Thursday 5 November 1998

Insight 98 Conference

  • Current spun-lace production worldwide was put at 150,000 tonnes from 97 lines (by Phillipe Coppin Consulting). Capacity is nearer 250,000. He mentioned CLY as a new fibre to watch and said it was now used commercially by Dupont and Nisshinbo. New players in HE include Albad (Israel), Norafin, Hildener Filz, +1 more (Germany), Novita, Graboplast,+1 more (Poland), Alpha, Nouva FNT (Italy), Fukuyo, Omikenshi, Kinsei Seishi, Ikeda Shigyo in Japan, Hangzhou Xinhua Paper, Henan Zhengzhou, and Hefei Sanitary in China, Sheng-Hung in Taiwan, DHJ in Malaysia, and Schweitzer Mauduit in the USA (K-C subsidiary).
  • Europe now has 10 low pressure HE lines dedicated to creating a bonded surface on bulky cosmetic wipes. Only 3 of the companies involved could be named, P&G (France), Rauscher ( Germany) and Sanitars ( Italy).
  • The new versatile air-laid line now being started up byAir-Formed Composites has product objectives including several with rayon-pulp blends. Burlap replacement for plant root protection was one of them. One wound dressing featured a calcium alginate fibre top layer over an active carbon/pulp blend.
  • Ason Engineering has now sold 3 fine denier bico spun bond lines . Akzo Nobel are taking delivery of one for polyester, American Nonwovens are taking another. The pilot scale roll goods on display were incredibly soft. Polylactic acid was among the polymers they were designing for (see below)
  • John Starr described the nonwovens business ($9billion global sales at roll goods level) as a medium sized industry with modest growth potential (3-6% pa in developed countries, 10-15% pa in developing countries). At the converted products level, the global value is $36billion dollars. These figures exclude waddings (250,000 tonnes USA) and wet-laid glass (300,000 tonnes in North America). Spun-Melt lines now make 400,000 tonnes of nonwoven in the USA and still grow at 6% pa. Spun lace and air-laid are growing at 7% pa. Industrial wipes at 6% were one of the highest growth end-uses.
  • 3M have developed melt additives which can permanently alter the wettability of polyolefins. The specially designed molecules feature a fluorocarbon head enabling them to migrate to the surface within 2 days of manufacture. The hydrocarbon tail acts as a bonded-in root. FC/hydrocarbon molecules give more hydrophobicity and stain repellance, but if the molecule is in three parts with a highly hydrophilic body between head and tail, the FC head drags this to the surface resulting in increased hydrophilicity. The molecular model illustrating this had a sulphur molecule under the FC head. The migration process does not occur in polyester or polyamide.
  • Jim Hanson (MTS)said there were now 2 air-lay lines under construction to make diaper core. Both were 80-100,000 tonne capacity and were expected to make products with more SAP than pulp. Rayonier is believed to be buying one, and Buckeye the other.
  • SAP can now be bought for 67c/lb on major contracts. Truckloads are available at 85c/lb.
  • Superabsorbent fibres are still expected to figure in the next generation of cores due to the simplicity of airlaying them at high concentrations.
  • Rayonier introduced NovaThin , a preformed diaper core made from a compressed blend of “special” pulp fibres and between 20 and 55% SAP. The density was between 0.3 and 0.45 gms/cc (i.e close to tampon density) and the final product was one-fifth of the thickness of current ultrathin diaper cores. The special pulp fibre had been developed for resilience and were said to be a mercerised high-purity chemical pulp. In private conversation they did not disagree with the suggestion that they were moistening the SAP prior to hot calendaring so that it could bond the structure in its compressed state. They also indicated that they would avoid working with P&G or KC because both had proved troublesome customers for their fluffing pulp.
  • The work on biodegradable plastics continues and “green” marketing issues are expected to return to centre-stage. The oil based routes to polycaprolactone (Solvay, Novamont and Union Carbide), and to biodegradable copolyesters (Dupont, Bayer and Eastman) are still being developed but are likely to prove too expensive. The smart money is on the annual-crop routes to polylactic acid (Now <$2/lb from Mitsui, and Dow-Cargill have a plant under construction) and polyhydroxybutyrate. Genetic engineering is now enabling lab. production of the polymers in the corn or soya seeds and industrial processes using this technology can be expected to be operational industrially within 5 years.
  • Trutona introduced a range of flushable sanpro using a water soluble PVOH backsheet, a lightly entangled viscose topsheet, and a CMC superabsorbent. It was a premium product targeting the new and growing environmentally responsible supermarket chains such as “Whole Foods” and “Wild Oats”. The products were said to be made in the UK by a (or the) Hospital Specialities Company. The same principle was being developed 10 years ago for flushable diapers – which apparently proved too large for the sewage system, and worked far less well than the market leaders. Their next introduction would be certified-organic cotton tampons because they felt there was a perception of greater TSS risks with rayon or rayon blends.
  • Cotton Incorporated gave a paper on the use of linters as an additive to pulp in diaper cores. It was a thorough piece of work with much data provided by MTS. At no point did any performance benefit likely to justify a premium price emerge. However a “Now contains cotton” label on a diaper pack might just attract custom.
  • USDA gave a paper on the use of fibre extracted from chicken feathers in nonwovens and composites. Apparently 2 billion kgs of feathers are produced annually in the USA, and half of this weight can be extracted in the form of surprisingly uniform 5 micron fibres about 1cm long. “Several” licencees are now working on hundredfold scale-up of the currently 50kg/hr extraction process.

Tuesday 30 June 1998

Nonwovens Technology Conference - Berlin 27-29th June 98

Coming immediately after IDEA 98 this meeting underlined the growing importance of air-lay HE technology. In the battle between HE and Air-laid for the baby wipe market all parties have realised that combining the two makes sense:

Guy Goldstein of Fort James ( Europe ) reviewed advances in air-laid technology:Dan-web claiming 30mm fibre length capability but in reality they now handle 12mm routinely.
M and J claiming 6-10mm.
Fibre Visions (The merged Hercules/Danaklon fibre business) now cutting to 3mm on line to allow M&J machine owners to make thermal bonded air-laid.

Joseph Bevquila of Woodbridge Foams :
• He introduced a superabsorbent-containing polyurethane foam intended to replace the wood-pulp/SAP mixtures now used.
• He envisaged pre-formed "pancakes" of the absorbent foam being incorporated into diapers and femcare.
• Simple structure-less raw material wastage.
• Faster line speeds.
• Higher acquisition speeds, better fluid distribution, drier surface.
• Soft, conformable, garment-like fit.
• Better core resilience, can be compressed highly in packing with full recovery, no stability issues when wet,
• Enables new low-cost diaper machines to be designed.
• Cheaper, more absorbent non X-linked SAP's can be used because the foam acts as a protective shell against compression.
• Foam can be thermally formed or embossed to give full control of fluid wicking.

Costs were not discussed, but it was clear that several major companies were taking this very seriously. If viable it will alter the prospects for SAP fibres and result in new coverstock designs.

Dr. Bernice Krafchik (Hospitals for Sick Children)
• Predicts that coverstocks will be developed containing moisturisers which will protect the skin before it gets wet.
• She preferred petrolatum to aloe, based on it's long history of safe use on infant skin.

Dr Deborah Lickfield of PGI Nonwovens on Medical Nonwovens:
• Wet-laid sterile wrap still predominates but SMS is gaining despite higher price.
• SMS has proven to be the better product, but many buyers still feel that the wet-laid is good enough.
• European sterilising temperatures are getting higher than US due desire to kill CJD prions. Now 136C is used which is too high for the polyolefins.
• Gowns sold pre-sterilised so the main issue is the system used by the bulk steriliser.
• Polyolefin is no good in Cobalt 60 irradiation. K-C use ETO for pre-sterilising because all their gowns are PP.
• Cellulose is no good in peroxide plasma because it retains the peroxide.
• Hospitals don't care what bulk sterilizer is used so long as sterility is guaranteed.
K-C, Dupont and Dexter dominate the sector with about 25% each. Sontara preferred to SMS generally, but Dexter's wet-laid is favourite in drapes, one of the largest sectors.
• Table Covers are like gown fabric but can be weaker due to absence of seams. Wet laid still good here, with sterilisation depending on the distributor.
• Masks are SMS, meltblown or tissue.
• Wound care is dominated by PGI.

Key Issues for New Product Design:• Transmission of disease to health workers: Aids, hepatitis exposure running at 6 per 100 full-time years.
• TB, and other highly antibiotic resistant bacteria with transmission through droplets in coughs and sneezes now causing concern.
• Old concerns about protecting patient from contamination from OR team and theatre have been replaced by new concerns to protect OR team from contaminated patient.
• Environmental: 50% of OR waste is from disposables, land-filling getting more difficult, handling of contaminated fabrics a problem.
• Regulations: FDA, GMP in USA ; CE Mark in Europe .
• Cost containment: impact of HMO's in the USA , expiry of KC's SMS patents allowing many new entries, reusables improving through use of new washing and refinishing techniques.
• Ageing baby boomers reach retirement - massive surge in the OAP group expected. Incontinence is a common problem.
• Changes in procedures: less invasive procedures, shorter hospital stays, average patient is now more "acute", hospital workers need more protection.
• Sterile wrap needs most strength. (if its good enough for a gown it will work as a drape but not necessarily as a wrap.)
• Barrier performance: is it fluid proof or fluid resistant. Can it resist 3 micron particles?
• Sterilisation stability, comfort, breathability, linting

Recent developments:• New meltblowns with finer fibres, electreted for filter efficiency . KC, PGI and BBA have them. AKZO said to have added this to the range in 1995.
• Gowns that dissolve in the wash water (OREX)
• Biodegradable PP ( Oji Paper )
PGI, Dupont, KC, Fama Jersey all with new HE fabrics. (Dupont COMFORMAX ULTRA, a 100%PET HE gown fabric coated with Teflon said to washable 6 times.)

Ken Lowe, Consultant, on Fluff Pulp Markets:

• Fluff pulp in US diapers peaked in 86 at 900,000 tonnes, with 50 g/diaper.

• It halved by 1996 and is heading for 300000 by 2006. However worldwide usage is stable.

• Of 18.6 million tonnes of softwood pulp and 16 million tonnes of hardwood pulp, fluff only accounts for 18% of the softwood pulp.

SCA have 80,000 tonnes of BCTMP as well as Metsa Sirla's 110000 tonnes.

• Diaper pulp is 75% of total fluff usage.

Scott Sneed, ex P&G and KC

• The main theme of his talk related to addressing the "wellness" megatrend in marketing new products. e.g. Any skin contact product using aloe vera or vitamin E sells.

• He liked the creative marketing of new products as exemplified by selling modal viscose fibre in night-dresses as "a fibre made from beech-wood with conductive properties ... low static... good night's sleep.

Odile Primel of Rhovyl on Rhovyl chlorofibres:

• They were made by dry-spinning PVC from a CS2/acetone solvent mixture. Rhone Poulenc are the only producers. They make 4000 tpy now, but have an 8000 tonne capacity.

• Blends of PVC and chlorinated PVC are sold as FR fibres. The chlorinated PVC has 60% chlorine, or roughly 0.75 chlorine atoms per carbon atom.

• Copolymer with EVA is sold as heat sealable fibre for tea-bags. N.B . JR Crompton is looking for a second source.)

• They have now introduced Rhovl AS antibacterial fibre for underwear, socks (30% blend with cotton), bedding (duvets and pillows), hospital textiles (including dressings), filters.

• Dope route using triclosan - "in-depth treatment" is preferred to topical or grafting approach.

• There is only one European standard for efficacy of antimicrobials: Swiss standard SNV 195 920 for antimicrobial textiles. Rhovyl AS certified as "permanent" because it survives 200 (30 C!) washes. (Literature available)

Michael Wehmann of J&M Labs. GMBH on the latest melt-blowing technology for polymers and adhesives.

• 1 gsm of glue can be meltblown to allow soft, breathable laminates to be made.

• SAMAS (Spunbond, Adhesive, Meltblown) therefore outperforms thermally laminated SMS in some applications.

• Melt blown energy costs are reducing dramatically - blowers at 1 bar air pressure now used instead of compressors: 1-2 kwh per kilo now, i.e very similar to spun bond.

Anders Moller on the ASON spunbonding process

• It is now capable of making 0.5 dtex filaments from both PP and PET.

• To compete with the surface area of SMS spunbond has to be around 1 denier.

• They can also make side-by-side bicomponent spun bond using differing MFI polymers to get crimped filaments and bulkier fabrics.

• On normal deniers, wind up speeds of 600 metres/min. are possible, at 0.5den, 100 metres/min is more likely. Filament velocity in the slot attenuator is reaching 5600m/min at 0.5denier.

Dennis Sens of Tartas on Speciality Pulps for Air Laid:

• Tartas operate a sulphite process on maritime pine and separate roundwood and sawmill waste to make pulp fibres with different length to diameter ratio.

• The younger roundwood fibres are ribbon-like and give the best softness/strength balance.

• Sawmill waste pulp gives bulkier, rougher, more absorbent fabrics.

• Tartas are now developing pulps especially for for air-laid HE processes.

• He estimated the air-laid market at 288,000 tonnes/year, growing at 10% per year. (c.f. Jim Hansen's 30%)

• Latex bonded has 70% share, wipes are the main market (43%), with hygiene (20%) and Tableware (17%).

• Fluff pulps are a pulp industry speciality, only just 10% of pulp market, and only 6% of this is used in air-laid fabrics.

Ivan Pivko of Nota Bene on new air-laids:

He was CEO of Merfin before the hostile Buckeye takeover. His paper reviewed the 30 years of air-laid development.

K-C attempted to commercialise the Kroyer process in 1967 for "Softique" tissues, failed due to high costs.

• 1977 saw American Can launch "Bolt" kitchen wipes. Again failure, but more slowly.

• The technologically attractive theme of making a better paper by dry papermaking proved to be a blind alley.

• The true value of air-laid is now in nonwovens, not papers.

• The industry needs a tailor made cellulose (pulp) fibre, better bicomponent polyolefins, latex designed for "finishing" a thermal bonded product (not bonding it) and superabsorbent fibres.

• He predicts machines 3 times the size of todays biggest will be made to enter the pre-formed absorbent core business.

• He also expects air-laid HE nonwovens to allow the incorporation of pulp into many more nonwoven products. (Threat to viscose and CLY)

Dieter Muller of Bremen University on Carding;

• Coverstock production speeds are moving up from 200m/min on the latest Spinnbau cards.

• He expects 400 m/min by 2010, after radical redesign.

• Widths will be limited to around 4 metres at these high speeds by flexing of the small worker rolls which at 4 metres will have to be made of carbon fibre composites.

• Air resistance problems will be overcome using permeable belts allowing the webs to be sucked onto them.

• Higher speeds easier on parallel webs than random.

• He predicts air-lay principles will be incorporated in cards to get higher productivity.

• He predicts increased use of natural fibres in composites to replace plastics.

Mercedes and others now using epoxy-bonded and PP bonded flax instead of plastics in car interiors.

• PVA-bonded and starch-bonded are coming next to get total biodegradability. (N.B. the German Aerospace Establishment are working with CLY in this area.)

Dr Munstermann of Fleissner on Aquajet:

• He showed photos of their 4.2 metre HE injectors built for a new European installation. (Could only be the Dupont Asturias line?)

• Lines now available at this width with maximum pressure of 300 bar, max. speed 250 metres/min, max. vacuum 0.3 bar, max water jet velocity 230m/s.

• Web production rate is still the limit on productivity.

• They use a three stage HE system (two drums and one conveyor) for weights up to 150 gsm.

• Conveyor gives much better dewatering and saves money (c.f. CEL system)

• They have a 5 stage system for 400gsm products - 4 drums and one conveyor. However this machine is also very good for lightweights.

• They now have Trutzschler opening, Spinnbau carding, Dan Web air-lay, 5 stage HE and TAD in one pilot plant for customer development. (Maybe not all in line).

• Claimed to have done much work with Lyocell for Lenzing .

• Graphs produced comparing LL and PES. LL gives same strength as PES and half the extension.

• 100% PES at 180 gsm gives 500N MD at 70% breaking extension.

• 1000N in both MD and CD possible at 350 gsm.

• Can go to 500 gsm with coarser fibres, all the above being with 1.7dtex.

• HE of spunlaid 4dtex PES at 148 gsm gives excellent results at pressures above about 180 bar.

• Spunlaid lines go faster than carding so he sees good prospects here for HE in future.

Fleissner v Courtaulds question: F better with 400 bar, 4.2 metre width, sturdy but light drums, better dewatering systems.

Jim Hanson of MTS on Thin Diapers:

• Why? Shipping economics, production economics, consumer appeal.

• Half the thickness of the current thin diapers is now possible.

• Key problems are core integrity with high levels of SAP, liquid spreading, acquisition rate, shape changes to get good fit.

• He expects foam/sap cores to make progress, especially if the foam can be blown from precursors on-site by the diaper producer to minimise foam shipping costs.

• He also expects roll-goods technologies to be further developed as cores. These designs are pulpless and based on combinations of nonwoven technologies: CDA's prevent further disclosure at this stage.

• Tissue/SAP is another possibility which ought to move ahead.

• He puts the 00/01 air-laid capacity to be 450,000 tonnes i.e 33% per year growth in vendor technology alone.

KC and P&G would probably build their own new lines and and would add to this.

• Not linear growth though, just a few big steps.

• Expects SAP fibres to have a major roll to play.