Friday 30 April 2004

IDEA 2004: Miami Beach 26th-29th April

Miami Beach Hotels

Key Points

  • Lenzing acquired the Tencel operations from Acordis.
  • Nonwovens will account for 60% of Tencel fibre sales in 2004.
  • Birla Viscose is starting up a new 20,000 tonne viscose line in Indonesia using a zinc-free process to target hygienic nonwovens. They are also planning a new 30,000 tonne plant in China.
  • Wellman introduced a 10 denier polyester with a sponge-like section and claimed it improves rate and total capacity absorbtion in pulp blends.
  • The market for inco products is being transformed by the demands of greying baby-boomers and the involvement of the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Poor indoor air-quality has been associated with strokes, paranoia, attention deficit disorders and heart abnormalities.
  • Spunfab were showing lightweight (7-10gsm) centrifugally spun elastomeric spunbonds based on polyolefins.

Flushable Wipes

Phil Mango (Consultant) provided his views on key flushability issues and definitions:

  • In order to succeed a flushable wipe had to be at least equivalent in size and other key properties to the current market leading wet wipes while being flushable like toilet tissue.
  • Biodegradability would be important, but this varies greatly with the conditions of disposal and is difficult to standardise.
  • Dispersability on the other hand is easy to assess. Dispersion in tap-water under low-shear conditions in hard or soft water can be readily measured.
  • Dispersion can be “triggered” by tap-water to allow reasonable performance in wet-usage. Typical triggers use materials insoluble in a lotion but soluble in tap water, such as the ion-sensitive binders affected by a hard-water (in lotion) to softer-water (in toilet) transition.
  • Flushable products should succeed if disposal down the toilet is more convenient than solid waste disposal, and this will be true for any wipes used predominantly in the bathroom.
  • They should also succeed if the contaminated wipe is best not disposed of in the trash-can.
  • Flushability is now becoming associated with reduced-size products which don’t work as well as larger non-flushable wipes. Consumers will have to be re-educated when true flushables are on the market.

For the future:

  • Dispersible products are most likely to be based on short, biodegradable fibres, air-laid and bonded “reversibly”.
  • Standard air-lay would be replaced by spun-laced air-lay to make improved products.
  • Reversible bonds are likely to be ion-sensitive (like the Lion/K-C system) or PVOH based with lower levels of boric acid (or equivalent) stabilisers. Here the PVOH polymer also needs modifying to improve its processability.
  • While the ion-sensitive binder approach will succeed in the near-term, this will drive the development of new fibres eg improved PVOH’s, EVA’s and acrylates, all these being usable in the skins of bicomponent fibres to lower costs.
  • Pulps could be pre-treated with bonding systems prior to air-laying.

In concluding Mr Mango cautioned that many people were already flushing all wipes used in the bathroom and some problems were occurring in pipes and at the sewage treatment works as a result. These were manageable now, but as the use of wipes increased, unless they became dispersible, the increased problems could result in regulations to ban wipe disposal in toilets. ( Raleigh authorities had legislated to allow fines up to $25,000 for disposal of anything but tissue down the toilet.)

“10 years from now, all disposable wipes will be dispersible.”

Flushability Testing

Drew McAvoy, a P&G water specialist and civil engineer, was working with the INDA and EDANA committees to develop globally acceptable guidelines for liquid-stream disposal of flushable products. The Associations were considering adopting the P&G “integrated tiered testing” approach recently peer-reviewed and published by Water Environment Research Foundation.

The key principles required products labelled “flushable” to:

  • Have no tendency to block or cause premature failure of properly maintained toilets, drainage pipes or pumps.
  • Be compatible with existing municipal or septic tank water treatment systems.
  • Be unrecognisable in the environment after leaving the water treatment system.
  • Be free from any residuals likely to harm water or soil.

The three “tiers” of testing were flask-scale, pilot-plant and on-site in homes and at sewage-farms. Rapid product evaluations could include:

  • Dispersibility (shaken flasks)
  • Aerobic and anaerobic disintegration in flasks, with or without shaking and with or without the addition of the relevant sewage sludge.
  • Column settling of toilet effluent.
  • Toilet flushing and drainline clearance using a variety of different toilet systems (chosen to represent national differences) in P&G’s labs.

Products which passed these tests would be evaluated in real homes and water treatment works.

Question Pathway for Disposal

Question pathway for Disposal in Municipal Wastewater Treatment

At INDA’s first Flushability Task Force meeting in January, attended by EDANA’s Techncial Director, a definition of flushability had been agreed, along with the overall approach which would start with household wipes. Asked if any assessment of the socio-economic effects of switching waste from solid to liquid streams had been made, Dr McAvoy said that he was unaware of any such assessments. A life-cycle analysis of the two routes was probably necessary, but intuitively, bathroom wipes were probably best disposed of in the liquid stream.

Continence Care

Nancy Muller of the National Association for Continence pointed out that the market for adult incontinence products was now being transformed by greying baby-boomers who were determined to continue an active life for longer than their parents had, and by the entry of the Pharmaceutical industry.

Incontinence now received more media attention and had been the subject of more studies than at any time in the past. 26% of women over the age of 18 leaked when they laughed or coughed, and 40% of these stress-incontinence sufferers were under 40 years old. Women over 40 were more likely to suffer from “overactive bladder” and OAB seemed to be associated with sleep disorders, allergies, weight-gain, lack of self esteem, and the need to take more prescription drugs. Male OAB incontinence was less widespread, but was nevertheless the main reason for putting elderly men into care-homes. Overall statistics indicated that the USA had 30 million sufferers of OAB or urge incontinence, 17m sufferers of overflow incontinence related to prostate enlargement, and 19m stress incontinence sufferers (presumably relates to the male population only)

Increased media-attention meant more people now reported symptoms of incontinence to their doctors with the result that better treatment procedures were developing. Disposable product functionality was improving with a wider-range of better-fitting sizes, especially those to suit the obese who tended to suffer more. There was also more attention being paid to making the carer’s job easier.

Reusable products were getting better and here consumers want cotton for it’s washability and comfort. Cotton pants either with a more absorbent gusset or with a pouch for a disposable absorbent pad would used by normally-continent people who simply wanted to protect against the relatively remote possibility of an accident. The key here was fashionable and stylish design. The pants had to be practically indistinguishable from normal underwear.

Pads used to cover beds and chairs in care-homes needed to be breathable.One innovative new product by Sysmore™ used wireless technology to monitor urine loss and alert carers to the need to change whatever absorbent system was in use. This was particularly useful at night because it removed the need to wake sufferers to check for wetness.

Prepare for Growth

Dennis Tavernetti, INDA’s Chairman, emphasised the need for the right balance between short and long-term development for the survival of any enterprise. Managers needed to be rewarded for spending money on long-term goals at the expense of short-term profits, not penalised for it. In fact, short term success achieved without spending wisely on the long-term is nothing more than slow failure. He quoted supportive examples:

  • The development of diaper coverstock by the Washouga (geotextile production) plant of Fiberweb led to the survival of that operation when geotextile sales failed to grow at the expected rate.
  • The development of breathable films by Clopay when their leading customers were saying it was not required gave them the competitive edge over Tredegar.

So, companies should be investing now for future growth:

  • Adult Incontinence products will grow faster than diapers in the developed countries. Here flawless performance, attention to skin-care, ease of changing, and invisibility to non-users were the key development targets.
  • Diapers would be cheaper while achieving equivalent performance at lower weights.
  • Developing Third-world markets for diapers would be a slow, uphill struggle, but you had to be there “for the long haul.” Don’t underestimate the power of seemingly insignificant local brands which can have a loyal customer base.
  • Supermarket brands e.g. Wal-Mart “White-Cloud” diapers and “Equate” aspirin showed how the leading retailers were moving to share the profits normally enjoyed by the major brands. Consumer Reports magazine rated “White-Cloud” as good as the best of the traditional brands.

Recent Patents

Kimberly Clark's Nonwoven Patents

Kimberly Clark's Nonwovens Patents

Rob Johnson (Consultant) reviewed recent patenting to update the study presented at IDEA 2001. Between Jan 2002 and March 2004, 380,000 US patents had included 3,831 on nonwovens, 269 of these being on nonwoven processes. Compared with the 80 patents/year rate of the 96-00 study, this represented a nonwoven process patenting rate of ~150/year in 2003-4. In the period of the latest review, there were 54 lamination, 50 spunbond, 41 spunlace, 29 meltblown, and 26 combination process patents. Kimberly Clark proved most prolific (64) followed by Unicharm (26), PGI (18) and BBA (13). With 8 patents, P&G had slipped from 2 nd place in the earlier study to equal seventh (with Weyerhaeuser and 3M) this year. K-C’s patenting comprised 31% lamination, 27% spunbond, 14% meltblown, 9% combination processes and 8% air-laid. 58% of Unicharm’s patents covered lamination processes.

Global Diaper Trends

Pricie Hanna of John R Starr Inc confirmed the continuing absolute need for leak and irritation free diapers and highlighted the increasing need for underwear-like fit, cloth-like aesthetics, baby-pleasing graphics and odour control. However consumers chose on price first and then used aesthetics to decide between the products on offer at that price.

Diaper functional performance

  • For improved leakage protection, the acquisition, distribution and absorbent core retention systems were continually being improved and a nonwoven core wrap or anti-dusting layer was now in use. (Pampers Cruisers with 1/3 rd less bulk were mentioned as using the core wrap).
  • For the “better body fit” aspect of leakage protection, more elastic components (e.g. double leg cuffs on Huggies Ultra Trim and Pampers Baby-Dry) and shaped cores with a narrow crotch were now used (e.g. Huggies Super-Flex, K-C Mexico’s Huggies Ultra Confort with Free Flex waist and Pampers Cruisers with “waddle-free fit”.
  • Skin Irritation was being minimised using lotions containing aloe on coverstocks. (e.g. Pampers Total Protect and Mabe’s Classic) and softer gentler elastics (Huggies Adventurers)
  • A snug, underwear-like fit was being achieved by Arquest’s private-label training-pant, Pampers Easy-Ups Pants and the White Cloud training pant using the soft pulpless acetate-tow/SAP core.
  • Cloth-like aesthetics were being achieved with spunbond e.g. Aldi’s premium diaper and the move to full-width spunbond on Pampers Baby Dry in Europe.
  • P&G were now moving to spunbond backsheets worldwide.
  • Material suppliers were developing stretchable film/nonwoven and yarn/nonwoven laminates. K-C’s use of Kraton elastic was mentioned.

IDEA04 Achievement Awards

  • Fuller’s Hydrolock SAP won Fibers and Raw Materials
  • Sonobond Ring Master won New Machinery
  • Delstar Delpore Filters won Roll Goods
  • Unilever Cleansing Pillows won Short-Life Nonwovens
  • BBA’s Typar housewrap won Long-life Nonwovens
  • Saudi-Arabian Advanced Fabrics won Entrepreneur Achievement
  • Ted Wirtz won Lifetime Achievement
  • Ted Wirtz and Michael Jacobson

Ted Wirtz (L) and Michael Jacobson

Electret Performance

DeeAnn Nelson of Lydall Filtration and Separation Group said electrets, i.e. dielectric materials exhibiting “permanent” electric charge in the absence of an electric field, could be formed by several different processes:

  • Triboelectricity: friction between special fiber combinations such as PP and modacrylic fibres, typically in carded/needled nonwovens. These can be highly charged and have low resistance.
  • Electrospinning: ultra-fine fibres formed in a strong electric field retain some of the charge.
  • Corona/Ion/Electron Beam processes: High throughput, high speed treatment for PP typically in spunbond or meltblown form. This is the most widely used approach.

Electrets augment mechanical filtration by attracting particles to the fiber surface, thus adding electrostatic deposition to the usual filtration mechanisms of interception, inertial impaction and diffusion. The extent of this augmentation can be assessed simply by measuring filtration performance of both charged and discharged fabrics, discharging being achieved by a soak in iso-propyl alcohol.

Commercial filters need fabrics which not only filter well, but which can be pleated easily and can hold large amounts of filtrate. Synthetics are less easy to pleat than glass. In response to questions Dr Nelson admitted that charge-stability was an issue with electrets, but Lydall has found a way to enhance this. Charge distribution is random rather than uniform.

Indoor air quality and Health

William Rea (MD) of the Environmental Health Center – Dallas suggested that the air we breathe is having a greater effect on health and well-being that hitherto appreciated. The air indoors contains 50% of the pollutants present in outdoor air, plus contaminants added by the outgassing of plastics especially PVC, solvents from cleaners, and mould spores from unclean surfaces. Heart abnormalities and strokes as well as asthmatic conditions are now thought to be associated with unclean air.

Dr Rea has been working with Environmental Care Rooms – a part of the hospital where all the contaminants associated with industrial life have been drastically reduced. Patients thought to be suffering the effects of pollution can be kept in these areas for several days for detoxification.

The results have been astounding, for example:

  • A patient with arrhythmia so bad he was waiting for a heart transplant returned to normal health after 2 days in the clean area.
  • A paranoid patient was normal after a detox in the clean rooms, but the problem returned on exposure to outside air. Traces of insecticides were found to be the origin of the paranoia.
  • Pesticide traces have been shown to cause “learning disabilities” in children, and can be responsible for reduced attention span.

The message was clear. We not only need clean food and clean water to stay healthy, we need cleaner air than we now have. Indoor air purification using filters and conditioners can be part of the solution, but badly executed or maintained, these will also be part of the problem:

  • Filters can add carbon dust or solvent residues to the atmosphere when first used.
  • Dirty filters can be worse than no filters.
  • Air-conditioner ducting is rarely cleaned internally and can add pollutants and spores to the filtered air.
  • Dust build-up on air vents is a common sight.

Clearly there was a large market here for products which either improve indoor air quality or contribute less to its degradation. One proposal from the audience was that every home/office should have an instruments which quantified air-purity. Only when people could see how bad it was would expenditure on better air-filters/conditioners become justifiable.

Engine air filtration

Neville Bugli of Visteon Automotive Systems described a new air filter (VLLF) now being fitted the the US version of the Ford Focus. This was a sealed design, good for 150,000 miles at 225 cuft/min flow rate, and had to be built into the car during assembly. Apparently it would be necessary to take the engine out and remove the front wheels to replace it. Unfortunately for the current nonwoven air-filter market, nonwovens had proved hard to work with, so the new filter used foam as the filtration medium.

New Uses for Filters?

Mark Murla of the Pall Corporation endeavoured to persuade us that the $35billion dollar filtration industry uses a product which is good for more than filtration. Defined traditionally, a filter is any permeable material on which undesirable solids are collected while allowing the downstream passage of desirable liquids or gasses. They can be textiles, fibres, papers, nonwovens, powders, membranes or foams or in fact any porous material however formed. Mr Murla proposed broader definition. Filters were just uniformly porous structures and therefore had potential for use in

  • Reservoirs: e.g for ink in felt-tip pens.
  • Vents: a filter could control the flow rate through a vent allowing a controlled pressure differential.
  • Wipes: the controlled fluid uptake needed by a wipe is achieved using the same science as filter design.
  • Wicks: pore size is again the key, so filter materials could be used selectively to allow the removal of one liquid from a mixture.
  • Sensors: filters are used to collect particles and chemicals for analysis in chemical and biological sampling.
  • Diffusers: filters would allow the controlled diffusion of gas in precise bubble sizes into a liquid for chemical reactions or diagnostic testing.
  • Gaskets: the controlled pore volume of a filter allows uniform levels of compression to be obtained at a defined pressure.
  • Acoustic mats: again, the pore structure can be tuned to absorb particular sounds.
  • Catalyst carriers: pore structure allows high surface area on which to distribute catalysts.

Geosynthetics in Transportation

David Suites of the New York Department of Transport to reintroduced geotextiles to the INDA audience. Resurfacing a highway costs $43/m 2 so geotextiles averaging $1.17/m 2 are cheap and easily justified. New York State uses about 1 million m 2/year, mainly to make drainage pipes - spunbond PP filled with stones, silt fences - spunbond PP to filter run-off from a construction site, turbidity curtains - spunbond PP curtains across a lake to catch any remaining silt. Mr Suites felt SBPP was so cheap engineers tended to choose the strongest product regardless of price. However maximum strength was not always needed, and the strongest would not always be best for friction, filtration or drainage. Some design calculations were therefore needed prior to specification.

Protective Apparel – Consumer View

Kimberly Falls of Eisai Inc, a pharmaceutical company requiring total protection of its workers from chemicals (and vice-versa) identified unmet needs:

  • Sleeve covers should have a thumb-hole to prevent them riding up past the end of the gloves.Shoe covers have to be changed twice per hour because they are not strong enough. She wanted a 3-hour shoe cover which covered the entire shoe and had a non-slip sole.
  • Protective suits were too hot, restricted movement and were too hard to put on. They tore easily in the groin and armpit regions and needed a reflective colour for nighttime use.
  • Head covers and hoods are too hot for comfort. Those with neckbands are preferred for comfort but give less protection than the double bib variety.
  • Face shields are not ANSI-approved eye protection, so safety goggles have to be worn underneath. (reduces vision further)

Decontamination Wipes

His paper was entitled “New opportunities for protective apparel”, but Dr Seshadri Ramkumar delivered an entertaining paper on the development of a needled decontamination wipe for use after a chemical or biological weapon attack. At Texas Tech. University he has the only Fehrer H1 needleloom in the USA. This has a curved needlebed which allows the web to be needled at an angle, thereby increasing its apparent thickness in the direction of needle travel and enabling it to needle webs as light as 35gsm. The wipe in question was made of three layers, the center being phenolic resin-based active-carbon fibres, and the skins polyester or rayon polyester blend. The whole was remarkably soft light and drapable for a felt of this thickness, a property said to be essential for wiping down contaminated human bodies.

Current decontamination wipes (unspecified technology) sell to the military at $90 for a 4” square. Dr Ramkumar thought his would be cheaper and should be on sale in supermarkets for stockpiling by nervous citizens.

From the Exhibition Stands

Spongy Polyester

Fortrel MCP is the trade name for Wellman’s new spongy polyester fibre. The only data available so far is that it gives far higher rates of wetting and demand absorbency in pulp blends than regular polyester. The patents have yet to appear but it is most likely made by dispersing air in the co-polyester melt prior to spinning. No properties were available but they will send samples and data as soon as they are obtained. The fibre will of course sell at a premium and they hope the increased bulk and absorbency will provide sufficient benefit to justify this. The fibre is currently made at 10 denier, so it will not be soft. They say it targets the same market as 4DG.

Also new at Wellman: a spiral crimp fibre made using side-by-side bico technology and a herbicidal polyester for geotextiles said to provide 15 year protection against broadleaved weeds due to slow leaching of the Treflan additive.

Evolon Improves

Freudenberg had a low-key display of Evolon and were initially reluctant to talk about it. Dr Matthias Schuster the sales and marketing manager of Freudenberg Evolon KG explained the absence of publicity over the last year was due to a strategy of dissociating the product from the nonwovens industry and concentrating on developments for technical textiles. He had in fact explained recent developments in the French Technical Textiles magazine TUT. Evolon was only at this show because IDEA was open to technical textile producers for the first time. No samples were on display but a book of impressive fabrics targeting home furnishing applications was used to illustrate progress. While visually these were the Evolon of old, i.e. hydroentangled bico spunbond, tactily they appeared to have much impoved softness and dimensional stability and were said to be selling into window blinds and display fabrics (ink-jet printable). The fibre used was a PET/PA segmented pie bico. Artificial leathers were a target, and at present Evolon was being used as a coating base for a variety of developments in leather-like products. Longer term, Alcantara-like artificial suedes would appear.

Evolon was now managed separately from the nonwovens part of Freudenberg: they expected all their growth to come at the expense of traditional textiles, probably slowly, but they were in this business for the long-haul and would not be distracted by short term possibilities in disposables.

Centrifugally-spun spunbond elastomerics and adhesives

Spunfab showed their range of foam-fibrillated films and centrifugally-spun spunbonds now entirely targeting adhesive web applications. While most of the products had been around for a long time, the spunbond elastomer (SL7001EX-0800 – sample obtained) was impressively strong and soft with a high modulus and apparently complete recovery from quite high strains. Inventor Herb Keuchel would not be drawn as to the polymer or price. He commented however that the process he developed to convert the polymer, a licence for which he had sold to Amoco fabrics for their (now defunct?) RFX project, could still be available for licence in some sectors.

Increased viscose rayon capacity for nonwovens

Birla Viscose had a stand at IDEA for the first time hoping to take advantage of the Liberty Fiber problems and continuing shortages of viscose. However they too claimed to be flat out and to have little spare capacity at present. They are the biggest producer of viscose fibres in the world (24% of the total production, almost all for textiles), but attention to the requirements of the US and European nonwoven markets is a recent development.

Their Thai Rayon division has however recently researched western nonwoven requirements and followed this up by investing in a totally new production line at the Indonesian plant to make the high purity products required. This line is now starting up and should provide a further 20,000 tpa of fibre from May onwards, taking this plant’s capacity to 110,000 tonnes/year.

Any remaining viscose process aficionados may be interested to know that they use a unique zinc-free spinning solution to avoid zinc recovery and pollution issues and to reduce the levels of trace metals in the fiber. This gives a fiber with a slightly different cross sectional shape, a softer bulkier handle and more lustre – the latter being killed by adding titania as necessary. Fibre tensiles (2.6g/d and 20% Extension dry) are normal as is fibre whiteness. They are currently qualifying the new 1.5 denier fibre in collaboration with Western spunlace producers. Given success here they intend to develop 2-3 denier fibres for tampons. Further lines will be installed if the demand for the new fibre warrants it.

The Thai Rayon plant in Thailand has sold fibre into nonwovens for many years and has proved a tough competitor for Acordis and Lenzing in its local markets which include Australia. 15% of the 80,000 tonne output of the Thailand plant goes to nonwovens currently, mainly for chemical bonding, thermal bonding and spunlace. They expect to raise this to 25% by 2005.

Birla Viscose is also working on a greenfield project to install a 30,000 tonne viscose plant near Shanghai in China. This will use quality imported wood pulp and will have the same high purity targets as the new Indonesian line. (Current Chinese viscose uses cotton linter pulp.)

Their Research Division in India, where a new pilot line is now successfully producing their first Modal rayon fibre to compete with Lenzing, developed the zinc-free process. They report that their lyocell pilot line in the same plant is now in operation.

Liberty Fibers emerging from Chapter 11

Liberty Fibers hope to emerge from Chapter 11 in May and say the refinancing of the company by “Silva Holdings” was allowed by the court last Friday. They still have the problem of reduced capacity due to pulp companies with-holding supplies but feel the imminent injection of new money will soon get production moving again. They comment that some of their customers have been very patient and helpful – to the extent of arranging pulp supplies to cover their fibre orders.

Lenzing acquiring Tencel

Lenzing claim that 50% of their regular viscose sales are now in nonwovens, a substantial increase made possible by the closures of Acordis Mobile, Grimsby and Svenska. They are in the process of acquiring Tencel from the newly formed Corsadi division of Acordis which includes Tencel and Acetate fibres, but not viscose. A Lenzing representative suggested that when the deal is complete the Spondon ( Derby) HQ and R&D units of Tencel will close and control would pass to Austria.

Tencel sales to nonwovens increasing fast

Tencel was saying nothing about the Lenzing take-over, but admitted a sale of the company is imminent. They remain bullish about nonwovens and report that for the first time in its history, sales to nonwovens exceed sales to textiles. (Sales into textiles have declined and nonwoven business has filled the gap: they are not diverting product from textile customers.) The majority of nonwoven fibre is going into wipes via card/spunlace routes, but sales of tow for short-cutting for special papers (especially teabag and electrical) and air-laids are ahead of expectations. Spuntech ( Israel), Dupont and Sage Products (Needlefelt wet-wipes, Chicago) are among the larger users. They predict that 60% of their total production will go to nonwovens in 2004, up from 10% in 2000. Roughly 45% of nonwoven sales are going to spunlace, 35% to needling, 10% to wet/air-lay and 10% to resin bond.

The fact that Tencel has been sold below the price of viscose during a time when viscose production is unable to keep up with demand is clearly important in this nonwoven growth, but Tencel believe the success would not have happened without redesigning the fibre to suit nonwovens. Specifically they have introduced a higher crimp version to allow higher speed carding (HS260), started supplying matt versions with credible amounts of titania (up to 1.2% on fibre), optimised finish levels to suit hydroentanglement, introduced a 3 denier version, and started supplying short-cut fibres direct from the factories rather than via commission cutters. They still have 16,000 tpa of Tencel capacity idle at Mobile (the original production plant built in 91-92). This will only be restarted if the new owners provide the capital to make good the cannibalisation that has occurred since it was mothballed.

Kimberly Clark Beech Island

Kimberly Clark’s recently announced expansion of Beech Island SC is prompting speculation. Observers confirm this is not prompted by an unexpected turnaround in the fortunes of the products made there, and is most likely an announcement made to keep the authorities happy that the development will eventually be as big as the development grants for “phase 1” assumed. The announced $200-300m commitment covers the next 10 years.

Kuraray developments

Mr Hitoshi Toyoura of Kuraray reports that after 10 years of development they now make about 300 tonnes a year of battery separator paper out of 2mm Tencel fibres, which they cut from tow and refiner fibrillate. He admitted the technical potential was always there in alkali manganese separators, but it took the closure of Fujibo’s polynosic rayon plant and the exhaustion of the stockpile of polynosic tow to allow Tencel use to increase. They have now licenced two western producers (H&V and Ahlstrom?) to make the separator.

  • They were showing the Silhorn W multilayer PET/PA bico fibre for wet laid hydroentanglement. On HE this splits into numerous microdenier flat section filaments to give a very soft handle and ultra smooth surface.
  • Their Silhon H is a direct-spun flat section PVA which fibrillates on HE to give superior wiping performance compared with the segment-pie bico microfibre wipes.
  • Silhorn E consists of fibers made from the EVAL ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer and features hydrophilic and hydrophobic domains which allow it to feel cool and dry against the skin. They had one interesting polyolefin-based elastomeric spunbond on the stand but no technical data.

Kuraray Silhorn Display Board

5 th May 2004

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