just a fringe curiosity for multinational corporations with vast marketing budgets, websites have become a mainstream necessity for large and small companies alike. Considering the varied scope and myriad niches of our business, it’s not surprising that in nonwovens opinions vary with regard to the relevance of having a presence on the Web. While some companies consider websites critical marketing vehicles of growing importance, others dismiss them as merely a perfunctory (and unwelcome) expenditure brought on by “dot com mania.”
A review of nonwovens websites illustrates this difference of opinion sharply. While some websites stand out from the crowd by putting their marketing budgets to the task, other companies have joined in merely to avoid being left behind. These low-end websites—on-line brochures, really—seem to say, “We’re here because we can’t not be.” Either way, new nonwovens home pages are being launched at a steady pace, proving that—like it or not—Internet marketing now represents a key aspect of promoting and selling nonwovens.
One advantage of the so-called “digital revolution” for nonwovens is that our industry—which has grown accustomed to being “the new kid on the block”—is suddenly put on a relatively even playing field with competing (older) industries such as paper and textiles. If the Web is a whole new world where we’re all relative newcomers—and if squatters’ rights don’t count for much—the true test comes down to which companies can make a name for themselves and their products through aggressive, highly effective Internet marketing strategies.
When it comes to who’s doing what on the Web, there’s no mistaking the fact that here—like everywhere else—size is an advantage. Enormous consumer companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, are using the Internet to make the most of their far-reaching marketing powers and have created phenomenal websites designed to attract consumers and promote the company and its products. Smaller nonwovens companies, on the other hand, have more restrictive budgets and an audience that is less web savvy. In between these two extremes are large, diversified industrial companies such as Fort James, Green Bay, WI, that use their websites to focus on end use markets and products, targeting the consumer sector rather than the nonwovens industry.
How Do Nonwovens Rate?
How much of a splash have nonwovens companies made so far? With visibility on popular search engines being one indication, nonwovens websites are making their mark. While in our survey Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com) found 70 websites for “nonwoven” and almost 2500 web pages, AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com) turned up 8000 web pages. AOL retrieved 50 category matches and 481 websites for “nonwoven” and excite (http://www.excite.com) came up with more than 1000 hits for the same query.
As for the logistics of our study, approximately eighty websites were reviewed for this article, all of which represent the roll goods segment of the nonwovens industry. Criteria for this review included ease of navigation, quality and amount of information, quality and number of links, organization and design presentation. Also considered were unique graphic features and time-saving functions such as indexes, menus and short cuts.
In terms of overall observations, most roll goods websites do a good job of presenting visitors—whether they are stockholders, customers or consumers—with information about the company’s merits. The majority of small and medium-sized websites offer an overview rather than specific technical data on products, applications and markets. At their most vague, these home pages resemble brochures, with some offering a slightly higher level of information (comparable to a product catalog or even, at best, an annual report). Detailed technical data on processes, products and applications is the exception rather than the rule among roll goods websites. While sales department contact information (such as e-mail links and toll-free numbers) are ubiquitous, very few nonwovens websites are actually equipped to handle e-transactions.
Standard website features include a company overview/history, a list of offices and plant locations worldwide, recent company news and product/market/application information, which ranges from brief to detailed depending on the site. At many sites, visitors can order publications such as annual reports, brochures and company newsletters on-line. Larger sites often include search engines, current and archived press releases, financial reports, stock quotes, contact information by department, employment information and Y2K updates. Certain larger sites also include “For Employees Only” pages that can only be accessed with a company ID code.
Usually found under a “Contact Us” section, information request forms are a common feature among nonwovens websites, and many companies are making the most of this opportunity not only to offer an expanded form of customer service but to gather important marketing information. Through these forms, companies can determine who’s browsing, where they are from, what brought them there, what they are looking for specifically and what they think of the website.
Given the degree of competition in our industry, it should come as no surprise that there is very little company-to-company linking going on among nonwovens websites. While companies may offer links to software companies, publications, associations and other related organizations, links to complementary industry suppliers were nearly non-existent. What is surprising, however, is that many companies are not taking advantage of linking as an easy opportunity to draw visitors to parent, subsidiary and affiliate companies.
Despite the fact that many companies are relatively new to the Internet, there were fewer websites under construction than expected. In terms of design, each site was different, and even the smallest and least sophisticated sites do manage to put a unique stamp on the Web. Graphics is an area where many nonwovens websites could use some improvement, with a good number of sites lacking visual appeal. Overall, attention grabbing strategies such as animated logos and text, scrolling marquees, slide shows and demonstrations are not common among nonwovens websites.
What follows is a review of the Top 10 industry websites based on a subjective weighing of the above-outlined criteria.
1. Johns Manville (http://www.jm.com)
First place goes to the website of the world’s sixth largest roll goods producer Johns Manville, Denver, CO. While it’s obviously important to point out that nonwoven roll goods only make up a portion of this website’s focus—as opposed to smaller home pages that exclusively promote nonwovens—jm.com is a superior website that stands out from the crowd. Offering highly detailed, thorough technical information on nonwovens and filtration products—including key benefits, roll specifications, physical characteristics and performance features—the site offers a plethora of product links in a well-organized, application-based format. This site’s only limitation with regard to internal linking is that it’s not easy to get “Home” from many of the web pages. More than making up for this drawback, however, is the variety of external links to “Business Partners” and “Industry Associations”. Despite the fact that this list was more comprehensive than those offered by most other roll goods sites, many of the links were directed toward end use markets (construction and roofing, for instance) and neither INDA nor EDANA were listed as links under “Associations.”
Other noteworthy features include detailed installation instructions for end users, including on-line CAD drawings, extensive information on upcoming trade shows at which the company will exhibit and a toll-free fax-on-demand service for news releases, which can also be e-mailed. Indexed by tradename, a MSDS (material safety data sheet) library offers visitors access to MSDS pages in on-line and PDF formats. The site also features an advanced search engine, which searched 1369 documents and turned up 179 hits for the query “nonwoven.”
Among the less technical but unique highlights at jm.com, “The Logo Store” offers visitors the opportunity to purchase apparel and accessories featuring the JM brand. Merchandise ranges from coffee mugs to denim shirts and golf bags. In what is referred to as “another cool option,” distributors can have their name printed on the back of a JM cap.
2. Kimberly-Clark (http://www.kcnonwovens.com)
Holding second place is the nonwovens website of Kimberly-Clark’s nonwovens business, Roswell, GA. Helping to boost K-C’s nonwovens-specific site in our rankings is the fact that it rests on its own laurels rather than on those of its corporate parent site (to which it is dutifully linked). Highlights of kcnonwovens.com include animated text on the home page that’s just interesting enough to make visitors pause to see how the sentence will end. Other unique features include moving graphics throughout the site, “Show Me” buttons that serve as short cuts to other web pages and easy-to-locate “Search,” “Contact” and “Home” symbols throughout, which make for quick and easy navigation. One detraction from the site’s overall visual appeal is a harsh black typeface, which is distracting and difficult to read.
Content on kcnonwovens.com is organized by end use markets, and multiple links to products and brands make finding information easy. A basic search engine is also included. In addition to a solid overview of the division, the site also offers an outline of various nonwovens manufacturing processes, most of which are depicted through color diagrams that can be enlarged with a click. Interestingly, included in the choices under the “Manufacturing Processes” pop-up menu is “Nonwovens Speak,” which defines 10 nonwovens terms and even wishes visitors luck with their “new lingo.” Product information is adequate, although it is not as technically detailed as that offered by some other sites.
3. Freudenberg (http://www.nonwovens-group.com)
Placing third in our review is the German/English website of Freudenberg Nonwovens Group, Weinheim, Germany. Overall, nonwovens-group.com is easy to navigate and offers visitors plenty of links. One special feature is a “History” web page with antiquated black and white photographs, a fitting highlight for a company with Freudenberg’s extensive history in the business. Considering this company’s leading position in the industry, it’s also appropriate that the site offers an excellent explanation of what nonwovens are and how they’re made. A “Production Process” page outlines a variety of nonwovens technologies and even includes color diagrams.
While information describing the Nonwovens Group is kept to an overview, the site’s product information is extensive, although not technically detailed. A pop-up menu offers visitors limited information and pictures of more than 50 different products on the “Products” web page, while further product information is offered under the categories of “Divisions” and “Trademarks,” both of which include a variety of subcategories under pop-up menus and buttons.
Another memorable feature on this site is an interactive map that reveals facility and contact information (including an e-mail link) as the mouse moves to different locations around the world. Another interactive feature is located on the “Contact” web page, which gives visitors information based on selections from “Division” and “Department” pop-up menus.
4. Lydall (http://www.lydall.com)
Fourth on our list is the website of Lydall, Inc., Manchester, CT, which stands out as one of the most well-organized, easy-to-navigate websites we’ve seen. Featuring various user-friendly features such as extra buttons, pop-up menus and short cuts, lydall.com is a very large, centralized site offering comprehensive corporate, financial and product/market information that can be retrieved through an on-site search engine and a detailed site map. Also appearing prominently on Lydall’s home page is a promotion of its new toll-free investor information service.
Two of the site’s unusual features are a “Product Shortcuts” area that allows visitors to select products by name through a time-saving pop-up menu and a featured “Product Of The Week.” The company’s gasketing segment links to a separate website at http://www.gasketing.com, which offers more detailed product information. Due to the level of information included in this site, certain pages require scrolling; this drawback could be improved through the addition of a “Top” button.
5. Polyfelt (http://www.polyfelt.com)
Number five in our rankings is the German/English website of geotextile specialist Polyfelt Ges.mbH, Linz, Austria, the world’s 24th largest roll goods producer. This somewhat surprising pick proves that websites (and companies) don’t have to be huge to make a strong impact on the Web. Among the most technically thorough sites we’ve seen, polyfelt.com is also one of the most well-designed and attractive, despite its comparatively small size. In addition to animated graphics and a running visitor counter on the home page, a spinning CD graphic offers visitors a free geosynthetics design disk. Also making a strong visual impression are flashing menu buttons that change color, well-placed, clearly written text and plenty of color pictures.
Additional benefits include comprehensive product descriptions and elaborate technical data including schematic diagrams as well as information about forms of supply, product installation and reference projects. In addition to information on related literature and technical papers, a detailed outline of the company’s worldwide distribution network includes photographs of distributors, which give this highly industrial site a personal touch.
6. DuPont (http://www.dupont.com, http://www.dupont.com/sontara/, http://www.duponttyvek.com, http://www.dupont.com/zemdrain)
Sixth place is occupied by DuPont, Wilmington, DE, which offers an impressive corporate home page with a high-power search engine and a detailed site map. Information is organized in a variety of ways, including by business, product name and market. While “Tyvek,” “Sontara” and “Zemdrain” were found easily enough under the Specialty Fibers business, searches through the site’s alphabetical product directory for “Typar” and “Xavan” were surprisingly unsuccessful. One item matching Typar was found through a “Product Database Search”; however our search for Xavan turned up nothing. Due to the fact that there is no central nonwovens site, information on nonwovens is highly segmented and can be difficult to find. The site’s search engine turned up 94 results for “nonwoven,” none of which suggested the existence of a central nonwovens website or Xavan or Typar home pages.
Moving on to DuPont’s Sontara site, dupont.com/sontara concentrates exclusively on the company’s line of engineered-cloth wipers rather than on roll goods. The site boasts interactive graphics that change with the mouse’s movement. For instance, as visitors point to each product, a list of features and benefits as well as a new graphic appears. This site includes detailed, well-presented technical information, downloadable data sheets and free product samples offered under a “Take The Test” section. Among the site’s drawbacks is a lack of adequate links to DuPont’s corporate site, other nonwovens technologies and distributors. In terms of aesthetics, additional pictures would help give this website more visual appeal.
At the Tyvek home page, visitors are directed according to region, product area of interest and language. Rather than being organized on a central Tyvek home page, web pages are segmented by application. While the Tyvek pages link back to the Dupont home page, they do not link to other Tyvek applications, which means that visitors must repeatedly return to the home page. Overall, this site is similar to the Sontara site in that it offers an abundance of technical information on end use products rather than roll goods. In addition to a “Distributors Only” area where login is required, certain areas of the Tyvek site require registration (a user ID and password).
At DuPont’s Zemdrain site, which is offered in English, French and German versions, thorough product and application information is available. One unique feature is a “Links” page that offers “privileged links” to companies, associations, research websites, Zemdrain papers, publications and projects.
7. Synthetic Industries (http://www.sind.com)
The seventh spot goes to the website of Synthetic Industries, Chickamauga, GA. An easy-to-read, well-designed site offering plenty of photographs, sind.com also offers an abundance of links to related web pages for specific applications, a sufficient amount of information on markets, brands and applications as well as a basic search engine (which was not operational during our visits to the site). For investors, a “Stock Prices” button links directly to Synthetic Industries’ stock quote on a Yahoo’s finance page. Overall, this site is quite extensive in terms of the number of total pages as well as the level of detailed technical information on products.
8. Fitesa (http://www.fitesa.com.br)
Number eight is the website of Fitesa SA, Gravatai, Brazil, which offers several worthwhile features in both Portuguese and English versions. Although this site is relatively small, an animated logo keeps things visually interesting. One welcome surprise at this website are well-written (even catchy) descriptions of nonwovens’ tacit role in everyday applications. Another key highlight is an on-line ordering system that allows customers to select from nonwovens or staple fiber products, specifying process (i.e. spunbond), color, treatment, width, quantity and basis weight on pop-up menus. Unfortunately, too few linking features on this site limit its efficient navigation; an additional menu bar across the bottom would make it easier to get around.
9. Tex Tech Industries (http://www.textechindustries.com)
Coming in ninth in our rankings is Tex Tech Industries, Portland, ME. Although this site is small, it holds its own even among much larger sites, thanks to its eye-catching, user-friendly design. In addition to being easy to read and navigate, attention-grabbing animated images on the home page and attractive color schemes throughout leave visitors with something to remember. This site could be easily expanded to include more technically detailed product information.
10. 3M (http://www.3m.com)
Last but not least, 3M, St. Paul, MN, earned 10th place in our website survey. While 3m.com is among the top two or three sites we’ve seen, very little content on this site covers nonwoven roll goods. With nonwovens representing a mere 10% of 3M’s business, it seemed unfair to compare this site with less diversified roll goods manufacturers. Nonetheless, because 3m.com has so much to offer, it warrants recognition in our review.
From its home page, 3M offers separate websites based on 23 geographical regions in corresponding languages. Information is organized under “Customer Centers” that range from office to health care (including personal care products). An advanced product search feature is helpful in allowing visitors to search the entire site (or even the Web) by keyword. During our visit, “nonwoven” turned up 181 matches. An MSDS search is also offered. One interesting interactive search option allows visitors to select a product application, enter a target market and the site answers with a list of 3M products to suit this particular need.
This site contains a vast amount of information, which is organized under various technology platforms such as nonwovens. Pop-up menus and plenty of links make it easy to locate information. A colorful design adds to its visual appeal. Visitors can also “click to enlarge” photos and “click to return to previous screen.”
Companies To Watch
In addition to our Top 10 list, there are a few additional websites worth checking out. One such site belongs to the Absorbent Products Division of Buckeye Technologies, Memphis, TN, which launched the first phase of its brand new site, http://www. buckeyeabsorbent.com in mid-February. The new site—which will complement the company’s existing corporate website (http://www.bkitech.com)—offers specific technical data on the physical properties of products. New features are expected to be added in the near future, including a company history and links to industry associations and publications. Currently available on buckeyeabsorbent.com are short cuts through pop-up menus, a plethora of internal site links and a “live” demonstration that depicts fluid being acquired and distributed by “Unicore” products compared to standard air laid materials.
Another company to watch is PGI, Dayton, NJ, which is currently underway with plans to update its website (http://www.polymergroupinc.com) by the second quarter of this year. The redesigned site is expected to be more interactive and will feature a stock quote on the home page, an advanced search engine and an “Ask The Scientist” section where visitors can e-mail questions directly to PGI technicians.
With several of its pages currently under construction, the website of U.S. Pacific Nonwovens, Kowloon, Hong Kong, is certainly worth a second visit. If its current state is any indication of things to come, this site (http://www.us-pacific.com.hk) will prove to be elaborate. Featuring a helpful glossary of terms with linked cross references and an alphabetical short cut feature, this well-designed site offers plenty of pictures, buttons and links.
Like many young mothers, Liz Donohue often finds herself juggling myriad chores day in and day out. Always pressed for time, she considers any consumer
|From baby’s bottom to mascara-streaked eyes, wipes for all kinds of cleaning are available in the market. From top: A Huggies Baby Wipe; Acuity Brand’s Zep commercial wipe; Neutrogena’s cleaning cloth; Clorox’s Ready Mop.|
product that can save her time a blessing. So it’s no surprise that
when a friend introduced disposable wipes to her, she quickly
incorporated them into her everyday routine.
“I was at a friend’s house, and she pulled out a wipe,” Mrs. Donohue recalled of her first experience with Swiffer, the well-known product from Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. “I asked her ‘What is that,’ and she said ‘You can’t live without it.’”
And she hasn’t since. A mother of three small children, Mrs. Donohue has tried many household wipes to clean a variety of surfaces, including the floors, kitchen counter and almost anything around the house. She insists wipes not only save her time but also keep her home cleaner because they are easy to store and use. Even though she realizes wipes are more costly than cleaning chemicals and a rag, she said there’s no comparison. “My house stays cleaner,” she added. “The convenience is worth it.”
Mrs. Donohue and consumers like her are the reason why the wipes market continues to gain momentum. Whether it’s for convenience, space savings or sanitary reasons, home wipe use is at an all-time high. Driven by a deluge of new products in numerous categories, the market is increasingly segmented, with novel applications cropping up all the time. From leather cleaning to wood polishing to germ killing, the uses are numerous. More wipes are sure to be released this year as private label marketers try to cash in on the category dominated by the likes of P&G and Clorox.
Consumer products may be the tip of the iceberg as many nonwovens suppliers and converters predict an explosion of industrial wipes. Aided by the success of consumer wipes, industrial applications will surely follow the same acclivous path, some observers say. They point to a host of reasons for strong growth, many of those driving household wipe growth. The difference is with fewer products in the industrial market, there may be more room for new players.
Consumer or industrial—it’s all good for the nonwovens industry. According to Ian Butler, director of market research and statistics at INDA, Association of the Nonwovens Fabric Industry, Cary, NC, more than 40 new wipe products have been introduced since 1999. In 2001, the North American market produced 2.1 billion square meters of rolled goods (worth more than $400 million) for wipes production, an increase of more than 8% from the year before. Globally, Mr. Butler estimated the market at 6 billion meters, while Lynda Kelly, a senior consultant at John R. Starr, Inc., Naples, FL, estimates that the worldwide market will grow to 7.7 billion square meters by 2006.
The global retail value of wipes is more than $3.9 billion, according to market research firm Euromonitor. By 2006, it expects the market to reach $5.3 billion.
In the U.S., consumer purchases of non-baby wipes rose, but baby wipes sales fell, offsetting some of those gains. Information Resources Inc., a Chicago, IL-based marketing research firm, reported that moist towelette sales at supermarket, drug and mass merchandisers rose 16.6% in the 52 weeks ended August 11, 2002 (data do not include results at Wal-Mart stores or dry wipes). Unit sales were up 16%. At the same time, baby wipes sales fell 5.8%.
In the floor cleaning category, Clorox’s ReadyMop is the top seller, according to IRI, with $56 million in sales at supermarket and drugstores for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 1, 2002. Swiffer products, which include wet and dry versions, occupy the second, fourth and eight spots, with $98 million in combined sales. IRI’s data show two clear trends: wipes sales as a whole continue to climb and the market is becoming more segmented, with consumers switching from baby wipes to products targeted for task-specific products.
“I think what’s happened is that in some of the cases as (consumer product companies) have sensed the (baby wipes) business maturing; they’re now putting their guns around the other markets,” said Mr. Butler, who pointed out that approximately 70% of the market is consumer while the rest is industrial. In past years, baby wipes were the catch-all for all wiping needs; today, as more sophisticated products become available, consumers are opting for those, he said.
If the hype over wipes seems overblown, take a look at the number of products introduced in recent years. Although wipes have been in the market for more than a decade, it’s only during the past several years that growth has accelerated. Why? According to nonwovens manufacturers, much of the success can be credited to marketers such as P&G, Clorox and Kimberly-Clark. Products such as Swiffer, ReadyMop and Armor All wipes are household names that buyers associate with convenience. At a time when time is an important commodity for consumers, these marketers have tapped into an effective selling point. And with sizable marketing budgets, they’ve managed to win over many new customers.
“The consumer is much more looking for time savings. These nonwovens offer value and convenience,” said Ms. Kelly. “I think the current economic climate helps to foster the development and the continuing positive revenues.”
But consumers might not have realized the benefits of wipes if not for companies such as P&G, said Kelly. She noted that even though the first wipe was introduced by Tokyo, Japan-based Kao Corporation in 1989, it wasn’t until P&G made a major push into the category that it really blossomed. Since then, many other companies have devoted millions of dollars to educate their customers and develop the best cleaning tools to meet their needs.
The success of consumer wipes isn’t a surprise to Karl Ronn, research and development manager for home care products at Procter & Gamble. To Mr. Ronn, the proliferation of wipes is another step in evolution of disposable products, a trend he said started in the 1960s.
“Everybody today multitasks,” said Mr. Ronn. “For people with time scarcity, it (the wipe) is of high value.”
He pointed out that as the need for disposable items has evolved, so too have the products. Swiffer, for instance, first appeared as a dry cloth but was soon followed by a wet version. Now there is a Wet Jet version, in which a solution dispenser is added. He said it’s an example of how an entire cleaning tool can be built around a nonwoven.
If there is any doubt about the impact that nonwoven wipes have had on the household cleaning market, just look at IRI’s sales data for cleaning tools, mops and brooms. During the past year, the category has grown 15.7% to $486 million—a large part of that increase due to Clorox’s ReadyMop, which had $56 million in sales in the first year of its launch.
Similarly, the cleaning cloth category grew at a similar rate. For the same period, sales were up 17.5% to $124 million, with Clorox’s disinfectant wipes the leader at $72 million. Reckitt Benckiser and Armor All, at the second and third spots, respectively, grew 28.1% and 32.6%.
|Household cleaning and personal care are two of the consumer segments that have been infiltrated by wipe introductions.|
While household wipes seem to draw all the attention
these days, a laundry list of other applications help fuel the
market. Marketers of personal care products—from face cleansers to
wet toilet papers to antiperspirants—are all looking to wipes to be
the next big thing. Why? In two words: value added. Per-application
costs for a wipe compared with the cost of using the personal care
product itself are significantly higher, but consumers who value the
convenience are willing to accept the premium. As long as they
realize value, they’re likely to dole out more.
Hyo-Young Kim, marketing manager for Jacob Holm Industries, Jyderup, Denmark, said she expects the adult wipes segment to strengthen not only in the U.S. but globally. A number of cosmetics companies are in the early product development stages, and as more consumers catch on to the ease with which wipes remove cosmetics, clean and refresh, they’ll spur additional new uses.
Although Western Europe and the U.S. offer the greatest growth potential, other regions may embrace the wipe down the road. Asian countries with high disposable income such as Taiwan, Korea and Singapore could experience greater wipe usage. Even Eastern Europe could potentially offer new customers to wipes manufacturers as markets develop.
Just as consumer markets open up in other regions, the U.S. industrial market appears ready to catch on to the wipes craze. Encouraged by improved products that are more competitively priced, many businesses today are evaluating wipes for their cleaning needs. Enhanced durability, cloth-like feel, easy disposal and no laundering are catalysts behind the move. Many nonwovens producers say it’s just a matter of time before large flocks of companies go from rags to wipes.
“As the consumer companies create these markets, we can then follow,” said Mark Arcaro, president of Phoenixville, PA-based Disposable Products, an industrial wipes converter. By getting more customers to use wipes, consumer product companies help change the mindset of business managers.
No one knows this better than Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX, the market leader in business wipes and the largest producer of premoistened wipes. Company officials said they believe consumer trends lead the business-to-business market by two to three years. Even when the household segment plateaus, the industrial side keeps expanding. Furthermore, many sectors within the industrial side are ripe for growth—supermarkets and healthcare and hospitality institutions, to name a few. For instance, the recent problem of cruise ship illnesses highlights opportunities for anti-bacterial wipes in the travel business.
Andy Clement, the category manager for business-to- business wipes at Kimberly-Clark, said the outlook is strong for dry wipes but uncertain for wet wipes. In many instances, the company’s dry wipes are replacing rental towels that are laundered after each use. It’s a growing business, he said, because customers find wipes convenient, consistent and cheaper.
To profit from this trend, the company is strongly pushing its Wipeall X80 premium dry wipes, which are manufactured with the company’s spunlace and pulp technology. Boasting the product’s strength and absorbency, K-C is guaranteeing customers who switch for 60 days a 10% savings. In 70-80% of the cases, those customers stick to the wipes, Mr. Clement said.
But when it comes to the future of wet wipes, he said the picture is muddied. The reason? Costs. While home wipe premiums are indeed hefty, at most they are a few dollars more at the checkout line. On the industrial side, where purchases are made in bulk, the difference is glaring. “People are more conscious (of price) when it comes to the B2B side just because the purchases are higher volume,” Mr. Clement noted.
However, premoistened wipes offer value perfect for settings such as hospitals and food service. Still, he said the growth potential of these wipes remains to be seen.
One converter betting heavily on commercial wet wipes is Tufco Technologies. It has gone as far as hiring an on-site microbiologist to work with customers. Michelle Corrigan, vice president of sales and marketing, said many companies are developing products that will be available in one or two years. Some new applications such as paint wipes are just starting to emerge.
Ms. Corrigan said one convenience of wet wipes is minimizing training. Learning the proper chemical dilution or cleaning methods isn’t required of workers who use wet wipes. Instead, they can spend more time cleaning. JohnsonDiversey, the industrial cleaning giant, estimated that labor accounts for 50% of the costs associated with cleaning a typical European hotel. As the single largest cost, labor could be reduced dramatically with greater use of wipes.
Still, Ms. Corrigan said she’s not sure how readily companies will accept the premium of wet wipes. “The convenience factor is there, but whether the price point is there remains to be seen.”
As the rate of product introductions continues, nonwovens suppliers are left asking: when will the boom slow and how can they make wipes a value-added product of their own? Like any immature market, wipes will expand with new products and sales. Even the most optimistic marketing manager will concede that a plateau is in sight. Some industry observers say consumer wipe growth may slow within a year, while others expect the current growth trend to last longer. In any event, there is consensus that to push sales along, nonwovens suppliers can help by offering unique roll goods—airlaid or spunlaced—that can be converted into unique household products.
P&G’s Mr. Ronn said the industry needs more innovation. Much in the way that some wipes have evolved from a single-material product to multi-constructed pads, roll goods will also have to push the envelope, he added. A pitfall to avoid, he cautioned, is investing in the wrong technology, which has caused some companies’ products to become “irrelevant” and forced them out of business.
“The question is what is the next big thing,”
he posed, adding that much of the development work he oversees
involves composites. Swiffer, for instance, is composed of three
different materials. Composites give chemical manufacturers
formulation flexibility, he added.
What’s the answer to Mr. Ronn’s question? What’s the next “big” thing? Don’t look for revolutionary changes; most likely, improvements will be incremental. Subtle shifts in market trends will drive new technology. After all, no one is willing to risk substantial investments on a hunch.
Many nonwovens executives are looking for spunlaced nonwovens to make a stronger push into the North American market. Although airlaid pricing remains low and is the dominant technology here, some wipes marketers believe hydroentangled products give them more flexibility design and manufacturing. For instance, the wide pattern choices of spunlaced substrates enable converters to achieve more bulk or a feel simulating cloth. Others may choose it for strength or softness. In any case, spunlaced nonwovens are likely to gain a better foothold in North America.
Tenotex’s marketing and sales manager Marina Nova said as the performance bar rises, wipes manufacturers will have no choice but turn to spunlace for its absorbency, stability and durability, especially when it comes to home cleaning needs. “Some added value is required,” she stressed. Tenotex began producing spunlaced nonwovens for the wipes market in early 2002.
That’s not to say airlaid will be replaced. With baby wipes the largest subsegment, airlaid will still be a significant portion of the wipes market for years to come. Furthermore, with advancements such as airlaced (hydroentangled airlaid) now available globally, the technology has the potential to surpass spunlaced nonwovens in value, according to Ms. Kelly. Although it costs more than airlaid, it also offers more strength, less linting and myriad other benefits.
While each of the three technologies may eventually find its own niche, spunlaced is clearly the technology of choice in Europe and Japan, also key wipes markets. In Europe, even baby wipes are manufactured with spunlace. In Japan—perhaps the most sophisticated wipes market in the world—spunlace wipes are used extensively throughout the home.
Which technology will wipes marketers favor in the near future? Many roll goods suppliers and converters say customers don’t care; they want the best performance for the lowest cost. A changing market has altered the relationship between wipes marketers and their suppliers.
“Today, consumer product companies are talking directly to the nonwovens producers, instead of the converters, to decide on what benefits a special tailor-made nonwoven can bring them,” said Katharina Rath, director of wipes for Europe, BBA Nonwovens. “A good partnership from the beginning of the development of a new product between the consumer product company, the nonwoven supplier and the converter will be beneficial to all.”
Figuring out how to sell value while ratcheting up margins will be a challenge for nonwovens suppliers in the expanding wipes market. But, with new applications still unearthed and many others just blossoming, roll goods producers will have ample room to explore. Despite the plethora of introductions, the market will eventually sift out the winners from the losers, cautioned Tom Marth, vice president of sales at Green Bay Nonwovens.
“Maybe not all of those are going to survive,” Mr. Marth said. “It’s going to take a while to see who the people are left standing.”
So even though the wipes market continues to be a bright spot for the nonwovens industry, consumer product companies and their suppliers can’t approach the market casually. It will take diligent research and development to come up with products that provide real value. At the same time, manufacturers have to invest heavily in marketing and consumer education to nurture fledgling applications. Nonwovens suppliers must do their part by constantly improving materials so their customers’ goods don’t become static. If executed correctly, the partnering will pay off in the form of a pipeline of successful new wipes.