Thursday, 1 November 2001

Insight 2001: Orlando 22nd-25th October


Walt Disney World in general and the on-site Hilton Hotel in particular were unusually quiet in the aftermath of September 11th. Nevertheless some 450 delegates enjoyed this major event in the annual nonwoven calender, about 220 fewer than had gathered a year ago for the Toronto Insight 2000. According to conference organiser Jim Hanson of Marketing Technology Service Inc., registrations for Orlando had been set to equal or beat the Toronto record up to “911” but after the tragedy, new registrations and cancellations had been roughly equal.

Hygiene Industry is Changing

Pricie Hanna, VP of John Starr Inc reviewed the effects of major acquisitions, internal expansions and new market entrants on the disposables market and its supply chain.
  • Wal-mart’s acquisitions of Woolco in Canada, ASDA in the UK, Cifra in Mexico, Wertkauf and Spar Handels in Germany, along with their expansions into Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, China and South Korea were increasing the competitive intensity. (Their “everyday low price” philosophy was spreading.)
  • In 1994 the $738 million sales of private label diapers went 61% through food stores and 28% through mass merchandisers. Last year the $756 million sales were 39% through food stores and 52% through mass merchandisers. (Drug stores account for the remainder.)
  • Wal-Mart’s “White Cloud” diapers gained share rapidly being better value than P&G Luvs®
  • Between 1995 and 2000 P&G has fallen from 36% to 34% global market share of diapers and training pants. The biggest percentage loss was in Latin America (39% to 23%). Their strategy is to expand premium product globally, to hold the category leadership in core brands e.g. Luvs with cloth-like backsheets, and to rely more on suppliers for new developments.
  • Over the same period, KC grew from 19% to 28% of the global market, with the biggest gains in Western Europe (4% to 19%) and Latin America (23% to 32%). Their strategy is to grow by acquisition (e.g. Linostar in Italy, Mimo in Chile, SK in Taiwan).
  • Paragon, Ontex, SCA, and Kendall-Confab are capitalising on the growth of store brands, Paragon by adding new capacity and Ontex by numerous acquisitions.
  • SCA has acquired J&J’s Serenity® (inco-pads), and Hartmann has acquired Vlesia® from DSG. DSG has acquired Drypers. Unicharm and Kao are consolidating.
  • In China, Hengen International is investing in new femcare and diaper lines and has imported a new incontinence product line.
  • Other local producers to watch: Everbeauty and FuBurg in Taiwan, CMPC in South America, and Grupo P.I. Mabe in Mexico, South America and Spain.
Among the suppliers
  • Avgol has acquired Unifi
  • BBA and PGI are rationalising
  • BBA and First Quality are installing new coverstock lines.
  • Elastic composites are emerging from KC, Clopay, Tredegar, BBA, Dupont.
  • Superabsorbent foams are emerging from BASF, Freudenberg and P&G?
  • Fluff pulp producers are focussing on air-lay expansions
Hygienic disposables raw material consumption
In response to questions, Ms Hanna felt that
  • In a recession, hygienic product consumption is unlikely to fall, but cheaper products would gain share and penetration of new markets would be more difficult.
  • Store brands would do particularly well.
  • Raw material prices would stabilise.
  • Could the necessary R&D be afforded? It had to be well focussed, and if suppliers were to contribute to innovation, they had to be given more information. (Still too much secrecy)
  • Suppliers are indicating that new product developments are not being taken up as quickly as converters had promised.
  • Air-laid diaper cores are still a couple of years from reality, but the price gap is closing. They could be specified for new diaper line installations where capital costs could be reduced by the adoption of air-laid.
  • Apart from some regional issues, SAP supply and demand is likely to be in balance for the next 3 years.
  • There is no sign of a successful interlabial pad from P&G.
  • Market analysts holding CEO’s of public companies accountable for short-term growth would give the small private companies the edge in the longer term.

Nonwovens in Hygiene Absorbents

Linda Kelly , who joined the Starr consultancy this year after managing a business group at BBA Nonwovens, presented John Starr’s paper.
  • Nonwoven industry revenues had grown from $3 billion in 1980 to $10 billion in 2000 and were expected to reach $18 billion by 2010.
  • Revenues from the top 10 producers of nonwovens had risen from $3 billion in 1990 to $5 billion in 2000 and would reach $10 billion by 2010.
  • EBIT (Earnings before interest and taxation) as a percentage of revenue, while static over the last 20 years would rise from about 13% to 15% for the industry as a whole and from about 14% to 18% for the top 10 nonwoven producers.
  • The hygiene market now consumed 3 to 3.5 million tonnes of pulp, 1.2 million tonnes of superabsorbents and 0.5 million tonnes of barrier film.
  • 40 billion square metres of nonwovens were used in combination with the above materials and a further 3.5 billion square metres in the heavier weight hygienic wipes category.
  • 266 billion absorbent “pads” were used in 2000 growing to 310 billion by 2004. (Diapers accounted for 100 billion of the 2000 figure, the remainder being femcare and incontinence products)
  • Retail value of the pads in 2000 was $40 billion.
  • Total wipes retail value was put at $3.5 billion (86 billion units) in 2001, expected to rise to 101 billion units by 2005.
Nonwoven technologies
  • 1.1 million tonnes of spunbonded PP is now produced. Some overcapacity exists and obsolete machines will be closed or modernised. However more capacity is needed for some types in some regions.
  • Carded thermal bonded coverstock has lost share globally but is now replacing some apertured films in Asia based on better cost performance.
  • Femcare accounts for 80% of current air-laid production. More usage can be expected in femcare and incontinence pads, with some introductions in training pants and diapers.
  • Hydroentanglement capacity was estimated to be 300,000 tonnes (2000?)
Industry profitability was thought to have declined recently due to overcapacity driving down prices, investments in new technology and the slower than expected introduction of new products.
Future growth would arise from:
  • Elastic fabrics
  • Bico and microfibre fabrics
  • Apertured fabrics
  • Lighterweight SMMS materials
  • Airlaid cores
Asked if this last list was in order of likelihood, Ms Kelly said it was. New product introductions had been slowed by both KC and P&G over the last 2 years. (New capacity had been installed to produce them but the expected take-up has not occurred.)

Technology Trends in Personal Care Products

Sorin Crainic, Product Development Group Manager with PGI Nonwovens described a global study of personal care products. This involved categorising the products, noting the main claims made for them, the properties yielding the claims, the technologies used to deliver these properties, and hence the trends in the use of these technologies.
In Hand & Body Wipes:
  • Cellulosic fibres were needed to retain lotion or remove moisture from the skin, whereas the synthetics improved bulk and assisted lotion release.
  • Air-laid technology dominated the US scene, but card/spunlace dominated in Europe and the Far East. Wet-laid is used for economy products.
  • Specialities include antimicrobials, skin care agents (vitamin E, Aloe)
  • Flushability is in demand, but true nonwoven flushability (as opposed to tissue or flushability by virtue of small size) has yet to appear.
In facial cleansing, moisturising and make-up removal wipes:
  • Rayon and cotton were needed for softness, woodpulp for exfoliation.
  • Card/spunlace dominates for softness and lint-free properties
  • Embossing or 3D aperturing (Miratech®) provide the structure for exfoliation, while lamination to harsher (woodpulp) products provide the abrasion.
In facial treatment wipes:
  • Synthetics (esp polyester) provides strength and lotion release; rayon or cotton provide softness.
  • Card/spunlace again dominates but card/thermal (using rayon and PP) technologies can be found.
  • Polyester spunbond is used in nose-strips
  • PP film is used to absorb skin-oil (J&J’s “Clean and Clear”)
In response to questions, Ms Crainic observed that:
  • The baby wipes market is approaching saturation and will peak by 2005-2007.
  • Lotion application, especially sun-tan lotions, are a growth area.
  • Flush-by-size disposal is likely to be stopped by the authorities: sewers are blocking slowly due to accumulating nonwoven hang-ups. (Wet-toilet tissues were less of a problem.)
  • Baby care wipes now dominated the personal care sector, but in future all the other personal care wipes combined would provide a market equivalent to baby-care.
  • The next new technology: developing more complete lotion-release.
  • Most patents were now on flushability, but inventions relating to interactions between nonwoven and lotion were now appearing.

Hydroentanglement Update

Phillipe Coppin (Consultant) updated his Insight 1998 paper and provided a detailed analysis of the publicly available information:
  • Global production in 2000 was estimated to be 246,000 tonnes excluding pilot lines, cosmetic pads and “textile” lines (PGI’s Apex®, Freudenbergs Evolon®)
  • By the end of 2002, output from an additional 22 new lines will be added, and some output will be lost from the closure of old lines.
  • Once again the new lines are mainly destined for the European area with Orlandi, Technofibra, Jacob Holm, Tenotex, Freudenberg, Novita, Spuntech, and 5 undisclosed Fleissner lines being mentioned. (includes Turkey, Israel and Egypt)
  • New US installations will be at BBA, Dupont and Ahlstrom.
  • New Asian installations will be at Daiwabo, Unitika, Nisshinbo, and Baiksan.
  • In Mexico, Polymeros y Derivados are adding a second line.
  • In South America Uniminas, Ober, Dupont/Cipatex and K-C Columbia were mentioned.
The growth of the technology has been fuelled by an explosion of wipes offerings following the successes of P&G’s baby wipes and Swiffer® products. New lower-cost, higher quality systems from both Perfojet and Fleissner have contributed to the early obsolescence of the older machines. The large impregnated wipe market is still dominated by air-laid but could turn to spunlace if one of the majors decides that such fabric would confer a marketing advantage.
Roll-goods prices of spunlace (summer 2001) ranged from:
  • 11-12 c/yd 2 for a 55gsm 50/50 rayon/pulp wipe material, through
  • 14-15 c/yd 2 for the 70/30 rayon/PET version
  • to 22-30 c/yd 2 for 80/20 rayon/PET at 68-80 gsm for a food service wipe.
  • Swiffer® fabric, a 68gsm carded PET/PP Scrim sandwich was 20-22 c/yd 2.
  • Surgical barrier, the hydrophobic 68gsm 45%/55% PET/woodpulp material, was selling at 30-40 c/yd 2
  • For comparison, 100% latex-bonded air-laid pulp wipe fabric cost 10-11 c/yd 2.
Capital Costs for a 3.5m card/hydro line running at up to 170m/min were estimated to be $7.7-9.0M with an additional $4-5M being needed if an airlaying option was required. Production of card/spunlaid composites (e.g. for Swiffer®-type dry wipes) would require an additional $6M for the spunlaid PP extrusion equipment. (Both the airlaid and spunlaid options were costed at 200m/min.)
In the textile market, both PGI’s Miratech® and Freudenberg’s Evolon® were having difficulty selling against woven products and were adding little to the overall growth as yet. Miratech® was selling into garden furniture covers at K-Mart while Evolon® had some success in reusable wipes. BBA had licenced their Interspun® hydroenhancement system (for bulking up woven fabrics or stabilising knits) to CULP Inc. for upholstery and ticking uses. Fleissner, under an exclusive agreement with BBA on this technology (Aquatex®) had installed the 2.5m CULP line.
One “novelty” mentioned: the patent issued to Paul Zlatkus in June 2000 covering the production of elastic fabrics by hydroentanglement of woodpulp into a pre-stretched foam.

Air-Laid: The next wave

John Conley (Consultant: formerly founder and CEO of Airformed Composites and President of Walkisoft) reviewed the potential of air-laid nonwovens:
In diaper cores he saw air-laid providing improved performance and comfort in use while having the capability to reduce conversion costs through higher productivity on simpler diaper lines. There was a 1.8 million tonne/year potential market here but to realise it costs had to be further reduced to persuade diaper makers to convert and install machinery to handle it. Festooning systems to handle the cores appeared to be a commercial reality but again, further improvements were needed.
In wet toilet tissue, the latest products from P&G and KC were in fact successors to Playtex “ Better Way” (tissue - ‘70’s), American Can “Fresh’n” (air-laid – ‘70’s) and P&G’s “Certain” (tissue - ‘80’s). The main lesson from these early failures was that a massive marketing spend was needed to persuade consumers to try and then regularly repeat-buy the product. Mr Conley nevertheless predicted a 45-70,000 tonne market for air-laid in this category by 2007.
Impregnated wipes were an $835M market in the US and Canada in 2000 and could be expected to reach $1.5B by 2005 due to globalisation of the US products and many new applications being developed (dry shampoo towels mentioned).
In packaging he expects the air-laid tonnage to reach 300,000 per year by 2010. The products involved:
  • Meat and poultry pads
  • Repulpable boxes with soft interiors
  • Dessicant wraps for electronics and pharmaceuticals
  • Blood transport absorbent packs
  • Biocidal biohazard and medical waste packs.
  • Controlled release carriers for high-value produce.
Other applications expected to grow were:
  • Trans-dermal patches and wraps
  • Graduated filters (porosity gradient)
  • Water dispersible film-airlaid laminates
  • Spunbond/airlaid/Spunbond laminates that can be split to yield two soft and durable sheets. (Garment labels?)
  • High modulus fibre air-laids for reinforced composites.
  • Heating/cooling pads and wraps.
  • Carbon/glass airlaids with special binders for “warm” fuel-cell stack plates (50,000 tonne mid-term potential!)
Mr Conley observed that the original American Can “dry-papermaking” air lay machine reached 1350 ft/min compared with the 550 ft/min achieved after 25 years of development on the current M&J and Danweb systems. Higher speeds coupled with waste reduction and the ability to use low-cost reclaimed fibre buried in the centre would finally get air-laid costs to an acceptable level.
In response to questions, air-lay diaper cores were now going commercial, but he was not at liberty to say who was doing it. Why not use tubs (as in Europe) for wet toilet tissue? To minimise the change of habit c.f. dry tissue. However wet tissue was expected to be incremental volume over dry, and not a replacement for it.

Air-Laid to replace carding?

Jesper Dobel, General Manager of Dan-Webforming International ( Denmark) described initial trials with a new forming head said to be capable of laying up to 40mm fibres and competing with carding and crossfolding. His goal was to engineer a technology that could be integrated with either Dan-Web or M&J lines feeding spunlace bonders and which could produce webs with equal MD and CD properties from 100% man-made fibres.
Problems with the fibre feeders/openers which had yet to be adapted for the longer fibres meant that results to date were from 6, 8, 12 and 24mm (maximum), and a video showed 18mm fibre running at ~10 m/min from ~12” wide head, the internal details of which were not revealed. Photos of the webs indicated that while 12mm looked excellent, 18mm was borderline and 24mm, while being a remarkably good web for an air-layer, was not up to carding standards.
  • Today’s pulp-forming speeds were said to be 400m/min, with 800m/min expected by 2005. (Throughput was expected to rise from 400 to 600 kg/hr/m in the same period)
  • The new head allowed 85% of peak (pulp) productivity with 18mm fibre compared with only 5% on the current Dan-Web formers. 80% was achievable with 24mms, a length which would not run at all on the old machines.
  • The fibres tested were 2.2dtex Trevira polyester with “slight” crimp.
  • Line speeds possible on the 18mm were low at around 25m/min at present. 200m/min was felt to be achievable.
  • Throughputs were 150 kg/hr/m but doublel this ought to be achievable.
  • The new head was patented in August and could be commercially available by next Autumn.
  • They hoped to install a head on one of their 600mm pilot lines next.

Air forming Flax and Hemp

Bodil Engberg Pallesen of the Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre and Marianne Eriksen, a consultant, described a new air forming unit capable of processing flax and hemp into thick insulation “slabs” to compete with glass and mineral wool building insulation. Although the internal details were not revealed the forming head was not unlike a Dan Web machine without the cylindrical screens.
  • The 60 cm wide line would convert 600kg/hr of a flax/bico mixture (95/5) to make a thermally bonded wadding up to 20cm thick.
  • This was water-jet cut into 60x90cm blocks for packaging.
  • For building insulation, flame retardency will be achieved by adding 4-8% of sodium silicate, but this cannot be done on the current line.
Other applications envisaged are:
  • Pipe Insulation
  • Growth media (Peat can be air-formed)
  • Geotextiles
  • Composites – these would use up to 50% of the bico fibre and be compressed.
Costs are about half the costs of other European hemp and flax products because other processes use cards and require more binder.

Fluff-Pulp Evolution

Marsha Seekins, Commercial Services Director of Georgia PacificCorporation reminded us that fluff-pulp once provided absorbency in diapers, but is now a fluid-distribution system for superabsorbent powders. Had superabsorbents not penetrated the diaper market, diapers would have needed 6 million tonnes/annum of fluff by now. In reality the 3.33 million tonne total market was split as follows in 1999:
  • Diapers:1.635 million tonnes
  • Femcare: 0.796 million tonnes
  • Adult Incontinence: 0.654 million tonnes
  • Air-laying: 0.247 million tonnes
North America and Western Europe are the big users with 25% each, China and Eastern Europe combined amount to 23%, Latin America uses 8% and the Middle East 5%.
Of the product sectors, only AI (6% pa) and Airlay (8.5% pa) showed reasonable growth. Nevertheless GP’s projections indicated that a further 500,000 tonnes of fluff capacity would be needed by 2004. As it happens, GP have a 1.3 million tonne fluff capability, of which 0.8 is currently making for the fluff sector. The Brunswick plant is in the process of switching 100,000 tonnes of bleached board capacity to fluff. (60,000 have already been converted and the rest follows next year.) They now see fluff as a speciality product rather than a commodity and are concentrating on “flawless execution of the basics” while building relationships with, and providing exceptional quality and service to, customers. In response to questions Ms Seekins said:
  • Loblolly Pine is better for fluff, eucalyptus is better for tissue. (Coastal Slash is another excellent wood for fluff.)
  • Hardwoods are hardly used for fluff.
  • They are beginning to see some separation of fluff and market pulp pricing.
  • SAP’s will always need something to distribute fluid: pulp is best
  • The most common technical service issue is defibration, hence the development of debonders.

Finishes for Fluff

Craig Poffenberger a Senior Scientist with the Goldschmidt Chemical Corporation introduced Arosurf® PA777 and Z-Quat® at last year’s Insight conference. Since then, the PA777 has been tested by pulp producers and generated a wide range of results. It has now been reformulated to better balance absorbency/ease of defibration/strength loss by the addition of a hydrophilic compatible with the imidazolinium. Mr Poffenberger concludes that debonders need to optimised for each type of pulp to get the maximum vertical wicking performance. The new blend is now commercial, but there is no data on how it’s properties changed with time after application.
Z-Quat® remains at the developmental stage and “continues to wind its way through the regulatory registration labyrinth.”

Another Bio-Based Fibre?

Ray Miller, Technical and Business Manager of Dupont Bio-Based Materials described Dupont’s biotechnology strategy and their commitment to earning 25% of revenue from businesses not needing depletable raw materials by 2010. Furthermore, in the same year they expect to derive 10% of all energy needs from renewable resources. The introduction of Sorona™ fibre, based on PDO (1,3 propanediol - currently derived from propylene) and terephthalic acid was part of this strategy because they were planning to switch to bacterially-derived PDO in the near future.
In nature, a yeast converts sugar to glycerol, which can then be metabolised by a bacteria into PDO. In partnership with Genencor and Tate & Lyle, Dupont has developed a single bacterium to do both steps and is now starting up a pilot line to make 100,000 lbs/year of PDO by this method. The decision on whether or not to switch Sorona™ from the propylene-based to the corn-based PDO will be taken next year.
Recapping on the properties of the Sorona™ fibre, which can be regarded as filling the gap between elastomers and hard fibres like polyester:
  • Elastic with good stretch recovery
  • Very soft handle
  • Easily printable and atmospherically dyeable
  • Radiation sterilisable
  • Inherently stain and UV resistant
  • Meets Class 1 Flammability standard
The fibre will initially cost about 50% more than polyester, but is expected to come down to a 10-15c/lb premium over polyester as volumes increase. Existing polyester production plant can be retrofitted to enable Sorona™ production if need be.
Polymerising the PDO with monomers other than TPA can make other fibre types, including a true thermoplastic elastomer. In fact the current Sorona™ fibre carries the designation 3GT, the range of fibre possibilities being indicated by the 3G”X” suffix. A toughened polymer for speciality resins is also under development.

Biodegradable Polyester

Bill Haile, a Research Associate with Eastman Chemical Co. updated the information on the Eastar Bio® copolyester derived from PTAT ( a poly tetramethylene adipate-co-terephthalate made from adipic acid, terephthalic acid and butanediol). The polymer can be melt-spun into binder fibres and nonwovens, the fibres being capable of forming strong elastic bonds with cellulosics and other polyesters.
6 denier unicomponent fibres have been spun at 1500 m/min from an extruder at 160-170 oC. They are hard to card due to their elasticity and bicomponent versions with a PTAT skin on a PP core is likely to be the better option for staple nonwovens. Bicomponent fibres with a biodegradable core such as PLA are under development.
Results from trials at TANDEC using 50% and 30% of the PTAT/PP bico to bond cotton were presented. 5% to 20% of the unicomponent fibre has also been blended with flax, needled and static hot-pressed into flexible sheets. Similar blends of short-cut unicomponent fibre with woodpulp in papermaking demonstrate improved wet-strength after calendering, 10% fibre addition giving a 50% wet-strength boost.
PTAT fibre biodegradation rates compare favourably with Kraft paper in most tests.
The polymer is already commercial in film products, and spunbond nonwovens using it are expected to appear next year. Eastman will concentrate on polymer sales and will not produce either fibres or nonwovens.

Hollow victory

Mabrouk Ouederni an Engineer with KoSa provided data to illustrate how polyester could give improved fluid management in air-laid nonwovens. He had tested 10% to 40% of 6mm polyester with solid and hollow sections, in deniers from 3 to 15, in blend with 48% to 70% of a standard fluffpulp, all samples being thermally bonded with 12% of Kosa T255 PE/PET sheath/core bico fibre. The conclusions:
  • Crimp level and fibre finish has a significant effect on throughput. A 25% throughput benefit can be obtained by optimising these parameters at a 10% PET addition level.
  • Hollow fibres give ~25% higher throughputs than solid fibres.
  • At 6mm, the denier had little effect on througput.
  • Web thickness increased from about 0.5 to about 0.8cms under a 25lb load when polyester was added. Under no load there was no thickness change. Hollow fibres gave more bulk still.
  • 10% polyester improved recovery from compression, increasing total free absorbency from 76 to 86 gms.
  • Acquisition rates increased from 2ml/sec to 3 ml/sec for solid PET, and on to 7ml/sec with hollow fibre addition.
  • In a leakage overflow test the hollow fibre allowed a 7 ml/sec insult rate without overflow.
  • Wet strength of the air-laid increased from 40 to 60gms with 10% PET addition.
In answers to questions, hydrophobic finishes can be used on the PET; there was no data on cost benefit of PET additions, and no data on static issues with hollow polyester.

Real Nanofibres

Jayesh Doshi, President of eSpin Technologies defined nanofibres as having a diameter less than 100 nanometres and described his work on making such fibres for filtration applications by electrostatic spinning. Nylon polymer from Dupont, dissolved in formic acid and contained in a hypodermic-like syringe had a high voltage applied to the needle. As this voltage discharged through air to the earthed conveyor, it pulled a jet of solution from the capilliary tip. This jet became unstable, fragmenting into many fine filaments (forked lightning?) as the solvent evaporated prior to grounding on the conveyor. Filaments with diameters in the range from 22 to 122 nanometers were obtained in web form on the conveyor.
Selected results from some of the trials to date were presented. When 17 gsm of nanofibre webs were combined with conventional PP spunbond (20 micron diameter fibres at 20-40 gsm) they:
  • reduced air permeability from 350 to 1 cfm.
  • Increased hydrostatic head from 6 to 8 mbar
  • Increased fabric thickness from 0.36 to 0.54 mms
  • Increased filtration efficiency from 28% 99% (0.1 micron NaCl aerosol)
When 8gsm of nanofibre webs were combined with conventional PP meltblown (2-5 micron fibres at 94gsm) they:
  • Reduced air permeability from 49 to 2 cfm
  • Increased oil absorbency from 1450 to 1690%
  • Increased fabric thickness from 0.91 to 0.96mm.
  • Increased filtration efficiency from 40% to 96%.
There were numerous technical challenges to be addressed:
  • Health hazards related to solvent vapour and fibre particle inhalation.
  • Fire and explosion risks due to high voltage and sparks
  • Packing, shipping and handling issues
In response to questions Mr Doshi said he was in the process of getting financing from Silicon Valley for a larger scale plant capable of making 500-1000yd rolls or between 30 and 50 gms per day of product. A 100gm sample of the <100nm nylon would cost several thousand dollars.

Comfort of Protective Apparel

James Zeigler, a Research Associate with Dupont described studies where volunteers clad in various commercial protective nonwoven suits walked on an inclined treadmill at gradually increasing speed while heart rate, metabolic rate, skin and core body temperatures were monitored. The test was stopped when the core body temperature rose sharply (the onset of heat stress) and treadmill speed was recorded. This was assumed to be the highest work rate possible in the garment under test, i.e. the work rate where the garment is unable to dissipate the body heat being generated. Plots of Moisture Vapour Transmission Rates (MVTR) for the fabrics against the treadmill speed failed to show any correlation, but air permeability and treadmill speed were directly related.
Dr Zeigler concluded that the widely accepted relationship between “static” MVTR and thermal comfort could only be valid for a narrow range of fabric types with similar air-permeabilities. In the real world, body movement increases air-flow through the more permeable fabrics, overriding MVTR effects.
Condensation of moisture on the inner surface of the garment will also affect its performance in dynamic testing. Fabrics which can absorb condensation on the inside and evaporate it from the outside give better heat transfer than non-absorbent fabrics of similar construction.

PAN-Based SAP’s

Dr Pierre Vanhoorne of Bayer made a case for using polyacrylonitrile (PAN) rather than acrylic acid (AA) for producing superabsorbents.
  • High purity glacial AA dimerises on storage so SAP plants need to be located on an AA production site.
  • Acrylonitrile is in comparison a cheap commodity with supply exceeding demand and 12 major producers capable of shipping it around the world. 5.4 million tonnes are produced annually.
  • Both AA and PAN are made from propene, but a new process will enable the PAN to be made from the cheaper propane.
  • Bayer has sold their PAN fibre production to an Italian company, but has developed a new emulsion polymerisation process based on a polymeric surfactant, which is now being offered for licence.
There are two processes. In the first, PAN is hydrolysed with caustic soda in ethanol and neutralised with formic acid. In the second, newer “LIST” process, a high viscosity reactor allowed hydrolysis with aqueous NaOH. The resulting sodium polyacrylate has a soft “cauliflower” like structure unlike the glassy product from the AA process. This structure gives very high absorbency under load, extremely rapid liquid uptake and low rewet values compared with AA SAPs. (SAP properties were said to be the same from either process.)
  • Mannequin test confirm an advantage in higher absorbency before leakage.
  • Costs of the ethanol process from propene via PAN were 46c/lb c.f 47.5 c/lb via the AA monomer. However the new Bayer aqueous “List” process would reduce this to 39 c/lb.
  • Less than 0.1ppm of monomer was detectable in the SAP, and acrylamide was undetectable (at 1 ppm sensitivity). There were 5% water extractables and no negatives in ecotoxicity testing.
  • Bayer will not operate either process themselves for strategic reasons and offer the technology on
  • The new process is operating on a 100lbs (batch?) scale.
Asked about respirable dust, Dr Vanhoorne said this has not yet been tested, but would be expected to be at lower levels than from the more brittle conventional SAPs. Consumer testing remained to be carried out.

New uses for Superabsorbent

Gerd Jonas, Managing Director of Stockhausen Inc introduced Degussa Firesorb™, an aqueous fire-fighting concentrate comprising 28% SAP, 23% oil (biodegradable) and 6% surfactant. When metered into water hosed onto a conflagration it:
  • Adheres to vertical surfaces
  • Excludes oxygen
  • Absorbs heat
  • Reduces run-off and collateral water damage
The concentrate is a water-in-oil emulsion which on dilution (0.42% SAP in the water emerging from the hose was quoted) inverts to an oil-in-water emulsion thereby releasing the SAP, allowing it to absorb and viscosify the water. This viscous fluid is non-Newtonian and under the shear forces in pumping and hosing presents little resistance. At higher concentrations the thickened water can be used to coat flammable materials in the vicinity of a fire: Firesorb™-protected plastic being shown to survive 45 minutes at 900 oC before ignition. Applications developed so far:
  • Fire breaks in forest fire management
  • Tyre fires
  • Plastics (“solid petrol”) fires
Asked about the disposal of the treated water, Mr Jonas said it could be washed off easily and was safe in the municiple waste water stream. It had been sprayed onto firefighters to keep them cool while fighting forest fires in Spain. With regard to breakdown into monomers under heat Mr Jonas had no information, but commented that no “poisonous gases” were released. The main hazard appeared to be that it made floors very slippy.

Elastic Nonwovens

Jared Austin, a Research Fellow with BBA Nonwovens provided a most comprehensive review routes to elasticity in nonwovens in the light of a belief that elasticity is a vital ingredient in the quest for ever more textile-like nonwovens.
Elastomers could be thermoplastic or non-thermoplastic, the latter being the traditional spandex or natural rubber products. The thermoplastic kind could be moisture sensitive (condensation polymers such as polyurethanes, polyetheresters and polyetheramides) or moisture insensitive (polyolefins and polystyrenes) Polyolefins were the cheapest of the thermoplastics (~$0.9/lb) but had worst stress-relaxation properties; styrenics ($1.20/lb) were better, with the polyetheresters ($3.50/lb) outperforming these and the polyurethanes ($3.00/lb). Very high molecular weights were needed to get the best stress-relaxation performance. (e.g. Kraton®: USP 4720415)
Because elastomers tended to be “sticky” and uncardable, they always had to be used in composite form for acceptable processing and comfort. Such composites had to be formed with the elastic in a pre-stretched state unless the non-elastic component could be engineered to allow stretch to occur. Pre-stretched laminates were described in USP 3,575,782; WO 99/17926; and USP 4,720,415. Examples of high-stretch non-elastics for laminating with elastics were parallel laid card-webs with high CD direction elongation – as used in BBA’s Sofspan® hydroentangled product and Ultramesh® calender bonded laminate.
Other products mentioned were:
  • TANDEC’s process for drawing down and resetting a spunbond or meltblown to give a narrow fabric with very high CD elasticity,
  • P&G’s “Ring-Rolling” process,
  • Laminates with elastic nets (WO 00/44556),
  • Breathable barriers based on microporous elastics,
  • Elastic bicomponent fibres from Hills Inc., where the 10% non-elastic sheath buckled to give a fascinating creped skin on a 6 denier filament.
  • Cross-linked thermoplastic elastomeric fibres being developed by a Dow/BBA JV.

3D Apertured Laminates

Jim Cree (Marketing Manager) and Bill Deep (Global Product Manager) of Tredegar Film Products described how the vacuum-perforation process used to make apertured films could be adapted to produce laminates. Extruding the film-forming polymer onto a PP nonwoven prior to passing the combination, film side down, around the suction drum while the film was still plastic produced a two-layer product. A second layer of film could then be extruded onto the “male” side of the perforated film to give an even bulkier product without perforations. A wide variety of possible nonwovens coupled with a wide range of possible films and several different aperturing patterns led to an enormous array of possible end products. Those mentioned specifically were:
  • Air-laid or spunlaced nonwovens laminated to film to give a 2-surface wiping effect. (e.g. Scouring and absorbing)
  • Film laminated to 13 gsm spunbond to give a diaper backsheet.
  • Elastic laminates for waistbands, side panels and medical bandages.
  • Ostomy bag covers
  • Automobile headliner by laminating film to chopped glass strand to PU foam.
In response to questions, USP 06303208 dated 10/16/01 was mentioned. The process would run in a 30 to 250 m/min range. It cost 20-30% less than glue lamination

Alternative Energy: Fuel Cells

Dr John McCulloch (Consultant) took us through the development of the fuel cell from its invention in 1839 by Sir William Grove (a Welshman), its use by NASA to provide water and energy in the 1960’s, to today’s specialist uses in over 250 systems in 15 countries.
Fuel-cell use is expected to grow both in special applications and as a result of the Exxon/General Motors collaboration to demonstrate their uses in automobiles. The way forward involves reducing their costs (cheaper, lighter materials), increasing their efficiency and developing cheaper sources of hydrogen. Opportunities for nonwovens appear to be related to the polymer electrolyte membrane cell currently favoured for automotive applications, and were listed as follows:
  • Carbon and/or fluorine membranes
  • Filters in ancilliary equipment
  • Microporous carbon nonwovens as a gas-diffusion layer (Lydall)
  • Nonwoven catalyst carriers (Technical Fibre Products)

Incontinence Survey Data

Nancy Muller, Executive Director of the National Association for Continence presented the highlights from two nationwide surveys, one involving intercepting the general public in shopping malls, the other being telephone survey of NAFC members. Both studies confirmed findings from an earlier smaller study:
  • The majority of citizens remain ignorant of bladder health issues
  • 66% have never spoken to a doctor or nurse about bladder health.
  • Half of those reporting symptoms of incontinence have never consulted a doctor.
  • Women are less likely than men to seek help. 68% of women with a problem tolerate their symptoms as they gradually get worse, whereas half the men who suffered report the problem immediately.
  • 25 million Americans are affected by incontinence now. The figure will be 30 million by 2020
  • One-in-five suffer in their forties, and one-in-three suffer in their sixties.
In response to a question, Ms Muller said that skin health problems associated with incontinence were a greater issue for men than women.

Antimicrobials for odour control

Lisa Baker, a Senior Development Scientist with PGI presented the results of panel tests designed to show the benefits of their antimicrobial acquisition layer in controlling odours associated with adult incontinence. She characterised the odour problem:
  • Dominated by ammonia arising from the breakdown of urea by urease secreted by bacteria.
  • The human nose can detect 50ppm of ammonia.
  • Faecal odours are a minor problem in comparison.
  • Masking the ammonia smell is impossible,
  • Absorbing it with zeolites works, but is expensive
  • Eliminating it by killing the bacteria was the solution preferred by PGI.
The acquisition layer used an antimicrobial coupled with a pH buffer to control the pH on the acid side of the neutrality that the bacteria prefer.
For the panel tests, sections of adult pads with treated acquistion layers were inoculated with 100mls of synthetic urine seeded with various cultures of micro-organisms, and stored in closed containers with and without warming for up to 24 hours. Panelists were asked to smell the containers at intervals and rate the smell as better than or worse than a control which used an untreated acquisition layer.
The overall conclusion? More than 50% of the panellists thought the treated pads smelled better.
Ms Baker thought the acquisition layer, a card/thermal PP product could be used in diapers. The treatment chemistry was not revealed, but it was said to be non-leaching and EPA registered. The pH? 4.3, measured on an extract of the nonwoven. Could it be added to SAP’s or pulps where it ought to be even more effective? Yes.

Recycling infectious medical waste

Mike McCool, Partner, Eclipse FiberNet Corporation described the rotating autoclave (“Rotoclave”) designed to sterilise red-bag hospital waste before shredding and disposal. The Rotoclave has been shown to give an 8 log 10 kill of thermally stable bacterial spores. Mr McCool thought it would be possible to recover and reuse any nonwovens in the waste, but in reality they would be reduced to short fibres. One interesting feature of the process was that any plastics in the refuse tended to melt and ball-up, becoming easily separated in the discharge from the Rotoclave.
The system could, in theory, be used to treat the municpal solid waste stream, in which case 100 million tonnes of fluff pulp could be recovered from the paper component. Eclipse FiberNet was planning a 400-tonne/day system to investigate this.

High Speed Production

John Tharpe, President of R&L Engineering reviewed early disposable product production methods and the barriers to be surmounted to reach high production rates. Being an ex-P&G’er, one of his examples was the Rely tampon process. This had reached production rates of 650 tampons/minute after solutions had been found to the following problems:
  • Holes in the nonwoven from which the bag was made. (A laser scanning system was developed to detect holes and thin areas and this was linked to a product reject mechanism.)
  • Glue deposits built up on the tube-forming mandrel while sealing the nonwoven into a tube. (Chilling the press-wheel caused condensation to form at the nip preventing the glue from sticking to the metal. Now ultrasonic bonding would be the solution.)
  • In a design where the string would be invisible to the user until insertion, 100% detection of satisfactory attachment of the string to the bag was crucial. (The process was changed so that the string was used to transport finished tampons: no string, no product.)
In one case-study, replacing an old diaper machine with a new 30% higher-productivity machine at twice the cost increased the profit but adding a second old machine to double the output was the better, even more profitable option.

Sonic Bonding at 1000ft/min

Joseph Neuwirth of Sonic Solutions Inc . has developed a rotary converter and horn system capable of sonic bonding at speeds up to 1000 ft/min where the conventional static horn runs into difficulties at above 500ft/min. The calender-like action of the new machine also makes it possible to bond the thick, bulky or high weight materials that were problematic on the conventional system.
The vibrating roller is currently made up to 2 inches wide and the system costs about twice that of the conventional type. This increased cost arises from the complexity and tighter tolerances of the rotating system. Applications on diaper and femcare lines are foreseen. In response to questions, Mr Neuwirth also felt the machine could replace high speed sewing machines and that when properly isolated, the bearings would not suffer from extra wear due to the vibrations.

The effects of fibre entanglement

Tony Butterworth (Consultant) argued the importance of fibre interaction at the micro-level in delivering strength, softness, dryness, absorbency, cleansing, filtering, and the appearance and touch of fabrics, be they woven or nonwoven. Taking wipes evolution as his main theme he reviewed the structures of Chicopee Keybak (60’s), Scott Paper High Loft (‘70’s), Kroyer and Honshu process airlaids and on through wet-wipes to today’s hydroentangled products including Swiffer®.
Concluding that the surface area presented by the fabric (typically 3-10 m 2 for every 1m 2 of materal) was crucially important, he reminded us of that curious combination of wet-lay and air-lay, the foam process. This was first operated by Wiggins Teape in the ‘60’s and improved by Ahlstrom who now lay 15mm fibres from micro-foam in a twin wire former, achieving levels of bulk and available surface area which Mr Butterworth thought would be valuable in today’s wipes.

Thursday, 4 October 2001

SINCE Shanghai: 26-28th Sept. 2001


  • China ’s total nonwoven production now exceeds Japan’s. The spunlace sector in China grew by 45% in the last year to exceed Japan’s spunlace output.
  • European wipes production, mainly spunlaced, mainly from Italy, grew 50% last year.
  • Chinese machinery makers now have a full range of nonwovens equipment, which while not up to Western standards requires much less capital.
  • Exalt ( Taiwan) is offering a 2.5m, 3000tpy turnkey spunlace plant for $3.5 million for installation in Europe or the USA.
  • PGI’s presentation coupled with comments from their stand personnel suggest that PGI is trying to sell or licence the Miratec® process to the Chinese.
  • Miratec® “Levi’s Engineered Jeans” and jackets on the stand were said to be concepts only and not currently available for sale in stores. Apparent marketing successes are in mattress, pillow (The Pillow Factory) and garden furniture covers (Arden Paradise) where the Apex technology appears to outperform stitchbonded nonwovens.
The curious Japanese market is becoming curiouser. The value of nonwoven shipments declined after 1997, the 2000 figure of 194 billion yen being the same as the 1996 figure. Tonnage produced is up from 272,000 tonnes in 1996 to 314,000 last year, but the value per kilo has fallen from 714 to 618 yen/kg.
Mr Tadayoshi Yamada, Chairman of ANNA said needlepunched nonwovens were still the biggest sector with 28% share, spun-melt next with 23% followed by latex bonding (20%), thermal (13%), wet-laid (7%) and spun-laced (6%).
• By application, Industrials (28%) were ahead of Hygiene/medical (23%), Household (21%), and geotextiles (13%).
• Of the raw materials used, polyester lead with 34%, followed by Others (25%), PP (22%), Wood pulp (7%) and Viscose (6%). Polyester (+5%), viscose (+5%) and “others” useage had grown since 1999, PP had declined.
• Of the technologies, wet-laid and latex bonded had grown most (7% & 6%) since 1998, with spun-lace static, and needling and spun-melt declining (-2% and –1%).
• China has now overtaken Japan as the lead producer in the region, and the rapid growth in China is doubtless contributing to the poor showing from Japan .
Mr Yamada concluded with a call for stronger links with China and a more intensive drive to create new products and businesses in Japan .

INDA data for 2000

The numbers produced by Ted Wirtz (President of Inda) at Mainz earlier this year were reproduced here, complete with the apparently erroneous capacity increase and investment figures. New information:
• P&G's “Swiffer” business is, to their surprise, worth $400million. Next years growth of this category will add 1% to the total US industry growth.
• Increased nonwovens use in diapers and wipes will add a further 1% to the total, so a prediction of 6% CAGR for 2001 over 2000 seems realistic.
• This implies the need for another 700 million lbs production (The 2000 production was 2166 million lbs) OR
• 9 billion more sq yds (the 2000 figure was 25 billion sq yds) AND
• New capital investment of $1 billion. (No timeframe evident. Assumes no overcapacity at present?)
• Market value growth would be increased further by Miratec®, Nova (sic, presumably Inova® from Dupont) and Evolon® going after high value textile markets. (but see later)

EDANA data for 2000

European production grew by a massive 12.7% (by weight) to reach just over 1 million tonnes. The main reasons according to last year's Secretary General Guy Massenaux were:
• A surge in wipes production (tonnage up by 50% over 1999, to 152,000 tonnes in 2000) especially hydroentangled wipes and especially from Italy .
• Within wipes, Personal Care (i.e. wet-wipes) now consume 78,000 tonnes of nonwoven, with Household at 32,000 and Industrial at 42,000 tpy)
• A 22% increase in short-fibre airlaid to 94000 tonnes.
• A 5.2% increase in hygiene with incontinence pad coverstock growing at 12.6% within this sector.
Guy Massenaux - Edana Secretary General
EDANA forecast 6-8% growth for 2001 and 4-5% growth for 2002. Some concerns:
• Overcapacity in spun-lace and air-lay.
• Increases in imports of cheap spun-lace from Israel .
• General economic slowdown
• Raw material price increases
• Further consolidation resulting in some plant closures.
Nevertheless, the European industry has faced similar problems before and adversity has always spawned innovation and moves into unexpected new markets.

Progress in China

In a paper bristling with interesting statistics, Mr Ji Guobiao of the Chinese Academy of Engineering reviewed the fibre, textile and nonwoven industry. Since making man-made fibre production a strategic target in the early 1950's, Chinese share of the world man-made fibre market has grown from 0.3% in 1960 to 24% last year, or almost 7 million tonnes. The population doubled to 1.32 billion over this period. While their overall synthetic/cellulosic ratio at 92/8 is comparable with the rest of the world, they are disproportionately strong in polyester filament and weak in polypropylene and nylon. (Viscose production is primitive and based mainly on cotton linter pulp.) They are now concentrating on:
• Scaling up lyocell production to 1000 tpy.
• Increasing carbon fibre capacity and quality.
• Scaling up Ultra High Molecular Weight polyethylene production.
• Commencing both meta- and para- aramid production.
• Upgrading PVA production to higher modulus varieties.
• Developing chitin fibre applications.
• Seeking partners for PLA and PTT production.
• Trebling spandex production (to 30,000 tonnes) by 2005
• Expanding the 1500tpy soya protein fibre production.
From an output of 10,000 tonnes in 1980, China 's nonwoven production reached 350,000 tonnes last year and targets 800,000 tonnes by 2010. (Similar to the European achievement.)

Macro-economic trends in China

Neither Mr Wang Yizhi's paper nor slides were available in English. The following points were gleaned from the patchy interpretation of the Shanghai Social Academy of Science study:
• GDP growth slumped from 9.5% to 7% in mid-98 and end-99. It's now stable at about 8% c.f. about 1% in the USA and negative in Japan .
• A deflation problem has been controlled by the government's active currency policy.
• A 5000 business “confidence index” slumped from +15 in 1993 to –15 in 1998 but has now recovered to zero.
• Two thirds of the population (800m) live in the country and are “very poor”.
• Rich Chinese have 47% disposable income, compared with 20% for the middle class and 1% for the poor.
• The gap between rich and poor is growing.
• Those with the spending power decline to spend, so savings are now increasing past $7trillion despite reduced interest levels and new taxes on savings interest. This is having a negative effect on the economy.
• The government is now stimulating industrialisation of mid- and west-China. This has a long lead time but should preserve the 8% p.a. growth.

Chinese Spunlace Production

Xiang-Yu Jin of Donghua University reviewed the current situation:
• 18 lines were in production. 7 of these were European, 6 Taiwanese and 5 Chinese.
• Capacity was 29,450 tpy in 2000, but production would be 18,510 tpy. This was ahead of the Japanese 17,000 tpy production.
• 3 new lines had been brought into production last year. (In 1999 production was only 10,100 tonnes.)
• Japanese spunlace was much more expensive: US$180 versus $76 for Chinese (basis unclear)
• China nevertheless imported 4000 tpy of spunlace, a situation it was keen to rectify.
• The 5 Chinese lines were copies of foreign lines but had much lower investment costs. They lacked the process control software.
• China now needed to develop its own high-speed web formers.
• The forward plan included increased efforts on marketing the fabrics and increased co-operation with multi-national companies.
• A comparison of energy usage put the requirements of a spun-lace line at 2 to 2.5 MwH compared with 0.7-1 MwH for spunbond, 0.3-0.35 MwH for needling and 0.15 0.2 MwH for Calender bonding.
With regard to the markets for Chinese production, locally-used medical fabrics were the main outlet, followed by PVC coating bases for the local leather goods producers. They were now targeting T-shirt and sportswear fabrics (cue for PGI?)
Further R&D was needed on hydroentanglement of spunlaid and airlaid structures, and on filtration systems where there were still problems on the Chinese machines. Mr Xiang-Yu thought the Chinese nonwovens associations should work to tighten and harmonise test methods used for quality control.
(Unfortunately there was no English version of this paper.)

Air-Laid Comes to China

Gert Olefs of BBA Nonwovens Asia-Pacific, fresh from the official opening of their new 16,000 tpy multi-bond air-lay plant in Tianjin , reviewed the market potential.
• With 340million women of menstrual age China expected to use 30 billion pieces of fem care in 2001. 8 billion pieces would be Western-style and quality for the middle and upper classes. (no mention of tampons)
• 6-7000 tpy of air laid from two or three small producers is already used in fem care.
To sell-out the additional 16,000 tonnes of capacity, Mr Olefs was looking to:
• Introduce airlaid to the wing-fold sanitary napkins
• Grow the panty-liner segment
• Grow the wing-fold segment at the expense of the low-end products
• Develop air-laid distribution layers and topsheets for baby diapers.
• Develop pre-formed diaper cores and AI cores.
He observed that this was going to be tough and now would not be a good time for anyone else to invest in air-laid in China .

Nonwovens Technology Trends

Peter Tsai of TANDEC listed the following developments as being of interest to the nonwovens industry, especially in the USA :
• Elastic polyolefins from homogeneously branched linear ethylene polymers made using specific metallocene catalysts. (Dow USP 6,248,851)
• CDP Natureworks®, Dupont Sorona® - especially the version using bacterially produce 1,3 propane diol, Eastman Eastar Bio®
• Melt-blown polyphenylene sulphide for high temperature filters (Toray)
• Thermoplastic polyurethane breathable films. (B F Goodrich)
• Evolon® spun-laced microfibre spunbonds for textile replacement. (Freudenberg)
• The Reifenhauser/Hills alliance for multi-component spunbonds.
• Kimberly-Clark's splittable melt-blown route to nanofibres (USP 5,935,883).
• Fiberweb's spunbonded hollow fibre route to nanofibres (USP 5,783,503)
• TANDEC's electrospinning route to nanofibres
• 3D forming at NC State.

Trends in Hygiene Product Technology

Jim Cree of Tredegar (USA) pointed to three fundamentals influencing developments in hygiene product technology:
• Increasing their value to end-users
• Innovation in absorbent cores
• Mass-merchandiser own-brands
His “golden rule”: Innovation must never increase the price of the product: the consumer will never accept an upcharge.
Backsheet trends:• Cloth-like backsheets are worthwhile, but breathable films with <5000 MVTR is probably not (can't make skin-care claims below this level). Breathability combined with clothlike feel seems the way forward
• On-line CaCO 3 addition could lower the cost of breathable films
• Breathable nonwoven backsheet could use SMMS with SAP addition to give a self-sealing-on-wetting effect. However there's an odour leakage problem with these very permeable materials
• Breathability is becoming essential in femcare. However menses shows multiple surface tensions and films that can retain water can leak with menses.
• 3000+ MVTR is essential in femcare, but current filler-loaded films do not have the leakage resistance.
• One company is using an inverted conulated film between the core and the microporous backsheet giving a tenting effect to reduce leakage. It also acts as an additional fluid distribution layer as the product nears saturation.
Elastication trends
Breathable high-stretch as exemplified by
• P&G's Japanese pull-on pants with elastic net.
• “MD/CD fluted strand base laminates” as used in own-brand trainers, “Huggies® Pull-ups” and Unicharm “Moony®”
• “Perforated zero-strain laminate” as in P&G's Pampers® and Playtime®
• “Perforated and oriented fabric laminate” as in US and European store brands.
Diaper Topsheet trendsAfter no real changes for 15 years, apertured topsheets (which could be perceived as less “dry”?) have appeared on a P&G infant faecal management diaper in the UK . This has a perforated PP/Bico topsheet with a corrugated and pressed sub-layer made of nylon 6 as well as the usual curly fibre layer. ADL's are allowing smaller, thinner crotch areas with savings in total cost, transportation and shelf space.
Femcare Topsheets tend to have patterns unique to each brand, 55% being plain or perforated nonwovens, 27% apertured films and 18% being vacuum perforated films. Consumers are divided between feeling films to be hot and sticky or clean and dry. Now laminates of film and nonwoven give improved softness, rewet and stain-hiding. Conulated films have appeared as a sub-layer under a nonwoven. High opacity products give better aesthetcics.
AI Topsheets tend to be nonwoven for retail, or film for institutional use, the film giving better core support when heavily loaded. A total of 12.3 billion pads are sold worldwide, the sector having grown at about 12% recently, and expected to grow at about 8.5% through to 2004. Europe (41%) has the largest share with US (34%) followed by Japan (19%).
Pre-formed Cores will replace in-situ core forming. Panty liners are already converted, larger pads and AI products are now changing over. Diapers will follow, hour-glass cores being replaced by rectangular cores.
Mr Cree thought the “White-Cloud”diaper from Walmart, now having 6% of the US market after a 1999 launch had better features than the national brands while being 7% cheaper. The features were cloth-like breathable back, elastic tabs, hook & loop fasteners, a transfer layer, and printed characters.

Apex Technology

Jian Wang, Vice General Manager of PGI Asia gave a comprehensive promotion of the “astonishing process for design and performance from PGI”. Using slides marked “confidential” and of a quality usually reserved for presentations to stock market analysts, he compared the Miratec process (“proprietary multiaxial laser imaging system”) to spinning and weaving, and the Miratec fabrics to conventional textiles. It was hard to resist the impression that he was selling the process rather than the fabrics. (see later for one-on-one conversations).
Applications illustrated were in:
• Shoe-linings
• Madison pants waist bands
• Apertured sports shirts for Nike
• Mattress protectors
• Mattress tops – with spunbond PP backing
• Institutional pillow covers (antimicrobial, flame retardant and laminated to breathable film) for The Pillow Factory
• Garden furniture-covers for Arden Paradise (also the film laminate)
One table compared the main physicals of the film-laminate with a stitchbonded outdoor furniture cover. It looked good in comparison. Maybe this is where it really fits.

Spunlace Micro-fibre Nonwovens

Mr Zhang Yun of Hangzhou Advanced Nonwoven Co. Ltd considered the uses of splittable bicomponent fibres in spunlace processes in China . There were some interesting insights:
• Different lubricants on the splittables cause plenty of static in carding and difficult hydroentanglement due to foaming.
• Low-foam fibres with a specific resistance of 10 7 are preferred.
• Fibres splitting prematurely further complicate carding, so slow-speed carding is required.
• Setting of pressures on the first 3 injectors is critical. Too low a pressure is no good, and too high a pressure splits the fibres before they have properly entangled. (The prematurely released microfibres render the web impermeable and the final product is just like half-cooked rice.)
• Some fibres split at 50 bar water pressure, others at 100 bar. In the case of 100bar fibres, the first nozzle should be at 70-80 bar, the second at 90 and the third at 100 for best results.
Applications under development were artificial suede and leather and high-end wipes, the latter being defined as wipes for spectacles, TV screens, electronic clean-rooms, quality furniture, electrical appliances, cars and jewellery.
Locally produced splittable bicomponent fibres can't yet match the quality of imported fibre, but Mr Zhang implored the Chinese fibre and nonwoven makers to unite and break through the difficulties.

Rieter-Perfojet Spunlacing

Xiaoyu Kang promoted the market-leading hydroentanglement system. The claims to note were:
• R-P have 400 injectors in operation around the world.
• The world has 130 spunlace machines working at speeds up to 300 m/min.
• R-P's patented random micro-perforated sleeves on which the Jetlace 3000 system entangles the web allow the required strength to be achieved with one-third of the energy needed on woven mesh sleeves.
• The new manifolds allow faster changing of the jet-strips and internal filter cartridges (called “police filters”).
• Backwashable sand-filters are used.
• The computer control system is tele-linked to R-P to allow maintenance advice to be given.

Flame-retardant Spunlace

Mr Chen Zhe of Hainan Xinlong Nonwovens Co. Ltd reviewed the technologies available for flameproofing textiles, the markets that required them, and the standards of flammability needed in each market. There was however no mention of the treatments usable on spunlace fabrics, nor the difficulties of getting good results on such airy materials.
Asked if Hainan Xinlong were now successfully making and selling such products he revealed successes in:
• Japanese market babywear
• US market incontinence pad covers
• Airline headrests
He would not say what treatment was being used.

Study of Water Repellency and Permeability

Prof. Ke Qinfei of Donghua University had worked on repellent finishing of spunlace fabrics for OR use. Again there was no English version in the proceedings but she was happy to provide a copy. The three ways to change repellency were:
• Alter the contact angle of the fibres.
• Alter the surface roughness. (Increasing roughness improves the repellency of a repellent fabric but improves the wettability of a wettable fabric)
• Alter the pore size between the fibres.
She had measured the contact angle, hydrostatic head, permeability, stiffness and strength of a Hainan Xinlong spunlaced pulp/polyester nonwoven treated with a 3M repellent finish at 5 concentrations and 5 application times. The optimum result gave a contact angle of 123 o and a hydrostatic head of 20.5 cms. Treatment method, concentration of repellent and time of application were not revealed. There were minor variations in the other parameters tested.

Spunlaid Trends

Michael Baumeister of Reifenhauser ( Germany ) presented some up-to-date statistics and some forward projections:
• Spunmelt demand has grown 11% pa since 1994, with 7% p.a. expected through 2005.
• Spunmelt has 25% of global nonwovens and is now the biggest technology.
• Hygiene product components (covers, backs, distribution layers, leg-cuffs) account for 62%, or 495,000 tonnes of spunmelt production in 2000.
• Spunmelt accounts for 65% of hygiene product components, and this will rise to 72% by 2005, when 704,400 tonnes will be used in this sector.
• SSS lines dedicated to topsheet and backsheet produce 540kgs/hr/metre at speeds up to 600m/min.
• SSMMSS lines will do 800m/min and 840 kg/hr/metre.
• Reicofil MF lines produce 1 denier/fil, the change from 1.5 denier doubling the MD and CD strengths and cutting the permeability from 4533 to 1360 l/m 2 /sec. (Mr Baumeister commented that productivity and resin choices were limited for this process, as was the demand for this process.)
• Reicofil Bico lines use Hills Inc. spinnerets to give the maximum product versatility. However there are still some patent issues surrounding bico products, productivity is reduced, and recycling is difficult.
• Overcapacity in spunbond is encouraging producers to upgrade old lines rather than buy new.

Lightweight PET Spunbonds

Fu Min Lu of Ason Engineering Inc (USA) described a study of the relationship between process conditions and fabric properties. 20 gsm fabrics were made from a pre-crystallised polyester resin (Eastman F61HC – 0.61 IV, 255 o C MP). The fabrics differed in filament velocity, calendering temperature and line speed, and were tested for filament structure, fabric softness and filament/fabric tensiles.
• Birefringence and crystallinity increase with spinning speed. Velocities above 4500 m/min give acceptable results
• Fabric strength and softness both increase with spinning speed.
• Fabric strength decreases with line-speed, but increases in calendering temperature (180-240 o C) compensated for it.
• At 5600 m/min spinning speed, boiling water shrinkage was negligible.
Main conclusion: Ason equipment can make high quality PET spunbonds at 20 gsm at production rates varying from 80 kg/hr/m at 0.4 denier to 300kg/hr/m at 2 denier.

Bicomponent Melt Blown Study

Christine Sun of TANDEC claimed to have used surface response methodology to investigate the melt blowing of 5 polymers, 5 bico combinations, 5 melt throughputs, 5 air temperatures, 5 air flow rates, 5 die to collector distances and three different ratios of polymers. SRM experimental design enabled her to do this with 27 trials per polymer. No details of the actual trials carried out were given though, and there were no response surfaces to be seen. The conclusions presented were:
• 2 micron fibres were produced for most webs.
• Side-by-side bico fibres were not round and had a twisted or crimped structure. 75/25 fibres were less round than 50/50.
• PP, PP/PBT and PE/PBT gave excellent barrier properties.
• Bico webs had good water repellency and filtration efficiency.
This was just a trailer. If more information is required, Ms Sun suggested attending the TANDEC Conference in November.

Electrostatic Spinning

Peter Tsai of TANDEC has electro-sprayed four polymer solutions and compared the resulting webs for charge potential and decay rate. The solutions were:
• 10% polyethylene oxide in both water and 80% isopropyl alcohol
• 15% of polycarbonate, polycaprolactone, and polystyrene in both 42.5% tetrahydrofuran and 42.5% dimethylformamide.
A syringe and needle acted as a one-hole spinneret, 30kV being applied to the needle. Mr Tsai described the fibre-forming as “electric charges leaving the syringe tip and dragging polymer solution which dries and forms fibre”. These fibres were also said to split longitudinally due to “higher repelling force” before hitting the metal collector.
• Fibre sizes were 0.4 to 0.7 microns (referred to as nanofibres)
• PC and PEO did not retain any charge.
• PS and PCL were still charged after 35 hours
• A table compared the filtration efficiency of various charged and uncharged spunmelt and needlepunched products with one sample of uncharged electrospun polyethylene oxide. The ES PEO gave an efficiency of 97% compared with 42% for the best conventional product (corona treated meltblown PP)
No data on fibre or web properties was offered, but the production rate was said to be a few micrograms/minute/hole.

Study of spunbond drafting mechanisms

Xu Shugang of the Dalian Engineering University presented a long and inscrutable study. There was no English print-out in the proceedings and the interpretation was unable to cope with the technicalities. In essence he had studied the western systems, and prepared a computer model to help design an optimal Chinese copy.

Multicomponent Spunbonds

John Hagewood of Hills Inc. took us through the technology of bicomponent production again. They now claim their spinnerets make 90% of the 250,000 tonnes of bico fibre produced in USA and Europe . A graph of spunbond production put bico at about 150,000 tonnes in a market ( USA +E) of 800,000 tonnes spunbonds in 2000.

SINCE Exhibition Floor

Calvin Woodings 1/10/01

Thursday, 27 September 2001

EDANA Outlook Monte Carlo : 19th – 21st September 2001

Le Meridien  beach Plaza Hotel - Monte Carlo

This new addition to the Conference Circuit provided a late summer break in glorious Mediterranean weather for those who travelled despite the tragic events of the previous week. Understandably, US delegates were in short supply, and for the first time at a nonwoven conference, a live video link was set up to allow a “grounded” speaker to present her paper on the big screen. Another first for Edana: there were significantly fewer papers than normal, but the quality of both presentation and attendance was high and the extra time for questions was put to good use.

Rolf Altdorf introduces the conference
The line up for the opening session: Dr Raine Schoene, Prof. Klaus Kernig, Dr Rolf Altdorf (PGI: Moderator), and Jean-Francois Artigue.

Phase-out intensive farming

Prof. Claus Kernig presented a review of the political, economic and social trends that have created two very different worlds: the affluent “North” and the impoverished “South”. He went on to explain his thinking:
• The key equations of demographics are HIGH INCOME=FEW CHILDREN and LOW INCOME=MANY CHILDREN.
• The North's population is getting smaller, older and richer, while that of the South is getting larger, younger and poorer.
• So, by 2025, people in the wealthy North will account for only 12.5% of the world's population compared with 25% in 1975
• The problems started in the 18 th Century when excessive population growth in the North forced urbanisation, and also colonisation of the South (to maintain the North's economic and population growth).
• Attempts to correct the resulting relative impoverishment of the South with Northern “aid” in the form of medicines and chemicals made the situation worse by reducing the death-rate without affecting the birth-rate or improving the food producing capability of the South.
• Migration from South to North is now favoured as a quick route to better living standards for Southerners and serious social problems will result.
Prof. Kernig proposed direct involvement of the Southern rural population in world trade by:
• Allowing the “treasures of the south”; labour with agricultural skills and fertile land, to produce organic food for the North while making a reasonable profit.
• Phasing out intensive Northern agriculture, which is now unable to operate economically. The EU spends 52% of its budget to ensure that 2% of its population can have a reasonable standard of living while growing food. American subsidy levels were said to be higher still.
An incredulous questioner wondered at the strategic folly of becoming dependent on the South for daily sustenance. Prof. Kernig thought that interdependency was the key. As with any other real trading relationship, the South would come to need Northern money just as much as the North would need Southern food.

If only we knew what we know…

Dr Raine Schoene of Procter and Gamble wanted to increase the efficiency of research and development by reducing the estimated 30% of R&D budget spent on developing technology that had already been developed elsewhere.
• P&G employed 8000 people in an R&D department with a $1.7 billion annual budget.
• P&G was becoming more open and transparent to outsiders, but internal, inter-divisional barriers seemed to have strengthened.
• “Siloism” and “Not Invented Here” were continual problems especially in the research groups.
• Mergers had brought in different cultures but these seem to integrate least well in R&D.
• Researchers are judged on innovativeness and are thus driven to innovate rather than trying to discover external solutions to their problems.
• Research management should judge performance against how well existing knowledge is utilised, re-application of technology being valued above re-invention.
• Knowledge engineering – the efficient discovery and extraction of solutions by mining the research literature – would be a key discipline.
• Using an intranet, technology councils, and formal communities of practice with their own budgets (of which there were over 20 in P&G) would be encouraged.
• An external focus through suppliers, universities etc. would be developed.
P&G already have over 100 strategic alliances with suppliers so far, the key to their success being trust, and good lawyers to define the ownership of intellectual property fairly.

Worldwide Mass Marketing

Jean-François Artigue of the French Society of Analysis and Development questioned whether globalisation had really begun. Of the world's top retailers by turnover, the leader, Walmart was in 9 countries, Carrefour (No2) was in 25, Kroger (No3) was in only 1. Even within the six main EU countries only 3% of items sold were identical, and only 14% could be considered as approximately equivalent. Most standardisation occurred in batteries with 40% being equivalent between the countries: beauty care products being next with 22% equivalence. At the other end of the scale, kitchen paper (1% equivalent between the six countries) was the least “global”.
Mr Artigue cited the Walmart effect, internet marketing, and the adoption of the Euro as factors which would further reduce European retail prices and favour the development of more Own Brands. These currently held about 15%-20% of retail sales on average but were expected to reach 25% across the board in the near future. The UK had reached 40-45% Own Brands at retail, and other countries would be expected to level out at this percentage in 5-10 years.
Would “global” products be sold at the same price throughout the Eurozone? Coca-Cola, Gillette, L'Oreal, Playstation and Pampers were brands where this could be expected, but overall the retail trade would adapt pricing to local conditions.
A chart of the benefits of joining the Euro in 2002 showed Belgium and Italy as big gainers whilst the UK and Germany would suffer more disadvantages than benefits.
Finally, we were not to ignore the ecological and humanitarian concerns that were contrary to the main politics and economics of globalisation. “Fair-trade” products (e.g. Coffee Direct) were evidence of a desire to bring in an ethical dimension.


Krzysztof Malowaniec, Head of the Patent Department at Paul Hartmann and Chairman of EDANA, reviewed the history of patents and their current status as a legal monopoly and a mine of information. Patent law was national and key differences existed:
• In France you only had to register a patent to get one: there was no examination (for inventiveness) and no opposition.
• In the UK there was a full examination of all applications, but no possibility of opposing the patent once granted. Germany was similar but for the fact that opposition was possible up to 3 months after the grant date.
• In the USA applications were published and subjected to a full examination before grant, and even granted patents could be re-examined. Here “first to invent” (rather than first to patent) took priority.
Surprisingly, an estimated 92% of all inventions were not patented and thus became “royalty-free prior art”, while a quarter of all patents were probably invalid.
An analysis of recent patenting activity in disposable absorbent hygiene products showed:
• In 1999 the leading company published 328 patents, of which 242 were for diapers, 72 for pads and 14 for training pants.
• The No2 published 186 patents, 155 of which were diaper related. (20 pads, 7 training pants, and 4 tampons)
• Over the 3 years (96/98) the leading company's patents named 1400 inventors, while the No2 had 842 inventors on the same basis. If you listed patents by inventor it was easy to find the most creative individuals in a company.
• One person in the leading company had 48 patents on absorbent hygienic disposables.

Petrochemical Trends

Marie-Pierre Chevallier, Totalfinaelf's VP of Corporate planning provided a fascinating insight into oil supply and demand trends and their impact on the polymers used in personal care products.
• Despite continuous rumours that the world is running out of oil, the oil industry has continuously re-estimated upwards world oil reserves, now standing at 40 years of consumption. Recently developed technologies are creating new reserve potential for the future.
• Geographically, Middle East countries dominate world total oil reserves.
• In spite of the increase in energy prices since the first half of 1999, oil and gas remain cheap energy and feedstock sources.
• Oil is an essential raw material for the chemical industry, from polymers to intermediates and specialties. In the US , the role of gas is notably more important, ethane being a major petrochemical feedstock.
• Polymers represent the unprecedented growth story of the last 40 years, growing from a few million tonnes per annum to close to 150 million metric tonnes per annum in 2000.
• The range of polymers used has widened and they now compete with almost all materials used in our day-to-day life.
• Polymers exhibit better economics and benefits all over the product life cycle.
• Petrochemical monomers and polymers still represent a cheap source of materials.
abundant oil still very cheap!
Future trends and R&D programmes are oriented towards :
• the use of cheaper, more abundant and more environmental friendly feedstocks
• more use of gas as a raw material for petrochemicals,
• the development of bio-polymers,
• closer integration of polymerisation with refining operations.
• the development of new products with better processability, intrinsic properties and economics, maybe utilising alloys, polymer blends and grafting.

Another Fibre from Corn?

Ellen Kullman of Dupont presented her paper over an ISDN line from Wilmington having been prevented from travelling in the aftermath of the WTC atrocity. Dupont sees biotechnology as the key to growth and is targeting 25% of revenues from businesses using only sustainable, renewable resources by 2010. The old polymer of 1,3 Propanediol (PDO) and terephthalic acid known as 3GT was now viable thanks to the new process to make low cost PDO developed by Shell/Degussa and acquired by Dupont in 1998. This had become the basis of the Sorona™ polymer, now in production at the rate of 12000tpy at the new Kinston N.C. continuous polymerisation plant. Dupont USA has no plans to make staple fibre from the polymer preferring to licence others to do it. Teijin, Saehan, Toray, Far Eastern and Dupont SA had taken up the option. However a slide did suggest they would make nonwovens, presumably spunbonds, themselves. The new fibre was said to be soft, elastic and easily dyeable. Fabrics (of unspecified construction) were lint-free, sterilisable, flame resistant to class 1 standard and had breathable-barrier properties. It would cost “about 50% more than PET or PE” and should be used in applications where its recoverable elasticity was a key advantage.
The relevance of all this to biotechnology and corn? PDO can be made by bacteria from glycerol, glycerol being a product of the action of yeast on glucose obtained from cornstarch. Dupont has now genetically modified a bacteria to carry out direct conversion of glucose to PDO. This patented organism and process would, by 2003, be making the PDO for Sorona™, presumably as economically as the Degussa process.

China : Is there a market?

Robert Rufli, President of BBA Nonwovens Asia-Pacific provided some statistics and observations related to nonwovens in China :
• As a proportion of Chinese skilled worker income, western-style disposable diapers and femcare appear 10 times as expensive as they do to an American.
• A months supply of western-style femcare requires 2% of a Chinese secretary's income and this market is growing well.
• For diapers, the figure is 11 to 23% and this is too high to allow regular use.
• About 12,000 tonnes per year of spunbond are produced at a quality suitable for high-quality disposables. (Only about 750 tonnes of this are required in locally-made diapers)
• Ditto 10,000 tonnes of carded, through air-bonded staple, but all this is used in locally-produced femcare.
• Ditto 18,000 tonnes of carded, calender-bonded staple of which about 7000 tonnes are surplus to local needs.
• Overall there is more than enough nonwoven produced in China to meet current internal market needs, so a lot is exported at very competitive prices.
• A list of 14 diaper producers and 14 femcare producers was said to be far from complete.
• The biggest Chinese nonwoven companies will be starting up plants in the West within 5-10 years.
• Since BBA announced the 2.7m, 16000 tpa M&J air-laid installation in China , a Chinese machine builder is offering similar lines and has made several installations.
• Spunbond and hydroentanglement lines have also been developed in China at much lower cost than Western machines. These are now available for export to USA and Europe .
• The problem of counterfeiting and patent infringement will diminish as China joins the World Trade Organisation.
• Information, “confidential or not” flows quickly and efficiently around China .

The Opportunities of Ageing

Sabine Martini of Smartini Consulting reviewed the published demographics of several western countries showing that the proportion of those aged 65+ would roughly double by 2050. The problems arising from this trend were regularly discussed, but the marketing opportunities were not:
• About a third of these “best-agers” were master consumers with high levels of disposable income, a love of spending and an inclination to try new things.
• They put quality and safety before price.
• However this growing demographic group appeared to be neglected in most advertising campaigns.
• 85% of the 60+ population read newspapers and 60-70% spend more than 3 hours a day watching TV. They are therefore more reachable than the younger audiences.

Inco-Pad Selection

Dr Konrad Giersdor of Stiffung Warentest Foundation (A consumer protection organisation in Germany , partially government-funded) estimated that there were 50 million incontinence suffers worldwide, 13 million in the USA , two thirds being women. Of the 65+ generation, 12% of women and 7% of men were sufferers.
Dr Giersdorf had organised an all-woman panel test of 23 commercial pads for light to medium incontinence from Germany and Austria . The 100 panelists were “calibrated” for amount of urine lost and all were allowed to use the products at home. The main conclusions:
• All pads performed as expected.
• Consumers could decide between products on price, the cheapest products being one-third the price of the most expensive.
• Instructions for use were inadequate.
• There was no standardisation of descriptions of the size of the products (one mans mini is another mans regular ).
• None of the products advised the user to seek medical advice in case their problem has a medical solution.
In the second half of this presentation Frank Courtray of Courtray Consulting described how his mannequin testing system for pads had been used to evaluate 19 of the panel-test products. Comparison with the panel results yielded 16 matches and 3 deviations, the deviations all having credible special explanations.

At Risk from the Precautionary Principle

Dr Roger Bate's paper was not presented, but from the CD ROM of the conference, his theme was as follows:
• Health scares such as alar, saccharine, breast implants, passive smoking, nuclear power, pesticide residues, mobile phones and GM crops are in some cases without foundation and in others blown up out of all proportion.
• The less developed countries are encouraged to react to these scares in the same way as the developed countries.
This inappropriate “exporting” of the precautionary principle has dire consequences exemplified by:
• Thousands of Peruvian deaths from cholera resulting from reduced use of chlorine in drinking water.
• Thousands of Indian jobs lost because the trade in recycling batteries was destroyed by concerns over cadmium, zinc and nickel handling.
• Modern nuclear reactors, which could transform the lives of millions of Africans, are ignored because of concerns over problems with old reactors.
• The banning of DDT use in agriculture by the EPA prevented its use in much lower and safer quantities to control the malaria mosquito in less developed countries.
Dr Bate, a Fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London concluded that the precautionary principle must be interpreted locally, i.e. by the people who will be most affected by any action arising from it. Otherwise the principle will be responsible for more deaths than the malaria mosquito.
Coffee Break at the Meridian Beach Plaza .
Cocktails at the Hotel de Paris, but still working!