Matthew North of Kelheim Fibres GmbH, Kelheim (Germany) reviewed the last 30 years from the viscose fibre viewpoint observing that after a global decline of 30% between 1980 and 1999, a sustained recovery was underway with capacity doubling to 3.8 million tonnes since then. By 2020 a further 1.4 million tonnes capacity will be added in China and SE Asia. This new capacity will focus on a few very large lines to make standard products for textiles and commodity nonwovens. The theme is pile it high and sell it cheap.
Kelheim Fibres is in comparison a small specialist producer with 11 flexible lines which allow it to produce small lots of fibre with unique properties. It has become the world’s leading producer of tampon fibres, flock fibres, short-cut papermaking fibres and viscose-based carbon fibre precursor. For the future it will focus on new applications for papermaking, filtration, composites and speciality textiles. With R&D being central to these developments it intends to establish a new R&D centre for bio-based polymers and fibres in Kelheim.