Monday 30 November 2009

European Bioplastics Conference – Berlin Nov. 2009


This was the fourth annual conference on EU Bioplastics organised by the European Bioplastics Association.   This year the EBA expected numbers to be down on last year, anticipating no more than 250 delegates.  380 had turned up, the result being an excellent meeting but for shortages of conference materials and overcrowding in the exhibition area.  90 companies from 33 countries were represented, 22% being from outside Europe.  No hardcopy or CD of the presentations was available at the time of writing.

Keynote Speech- The Biopolymer Value Chain

Dr Alexander Schwarz of McKinsey & Co said biopolymers offered strong environmental advantages and used as an example polyethylene produced from sugar via ethanol in Brazil.  This process emits a net 0.1 tonne of CO2per tonne of PE compared with 12 tonnes for PE made from coal in China, 2.1 tonnes from naphtha in China, 1.2 tonnes from naphtha in the USA and 0.8 tonnes from natural gas in the Middle East.  Routes to PE from fossil fuels can be expected to become more costly due to GHG regulations and taxes, but in the meantime, some consumers appear to be willing to pay more for biopolymers.  A September 2007 McKinsey survey of 7751 consumers around the World showed.....

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Insight – Memphis 12-15th October 2009

Keynote: European View

Kris Malowaniec of Paul Hartmann AG (Germany) opened on an optimistic note – for the medical disposables industry at least – by observing that in Europe, the threat of a pandemic was leading to a boom for masks, barrier fabrics and disinfecting wipes. Personal and occupational hygiene standards had tightened and could be expected to remain at an elevated level after the immediate pandemic concerns subside. Demographics (e.g. population ageing) also favoured increased use of disposables in future, and the recession-induced moves to cheaper private label products was coming to an end.
Between 1997 and 2007, spunmelt production increased by a factor of 3.5, especially in the emerging regions. Fabric quality improved dramatically giving better processability and performance in use. Production efficiencies had increased and the environmental impacts had been reduced by the move to ever-lighter fabrics and absorbent products.
Diaper design changes such as textile-like backsheets had driven much of the volume growth, but some problems were now emerging:

  • How much lighter could products get?
  • Overcapacity was evident: high growth expectations among the producers had not been co-ordinated with the converters.
  • Sustainability requirements were by definition hard to meet with disposables.
  • Innovation was limited and there were fewer pioneers with radical new products.
  • Commoditization continued, supported by standardisation of production technology.
  • Raw material, energy and converting costs were increasing.
  • Return on increasingly high capital requirement was limited.
Compared with NAFTA's 5 nonwoven producers, the EU had 21 and some consolidation was likely longer-term.
Asked about the EU demand for sustainability...

Saturday 3 October 2009

EDANA Outlook Personal Care Products Conference: Malta Sept 2009


About 370 delegates registered for this meeting despite its “off the beaten track” location’ and others arrived to take part in the numerous private meetings set up in the same hotel.   EDANA had courageously invited 2 key speakers with decidedly anti-disposable views and these added a dimension not experienced at earlier Outlooks.

            Cradle to Cradle

Professor Michael Braungart of Buro Braungart (Germany) is the co-author of “Cradle to Cradle”, a book propounding the need to abandon attempts to minimise the impact of products on the environment.  Instead it advocates developing new products and processes which are beneficial to health, the environment and nature. 
“Minimise-impact” thinking leads to the conclusion that economic growth is bad and ultimately to the conclusion that population must be controlled.  Minimising their impact is an admission that products were badly designed in the first place so using less becomes good.  Using less to reduce environmental damage is no better than travelling more slowly in the wrong direction rather than turning round and heading in the right direction.  “You don't protect the environment by destroying it more slowly”.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Man-Made Fibres Congress: Dornbirn Austria:16-18th Sept 2009


Fewer than 600 delegates attended this 48th annual congress, the numbers being down by over 100 on last year apparently due to companies reducing their travel budgets. Of the ~100 presentations, about 60 were provided by European universities and technical institutes, the majority of the industrial presentations being offered in the last few months. This year's main themes were New Fibre Developments, Fibres for Medical and Hygiene, Fibres for Composites, Fibres and Textiles for Climate Change and EU Research Projects. As always the three simultaneous sessions were tightly scheduled with limited time for questions. This report concentrates on the New Fibre Development conference which ran throughout.


Friedrich Weninger, President of the Austrian Man-Made Fibres Institute and CEO of Lenzing Fibres opened the conference. He reflected on the collapse of Lehman Brothers exactly a year ago and wondered if unabated capitalism had now run its course. Responsible management would be the key to the future. Companies would have to be fair, reliable and trustworthy and take long-term value-oriented decisions. They would consider the interests of all their stakeholders and involve them in key decisions made transparently and in a spirit of true partnership. They would also have to be increasingly farsighted, using economic principles to solve the growing ecological problems.

Sustainable development would have to be promoted globally as well as locally. Nature would be the model as it is within Lenzing. Growth would continue to be a target, but this growth would have to be qualitative rather than the quantitative growth of the past. “Renewables-Good, Fossil-materials-Bad” would continue to be the driving force, but of course wood should not simply be burnt to produce energy. It is a high-value resource, and should be used to make high-value products, energy-extraction being an end-of-life-cycle option. A focus on carbon footprint is not enough. We need to treat soil and water degradation as equally important. In summary, “we need to become as intelligent as ants”. (a reference to the “waste as food, cradle-to-cradle” thinking of Professor Braungart).

New developments in China

Mr Cheng, the Chairman of China’s Chemical Fibre Industry Association had arrived unexpectedly with a large delegation and this short paper was a last minute addition to the opening session. Speaking through his own interpreter and without visual aids:

  • GDP Growth in 2009 would be 7.1%. Q2 had shown an increase of 1.8% over Q1.
  • Internal demand was accelerating, restructuring of business was proceeding, and people were getting increasingly wealthy.
  • There were instabilities related to regional variations and inherent problems between industries which left many challenges and risks to be addressed.
  • There was still some overcapacity and some instability of supply, but the government had strong policies to improve the economy.
  • The chemical industry has withstood the recession well. September to November 2008 were difficult months but growth had returned.
  • From March to July 2009, prices had increased by 15%, cash-flow was good and investments were growing.
  • The chemical fibre industry sector was in fact leading the industrial recovery because:
    • It was more confident and more disciplined
    • TPA price had stabilised (no change since November last) and decoupled from the price of crude oil.
    • 76% of the capacity for chemical fibres used advanced technology and this is being upgraded and revitalised to allow the phasing out of the older technology over a 3 year period.
    • This will allow the proportion of differentiated or speciality fibres to increase from 39 to 50% of the total.

CCFIA is looking for partners to further develop differentiated fibres. In particular the fibre industry is hoping to collaborate with Western companies in Pulp, TPA and MEG expansions.

Climate Change – A biologists view

Joseph Reichoff of the Zoologische Staatssammlung Munich provided an alternative opinion on climate change, reminding us that because most biological processes are temperature dependent, often sensitive to 0.1oC, a history of biology is a history of temperature change. The earth has never had a stable climate: it always varied, the changes now being affected by human population and economic growth. With population growth come increased land under agriculture and an increasing livestock population. Compared with humanity, there is 10 times the live weight of food animals, and these make methane, a much worse GHG than carbon dioxide. Humanity also requires increasing energy generation to sustain the increasing population in the lifestyle to which it has become accustomed.

  • Our metabolism works best at 27oC, but we can adapt to almost any climate on earth.
  • There is no “right” climate, but the 19th century, to which many would like to return, was not the best.
  • The earth is now a degree warmer on average than it was in 1880 but global averages are biologically meaningless: it’s the range and the extremes of temperature within particular regions that matter.
  • Since the last ice-age (i.e. over the last 10,000 years) temperature has been stable overall but with many warm periods where the average temperatures were higher than at present.
  • The earth warmed by 16oC coming out of the ice-age but has remained in a 3oC range ever since. We are now at the top of the most recent 1.5oC upswing.
  • Biology has to deal with annual temperature changes of at least 10 times the long term average variation.
  • Alpine records from 1780 show summer temperatures as broadly stable, with 7 hot summers occurring between 1780 and 1880, and another 7 between 1880 and 2006. Winter temperatures also show insignificant change. However, between 1960 and 2006 the winter minimum temperatures have increased by 3oC.
  • Glacier growth/retreat is measurable and shows that the period from 800 to 1350 AD was much warmer in the Alps than the 1350-1950 period.
  • Flood disasters are also well documented, and these show flooding was worse than now in the “little ice age” from 1300 to 1900 AD. In fact global data shows flooding is least when the planet is warmest.
  • The “little ice age” was a bad time for humanity, the natural disasters being greater (deaths as a percentage of the total population) than over the last century.
  • It is nonsense to say the return of malaria to Northern Europe is warming related. Malaria was always a problem in Northern Europe until swamps were drained in the early 20th century.
  • Sea level rise is not sufficient to overcome the growth of the world’s river deltas. E.g. Bangladesh land-area is increasing by 20 sq km per year due to sedimentation.

So, attempting to reverse humanity-induced warming to return Earth’s climate to a pre-industrial state makes no sense biologically and the economic costs of such an attempt could prove disastrous. A warmer world will bring advantages to humanity not the least of which will be higher yields in agriculture and reduced energy consumption outside the tropics. Biological history suggests we should make the best of the present and save our resources to adapt to whatever changes occur in reality.

Green Chemistry

Bob Peoples of the American Chemical Society questioned the ability of the planet to meet the growth required to raise the living standards in China and India to that of the West. In 2010 China is expected to need 35% of the world’s iron ore, 30% of its aluminium, 25% of its zinc and 23% of its copper. China now emits more CO2 than the USA and is starting-up a new coal fired power station every week. Over the next 25 years, its oil needs will exceed those of the USA, and China will have built another 40 billion square metres of real estate, giving it a total of 60 mega-cities.

The environmental impact of supplying buildings, transport, water and food to the growing population is enormous and Mr Peoples argued that Green Chemistry could make a major contribution. The principles of Green Chemistry are:

  • Minimise waste and maximise atom economy
  • Design less hazardous chemical synthesis and safer chemicals
  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Use renewable feedstocks
  • Use catalysts
  • Avoid chemical derivatives
  • Design degradable materials
  • Avoid pollution

As an example, soy-based adhesives are formaldehyde-free, reduce air pollution by 90% in manufacture c.f. fossil-based adhesives, compete on cost and give better strength and water resistance.

Japanese Eco-technology

Akihiro Omatsuzawa of the Japanese Chemical Fibres Association showed that Japanese manufacturing and mining sector index had declined from 110 to 69 over the year to Jan 2009, and within this fibre production had declined by 40%. Acrylics had suffered most (-48%) and cellulosics least (-9%). Monthly auto production had fallen from over a million in Oct 2008 to 481,000 in Feb 2009 but within this total, mini-car production was stable. Textile and clothing production indices had fallen from 100 in 2005 to around 65 at the start of this year. Exports to the USA fell by 16%. Energy conservation measures in the chemical fibre industry had nevertheless achieved the target reduction to 10% less than 1990 levels last year, ahead of the target 2010, and the sector now used half the energy per ton of product c.f. 1973.

Examples of Japanese eco-technology were:

  • Air filters for reducing pollution from factories, incinerators and power stations, using aramids, PPS, polyimides, fluorocarbon fibres and others.
  • Hollow fibre membranes for drinking water purification and for sewage treatment.
  • Geotextiles for civil-engineering and asbestos-substitutes (PP and Vinylon) for concrete reinforcement.
  • Use of biomass to replace fossil reserves for polymers.
  • Development of environmentally sensitive composites

EU Fibres Development Strategy

Andreas Eule, President of CIRFS (soon to be renamed the EU Man-Made Fibres Association) reviewed the fibres scene:

  • World polyester filament production was predicted to exceed 40 million tonnes by 2020, all but 6 million being produced in China, and less than a million tonnes outside Asia.
  • World nylon filament will exceed 4 million tonnes, but here half will still be made outside China, and about a million tonnes will be made in the West.
  • A slide of CO2 emissions per kilo of fibre showed cotton (5.6 kg), Acrylics (5 kg) Polyester (4.2 kg), Rayon (3.7 kg) and organic cotton and wool both at 2.2 kg. PLA potential was put at 1.7 kg by Cargill.

There were no pointers to the EU Fibres Development Strategy.

Biodegradable Technical Yarns

Christian Vieth of Polyester High Performance GmbH (Germany) first explained how PHP arose from the breakup of Acordis in 2003, and how it had recently been absorbed into another Acordis spin-off, Polyamide High Performance GmbH. So the initials stay the same but since March this year polyamide and polyester industrial yarns are from the same company in Wuppertal. Their new biodegradable polyester, Diolen® 150BT, is based on PLA made from glucose. It looks and feels like an ordinary polyester but has a much lower tenacity and much higher elongation. It was said to have “wool-like” properties, but otherwise no applications were suggested. It is heat-stable up to about 120oC, above which it loses out to PET yarns. Asked about its abrasion resistance, Mr Vieth said this remained to be done. Creep under load in the sun? – not tested but unlikely to be good. It would cost more than regular polyester, but not unrealistically more.

Spunbonded Cellulose Updated

Yuichi Komoro of Asahi Kasei Fibres (Germany) provided rare additional insights into the spunbond cupro-rayon process which has been making Bemliese cellulosic spunbonds for medical and clean-room applications since 1973. The cotton pulp has 3 times the DP of viscose pulp and is made into a very viscous dope by dissolution in cuprammonium hydroxide. This dope is wet-spun though >1mm (sic) holes into water flowing in a specially shaped tube which draws the filaments by 20,000-30,000% to achieve the final diameters of 0.3 to 13 microns with a high strength fibre. Coagulation of the cellulose occurs slowly from the surface by loss of ammonia from the dope into the water bath. The wet cellulose fibre is a gel with a microporous structure and very high water imbibition. Coagulation is not accompanied by dehydration and the final fibre does not have the skin-core structure of other cellulosics. As a consequence of this, the outside feels wetter than viscose at the same regain. (Dry viscose skin has 5% moisture, when its core has 13%, whereas Bemliese has a 13% content throughout. )

The continuous filaments are washed in water and entangled into nonwovens whose USP is purity and freedom from lint. Asked if traces of copper remained in the fibre, Mr Komoro said there were none, adding that this uniquely microporous cellulose was very easy to wash clean.

Biophyl™ from Sorona®

Colasanto and Bong of Advansa Marketing GmbH (Germany) observed that we have been using the world’s resources 1.3 times faster than they can be renewed and about 60% of all fibres used in apparel are made by energy intensive processes from fossil reserves. Biophyl™ on the other hand is made from Sorona®, Dupont’s poly trimethylene terephthalate (PTT) polymer which is made from terephthalic acid and 1,3 propane diol, the latter being synthesised by bacteria from sucrose. It has the character of a nylon fibre, but requires only two-thirds of the energy and generates two-thirds of the GHG’s. It processes like standard polyester, but can be dyed at temperatures 20-30oC below those needed for polyester. This leads to savings in dyeing equipment and energy amounting to 13%. It costs about the same as a good PA66 yarn.

Biofront® PLA

Kazuhiro Morishima of Teijin Fibres Ltd (Japan) introduced Biofront™, a PLA fibre made without the technology developed by their recently acquired and later divested Natureworks LLC. Unlike the Natureworks PLA fibre, Biofront® is a stereocomplex of D- and L- lactic acids and achieves a much higher melting point (210-230C) and thermal stability than is possible with the Natureworks lactide route from blended D- and L- acids.

The new fibre is not easily hydrolysed and therefore not biodegradable. It can be blended with regular polyester and processed through dyeing and finishing under polyester conditions into all the usual polyester applications without problems. The main selling point will be the ability to increase the % renewable materials in labelling without any serious alteration in performance.

Grafting onto PP

Rolf-Dieter Hund of the Clothing and Textiles Institute at Dresden University (Germany) is attempting to improve the dyeing and finishing of PP by anchoring long-chain aliphatic amines in the amorphous regions of the outer layers of the fibre. Dodecylamine is applied to the fibre in a high-temperature dyeing process. The aliphatic chain enters the amorphous regions and is trapped there on cooling, leaving the amino group protruding from the fibre surface. The process takes 10-60 minutes at 80 to 130oC and, surprisingly, is said to have no effect on the fibre strength or crystallinity. The fibre is then acid-dyeable. The amine groups can also be used to bind organic nano-spheres to the surface; 0.3 micron polysorbitol- polyglycol methyl acrylate (PS-PGMA) spheres being illustrated on the surface of a fibre. The aminated fibre could also be coated with silver.

Lycra 2.0 tapes

Douglas Farmer of the Invista Applied Research Center (USA) described the heat-activated polyurethaneurea tapes that are gaining industry approval for bonding fabrics in garments to yield stitch-free and seam-free constructions. The laminates exhibit good peel strength over 50 domestic wash cycles and up to 300 washes in accelerated wash testing. Stretch and recovery properties are similar to woven elastic tapes but this is achieved without any additional thickness. Bonding needs 10 seconds at above 140oC. The main application illustrated were seamless “backsmoother” bras which could be invisible under a T-shirt.

PP/SAP bico-yarns

Ali Demir of Instanbul Technical University (Turkey) has developed a bicomponent fibre with an incomplete PP skin on a sodium polyacrylate core. The PP sheath is spun as a C-shape and the SAP powder (Liquiblock HS Fines from Emerging Technologies) is injected into the slot using a patented process which ensures the SAP stays well below its degradation temperature. The current spinning machine has 6 holes and the final yarn is about 350 dtex with a composition of 95% PP and 5% SAP. When knitted into fabrics moisture regains of 12% - 30% can be obtained depending on the precise process used. These fabrics cannot be washed conventionally, and Air Wash cleaners apart, are destined for single use applications. Dry-cleaning removes about half of the SAP. In questioning, Mr Demir admitted the spinning process was rather dusty at 1000m/min and required optimising to trap the powder properly.

Functionalised Lyocell

Axel Kolbe of TITK Rudolstadt (Germany) explained that antimicrobial fibres made by silver or copper treatment of lyocell during the washing stage suffered from the inability to make a white fibre. Furthermore, copper, unlike silver, is easily removed in any aftertreatments. Zinc polycarboxylate is white and can be added to the washing system, but it too is easily removed. So, TITK’s latest offering is obtained by adding zinc oxide or zinc sulphide to the spinning dope in high concentrations so that only about 5% of the resulting fibre is needed in blend to make a textile antimicrobial. Even then, if the textile manufacture involves bleaching, almost 50% of the active ingredient is lost. A further loss of 20% occurs during 40 domestic wash cycles but a satisfactory bacteria kill-rate (log3-4) remains. Asked how zinc contamination of the wash liquors affected solvent (NMMO) recovery, Mr Kolbe said it did not. Asked how the tensiles were affected, he wanted to discuss this privately.

Biocelsol Revisited

Prof. Pertii Nousiainen of Tampere University of Technology (Finland) said the Biocelsol project is now part of Finland’s national biorefinery programme which has a €120M budget for research over a 5 year period. One of the objectives was nano-cellulose, normally obtained by refining pulp in an expensive process with low yield.

The Biocelsol process involves pre-degradation of woodpulp with enzymes to a point where it will dissolve in caustic soda. 50 enzymes have been screened and the currently used endo-gluconase is a commercial product. The resulting dope can be converted into fibres, films, casings, sponges and particles using equipment designed for viscose handling. The dopes are typically 4-6.5% cellulose dissolved in 7.8% soda to which up to 1.3% zinc oxide can be added to improve dissolution. Round section fibres have been spun at 76 m/min into a 15% sulphuric acid bath containing 10% sodium sulphate. This pure cellulose fibre has a water imbibition of 160%, a tenacity of 1.5 g/den and an extension of 18%: properties which make it an ideal fibre for disposables. Nanoparticles (200 to 300 nm) can be made by precipitation of the dope in acid with a precisely controlled salt content, and emulsions of these are natural film-forming binding agents for cellulose fibres. Biocelsol products are insoluble in the caustic soda from which they were made.

Cost and feasibility studies for a commercial operation are underway in both Finland and China. Biocelsol fibres can be made in viscose factory and yield a dramatic reduction in emissions.

Inflated Fibres Revisited

Walter Roggenstein, Technical Director of Kelheim Fibres (Germany), reminded us of their origins in Hoechst and Courtaulds and of their unique access to the technology portfolios of these once major fibre producers. As if to underline the versatility of the viscose process in general and the Kelheim factory in particular, he introduced 4 new variants in the space of 15 minutes:

Verdi – an alloy fibre with enhanced absorbency, enhanced dispersibility for wet laid nonwovens, and self-extinguishing flame retardant properties.

Bramante – A segmented pure cellulose collapsed hollow fibre giving high absorbency for tampons and nonwovens.

Dante – A hollow alloy fibre with ultra high absorbency, enhanced dispersibility and self-extinguishing properties

Bellini – A pure cellulose inflated-collapsed fibre with self-bonding characteristics for high quality papers.

Compared with regular rayon (Danufil®), both Verdi and Bellini gave a 50% increase in Water Imbibition, Bramante doubled it, and Dante more than trebled it. In tampons, the Syngina benefit of Dante was an impressive 50% over Danufil. Unlike Danufil, all the new fibres could be wet-laid in 100% form, with Dante and Bellini giving useful tear strengths, the latter twice that of a writing grade paper.

Asked about fibre tensiles, Mr Roggenstein said these were lower than Danufil, but more than adequate for the nonwoven and paper markets for which they had been designed. They would be available in a normal range of fibre sizes (down to 0.7dtex) and a 0.5 dtex version was under development.

Comfort Fibres

Matthew North, Commercial Director of Kelheim Fibres (Germany) reviewed the influence of viscose fibre cross-section on fabric performance and comfort. In particular, the flat crennelated section of Kelheim’s Viloft® fibre, when twisted during yarn production, traps more air in the yarn than other fibres and thereby improves the moisture management and thermal performance of fabrics made from it. Using microscopy linked to the Zeiss AxioVision software, the air content of a range of blends of Viloft® with other cellulosics was measured to demonstrate the benefits arising from the use of Viloft®. The same fabrics were then tested at the Hohenstein Institute for pilling, thermal properties, water vapour permeability, absorbency, and perspiration buffering. 100% Viloft® outperformed the blends for pilling, thermal properties, and WVP while matching micromodal for absorbency and perspiration buffering. 100% Viloft delivered the best overall thermophysiological wearer comfort for the range tested.

PLA Update

Eammon Tighe of Natureworks – no longer a JV between Teijin (who are launching their own version of PLA) and Cargill – described again how they were continuing to improve their eco-profile by looking for reductions in process greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to previously provided information, the corn used is now animal-feed grade, and cellulose to PLA processes are being developed.

Natureworks PLA capacity has now been raised to 140,000 tonnes/year, of which 75,000 tonnes is being sold. 70% of this goes into packaging, the rest fibres. Products made from fibre now include spunlaid teabags for Unilever and Tetley (Ahlstrom) and spunlaid ADL for Huggies Pure and Natural (Kimberly Clark). Toyota is using it in carpets for the Prius, and the polymer is now used in one layer of the Frito Lay and Sun Chips bag film. Additives blended with PLA has improved processability. (Eco Flex from BASF, CPL01 from Polyvel for increased hydrophilicity, and Cesa Extend from Clariant were mentioned.)

The Ahlstrom spun-laid investment is a 40m euro lightweight Reicofil line capable of making very uniform 15 gsm PLA tea-bag “paper” for the Pyramid bag which used to be made from lyocell paper. Interestingly Natureworks no longer recommend composting as a disposal route for PLA. Recycling is the main option, with Galactic (Belgium) now hydrolysing fibre back to lactic acid.

Natureworks is looking for a site for the next factory, definitely outside the USA, maybe in the EU or Asia. A decision will be made in 6 months to allow a factory start up in 2013.

Viloft Nonwoven

Reinhold Rothenbacher of Kelheim Fibres (Germany) reviewed the evidence in support of the flat, crennelated viscose fibre (Viloft) being a better basis for flushable wipes than regular rayons. In essence, hydroentangled Viloft nonwovens break up faster in the tube-test than regular rayons made under identical conditions. Mr Rothenbacher noted that Viloft gives nonwovens one-third weaker than regular rayon when entangled under identical conditions, but when regular rayon is entangled to this lower strength, it exhibits unacceptable surface cohesion. When short-cut Viloft is wet-laid, it gives denser structures with higher wet cohesion.

Microfibre webs from Centrifugal Spinning

Martin Dauner of ITV Denkendorf (Germany) observed that centrifugal spinning is turning out to be a more productive route to submicron fibre webs than electrospinning. ITV's collaboration with Rieter on adapting the Center Bell centrifugal varnish sprayers to microfibre production has now reached the point where a first order for a commercial line is expected later this year.

While meltblowing is now entering the same territory with thermoplastic dopes, centrifugal spinning works best with solutions of polymers. 3 Center Bell heads are needed to cover a metre of width with 0.1 to 0.7 micron filaments. Polymer solutions processed include cellulose acetate, polyamides, PLA's, collagens, PVA's, polyurethanes, peptides, aramids and PAN. Electrostatic charging of the filaments is used as well, but only as an aid to web collection. Potential applications mentioned were filters of all types, wipes, battery separators, fuel cells, comfort clothing, medical - barrier materials, and supports for tissue culture.

Greenfil Bio-synthetic Fibre

Eric Grosjean of Sofila (France) introduced a castor oil based fibre which had been developed in a cooperation with Arkema who make the polymer and Radici who spin the yarn. Arkema had been making the polymer since the 1930's for other uses and the new Greenfil fibre is a polyamide 11 made without recourse to fossil-based monomers. Castor-oil plants grow with minimal water, fertiliser and pesticide use, on poor soil. Radici are making microfibre and fine-count continuous filament yarns (e.g 78 dtex/30 filament) for high value textiles. The polymer has a density of 1.04 g/cc and an abrasion resistance comparable with nylon. It dyes like nylon and the fabrics made from it feel cool to the touch. It is also naturally bacteriocidal “being a polymer of an amino acid used in cosmetics”.

PLA Applications

Dr Bas Kris of Applied Polymer Innovations (Holland) introduced API as the new name for the old Diolen Industrial Fibres R&D lab in Emmen. They have expertise in most industrial polymers and their conversion into yarns, and one of their current projects is finding new uses for PLA yarns. So far they have prototyped:

  • A knitted support netting for grass turves on roll, the support ultimately biodegrading in the soil.
  • Temporary carpets for exhibition stands.
  • Woven banners for promotional displays.
  • Compostible artificial grass, where PLA is both the grass and the backing cloth. Here the PLA is blended with a copolymer to improve its resilience.

Active Carbon Filters

Akishige Kimura of Toyobo (Japan) described how the unique porous structure of active carbon fibre allows it to outperform granuated active carbon in adsorbing volatile organic compounds from industrial processes. GAC has macro-, meso- and micro-pores, but only the micro-pores adsorb. Furthermore GAC needs large and costly adsorber vessels and regenerating it is costly and time consuming. The active carbon fibre in Toyobo's K-Filter has a much higher specific surface than GAC (1700m2/gm c.f. 1000m2/gm) arising from its micropore-only porous structure. It is a more controllable adsorbent than GAC because it adsorbs faster and more completely and has a sharp cut-off when fully loaded with VOC. The result: 100 kgs of the fibre can do the job of 1320 kgs of GAC, removing 99% of the VOC's where the larger load of GAC only removes 80%. Regeneration of the fibre needs 200 kg/hr steam where the GAC needs 360 kg/hr.

While the K-Filters have been used commercially with gases for many years, a new version suitable for water purification is just about to be commercialised. This will be capable of removing organic compounds (e.g IPA) from water at high efficiency. Asked which carbon fibres were best, Mr Kimura said pitch gave the best yield of carbon but these fibres are too weak for filters. Cellulose or PAN-based fibres were carbonised and then activated, a process which opens the closed pores in the carbonised fibres.

Durable Hydrophobicity by PECVD

Merce de la Fuente of LEITAT (Spain), a technological research centre for textiles, discussed ways of making polyester more hydrophobic. Plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition achieved hydrophilicity when acrylic acid or acrylamide precursors were used. Fluorocarbon nanocoatings with high wash fastness have also been obtained by a 2 stage plasma process: a first stage of activation and a second stage of plasma polymerization of fluorocarbon monomer:

• The morphology of the Fluoro Carbon nanocoating depends on the activation

gas: for air plasma activation smooth FC film is obtained while for argon

plasma activation, FC particles are generated.

• The Wet Contact Angles show that the smooth FC film confers the best water repellence with 138º.

• Unexpected WCA values were observed for the oxygen and argon plasma

activated samples: the WCA values increase with the number of wash cycles.

• These unexpected WCA's are in agreement with the SEM images: in argon

and oxygen plasma-activated samples, FC particles deposited onto fibres were observed. These particles are the reason for the increase in roughness and the higher WCAs.

In response to questions, low pressure plasma was used, and wet contact angle tests were the only wettability tests carried out so far.

Bicomponent Fibre Developments

Hans Koslowski of Deutsche Fach Verlag (Germany) reviewed the history of bicomponent fibre technology and markets commencing with their development in the 1930's by IG Farben to increase viscose crimp and make wool-like fibres. According to a patent survey, development activity had peaked in the 1960's (45 patents) declining to 11 patents in the 1990's, and recovering to 14 patents in the first 6 years of this decade. In 2007, world production of bico fibres was 236,000 tonnes, 80,000 in Japan, 81,000 in other Asia, 40,000 in the USA and 35,000 in Europe. Ana Ribeiro of CenTi (Portugal) in partnership with Hills Inc (USA)is using high melting point polymers in bi- and tri-component fibres. Their new Hills Inc. pilot plant is capable of operating up to 450oC with “agressive and corrosive” melts and features a melt-handling system which minimises polymer residence time and dead spots to minimise degradation.

Processable polymers mentioned during the talk included:

  • Fluoropolymers, PVDF and PTFE
  • Polyetherether ketone (PEEK)
  • Polyphenylene sulphide (PPS)
  • Polyamide imide (PAI)
  • Liquid crystal polymers (LCP)
  • Carbon based conductive polymers.

Applications under development were:

  • 20% PEEK on a PET core (PEEK performance at lower cost)
  • 5% LCP on a PET or PP core.
  • Dielectric skin on a conductive core for sensor/actuators
  • Tricomponent fibre with a conductive core, piezoelectric middle layer and a conductive skin for “processing of fibre devices”(?)

The conductive fibres had deniers of 200, 500 and 1000.

The Market for Nano.

Mutlu Sezen of Korteks (Turkey) appeared to define nano broadly enough to reach the conclusion that the market in 2007 was $147 billion. By 2015 it would be $3 trillion and amount to 15% of global production. Nano would be a second industrial revolution to change the prospects of the business world. Miscellaneous data included:

  • EU funding for nanotechnology had been $1 billion between 2002 and 2006
  • US Government funding amounted to $1.5 billion, and total US nano R&D funding was $3 billion (per year?)
  • By 2015, 12% of all jobs in manufacturing would be in nanotechnology
  • The EU market for nanotechnology in textiles would surpass 100 billion Euros by 2010 and had the potential to reach a trillion euros.

Lyocell Nanofibres

Piotr Kulpinski of the Technical University of Lodz (Poland) has been electospinning from 5 nozzles to make webs at 0.5 gms/hour. He had started with cellulose acetate and moved onto dilute NMMO solutions of cellulose which were electrospun onto the surface of water in which an earthed electrode was submerged. Some webs appeared to be films with a fibrous pattern on the surface, others were spun into yarns. One slide illustrated a ball of wet nanofibres with a water imbibition of 1000%.

Microstructured Fibre Surfaces

Marcel Halbeisen of EMPA Materials Science and Technology (Switzerland) has shown that diffraction and interference patterns engraved on metal rollers can be embossed onto fibre surfaces to give rainbow and sparkling effects and even colours without dyeing. On PP serious flattening of the fibre occurred, but on a PE/PP bico the results were better. The best results were with amorphous polymethyl methacrylate fibres.

Nanotechnology for Textiles

Isabel de Schrijver of Centexbel (Belgium) promoted Centexbel (an EU technical institute) and gave a general introduction to nanotechnology. Centexbel were using plasma treatment, sol-gel treatment and electrospinning to try and alter the surface of textiles permanently by attaching “nanoparticles”. The list of nano-possibilities seemed endless and included metals, metal oxides, clays, bucky-balls, fullerenes, polymer emulsions, mayonnaise etc. Properties claimed included FR, hydrophobicity, hydrophilicity, improved strengths, barrier to gases etc.

Making Multifunctional Textiles

Antionio Viera of CENTI (Portugal) took us on another whirlwind tour of his institute's capabilities in surface engineering and nanocoating. Buzz-phrases included atmospheric plasma, plasma pretreatment, plasma enhancement with enzymes, nano-scale, nano-film, nanoclay-particles, in-line monomer and oligomer deposition, e-beam polymerisation, sputtering, superhydrophobicity from nanoroughness and low surface tension, thermal mannekins, FTIR, TGA, DSC, DMA, AFM, CFD, USW. Synergy between academia and industry was among the objectives.

Improving Air Filters

Yvette Dietzel of STFI and Sabine Amberg-Schwab of the Franhofer Institute (Germany) were trying to develop new coatings to enhance the performance of air filters, e.g by increasing the lifetime of electrets. Different water-based inorganic-organic hybrid polymers (e.g bifunctional silanes) were used to functionalise filter media intended for dust-loaded air in buildings and cars. They claimed a combination of different properties, e.g electrostatic, antimicrobial, and stiffening could be obtained with one coating system. However it appeared that the stiffening of the high loft samples was unacceptably high; a plethora of confusing data slides leaving the impression that little filtration improvement had been obtained. In dealing with questions, the statement, “the coatings do not influence filtration negatively” appeared to be a fair summary.

Calvin Woodings


Friday 7 August 2009

World of Wipes, Atlanta: 14th-16th June 2009


This conference goes from strength to strength.  It was the 5th and it attracted 370 attendees, many on INDA’s innovative “networking only” rate which clearly adds to the numbers and improves networking prospects.  It is also attracting inventors keen to take a table-top to show off their ideas and grow their businesses.  The quality of presentations and information provided was excellent.

Global Wipes Market Update

Ian Bell of Euromonitor International (UK)  put FMCG value growth for 2006-11 at only 1-3% in the developed regions of the world, and 9-12% in the developing regions.  For wipes (excluding Away From Home products), the split was 85/15 of value sales between the developed/developing regions .  Globally the market for personal care and home care wipes now amounted to $9.25bn.  Overall like-for-like sales had grown by 2% but within this, Personal care had grown 5% while Home Care had declined by 2%. 

  • In Western Europe the Home Care decline had been particularly steep, falling from $1.2bn in 2005 to just below $0.9bn in 2010. 
  • All sectors, Household, Electrostatic, All-Purpose, Furniture,Toilet, and Floor showed a 5 year decline in this region. 
  • The US showed modest growth, while Australasia and Japan were stagnant. 
  • Personal Care in WE had grown from $1.9bn to $2.35bn
  • In the same period, in the USA PC wipes market grew from $1.3bn to $1.5bn while Australasia and Japan were static.
  • Per-capita spend on wipes however was highest in Japan and Australia ($10-$11), with the USA at $8.2 and WE at $6.6.  Surprisingly, the Japanese PC wipe sector now included a successful deodorant wipe for men. (“Gatsby Ice Type”)

For the period to 2015, global growth would be around 5% year on year: 12%  in the developing world and 3% in the developed world. 

  • Personal care wipes would grow at 3% CAGR
  • Home Care wipes would grow at 0.5% CAGR with most of this being in North America.
  • By 2015 the Developed/Undeveloped market value split would be at 80/20, and it would take until 2030 for it to reach 50/50.
  • Key emerging markets (presumably for wipes) were listed as Turkey and China (both 17.5% pa growth)  Brazil (16%) and Russia (11.5%)

Overall, wipes are not doing as well as they used to. The macroeconomic situation in the developed world coupled with the low penetration of the more rapidly growing emerging markets is to blame.

Asked what might improve matters, Mr Bell said that government sponsored infection control measures prompted by health scares such as H1N1 increased awareness of the benefits of cleanliness, to the benefit of the wipes sector. 

How did Euromonitor gather the data? By interviews with users, suppliers and raw materials producers in the countries where they had offices, and by monitoring the trade press.

Would sustainable wipes grow?  Yes but not at a premium – purchases by eco-warriors excepted (5% of the population).

North American Wipes Market Update

Rory Holmes, President of INDA, defined North America as Canada, the USA and Mexico

  • In 2010 wipes accounted for 18.5% of the 1.52 million tonne NA nonwoven market compared with 8.9% of the 0.7 million tonne market in 1995. 
  • NA consumption has quadrupled in 15 years, and in the same time the consumer wipes share has grown from 65% to 79% of the total wipes market, Industrial and Institutional being the remainder. 
  • Within consumer wipes, the baby wipes value share has fallen from 88% of the 1995 market to 29% of the 2010 market with Household growing from 4% to 45% and Personal Care growing from 8% to 26%. 
  • In 2010, 174,000 tonnes of consumer wipes worth $4bn were sold.   41% of the tonnage went into Household, 46% into Baby and 13% into Personal.  Compare this with the value percentage and the competitiveness of the Baby sector becomes clear.  46% of the tonnes yield 29% of the value:  the Baby market is now mature and static…
  • …and the volume share is dominated by Private Label (40%).  K-C have 26%, P&G 19% and small brands share the remainder.  However in value terms K-C leads with 34%, P&G has 27% and PL 26%
  • In 2010, P&G’s Swiffer (30%) led the electrostatic household wipes market with PL (20%) and small brands (16%) ahead of Pledge (7%).
  • Personal Care wipes include all-purpose, cosmetic, facial, moist-toilet, bath, antibacterial, toddler and fem-care.
  • A breakdown of 2010 “moist-toilet” tonnage shares showed K-C leading (45%) with PL second (26%), Playtex third (12%), P&G fourth (11%) and small brands at 7%.  On a value basis, the shares were 32%, 20%, 12%, 17% and 19% respectively.
  • Of the total 281,000 tonne total wipes market, spunlaced had 52%, air-laid pulp 24%,  Co-form and wet-laid 14%, thermal/latex bonded carded 5%, needled 3.5% and spunlaid 2%.
  • Food-service, industrial and institutional wipes sold $1.193bn in 2010, 38% to healthcare, 38% to industrial, 13% to speciality and  11% to foodservice.
  • With regard to flushability issues, the California bill is dead but not buried.  INDA continue to monitor this one.  New legislation against flushables is being proposed for Maine and New Jersey, and INDA have a seat at the table.
  • After 27 years of INDA lobbying, the  competition between laundered shop-towels and disposable nonwovens is about to become fair.  From June 2012 a new EPA ruling will mean that nonwovens will not automatically have to be disposed of as hazardous waste a rule which doubled their cost of use.

Asked what the next big thing in nonwovens would be, Dr Holmes expected rapid growth in industrial/hospital wipes to follow the new EPA ruling.  He also believed that stabilsied high-loft nonwovens would begin to grow at the expense of PU foam in upholstery.  Was there any real need for flushable products?  10 experts had reviewed the INDA guidelines and all were in favour of flushables, one advocating stopping the disposal of any faecal matter in landfill to improve public health.  The flushing of paper towels from toilets was the major problem at sewage farm screens.

South American Wipes

Rick Jezzi (Consultant) defined Latin America as, South and Central America (including Mexico) and the Caribbean and arrived at a population of 585 million in 2010.  Of South America’s 395 million people, half were Brazilian and here the population was falling by 1% per year as religious influence diminished (more birth control) and women entered the workforce.  Brazil accounted for 61% of SA’s 2010 GDP and would have a PPP/capita of $12,500 by 2015.  Argentina was the richest in the region with a PPP/Capita projected to be $17,500 by 2015.  This compared with NA/WE/Japan earnings of $30-46,000 per capita.

  • Diapers in the region showed a 4-5% CAGR to 2015 and were provided by many players, the top three having 33, 25, and 16% shares.  Penetration (43%) should reach 50% by 2015
  • Fem care and pantyliners were projected to show similar growth, and here 4 players shared over 90% of the market.  Penetration (65%) should reach 77% by 2015)
  • Adult Incontinence was embryonic but growing at 6.5%/year with 97% of the market shared by the top four. Penetration (30%) should reach 37% by 2015.
  • Baby wipes used 7200 tonnes of nonwovens last year (60% being spunlace at ~40gsm) and was projected to grow to 8750 tonnes by 2015.  Penetration (~20%) should reach 26% by 2015.
    • 50% of diaper buyers also buy wipes. (Average pack size = 50 wipes)
    • K-C imports Coform from the US and UK at 48gsm and converts in Brazil and Columbia. (Multinationals share 70% of the market)
    • 20gsm thermal bonded card web and spunmelt accounts for 55-60% of the square metreage sold.
  • Personal care wipes have been growing at ~15%/year and will grow at 2xPPP growth to 2015.
  • Household wipes will be slow.  Its counter-cultural in the target demographic: “We have maids”.

Brazil is self sufficient in spunmelt (Providencia and Fitesa) and exports spunlace (3 production lines), but PGI controls the rest of SA.  There are no air-laid lines and this could be an opportunity.   Converted baby wipes are imported into Brazil for re-export into the region.  Brazil leads in bio-degradables with Braskem and Dow making polyethylene from ethanol, Solvay making PVC and industrial polyhydroxyalkanoates also being made.  Low-cost biofeedstock availability (e.g. sugar cane) is the key here.

Chinese Wipes Market

Minru Zhu, Honorary Chairman of China Nonwovens and Industrial Textiles Association reported on recent developments:

  • Total sales of nonwovens and technical textiles reached $57bn in 2010 and employed 700,000 people.
  • 2500 companies are selling over $700,000-worth of nonwovens and technical textiles, up from 1000 in 2000. (Over 100 companies with turnover over $100m)
  • 8.2 million tonnes of fibres consumed were consumed, the main shares being as follows.  Canvas and tarpaulin – 1.52m;  Basic synthetic leather – 0.71m;  Medical textiles - 0.70m; packaging textiles – 0.67m; Filtration and separation 0.56m; Agrotextiles – 0.52m;  Geotextiles – 0.40m.  Disposables were probably within the 0.31m Others category.
  • Nonwovens had grown from 2.4 million tonnes in 2009 to 2.8 million tonnes in 2010.  Here the breakdown was spunbond 1.32 million tonnes, needled 0.63 mt, latexbond 0.25 mt; spunlaced 0.23 mt; thermal bond 0.21 mt; air-laid  96,000 tonnes and melt blown 30,000 tonnes.
  • 93 companies make spunlaced using 160 lines, over 37 of which are imported.  16 new lines were built in 2010.  15 companies produce more than 5000tpa.
  • Spunlaced capacity in 2010 was 325kt, and production 232kt.  One province (ZheJiang) makes over half China’s spunlace.
  • China has over 800 spunmelt lines, 40 of which are SMS.
  • The 96,000 tonnes of Airlaid is mainly used in wipes and hygiene.

Sales of personal care wipes (includes baby?)  in China will grow from $158million in 2008 to $230million in 2013.  Other markets are negligible.  The baby wipes market comprising 80 million 0-4 year olds is 20% penetrated.  20-30 million babies are born every year.

“Wipes are disposable and add natural environmental stress”. “Choosing biodegradable easily types of fibre material will be the important trend for future wipes”

Asked about spunlaced line requirements over the next 5 years, Mr Zhu said they would install 40 more, of which 13-23 would be imported.

EU Wipes Market

Heidi Beatty, Director of Strategic Product Development, Nice Pak/PDI expected the EU wipes market to recover slowly.  France and Germany would be static through 2014, but the UK, Spain and Eastern EU would show modest growth.

  • The total market would grow from £2.2 bn (2009) to £2.5 bn (2014)…
  •  …but household wipes would decline from £0.76bn to £0.69bn. 
  • Baby wipes would be up from £1bn to £1.3bn
  • Facial would be up from £0.39bn to £0.49bn.
  • Eastern Europe would grow from €170mn to €260mn.

Health scares provide an opportunity for household wipes.  Dettol® antimicrobial wipes have seen sharply increased sales since Swine Flu in 2009.

The key challenge will be price increases with spunlace, up 23% in the last year; pulp up 6% and polymers 19%, but the increased regulatory pressures (REACH, Biocides Directive, Cosmetics Directive, and the Classification Labeling and Packaging regulations) will also prove challenging.

Using UK baby wipes to illustrate the points, the brands are winning back share by:

·         Driving down selling price throught increased use of multipacks (up to 12 packs per multipack),

·         Reducing the wipe count per pack, introducing “economy” versions and pushing X for Y promotions.  Brands now contain on average 20% fewer wipes per pack than  the equivalent in private label. 

·         The Pampers Simply range of economy wipes are now 25-45% cheaper than the main Pampers brand.

So, while the volumes increase in the UK, the returns are reducing, with the year on year baby wipes spend showing an average of 5%/year decline in each of the months from Feb 2010 to Feb 2011. 

In short the UK, which is Europe’s biggest wipe market, is driving-out  value, and the key question is will it be contagious!

Raw Materials Instability


David Adkins, Regional Director, Lenzing (USA) said Group sales reached a record €1.77bn last year, 90% of this coming from the cellulosic fibres viscose and Tencel.  The turnaround in cellulosic fibres fortunes has been dramatic.  After 30 years of stagnation (1970-2000) which coincided with the age of cheap petrochemicals, worldwide production of man-made cellulosic staple fibre has risen from 1.8 million tonnes to 3.1 million tonnes.   The majority of this growth is in China, both European and American production having continued the decline until 2006 and then stabilizing.  2010 staple capacity was 3.7 million tonnes, 60% of this being in China.  India, Indonesia and Europe have roughly 10% each; Taiwan and Thailand have 4% each.  Excluding Tencel, Nonwovens account for 450,000 tonnes of the demand and Textiles 2 million.

Now sustainability is growing in importance, and cotton demand (and availability) can be expected to increase despite the high prices.  China is the key to both man-made cellulosic staple via its dominance of both fibre and textile production and cotton supply.  Nevertheless Lenzing believe the “Cellulosic Gap” remaining when cotton production is maximized means the future for viscose and lyocell is assured.  They expect the total demand for all fibres to reach 140 million tonnes by 2030, when the “gap” could be as much as 20 million tonnes or double current cotton production.  Clearly the world will not be able to produce cotton in these quantities on land required for food crops.


John Devine,  Economist, Cotton Inc said cotton price (150c/lb “today”) had fallen from a record of 210 c/lb in March and its volatility (the range of prices over a year) was at a record 140c/lb.  Since 2005/6 both cotton and corn price indices had doubled and oil (1996=100) had risen from ~280 to ~380 via a peak of ~450.  Since 1996 world population had risen by 20% and their percapita income had risen from $4980 to $6200, both factors increasing the demand for cotton.  Acreage planted was now increasing and a record harvest was expected for next year, allowing cotton stocks to rise for the first time in 6 years.  This year’s harvest might however be lower than recent predictions due to droughts in Texas and China.  For the first time in 15 years prices of clothing were increasing.  A graph of demand for cotton showed 2011/12 at 119 million bales, down from a peak of 124 million bales in 2006/7.

The Chinese and Indian governments are in the driving seat here.  They could act to stabilize cotton price and supply.

Feedstocks and Synthetics

Karen Jones, Service Leader, Fibres and Feedstocks CMAI (Now taken over by IHS) listed the strategic drivers in the petrochemicals supply chain:

  • Demand is growing rapidly in emerging markets, but capacity additions in the Middle East are slowing.
  • Investments in North America could now occur again.
  • Alternative production technologies and feedstocks could emerge.
  • Cost of gas has dropped dramatically relative to oil.
  •  Ethane cracking shifts steam cracker co-product yields.  (There’s no propylene side product from ethane cracking.)
  • “On-purpose” (propane dehydrogenation) propylene production becomes more important so…
  • …prices of PP will stay high for another 4 years at least and impact demand.
  • China installed another 3 million tonnes of PET capacity in 2010 and another 1.2m tonnes went in elsewhere.
  • PET prices are staying high though: demand to replace cotton in textiles will remain high.  It will however remain cheaper than PP.

Asked how much more polyester was used in textiles due to high cotton price in 2010, Ms Jones estimated 0.75m to 1m tonnes.

Market Pulp

Brad Kalil (Consultant, Ex Weyerhaeuser) reminded us that the fluff pulp market is not independent of paper grades because 70% of the US fluff capacity can make either paper or fluff grades depending on the economics.  Nevertheless fluff has grown by 6%/y (or 225,000 tonnes)  for the last 6 years, and will continue to grow at 4.7% through 2014 to reach 6 million tonnes.  New bleached eucalyptus kraft pulp coming on stream in 2014 will overwhelm demand so for the foreseeable future there will be adequate availability.  With regard to price, the single most important factor is the US Dollar exchange rate index, so if the dollar strengthens, pulp prices will fall.

Washington View

Jessica Franken of INDA listed the three main concerns as a) reforms to the Toxic substances control act (TSCA), b) developing antimicrobial resistance leading to bans on common antimicrobials and c) an FTC crackdown on “greenwash”.

TSCA is likely to develop into the US version of Europe’s REACH.  TSCA has enabled the EPA to regulate chemical substances, but since 1976, only 5 chemicals have been banned and only 200 of the 62,000 grandfathered chemicals have been tested.  It will now have to develop an inventory of 84,000 chemicals including grandfathered chemicals, and the burden of proof shifts from the EPA to the manufacturers.  So, instead of the EPA having to prove an unreasonable risk of a chemicals use, the manufacturer or processor will have to prove reasonable certainty of it causing no harm.  All manufacturers or processors of existing chemicals will have to submit a declaration of this within one year, and new chemicals will need to have a pre-market notification including the same minimum data set required for existing chemicals.  Clearly this a huge paradigm shift with massive testing and reporting obligations.

Two NGO’s are asking the EPA to ban Triclosan as an endocrine disruptor which causes reproductive problems and leads to antibacterial resistance.  The FDA is also reviewing its safety.

In October 2010 the FTC proposed revision of the “Green Guides” for the first time  since 1998.  The proposed changes will affect the marketing of products which claim bioegradability, eco-friendly, green, compostable, renewable, recyclable, carbon-neutral etc.  Any “green” claims will require real and prominently displayed information qualifying the claims.

Headwear Liners

Terry Zebouni, CEO Bandzorb LLC introduced the Bandzorb liner, an adhesive backed super-absorbent antimicrobial air-laid nonwoven to absorb perspiration from the forehead.  It sticks to the headband of the hat, cap or helmet and is available in 1”x12” (at $8.95 for a 6-pack) and 1 5/8”x14” sizes (at $9.95 for a 6-pack).  Ms Zebouni appears to be looking for partners to participate in the scaling up and  commercializing of the idea.  Asked if it could be reused she thought maybe 2 uses with drying in between would work.

Inner Wipes

Don Hatter (Inventor) introduced a plastic container which fits inside a toilet roll and carries 20 wet-tissues.  The idea is to have wet-tissues always available.  He is right at the start of the project and looking for support.

Kandoo Wipes

Richard Palmer CEO of Nehemiah Manufacturing Co. and ex P&G presented the successful Pampers Kandoo brand licencing story.  The company was formed in the Fall of 2009 “to build brands, create jobs and change lives” in the greater Cincinnati area.  Kandoo was the first licenced brand because within P&G it  lacked investment and focus and hence suffered declining sales. Nehemiah improved the substrate and emphasized flushability on the pack, changed the mix of SKU’s, and developed strong customer support via Facebook and Twitter.  They are now developing a range of Pampers Kandoo personal care products for toddlers:  shampoo, soap and sanitiser with playful packaging and fragrances that toddlers would love.

Asked for more details of the setting up of the new company, Mr Palmer said P&G had outsourced manufacturing and Nehemiah took over the supply chain.  They created 20 jobs in Cincinnati to pack the wipes.  They sell to major retailers using a hybrid Direct and Broker marketing model, and do a lot on-line.  Were they working with other companies?   Mr Palmer mentioned Lawn and Garden, where they had teamed up with the inventor of a new product. 

Instructional Packaging

Paul Taylor replaced Tara Millar to give the Atlantic Mills presentation on the use of QR (Quick Repsonse) bar codes on packaging.  Scanning the code with a smart phone connects you to an instructional video which either shows you how to use it or trains you how to sell it.  It is being used on wipes for institutional and food service to train users in correct cleaning procedures.

Water Wipes

Edward McCloskey, Chairman and CEO of Irish Breeze introduced a baby-wipe impregnated with pure water containing 0.1% of grapefruit extract as preservative.  He argued that today’s baby wipes used 100 times a week to apply lotions containing complex preservatives and other chemicals are too big an insult for baby’s tender skin.  The substrate is 100% hydroentangled viscose.  It is selling well in all supermarkets in Ireland, and in pharmacies in the UK.  On-line sales through Ocado are also strong.

Neutrogena Wave

David Gubernick, Research Fellow, J&J Consumer and Personal Products demonstrated the “Wave”, a vibrating exfoliator which uses a disposable impregnated felt pad to clean the skin.  The range of pads use 250-300gsm PET/Rayon/PP blend needlepunched fabrics to give different textured surface using the Di-lour system.  Other textures are added by spray or gravure dot printing.  The felt needs wetting before use and the vibrator can be used in the shower.

Alcohol Free Germicidal Wipes

Hudson Garrett, Director of Clinical Affairs and Training at Nice-Pak/PDI introduced San-Cloth® AF, the first and only alcohol  and fragrance free, quat-based disinfectant wipe with a 3 minute kill time.  It can be used without wearing gloves or protective clothing and is effective against 25 microorganisms  common in bathrooms kitchens and hospitals in 3 minutes.  This product won the WOW innovation award.

Paper Shower

James Bahcall, CEO, Paper Shower, uses his invention after cycling.  It is a pack of two wipes, one very wet and the other dry to allow a sponge down and dry off after a sweaty ride into work (for example).  While not much larger than a floor wipe they can be used on the whole body, presumably in the bathroom.  Both fabrics were hydroentangled.

PurCotton Industrial Wipes

Lizzie Zhao, Marketing Manager, Winner Industries (China) described their 100% unbleached cotton hydroentangled wipes.  The presence of the natural oils and waxes enables high speed carding and entanglement, and where necessary the rolls are scoured and or bleached in a kier afterwards.

Wipes Converting Machinery

Dave Kessenich, Product Development, PCMC, promoted their range of wipes machinery.

Microencapsulation for Wipes

Ted Goodwin, VP Business Development Encapsys described how the business grew out of the NCR paper business of Appleton Paper.  Microcapsules of ink were used in the No Carbon Required paper, and the same technology has since been used to encapsulate a variety of materials e.g fragrances such as those used by P&G for Downy.

Physical encapsulation coats a core material with polymer by spray-drying, fluidized bed coating or pan coating.  These coatings are relatively thick.  Chemical encapsulation involves creating a thin skin by interfacial polymerization in an emulsion or suspension of the core material.   They now ship over 30,000 tonnes of microcapsules to 4 continents and are exploring the possibilities for microcapsules in nonwovens used to manufacture for wipes.

Balanced High-Speed Carding

Dan Feroe, Area Sales Manager, NSC illustrated how their TT Card innovation allowed the production of nonwovens with improved ratios of MD and CD strengths at high speeds. A 20/80 viscose/polyester web had been produced at 40 gsm and 250 m/min with an MD/CD tensile ratio of 1.88.  The same card could be used at 150 m/min to make 0.44 ratio – i.e. more like a cross-laid web.  Interestingly, the faster the carding, the higher the CD strength.  At 300 m/min on a 50/50 PET/Viscose CD’s were 40% higher than from a traditional card.  450 kg/hr/metre throughput is possible.

Lessons from Product Development

Doug Cole, Technical Director Product Development, Rockline ran through the regulations for wipes and their testing requirements.  Why after all this testing are there still problems?

  • Adverse skin reactions do develop.  Was the testing protocol not followed? Did the materials change?  Sensitisation after years of use?  Seasonal changes?
  • Mould does grow despite preservative efficacy testing.  Again did the materials or process change, did bugs get stronger, or did the consumer misuse it?
  • Stability testing was OK, but packs burst due to  inflation when trucked over the Rocky Mountains.
  • Why do roll goods turn pink in the warehouse?  (It was the exhaust fumes from the fork-lift trucks).
  • Why did Cottonelle Rollwipes fail in 2001.  (It was way ahead of its time and required changes in consumer behavior)  Similar questions could be asked about Spiffies Dental Wipes, Dawn Wash and Toss, and Sunscreen wet wipes.

Asked how to ensure a new product succeeds, Mr Cole advocated doing everything right.  Would there be a convergence of regulatory testing around the world?  Yes, the USA was now reacting to changes in the EU and Australia.

Discarded Wipe Recycling

George Savage, Executive VP, Calrecovery pointed out that wipes account for less than 0.1% of solid waste.  Their key characteristics for recycling were the elements present, the microbial content, the moisture content, the putrescible organic matter, and any traces of toxic chemicals or plastic contamination.  The disposal options after reuse were recycling into new materials, bio-processing e.g. compost, burning to recover energy and landfill.  Was recycling cost effective?  Yes, mainly, but some communities do collect for recycle and dump in a landfill.  One questioner mentioned the Kelloggs problem in the EU where contamination from recycled cardboard was leaching through the inner liner and contaminating their cereals.

Sustainability, a Corporate Responsibility

Ruth Levy, VP Strategic Product Development Nice-Pak/PDI defined sustainability as avoiding stealing your descendant’s future, and opened the presentation with the National Geographic “7 Billion” video which emphasizes the difficulties arising from population growth, more people consuming more resources, and more people living longer.  In comparison, the possible responses seemed trivial:

  • We need to make a profit to stay in business so sustainability has to be part of how we make a profit.
  • Waste minimization is key.  We pay for it twice now due to costs of disposal.
  • Engage all employees and external contacts in the war on waste.
  •  “Don’t pay more for sustainability”: use less product in the first place.
  • Driving down cost is an environmentally friendly thing to do.  Wal Mart has the world’s largest environmental footprint but its focus on minimum economic cost minimizes waste and impact.

Would regulators move to force post consumer waste back upstream for the producers to deal with?  Ms Levy was not sure.

Waste Reduction

Jason Lough, Waste Reduction Manager, Ahlstrom also saw sustainability concerns as an excellent motivator to encourage employees to reduce waste in manufacturing.  Launched in April 2010, the Waste Reduction program targets 15% reduction and a €20m saving in all 37 Ahstrom plants. It has now been implemented in 27, and will be operated in all plants by the end of 2011.  Every employee has a personal waste reduction goal and plants have Key Performance Indicators for process waste, trim waste, quality waste and total waste on monthly and 3 and 12 month rolling averages.  Success is achieved by meeting the 3-month rolling average targets in 4 consecutive months.

Difficult waste problems include:

  • Changeover waste: the best solution being fewer products and ultimately one-plant one-product.
  • Quality waste:  do customers insist on unnecessarily high specifications?
  • Over usage:  the inclination to ship product with too high a basis weight to be safe.

Asked if, after 18 months, the program was a success, Mr Lough said they were on target for 15% reduction but the economic benefits had yet to be assessed.

Defining “Natural”

Denise Petersen, Skin Care Marketing and Sustainability Manager, BASF (NA) gave Cara Welch’s paper on behalf of the Natural Products Association.  Any product labeled “Natural” should be made of natural ingredients converted with appropriate processes to maintain purity.  It should also avoid the use of natural ingredients known to be harmful.  Excluding water, 95% of the product must use natural ingredients, so some synthetics are allowed as preservatives for example.  A full list ingredients must be on the label, and if the natural label is used on a brand with several product lines, 60% of all the products must meet the certification standard before the label can be used on any one.  A full list of approved ingredients is on the NPA website, and the costs of certifying your products is reduced if you use these ingredients.  As of Sept 2010 synthetic fragrance is prohibited.

Debate over whether a wet-wipe substrate is part of the lotion packaging or a delivery device (and therefore not a wipe ingredient) has come down in favour of the substrate having to be natural.  So, what is a natural nonwoven?  100% cotton or wood pulp clearly is, 100% rayon might be, and synthetics clearly are not.  The committee is still working on this.

Certification lasts 2 years and then resubmission is required.

PLA Biodgradability Update

Larry Wadsworth, Technical Director of US Pacific Nonwovens provided the detailed results of biodegradation tests on melt-blown PLA and PLA/PHB blends, spun-bond PLA and 50/50 viscose/PET spunlace in clean baby-wipes lotion, river water, sea water, compost and soil over both 10 and 20 weeks.  The main conclusions after 10 weeks were:

  • The spunbond lost less tensile and tear strength than the meltblown presumably due to a surface area effect.
  • The 50/50 viscose/PLA  blend was similar to the spunbond except for being far more stable in the lotion.
  • The presence of PHB in the meltblown reduces the strength loss.  PHB is clearly more stable than PLA in the lotion, but costs 3x as much.

The results of the 20 week study will be presented at another conference.

Flushability Update

David Powling, Family Care R&D Leader, KC ran through the progress made in the last year on the INDA/EDANA flushability guidelines which have been under development since 2004 following on from the 2003 P&G/WERF study.

  • “It gets harder every year”
  • The new 3rd edition is due out in March 2011-2
  • This will abandon the 3 tier testing approach and use a series of tests including the new Municipal Sewage Pump test.  To be labeled “flushable” a product has to pass all tests.
  • The real problem is the flushing of non-flushables and a non-flushable labeling code of practice  has been developed by both INDA and EDANA.
  • This needs policing because the labels are not being displayed prominently enough on some toilet wipes.
  • INDA sorted out the proposed California flushables ban, but New Jersey and Maine are now debating similar legislation, with INDA taking part.
  • The majority of US flushables have now switched to dispersible technology rather than small size.
  • Various wipes are being evaluated on the Municipal Pump Test which monitors the power required to pump water containing wipes.  If the power increase exceeds 10% as the wipes are added the wipe has failed the test:
    • Paper hand towels fail.
    • Baby wipes fail badly ( 3 varieties tested).
    • Household cleaning wipes fail, but one labeled flushable passed.
    • Only 2 of 4 flushable toddler wipes passed.
    • All flushable moist wipes passed.
  • Another study of the waste accumulating on the screens at the inlet to a sewage farm is planned.  The last one showed paper towels, not nonwovens as the main source of blockage.

Miscellaneous points

Mike Godfrey, Director of Textiles at MiniFibers Inc. displayed a range of short cut man-made fibres and products made from them.  The wet-laid Mitsui microfiber Synthetic Wood Pulp (100% microfiber PE) was in the form of a very impressive, silky-soft Japanese-style art-paper which, without any special treatment, had been painted with water colour paints in the traditional Japanese style.  Apparently 100% PE fibre of these dimensions is naturally wettable.  The paper was clearly porous, but the water-based paint did not bleed.

Lawson Gary, a cotton farmer and President of Manufacturing of T J Beall Co. showed the Ultraclean 100% cotton as a hydroentangled fabric at 50gsm.  Ultraclean is an unbleached unscoured hydrophobic cotton which has been mechanically cleaned to remove all but 0.01% of non-fibre material.  Carrying its natural oil and wax finish this 1 inch cotton cards well at speeds around 200 m/min and is intended for blending with viscose in biodegradable wet-wipes.  The hydrophobic cotton replaces the polyester and provides the marketing story, and viscose provides the absorbency.

Microbiological testing typically takes 3-7 days, but the Celsis Rapid Detection system does it in a day.  The samples can be prepared in 15 minutes, are incubated in the bench-top instrument for 18-24 hours and the assay takes an hour.  The hundreds of sample tubes move through a spectrometer tuned to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and thus detects signs of life before there are any colonies to be counted.

Eco2cotton recycle pre-consumer fabric and yarn waste into cardable fibres.  Their T-shirt off-cut fibre appears identical to virgin cotton and is being used in hydroentangled wipes.

Optima’s Soft-Can looks superficially like an aluminium soft drink can, but is made from a heavy multilayer film.  Developed as an air-tight pack for coffee pods, it has been offered as a container for wet wipes for the last 3-4 years.  Despite its attractive and novel appearance its high cost is restricting its uses.

Prime Label & Screen showed flow wrap film with “Rigid Lens II” closures, a sort of compromise between the thin adhesive film closures (which are hard to reposition accurately as the pack empties) and the plastic lids which seal well but add too much bulk and cost.  Rigid Lens II is a stiff film about half the thickness of a credit card which appears flush with the flow wrap and is indistinguishable from the flow-wrap when the whole pack is printed.

Natureworks has yet to announce their new PLA plant, but say it will definitely be in Asia and will definitely not use corn or cellulose as a feed stock.  It should be operating by 2014, and the third plant, most likely in Europe should be operational 3-5 years later.  This one could be fed with biomass.  The Blair Nebraska plant remains busy with 65% of the output going into packaging, the rest being textiles and nonwovens.