Wednesday, 30 June 2004

EDANA's International Nonwovens Symposium: Barcelona: June 3rd - 4th 2004

Delegates from the nonwovens and related industries gathered in Barcelona to attend EDANA's 2004 International Symposium on 3rd - 4th June. They came from all over Europe, as well as from North America, Asia and the Middle and Near East to participate in the networking opportunities offered by an impressive 358 participants from 23 countries representing some 168 different companies. This figure represented a significant increase on last year's EDANA Symposium in Rome .

The Symposium offered an interesting mix of presentations covering Nonwovens Markets, Raw Materials, Process Developments and Wet Wipes. Amongst these were keynote papers from Paul Polman, President of Procter & Gamble Europe, on Business Ethics and Sustainability, and John Page, Director Fibres & Fibre Intermediates, CMAI, on the polypropylene and polyester supply chains.

Keynote 1: Business Ethics and Sustainability

Paul Polman, President P&G Western Europe, suggested that trust in business was at an all time low - only politicians were trusted less than businessmen - and good deeds went unreported in the media. Business is seen as part of the environmental problem and not part of its solution so there is a need to improve its image:
• Ethics is the key and this starts at the top of any business.
• Business must take responsibility for its economic, social and environmental impacts.
• Business must communicate its ethics to consumers, customers, and stakeholders.

The P&G communication process is being augmented by "Inside Out", an annual event where government, academics, suppliers, customers and the media are invited to a day at P&G to see what's happening and to discuss issues of common interest. This year it was held in the UK offices, next year it will be at Schwalbach. Other initiatives of note were:

• The Global Sustainability Report is the most downloaded document on the P&G website. provides detailed information about ingredients, their safety and how it is evaluated.
• ~75% of P&G's products are water-related so P&G is developing low cost ways to get clean water to the worlds poor.
• A new water purifier "PuR" is being developed to clean and disinfect dirty water at the point of use for less than 1 cent per liter.
• In the Philippines P&G is testing a product which halves the amount of water required to hand-wash clothes.

In concluding, Mr Polman said partnerships, with governments, NGO's, suppliers and consumers were the way to improving sustainability in global markets.

Asked about the sustainability of disposable diapers, Mr Polman ponted out that over the last 20 years, diaper packaging had been reduced by 70% and the energy use in diaper manufacture had been reduced by 30%. These trends will continue. Sustainability will be improved by innovation and many small steps in the right direction. He also suggested that a better mindset here would be to focus not just on making diapers, but on "child development". P&G and their "Pampers Institute" was doing this and had become the world's second largest website in the process.

One questioner observed that "all" consumers wanted biodegradable diapers and wondered why P&G were not making any. Here Mr Polman suggested consideration of the total life-cycle of disposables v. reusables. On this basis disposables are no more "unfriendly" than reusables. Furthermore, with many landfills being incapable of biodegrading even the most biodegradable of materials, one could argue that making diapers degradable was a waste of effort. Nevertheless P&G does take disposablility issues very seriously and has a group developing improved biodegradable materials.

Keynote 2: Rags-to-Riches

John Page of CMAI (UK) reminded us that polypropylene, being based on what used to be the flared-off by-product of ethylene production, is the cheapest of all polymers at 1.2 cents per cubic inch. 35 million tonnes were produced in 2003, 16% of this being spun into fibre. Demand is expected to continue to grow at 5-6% p.a. through 2008, and part of this will be met from the huge increase in ethylene production now coming on line in the Middle East . Most this new capacity will use ethane feedstock rather than naphtha so the availability of propylene as a by-product will not increase proportionately. Furthermore propylene demand is exceeding ethylene demand, so PP prices can be expected to rise through 2006 at least.

If PP is a rags-to-riches story, polyester is riches-to-rags by comparison. In 2003 China added 4 million tonnes of polyester capacity - equivalent to the total production of Western Europe . By the end of next year they will be producing 21 million tonnes of the polymer - 10 times their 1995 capacity, and will single-handedly have driven any value out of the polyester market. Supply and demand issues will affect the pricing of the main consitutents of polyester, paraxylene and ethylene glycol, and a short-term tightness in their supply will prevent the PET price from falling as low as it otherwise would. The PET/PP price differential will nevertheless diminish to between $100 and $200/tonne premium for the technically-superior PET fibre.

Asked how a high oil price would affect PET prices, Mr Page said there was no short-term correlation between crude oil and polyester pricing. Both were more affected by supply/demand forces. At best there was a psychological link: it was easier to raise PET prices when high crude-oil cost could be used to rationalise the need for an increase. Clearly if oil stays high for any length of time, then the price of polyester precursors will have to increase.

Regulation of Wet Wipes

Joachim Vogt, a biochemist with the product safety and regulatory affairs department at P&G Service ( Germany ) provided an insight into the workings of EDANA's Wet-Wipes Task Force and in particular the effects of the EU Cosmetic Directive 76/768/EEC on two key classes of wipes, the baby/toddler wipes and the personal care wipes. The 7th amendment to this directive, published in March 2003, was coming into effect in September 2004 and would clarify the issues regarding animal testing.

The use of animal testing within the EU would be banned for finished products from 11 th Sept 2004 and from 11 th March 2009 for ingredients. However the 7th amendment also introduces a marketing ban, prohibiting the sale of products which have used animal testing anywhere. This will come into force progressively starting at the first of these dates and will be total by the second. In addition any Class 1 or 2 CMR's (carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic chemicals) will be banned and 26 common perfume ingredients will have to be declared on the pack if their concentration exceeds 10ppm in “leave on products” (wet-wipes) or 100ppm in rinse off products – deadline March 2005. Furthermore, for cosmetics whose shelf-life exceeds 30 months a new indication of “period after opening = X months” must appear on the pack.

Should nonwoven producers be concerned when the regulations only apply to the lotion part of the wipe? Yes. They will have to test for leaching of any chemicals from nonwoven into lotion over a period up to the declared Use By date. Dr Vogt called for co-operation between nonwoven producers and wet-wipe producers to understand the interactions between lotions and nonwovens.

Microbiological Quality Management for Wet Wipes

Wolfgang Siegert of Schülke and Mayr GmbH ( Germany ) pointed out that all wet-wipes needed some preservative to prevent spoiling on storage.

For baby and cosmetic wipes these preservatives would have to comply with the Cosmetic Regulations, and here products from their Euxyl® range can be used. Raw materials should be checked for microbes, and water, the main ingredient was often a problem:

• Water should contain no more than 100 colony forming units/ml.
• Ion exchangers are a source of microbial contamination
• Unpreserved water over 3 hours old must be assumed to be contaminated.

Random checks on nonwovens are essential. Manufacturers QC checks on contamination are rarely valid or good enough by the time the nonwovens are used.

For the lotion, the key questions relate to the stability of the concentrate, and the level of antimicrobial protection remaining when diluted to use-level. Once applied to the nonwoven, is it even? Does it protect the nonwoven adequately? Uniform spray application to the unfolded nonwoven is essential: chromatographic effects can cause separation of ingredients if the nonwoven is allowed to soak up the lotion from a reservoir, and dip application can result in the nonwoven taking up some chemicals more rapidly than others.

Technical wipes come under the Biocidal Products Regulations and here Parmetol(R) A28 has proved the most suitable preservative for most formulations.

Wet toilet tissue has proved to be the most risky for allergic skin reactions. Here an increase in pH caused by nonwovens can give problems with the recommended Euxyl® K702 which is based on phenoxyethanol, benzoic acid and dehydroacetic acid. (Only the free acids are preservatives and these are mainly undissociated only when pH is held below 5).

Spunlace in Wet Wipes

Michel Vincent-Dospital of Tharreau Industries ( France ) showed wet-wipes turnover growing by 282% in the five years to 2002, but expected no more than 8% growth in the next 5 years. In 2002 spunlace accounted for 81% of EU personal care and baby wipes nonwovens use, and 73% of Household wipes use. The main requirements for nonwovens in these markets are tensile strength and absorptive capacity (for conversion), flushability and biodegradation (for disposal), and a variety of combinations of softness, strength, thickness, abrasion and aesthetics depending on use.

Trends in Nonwovens

Sherry Sutton of PGI Nonwovens pointed out that there are now over 70 million North Americans over 50 years old and they have unprecedented buying power. These are the "baby boomers" and their children are now creating above average gains in the 15-24 age group - the “baby boom echo".

• Roll goods shipments will grow at 5% a year to reach $5billion by 2007
• Disposables will reach $3.2 billion, comprising hygiene $820m, Wipes $690m, medical $480m, Filtration $457m, and others.
• Within Hygiene, training pants is the fastest growing, highest margin group, incontinence having the best longer term potential.
• Within wipes, now a $2.2billion market in North America at retail level, baby wipes account for $882m, Personal care wipes $554m, and Household $715m. However it is the emerging markets that are showing double digit growth:
• General Bathing wipes
• Facial Cleansers
• Disinfectant wipes
• Glass cleaners, dusters and polishers
• Car cleaners
• Pet care wipes
• Sun care and self tanning wipes

Incontinence pad users want washable products with the comfort, breathability and quietness of cotton underwear. They want protection and insurance against accidents. They also want disposable washcloths with no-rinse, deodorizing cleansers and moisturisers.

For the future she saw growth possibilities arising from flushable wipe developments, flame retardant nonwovens for home furnishings and further nonwoven penetration of the technical textiles market.

Nonwovens in India

Ravishankar Gopal, Consultant ( India ) reviewed the progress of nonwovens market development in India .
• With a population of 1 billion of median age 24 years, there is no market for adult incontinence products
• However half the population is between 18 and 35 and is receptive to new ideas and products.
• The middle class (250million) has purchasing power only a little below that of developed countries and are potential customers for disposables.
• The current low penetration of disposables (0.001kg/capita) coupled with the high birth rate (24 million per year) means a huge opportunity for nonwovens exists.
• In 2002 disposable nonwovens sales amounted to 38,000 tonnes, 32,300 being hygiene products, mainly femcare, and growing at 15% per year.
• The second largest nonwoven market, medical, used 2280 tonnes and was also growing at 15% per year.
• Durable nonwoven sales of 60,000 tonnes were mainly needlepunched for automotive and home furnishing applications, and fibrefill (20,000 tonnes).

In conclusion, Mr Gopal reminded us that India has only been "open" to foreign investment for 10 years, and will grow like China from now on.

Filtration Opportunities in China

Lutz Bergmann of Filter Media Consulting listed the opportunities for filters now arising as a result of China 's industrial growth:
• China is the worlds leading steel producer with 1600 plants, some requiring a million square meters of pulse-jet baghouse filter area.
• China is the worlds largest cement producer with over 800 plants. These will eventually have to comply with the 10mg/m3 emission limit, the demand for fabric filters being huge as a result.
• China is the second largest electricity generator on Earth, 75% being from coal-fired boilers using mechanical dust separators, i.e. an enormous opportunity for baghouse systems, probably using glass fiber filters.
• The 600 Chinese cities with more than 0.5 million inhabitants will have to install waste incinerators with stringent emission controls using high performance filters and dust collectors.
• Road construction projects will dramatically increase the market for aramid filters for hot-mix asphalt production plants.
• China is building a million apartments a month. Most of these have heating and air-conditioning units which require filters.
• Growth in Chinese microelectronic and pharmaceutical production will require more clean rooms with more HEPA filters
• Blood filtration will be required in future for the million pints year of donations.
• Chinese automotive production - now 3 million/year, could grow to 10 million by 2010. Engine air, oil, fuel and passenger compartment air filters will be needed.

Engineering Polymers

Martin Brück of Ticona GmbH (A division of Celanese) defined engineering polymers as those which have to operate at 100-150 0 C, as distinct from standard polymers (<100 0 C) and high performance polymers (>150 0 C). Ticona has a new melt-blowable version of Fortron® polyphenylene suphide, an FR polymer made from dichlorobenzene and sodium sulphide which can operate in filtration at up to 200 0 C with excellent resistance to solvents and hydrolytic degradation. It is also suitable for use in contact with food, and complies with medical regulations. Their Celanex® polybutylene terephthalate polymer is less prone to post extrusion shrinkage than polyester and can be run on spunbond lines at higher throughput to give softer finer fabrics with better hydrolytic stability. It is available in a wide range of melting points and can even be used as a bonding fibre for conventional polyester. Their new Topas® cyclo-olefin polymers demonstrate excellent electret charge retention (80% remaining after 80 days at 90% RH), and good resistance to acids, alkalis, and polar solvents. They are stable at temperatures up to 140 0 C, and have broad regulatory approval for food and medical applications.

Improved melt blowing

Hans-Georg Geus of Reifenhauser introduced a new peroxide-free additive from Ciba Speciality Chemicals to allow melt blowing of spunbond grade polypropylene. The EB 43-76 additive - now being launched as Irgatec CR 76 - allows the production of meltblown webs with finer, more flexible, stronger filaments and most importantly with a doubling in the hydrohead measure of barrier performance.

Mr Jörg Leukel of Ciba Speciality Chemicals compared the properties of webs made from a normal 1800 mfi resin with those from a 25 mfi resin blended in the extruder with different levels of the additive (0.9-2.1%). With 25mfi resin and 1.5% additive, hydrohead's of 800mm were obtained c.f. 450mm for the conventional resin. Air permeability dropped from 410 to 260 l/m 2 /s, tensile strength quadrupled and extensibility doubled. In calender bonding, the bonding window is broadened by the new approach.

The combination of spunbond polymer and additive offers cost-savings compared with the use of conventional melt-blown polymers. Waste reprocessing is improved. Furthermore, the system has no safety problems according to cytotoxicity, skin irritation and sensitisation testing.

Improved fabric inspection

Piergiorgio Mora of Electronic Systems Spa proposed using a combination of a beta-gauge basis weight scanner and a multiple static camera optical inspection system to get much improved basis weight monitoring and control. Single or double beta-gauge scanners are slow (20 seconds per scan) and hence record weight variations along diagonal lines across the web leaving vast areas unmeasured. Optical scanners will give 20,000 images/second and allow full inspection for visible defects, but are not good for basis weight determination due to problems with irregular transmission and diffusion of light, dust build up, and lamp ageing. However when both systems are combined, the beta gauge can continuously calibrate the cameras, allowing them to give a full assessment of basis weight variation.

Systems using this principle to control the chute feeders of cards allow the variability of basis weight to be halved compared with beta gauge control on its own.

Nanocoatings for Nonwovens

Dr Georg Bolte, MD of Nanotec S.R.L ( Germany ) defined a nanocoat as arising when an aerosol of sub-micron solution particles containing less than 20% solids lands on a surface and the solvent evaporates.

Fine aerosols are produced by nozzles (nebulizers) driven by ultrasonic or piezoelectric forces. Several nebulizers have been arranged to treat films and textiles up to 2.7 metres wide at 110 m/min. When combined with corona discharge surface treatment, nanocoats created from water-based aerosols can be bonded onto the surface of polypropylene to modify its surface tension. Another application example involved treating polyester film to lower the surface resistance from >10 -15 ohms down to 10 -9 ohms. Printing effects can be created by applying the aerosol through rotary-screens.

Biodegradable spunbonds

Dr Dieter Blechschmidt of the STF Institute ( Germany ) has produced spunbond nonwovens from Eastman's Eastar Bio™ (PTAT), Cargill Dow's Natureworks™ (PLA) and Bayer's BAK™ aliphatic polyesteramide (PEA).

Over a basis weight range from 32 to 194 gsm and fibre counts from 0.7 to 4.5 dtex stable production was possible with PTAT and PEA but not with PLA. PTAT and PEA gave softer and more elastic nonwovens than PP. The PTAT work was scaled up at Reifenhauser in Troisdorf and this polymer appears to be commercially viable in spunbonding. The PEA polymer is no longer produced by Bayer.


Bob Hartog of TNO, Holland's Food and Nutrition Research Organisation reviewed antimicrobial additives and their evaluation. In addition to the well known slow-release or no-release varieties, TNO has added "release on command" using a "bio-switch with bio-nanotechnology" to ensure that the antimicrobial is only released by the target organism. The patented approach uses starch-based particles containing lysozyme, whose release "is controlled by changes in the structure of the matrix".

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