Wednesday, 28 February 2007

EDANA Middle East Symposium Dubai , United Arab Emirates : 20-21 st Feb 2007


300 delegates registered for this, the first EDANA conference in the Middle East , and its obvious success suggests it will become a regular feature of the nonwoven year. Introducing the session, Pierre Wiertz EDANA's General Manager said the conference was intended to provide a focus to promote and support the development of nonwovens in the Middle East , a region he expected to become the fastest growing nonwoven production region. United Arab Emirates for example represented a fruitful fusion between Eastern and Western cultures: business is relatively easy, with easy financing and European standards of respect for intellectual property.

The MENA Region

Mahdy Katbe of Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries ( Saudi Arabia ) characterised MENA as the crescent of 17 countries stretching from Morocco to Iraq including Sudan and the Arabian peninsula (GCC), but excluding Israel . Here lived 275 million people producing 6 million babies every year, a birth rate of 21.8 per 1000 compared with 10.2 per 1000 in the US , EU and Japan combined. Saudi Arabia has a population of 27 million including 5.6 million expatriates. 45% of the population is under 15. It controls 21% of the known oil reserves and at $50/barrel these known reserves will yield $38.5 trillion to OPEC, $24 trillion to the GCC States, of which Saudi Arabia will get $13 trillion. This oil boom will translate into massive investment ( e.g. mega-infrastructure projects) and a personal spending boom. The prospects for personal hygiene products, geotextiles, and their raw materials are unparalleled.

Nonwovens in Infrastructure Projects in Dubai

Jan Helden of Fibertex ( Denmark ) claimed their experience in large scale coastal protection projects in Denmark , and the construction of Hong Kong airport, had positioned them well to take advantage of major coastline extensions now occurring in Dubai . Design of a geosynthetic had to take account of water depth, wave height, the type of rocks to be dropped onto it, and the height from which they were dropped. They had to resist puncture, be extensible enough to conform to irregular seabeds and be sufficiently porous to retain fines while allowing the free flow of water. Rocks could weigh up to 3 tonnes each in areas where wave heights of 3 metres were normal. One of these rocks dropped from a height of 4 metres required a geotextile with a 12,000 newton puncture resistance. The Jumeirah Palm, commenced in 2001, is protected by a 12 km breakwater 200 metres wide and comprises 17 “fronds” each 2 km long and 75 metres wide. Geotextiles (Fibertex F-650M) were used in the breakwater to separate the rock base from the sand “beach”. They were also used in road construction on each of the fronds (Fibertex F-2B UV – 140 gsm) , for landscaping interchanges (Fibertex F-3S – 230 gsm) and for drainage and storm water sewers (Fibertex F-300 – 180gsm). Another development commenced in 2003, the Jebel Ali Palm Island , is 50% larger than the Jumeirah Palm.

Fibertex G-100 UV is used in flat roofs in Dubai to separate the drainage layer (gravel) from the insulation and the waterproof membrane and protects against abrasion and perforation.

Controlled Permeability Formwork uses Fibertex Formtex® CPF liner between the wet concrete and the mould to allow surplus water and any trapped air to escape from the vertical surfaces of the concrete. This was specified for all exposed concrete surfaces in Dubai as it doubles the life of the concrete in aggressive environments (e.g. hot and salty air).

Turkish Nonwovens Market

Yasemin Buyukeren of Hayat Temizlik Saglik Urunleri SA ( Turkey ) reviewed the development of the Turkish nonwovens industry and provided a comprehensive breakdown of nonwovens usage:

• Turkey 's first nonwoven line made air-laid latex bonded nonwovens for automotive use – presumably long-fibre airlay using something like a Rando-Webber.

• Card-crosslappers fed needlepunchers on the lines installed during the 80's and 90's

• Thermal bonded production was introduced during the '90's

• Spunlace, spunbond and meltblown lines were installed during the late '90's commencing with Mogul. Ritas and Kurt Kumas installed pure spunbond.

• Hassan Group's thermobond line (2003) is still the highest capacity card line in the world.

• Gulsan commenced SMS production in 2004 and added a second spunbond line in 2005, followed by two meltblown lines.

• Bayteks ( Gaziantep ) started a proprietary technology spunbond line in May 2006

• Salteks in Istanbul moved into spunlace in 2001. AS Nonwovens (Akinal) followed, with new investment in 2005 for a second bigger line.

• Ribatek Tekstil invested in a cross-lay spunlace line in 2005 which was commercialised a few months ago.

• Estimated nonwoven capacity in Turkey is now 400,000 tonnes, up from 300,000 in 2005 and 150,000 in 2003.

• The leading producers in 2006 were:

• Hassan Group with 39,000 tonnes of thermal, latex and needled card webs for coverstock, backsheet, wipes, furnishings and geotextiles.

• Gulsan with 29,000 tonnes of SSS and SMMS for hygiene components.

• Milkay with 25,000 tonnes of needlefelts for furnishings and civil engineering.

• Mogul with 21,000 tonnes of spunbond and meltblow for filters, medical and home furnishings

• Salteks with 17,000 tonnes of carded thermalbond and meltblow for wipes and numerous durable applications.

• The other major producers were listed as AS Nonwoven, Vateks, Bayteks, Kurt Kumas, Akelyaf, Elsan, Ribatek and Almina.

• 31% of Turkish nonwoven production goes into garments, 19% to hygiene, 15% into automotive and 11% into geotextiles.

• 21,000 tonnes is consumed in baby diapers , and a further 12,000 tonnes in wipes. This is insufficient for the Turkish hygiene market which imports about 25% of its needs, mainly from Belgium , Germany and Finland .

• Current penetration of disposables in Turkish diapering is 55%. There are 3.7 million babies, this figure growing at 2% per year.

• The leading diaper producers are P&G with ”Prima”, Hayat with ”Molfix” and ”Bebem”, Astel (Ontex) with ”Canbebe” and Ovisan Kimberly with ”Huggies” and ”Pedo”.

• 21 million women use femcare products. 1.2 billion pads (48% penetration) and 380 million pantyliners (7.5% penetration) are sold annually. The leading producers are P&G (”Orkid” pads, ”Alldays” and ”Discreet” pantyliners.) Hayat (”Molyped” and ”Joly”) and Astel (Ontex - ”Canleydi”)

Tampons and adult incontinence products are almost non-existent in Turkey at present.

Wet wipe penetration was said to be 30-40% with the baby wipe sector declining and personal care wipes rising.

Gown and Drape Fabrics

Samir Nassif of Saudi Arabian Advanced Fabrics ( Saudi Arabia ) replaced Ian Disley to give a paper prepared jointly with Ahlstrom on nonwovens in operating theatres. Nonwovens are technically superior to woven textiles which don't meet the latest microbial penetration standards, ie. European Norm 13795 and Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation PB70:2003. They are virtually lint free and because they are single-use their sterility and barrier properties are consistently high. Within nonwovens, SMS with its meltblown microfiber layer gives a better barrier performance than either hydroentangled pulp/PET or pure spunbond. Nevertheless, while the US now uses mainly SMS in theatres, Europe is mainly on hydroentangled and the Middle East is still 85-90% wovens. Conversion of this to SMS is the motivating opportunity behind the SAAF investment.

AAMI PB70:2003 has 4 levels of barrier performance for minimal, low, moderate and high levels of exposure to risk. For Level 1 – minimal risk, wet laid or spunlace nonwovens are adequate. At Level 2 - low risk, spunlace or lightweight SMS are acceptable. For Level 3 – moderate risk, medium to heavyweight SMS is needed e.g. SAAF's Medalon™, and for Level 4 – high risk, nonwoven/film composites or Ahlstrom's Breathable Viral Barrier are required. SAAF's Medalon™ Plus would also work.

In passing, Mr Nassif noted that globally, PP is the lowest cost polymer ($1.3/Kg) growing at 5-6% pa through 2008. 16% of the polymer produced will be used in nonwovens. Disposable fabrics are growing at the same rate and sales will reach $13.3 billion in 2007. The Middle East economies are booming (5.4% GDP Growth in 2006) and the demographics are right for increased use of disposables.

Nonwovens in Personal Protection

Amr El-Moniem of Dupont Nonwovens ( Egypt ) promoted the Dupont range of protective clothing and positioned it against the 3 classes of required protection:

• minor being for instance foul weather clothing

• moderate being high visibility clothing.

• major, and in this category suits were classed in 6 different categories, from 1 (gas tight) to 6 (limited protection).

He also ran through the test methods used to categorise them. His paper was not on the CD ROM.

Nonwovens and Polyester: The Indian Perspective

Gunjan Sharma of Reliance ( India ) an industrial company with sales of $20billion and the world's largest producer of polyester with a 2 million tonne capacity, presented an Indian fiber-makers view of nonwovens. Global nonwovens were growing at 7% per annum and their share of global fiber consumption would increase from 8% now to 15% by 2012. By comparision conventional textiles were growing at 3%. Half of world nonwoven production is now made in 5 countries, USA (20%), Japan (8.5%), Germany (7%), Canada (7%) and Italy (6.2%), but most of the growth is in Asia-Pacific (15% p.a.), the Middle East (12% p.a.), and Latin America (7.5% p.a.).

Describing India as the land of opportunities, Mr Sharma noted that of the 1 billion population, 310 million were middle class, there were 120 million working in the cities, and 150 million teenagers. GDP was growing at 8% p.a., but the per-capita use of fibers was only 40% of the global average (and about 10% of the USA 's). Polyester was mainly used in apparel (93%) compared with a world average of 52% and a Chinese apparel usage of 60%. In the pyramid of human needs, nonwovens were non-essentials, but as the wealth of the nation increased, food, clothing and housing needs would soon be met, and at the next level (hygiene, healthcare and transport) nonwovens would be essential. At present, nonwoven penetration of these sectors was negligible: where the USA spent $12.4 billion (2004) on personal hygiene nonwovens, India spent $3.3 million.

The diaper opportunity was gigantic, estimated at 93 billion per year, there being more babies of diapering age in India than China . P&G, K-C and J&J were the only players and were currently importing economy diapers from SE Asia . Wipes sales in India were only $2 million. Of the 200,000 tonne per year geotextile market, the USA had 55% and China 20%. India only had 1% and this was set to increase dramatically as infrastructure improvement gathered pace. Here polyester was the key fiber and India had the complete polyester production chain in place (excluding nonwovens) unlike China which had to import oil.

So, Reliance saw an opportunity of extending their totally vertical polyester production to include nonwovens as well as textiles. They have 200 R&D staff with a dedicated nonwovens R&D team, and unlike China have respect for intellectual property. They intend to cater for all nonwoven requirements in India , and are studying a move into polyester spunbonds. The Indian government looks prepared to support the development of a nonwovens industry, especially for technical, industrial and agricultural applications.

Mr Sharma didn't say it, but he certainly left the impression that Reliance is looking for partners to help open up the nonwoven sector. Asked specifically about the plan to move into polyester spunbond and converted products production he said this had been studied but no decision had been taken. Asked whether they would also produce polypropylene spunbond in future, they do produce the polymer but have no plans to move into PP nonwovens.

Indian Market for wipes and medical

Shishir Jaipuria of Ginni Filaments ( India ) also described India as a land of unique opportunities, being the world's 4 th largest economy ($3.7 trillion GDP) with the world's second fastest GDP growth rate (8.9%). By 2011 the population will be 1.2 billion, growing at 1.4% per year with 50% being in the middle class. 36% were in the high income group and now demanding premium quality hygiene products. Organised retailing (super- and hyper-markets and Metros) is booming with a $25 billion investment expected to occur over the next 5 years taking its share from 3% to 14%, and its turnover to $427 billion.

Textile industry output is set to grow from $53 bn to £85 bn between 2006 and 2010 and the governments Technology Upgrade Fund is improving the investment climate. Technical Textiles worth $7 bn will be used in India in 2007-08, 5% of these being medical. Disposable wipes are now a $4.5 million market, the low penetration being due to the high price of imports, a lack of awareness of their benefits, and uncertain availability. The sector is however growing at 20% per annum, and Ginni's new hydroentanglement line, the first in India , is now starting up with this market in its sights.

Healthcare in India is a $17bn business and growing at 17% per year due to increasing middle-class spending and increasing medical tourism. Operations in India cost far less than in developed countries: they have half a million doctors and train 180,000 new ones every year. (”More doctors in India than patients in Saudi Arabia ”) Disposables have almost fully replaced woven protective clothing in wards, but in the operating rooms, woven drapes and gowns still predominate. Here standards need to be developed and suitable fabrics must be produced locally. Laundering is very cheap in India and the perfomance benefits of disposables needs to be quantified. Wound care, a $375m market growing at 15% per annum is mainly woven gauze and bandages. Nonwovens of the right quality remain to be produced. Here again the new Ginni Filaments spunlace line is expected to open up the market. It has a capacity of 12,000 tonnes, is capable of using polyester, viscose and cotton, 100% or in blends. The plant will also be equipped to laminate, coat, print and pack for consumer and hospital uses.

Asked about how the demand for medical barrier fabrics would be met Mr Jaipuia said that P&G and Ahlstrom were encouraging local production.

Superabsorbent Technology Update

Michael Keup of Degussa ( Germany ) delivered a SAP 101 in some detail before discussing the tricky problem of permeability-dependent absorption under pressure.

Permeability under load (PUL), saline flow conductivity (SFC) or gel bed permeability (GBP) were the usual methods of assessing permeability, but Mr Keup now favoured Time-Dependent Absorption against Pressure (TAAP). In essence this was a gravimetric absorbency test with SAP put directly on the porous plate and loaded with suitable weights. Uptake versus time over an hour gave the capacity under load and the acquisition rate, the latter being dependent on, but not a direct measure of, permeability.

In separate experiments, Degussa has shown that acquisition time increases dramatically as the concentration of high-retention SAP in blend with pulp rises above 50%. The fluid just wont penetrate the swollen SAP and improving the acquisition distribution layer doesn't help. In order to get acceptable times with 60-80% SAP, more permeability is required and this is achieved by further crosslinking of the skin of the SXM material. However permeability and capacity prove antagonistic, you can increase one but only at the expense of the other.

Asked about residual monomer levels in SAP, Mr Keup said that while acrylic acid might be harmful to mankind, no Degussa SAP shows any negative side effects due to the traces of this chemical left in the product. Acceptable limits of monomer were hard to define: 500ppm could well be OK and even 1000ppm might be acceptable. It was hard to say what a safe level of the monomer should be. How much SAP was now required? Global demand was 1.3 to 1.5 million tonnes, of which about 800,000 tonnes were used in diapers.

Testing Hygienic Absorbents.

Edgar Hermann of Hy-Tec Hygiene Technology GmbH ( Germany ) listed the priorities for diaper performance as expressed by 120 German mothers between 2006 and 2008(sic). They should be leak-free, fit well, be friendly to the skin, keep baby dry, and contain odour. Of less importance were lotions, colours or prints, and wetness indicators. Development targets were improved absorbency, lower leakage, and better fit, and the way forward involved thinner cores, stretchable side panels and better leg cuffs.

For femcare, where absorbency was more than adequate, improvements would arise from lateral leakage barriers, silky (less plastic) funnel-effect topsheets, anatomical shapes and improved odour control. Pantyliners would follow fashion and be co-ordinated with lingerie. Adult incontinence users wanted safe, discrete, comfortable, odour controlling products which were easy to put on and dispose of.

Hygiene product technical trends would favour ultra-thin (fluffless) cores, breathable backsheets, silky-soft topsheets, improved shapes, ecologically-sound materials, economical versions for emerging markets, and pre-formed cores.

The Dodot (Arbora/Ausonia) diaper design would challenge the Pampers design.

Medical Nonwovens

Krzystof Malowaniec of Paul Hartmann ( Germany ) pointed out that the medical nonwoven market was being squeezed by demands for cost reduction without any compromise on quality. There was therefore a need to redesign medical procedures to reduce personnel, capital employed, materials consumed and complexity, per patient. One result of this was the “Customised Procedure Tray” (CPT) which would reduce personnel costs by allowing the preparation of all the materials needed for an operation outside the hospital by specialist partners. These packs would reduce wastage and post-operative infections and lead to shorter hospitalisations and reduced material consumption.

But what about the ecological considerations from what would inevitably be an increased use of disposables? Mr Malowaniec thought the motto here should be “don't reuse, recycle”, and advocated a new waste treatment technology which separated out all organics, and after careful blending converted them to basic organic materials which could be reused as monomers or fuel. This was not anaerobic biodegradation yielding methane, but a chemical conversion yielding mainly propene and ethylene. So, the future of operating theatre fabrics would be single-use, nonwovens-based, procedure packs tailored to specific operations. These would, through recycling be ecologically sound and economical without compromising medical performance.

Asked about the Polypropylene-to-Propene process he advocated, Mr Malowaniec referred to waste-organic cracking technology used in Germany towards the end of World War 2 when the Luftwaffe could not get aircraft fuel. He felt that when the primary raw materials got too expensive, this route would be rediscovered.

Roofing Substrates

Bertrand Claude Weiter of Johns-Manville Sales ( Germany ) put the Middle Eastern roofing membrane market at 270 million square metres/annum, of which 22% is natural fiber and 78% synthetic or glass based. This compared with Europe's 1.9 billion m 2 market (35% natural and 65% synthetic or glass fibers); North America's 700 million m 2 (43% natural and 57% synthetic or glass) and Asia 's 1.1 billion m 2 market (46% natural and 54% synthetic or glass).

Traditional roofing felt was natural fiber (rag felt which rotted when wet) coated with bitumen. Bitumen coated wet-laid glass, developed in the ‘50's was brittle and easily punctured. Polyester nonwovens reinforced with a glass scrim, or laminated to an aluminium film were better. The polyester could be coated on both sides with bitumen and this could be protected on one side with PE film or coated with a sand or talc anti-block layer. Polyester spunbond was now specially designed for roofing and provided the best strength, tear, elongation, puncture and rot resistance. Exceptional dimensional stability could be achieved by incorporating glass yarns. The next generation would yield flame retardancy and even higher stability (0.05% shrinkage during 24 hours at 80 o C) by needlepunching a spunbond polyester into a glass fibre nonwoven.

Asked how staple polyester nonwovens compared with spunbond in roofing, Mr Weiter said they can be interchangeable if the staple version is heavy enough to match the strength of spunbond. In the USA , staple and spunbond share the market 50/50, while in Europe spunbond has a 60% share, due to its predominance in the north, staple being favoured in the south. The long term future of bitumen coating? Bitumen is the residue when petrochemicals are extracted from oil. It's price recently rose from $100 to $300 per tonne and there is now a risk that plastic membranes could take over.

Hatem Otoum of Specialised Industries Co. (Jordan) chose to steer clear of nonwovens to provide a summary of Geert Hofstede's thinking on work-related values. His four dimensions of national culture were:

  • Individulalism/Collectivism
  • Power-Distance index (there's a wide variation in power down the heirarchy when power-distance is high. Low power-distance means equality between managers and workers)
  • Uncertainty Avoidance index (formal-inflexible organisations avoid uncertainty)
  • Masculinity/Femininity (assertiveness versus concern for others)
  • Latin American countries scored highest in Power-Distance, Scandinavia being at the low end of the scale. Arab countries were near the top. Greatest Uncertainty Avoidance was in Japan , France , Argentina and Spain , with Scandinavia being least. Arab countries were high on the list. Individulism was highest in Anglo-Saxon countries, lowest in Thailand and Indonesia . Arab countries were at the low end.

Masculinity was highest in Japan and lowest in Sweden , with Arab countries mid-range.

The combination of high Power-Distance and high Uncertainty Avoidance in Arab countries gives leaders virtually unlimited power and leads to rules and regulations which reinforce leadership and control. The low Individualism score suggest a collectivist culture where loyalty overrides other societal rules.