Wednesday 31 May 2000

ANEX Osaka and CINTE Beijing May 2000

  • The big new HE line going into East Germany has Trutzschler opening, Thibeau cards, Danweb air-lay, Fleissner HE and dryer and Celli winding. It will make wet-wipe fabric at 250 m/min and 50 gsm from polyester and pulp. It is 5 metres wide and Fleissner plan to show the actual HE zone at Achema in Frankfurt at the end of May. The 20,000 tpy output is rumoured to be mainly for P&G.
  • BBA’s new air-laid line in China may reduce Oji’s ability to sell air-laid in China, not just because of competition but because the tariff on air-laid imports might increase. Oji remain confident that their quality will be superior.
  • The new HE line in PGI Cuijk is relatively narrow (1.85 metres) but fast. It uses Perfojet technology but is also “Miratec” capable should the need for additional production be needed.
  • The Nan Lui Spunlace line due to start on June 10th is a 3.5 metre wide, 350 tonnes/month line with Trutzschler openers, Thibeau cards, Perfojet HE, Fleissner Dryer and Celli Winder.
  • The Taiwan Spun-Lace Group is run by 3 former Hon-Yen employees who, according to Hon Yen, used their patented designs. Hon Yen are now invoking their patent.
  • Kanebo were showing their Lactron PLA fibre as carrier bags, shoe cleaners and a knitted golf-shirt. The shirt felt rather like knitted viscose: too limp and “heavy” to be really attractive.
  • Shinwa were showing the AQF active carbon fabrics, and their Shintex division was showing lightweight PLA spunbonds under the “Haibon” name. It appeared to be available as kitchen sink drainer bags, gift-wrap, bin-liners and disposable diapers. They also had a film/spunbond laminate. Numerous agricultural fabrics were illustrated.
  • The “Hottle” heated baby wet-wipe dispenser looked interesting. The wipes appeared to be perforated coreless rolls (200 wipes) that fitted in the cylindrical heater which had a list price of 10,900 yen.
  • The PLA spunbond on NKK’s stand was a demonstration of the capability of their spunbond machinery to process the Cargill Dow resin. They do not sell the nonwoven.
  • Cargill Dow only supply PLA resin to Unitika and Kanebo in Japan.
  • MIRATEC fabrics from PGI are looking better than they did a year ago, but still appear to be in need of a major outlet. PGI seem to be getting disillusioned with textile replacement (ref. Rolf Altdorf’s comments recorded later), but are still showing shirts and jackets that impress nonwoven producers more than apparel makers. Like the similar stitchbonded materials, they should find most application in window and wall covering.
  • Freudenberg’s EVOLON is made on a 1.6 metre wide HE line in weights of 90-300 gsm. Samples on show were typically PES/PA (65/35) bicomponents, HE’d and then thermally stabilised. They were very good as nonwovens and apparently better than MIRATEC but still appear too low in abrasion and too dimensionally unstable to compete with wovens in apparel. They plan a 3-3.5metre wide production line to come on stream in 2002. They will put together whatever nonwoven and textile technologies are needed to penetrate the textiles market more deeply. SMS, HE’d was said to be a possibility as was spunlaid, needled and HE’d. Apart from the slightly cheap-looking garments made from EVOLON, none yet commercial, the main outlets were sticking plasters, automotive nonwovens, shoe fabrics and surgical masks.
  • BFF has been up for sale but offers have all been below asset value. Lamont, looking for cash for the last year, have since sold their Northern Ireland Carpets division so BFF is now likely to be divested as a management buy-in.
  • Futamura’s output of TCF (spun-laid viscose) is still only 3500 tonnes/year
  • FukuyoCo. Ltd (President Mitsugu Takahashi) have 50% of Japan’s private label wet-wipe market. They make 20 tonnes/day of spunlace, mainly rayon polyester. “Pigeon” is their brand, and they also make for Kao and Oji.
  • Toyobo were still showing their LANSEAL cross-linked polyacrylate superabsorbent fibre made by hydrolysis of acrylic staple fibre.
  • Toyobo’s MOIS CARE high-hygroscopicity ammonia-absorbing fibre – “4 times more hygroscopic than cotton”, moisture regain = 41% at 65% RH – appears to be based on partial hydrolysis of acrylic fibre. It also has a high heat of wetting and comparisons were being made with duck-down as an insulator. After the first absorbtion-desorbtion cycle, further wetting/drying appears hysteresis-free.
  • Toyobo’s N-48 fibre is specifically targeting ammonia absorbtion. It picks up 100mls of ammonia per gram of fibre when in an atmosphere containing 50ppm of NH 3. With 2000 ppm NH 3 availability it only picks up 130 mls/gm fibre.
  • Toyobo’s N-63 fibre targets gaseous aldehyde and acid absorbtion and they claim it has faster take-up than active carbon. When loaded, it can be returned to its orginal absorbtive state by heating and washing. It targets air conditioner filters, bedding and sanitary materials.
  • Bioshield Technologies Inc. were showing their EPA registered AM 500 antimicrobial additive based on a silane quat.

Anex Conference Paper Summaries

ANNA’s View of the Future

Shozo Iwakuma, Chairman of Japan Vilene and of ANNA , saw the continued development of durable nonwovens to replace woven and knitted products as the main trend driving the industry’s future growth.
Artificial leather provided an excellent example of the possibilities: the suede-like microfibre nonwovens now being preferred to leather in many shoe, upholstery and garment applications. However a consequence of their success was that most people did not know that these products were nonwovens: the substitute image is invariably negative, so producers and users alike keep the technological origins of the material quiet. The same will be true when the next generation of nonwovens, exemplified by Freudenberg’s EVOLON and PGI’s MIRATEC move into outerwear.
To succeed in apparel, the basic hydroentangled fabric must develop a better softness/durability balance. Freudenberg have chosen to achieve this by using spunlaid splittable bicomponent fibres, converted to microfibres in high pressure hydroentanglement, patterned and finished to mimic the appearance of woven and knitted fabrics. Extra density and strength would still be needed, and could be achieved by using shrinkable fibres, or thermally bondable fibres. However an extra mechanical bonding process such as needling would probably give the best results. His comparison of the dry-lay versus the spunlaid approach to these hydroentangled products was in essence a comparison of MIRATEC versus EVOLON: the dry lay (MIRATEC) could choose a wider range of fibre types and would tend to give more precise “weave” patterns than spunlaid, but spunlaid would have higher productivity, lower costs and better strength and durability. He saw the dry lay route as succeeding best in upholstery and some outerwear, whereas the spunlaid approach would also penetrate leisurewear and sportswear markets. He saw neither approach being good enough for “designer” apparel.
His figures for 1998 Asian production of nonwovens were Japan - 302,000 tonnes, China - 255,000 tonnes, Korea - 127,000 tonnes and Taiwan 124,000 tonnes. Asia has only 40% of the spunbond capacity of Europe or the USA, probably because it’s coverstock market is about half the size of those in the West. The dry-lay sector accounts for almost three-quarters of the total tonnage, a statistic influenced by the preponderance of weighty needlepunched materials in Asia. Interlinings account for 30% of Chinese nonwoven production but only 4% of Japanese: a consequence of the movement of the centres of garment production.

INDA’s View

Ted Wirtz, President of INDA said that Advocacy and Education were the two main planks of INDA’s strategy and proceeded to educate delegates in the latest data on the US nonwoven market. Instead of the terms “Durable” and “Disposable”, INDA were now adopting Long-life and Short-life to avoid the negative connotations of the word disposable. Short-life nonwoven production amounted to 16,500 million square yards in 1999, hygiene being the biggest sector with 64% of this but growing only at 2% per year over the last five years. The liquid filtration sector was showing 10% growth, (gas filtration – 6% growth), filters as a whole being 8.5% of the total yardage. 3,490 million sq.yds of the heavier Long-life fabrics were made, Upholstery (1,320 million sq. yds being the largest sector. Growth rates of 5-6% were typical in this area.
Mr Wirtz pointed out that INDA planned to continue to provide the low-cost statistical information that he felt was an essential service to enable the industry to measure its progress and plan its future. Details of how to buy the data was on the INDA web-site.
Patenting activity was always a good indicator of future trends. Kimberly Clark, 3M, BBA, PGI, Johns Manville, and P&G were, in that order, the leading patenters in 1999, but more revealing was the fact that over half of the patents taken out related to Spun/melt nonwovens. Wet-laid accounted for 12.3% and dry-laid only 7.7%. Other interesting pointers to the future were the facts that 35% of world nonwovens were now made by the polymer to fabric processes (as opposed to staple fibre to fabric), and that total nonwovens growth in the developing world was running at 8-10% per year compared with only 3-5% in the developed markets. In future INDA, in collaboration with the other associations, would be hoping to provide global statistics on the same low-cost basis.

EDANA’s View

“Increasing the awareness of nonwovens” was, said Rolf Altdorf, Chairman of EDANA, the mission of the European association. Fewer but larger companies now produced nonwovens. Barriers to entry were increasing, a point illustrated by the fact that 5 years ago you could buy the latest dry-lay hydroentanglement line for $10M: now it would cost $30M. He also drew attention to the increasing segmentation and specialisation that was occurring. Hydroentanglement had been invented, and the first machines built, by Dupont and PGI-Chicopee, but to buy a machine you now went to specialist builders like Perfojet or Fleissner. Future growth required the nonwovens producers and machinery makers to develop new technologies, and innovative customers to broaden the range of applications.
Picking up on Mr Iwakuma’s mention of MIRATEC and EVOLON targeting conventional textiles, he pointed out that MIRATEC is now regarded as a new material in its own right, neither nonwoven nor textile, by the companies converting it. PGI are no longer specifically targeting textile applications.

The View from Guangdong

China ’s Guangdong Province has its own nonwoven association led by Mr Cui He. Mr He explained their aims as a) to promote the development of the local nonwovens industry by “building bridges” between government and the nonwoven producers, b) to open up domestic and export markets, and c) to facilitate economic and technical exchanges with other producers around the world. Guangdong, the mainland region adjacent to Hong Kong and Macao accounts for 10% of China’s GDP but handles 40% of its foreign trade thanks to massive foreign investment in the region. It is the leading exporter of textiles, fibres and polyester polymer, the latter two categories amounting to 300,000 tonnes/year. It has 215 nonwoven production lines making 167,000 tonnes of fabric, or 30% of China’s total production. Over half of this is exported. Spunbond is the leading technology with around 50,000 tonnes annual output, and this includes a 3.2 metre wide SMS line making products in the 10-150 gsm range for surgical masks, gowns, caps, for protective clothing and home furnishings, all for export. 60,000 tonnes of dry-laid spray-bonded nonwovens are made for “insulation” mainly for the domestic market. This is distinguished from dry-lay latex bonded (10,000 tonnes), mainly for interlinings, but wall-paper, embroidery cloth and packaging cloths being mentioned. Dry-lay needling (up to 4.2metres wide) accounts for 30,000 tonnes of the total, going mainly into domestic carpets, felts, coating bases, geotextiles and filters. Thermal bonding, at a maximum width of 2.5 metres appears to be “old technology” and makes 15-150 gsm fabrics, the lighter products mainly for domestic hygiene products. 3000 tonnes of the thermal fabrics are made by through-air bonding.
Mr He expects total Guangdong nonwoven output to reach 300,000 tonnes by 2010, and sees the way forward as investment in fast polyester spunbond machinery, high pressure hydroentanglement machines, and big, fast, needlelooms.

The Dupont Forecast

James Young, a research fellow in material science and engineering at Dupont’s Central R&D described their “3 Horizon” view of the future of nonwovens.
  • Horizon 1 (up to 2 years ahead) would see “combinations of flexible sheet technologies for new functionality” e.g. growing usage of laminates of nonwovens with microcellular foams, microporous films, and further advances in SMS and PET/Pulp hydroentangled products.
  • Horizon 2 (up to 8 years ahead) would see increasing dominance of spunbond and meltblown nonwovens including moves into advanced polymers for higher value high-tech applications. (“Hylar” mentioned)
  • Horizon 3 (10+ years ahead) would see a move from oil-based to nature-based polymers, made initially by fermentation and later within genetically modified plants. (Dupont is working on a nature-based polyester: genetic modification of soya was mentioned).
By 2010 he expected global production of nonwovens to reach 5 million tonnes with a dollar value of $15 billion. Polymer-lay processes would continue to gain over fibre-lay and reach 47% of the total ten-years from now (c.f. 8% in 1980 and 35% in 1990)
Applications development emphasis would change from disposables to durables, commodities to specialities, niches to high technology engineered products (HTEP) and from two-dimensional products to three-dimensional products. By HTEP he meant better geotextiles, advanced battery separators, microelectronics packaging, printed circuit substrates, biomedical separators/filters and security “papers”(i.e. polymer-based papers for currency and cheques with anti-forgery elements built in).
More specifically, Dupont were now working on new spunbond processes that would dramatically improve the evenness and hence the value of the nonwoven (or paper?) product. He would not be drawn further, but the new technology would not be compatible with existing turn-key spunbond operations and appears likely to regain Dupont a leading position in spunbond manufacturing and maybe later, machine supply. They are likely to publish more in the next 1-2 years.

Hainan Xinlong Expansion

The paper from Mr Guo Kaizhu, President of Hainan Xinlong Nonwovens described the companies success since completing the first phase of construction of their hydroentanglement plant 4 years ago. Six Departments of State had evaluated HX as “a national large-scale and first grade enterprise” and the Department of Technology rated it a “key national advanced and new technology enterprise”. ISO 9001 and IQNET certificates were awarded 2 years after start-up, and the company is now recognised as the leading Chinese nonwoven company both domestically and internationally. However because in the last year all large Chinese companies have suffered more intense competition in the market, HX has decided to add a new lightweight PET spunbond line, a third speciality hydroentanglement line, and a microfibre synthetic leather line. The new lines will allow them to make new protective nonwovens with attributes such as breathability, flame retardancy, and high tensile strength; insulation fabrics for electrical and optical cables, and a new type of agricultural crop cover. Within 3-5 years HX intends to create China’s largest nonwoven operation incorporating a National Nonwovens Industry Technology centre.

Hi-Loft carriers for Active Carbon or SAP

Gunter Groeger of AQF Technologies LLC described a new nonwoven with active carbon particles bonded into the structure in such a way that they were firmly held with minimal loss of available surface area. The patented process was not described, but the illustrations suggested through-air bonding of a bicomponent fibre structure with excellent distribution of particles underneath surface skins that were denser than the body of the fabric and free of particles. Particles were ideally 300-600 micron diameter, particle loadings of 75 to 750 gsm were mentioned, and total thickness varied from 1mm to 3mm over this range. The sheath of the bicomponent fibres flowed into the the particles on melting, “spot-welding” them to the 15 micron fibres. The target application appeared to be automotive cabin-air filters (removal of exhaust volatiles), but removal of gaseous contaminants from clean-rooms, archives, offices (tobacco smoke), kitchens, homes (outgassing of building materials) were also mentioned. Of interest to the disposables industry were claims that if superabsorbent granules were used, the controlled spacing and immobilisation of the particles prevented gel-blocking problems. Ion exchange beads can also be used.

Asahi’s Lint-free “Cotton” Wipes

Mr Yoshiji Kaneko of Asahi Chemical Industry Co. Ltd. reviewed the Industrial Wiper market as a whole and then focussed on the requirements of the microchip industry, whose wiping requirements were now largely met by woven and knitted synthetic continuous filament yarn products. This was a tough sector for nonwovens to succeed in, but the rewards could be high. The ideal nonwoven would of course have to be lint free to the very high standards required, would have to absorb distilled water and organic solvents such as alcohol without losing any ionic materials into the fluid, and wipe without streaking. A binderless spunlaid cellulosic nonwoven such as Asahi’s “Bemcot” seemed to be ideally suited to take on the current market leaders.
Because this spun-laid cupro rayon process dissolves cotton linters rather than woodpulp, Asahi have always described their products as cotton wipes or swabs. They were now also claiming an “ECO” classification due to the fact that linters were in fact a recycled product, being recovered from cotton seeds after the fibre has been removed. Production of the spunlaid cellulose nonwoven, in which fibres are spun, washed and dried on a single long conveyor belt, is 4000 tonnes per year, 35% of this output going into industrial wipes. Maximum available fabric width is 1750mm. Filaments are typically 1.3 dtex and high pressure water jets are used to wash and aperture the nonwoven. “Bemcot” is a true spunbond; the fibres being sticky when laid so a self-bonded product with very low lint levels can be obtained.

Lint Testing

Asahi used 4 types of linting test to characterise clean-room wipes:

  • To estimate particles likely to be shed in the wet state they stirred the nonwoven in 300 mls of pure water for 15 minutes, removed the wipe and filtered the water through a black Millipore filter. Microscopic particle counting, or in bad cases, measuring the whiteness of the black filter quantified the lint. Here “Bemcot” wipes clearly outperform hydroentangled rayon or polyester/rayon, with PET/pulp being worst.
  • For particles likely to be shed in the dry state, what appeared to be a Gelboflex tester and Coulter particle counter were used. This test however gives artificially good results due to the difficulties of shaking small, often electrostatically charged particles out of the fabric in the flexing process.
  • The use of a particle counter after the wet agitation method described in 1 was now thought to give a better estimate of dry-state shedding than method 2.
  • The wipe, wet or dry, is attached to a weighted sledge and dragged across a mirror in a standardised way. High-intensity angled illumination allowed any particles left on the mirror to be seen and counted easily.
The Japanese wiping market as a whole (including paper towels and textile wipes) was worth 250 billion yen. This was broken down into:
  • 65 billion Yen of “Industrial”, defined as clean-room, electronic industry, printing industry (all speciality products) and general purpose industrial wipes.
  • 85 billion Yen “Commercial”, defined as medical, oshibori, food service and paper towels .
  • 100 billion Yen of “Domestic”, defined as baby wipes, other wet-wipes, glass cleaners, car cleaners, floor wipes and kitchen wipes.
Nonwovens amounted to 40% of this value, or 10% in tonnage (40,000 tonnes per year). The premium priced sector – cleanroom wipes, would follow the microchip industries growth (15% per year) but would also follow its relocation from Japan into East Asia.

New Uses for PET Spunbonds

Dr T H Ahn of Kolon Industries Inc., Korea’s biggest polyester spunbond producer, has widened the range of possibilities for polyester spunbonds by several techniques including applying different finishes and coatings. He mentioned a wide range of applications, some old some new, without always indicating how they had been achieved or what they were targeting:
  • battery separator for mobile phones
  • optic cable wrap (absorbent coated)
  • antistatic materials
  • ink-jet printable “paper” for high quality display media
  • industrial filters including a “dioxin capture” filter
  • sound absorbents and opto-catalyst nonwovens
  • backing sheets for underfloor heating elements
  • chitosan coated spunbond for wound dressings
  • capilliary matting using Y-shaped fibres
  • Y-shaped fibre spunbond for high lustre
  • “micro-crater” fibre spunbond apparently made by adding silica gel to the polymer to get a porous surface.
  • Ultra-micro fibre spunbonds
  • New polymers: polyethylene 2,6 naphthalate – PEN - for UV resistance, polytrimethylene terephthalate - PTT - for elasticity, and polylactic acid - PLA - for biodegradability.
  • On line laminates: they had facilities to add powders or scrims between the two spunbond heads.
The inkjet printable banner paper was made 60 inches wide by on-line spray and/or knife-over-roll application of a printable surface. After coating an IR drier fixed the coat before through-air bonding.
11,000 tonnes of Korean PET spunbond production was split 40% geotextiles, 22% civil engineering, 15% industrial, 7% filters, 5% cable wrap, 5% packaging and 5% unidentified. This would grow to 18,000 tonnes by 2002, mainly due to the ink-jet media taking-off.

New Cotton Disposables?

Mr Mac McLean of Cotton Incorporated listed the next generation of cotton disposables as:
  • Wet-wipes based on the nit-free air-laid and wet-laid products now possible
  • Ultra-thin pads
  • Training pants with cotton core
  • Air-laid absorbent core composites (for preemie diapers)
  • Cotton/PP coverstocks (for preemie diapers)
  • “Purely cotton” facial tissues for sensitive skin
  • Panty liner based on Buckeye air-laid cotton.


Dr Alvin Hu of the Kang Na Hsiung Enterprise Co. Ltd, Taiwan described experiments with 4-layer composites: spunbond, meltbown, airlaid pulp, spunbond (SMAS) prepared in their pilot plant by off-line lamination (calendering) of a SM laminate to an AS laminate. The laminates were tested for strength, hydrostatic head, rewet, wicking, air-permeability and moisture permeability, the main variable being the meltblown layer.
Despite the 4-layer title, most results were on the SM layers alone and unsurprisingly showed that:
  • When 0-30 gsm of MB was added to a 10 gsm SB, the hydrostatic head increased linearly from 0 to 60cms.
  • Dropping the MB fibre diameter from 3 to 2 microns raised the head from 30 to 70 cms.
  • Air permeability decreased from 13,000 l/sq.m/sec to 7000 as MB weight increased from 15-30 gsm
In the 4-layer structure, raising the weight of MB from 15 to 30gsm had no effect on horizontal wicking and the rewet data allowed no sensible conclusion to be drawn.

Cell Culture on PP Spunbond

The Biomedical Engineering Centre of Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute has, in conjunction with Union Chemical Laboratories, developed a nonwoven to which animal cells can adhere during tissue culture. Mr Lien Chen of UCL said that BEC’s bioreactor was designed to use a PET nonwoven, but appears to work better with a modified PP nonwoven. The best results (almost double the cell-growth rate compared with the polyester control) were obtained when PP was first activated with helium, treated with allyl alcohol and PEG 3500, and sterilised. The use of plasma to polymerise HEMA onto the PP surface had a similar effect at about 10% of grafted HEMA, higher and lower levels being less effective. Mr Lien stressed that the results were preliminary.

Latin American Markets

Rolando Dominguez, Marketing Director of PGI Latin America reviewed opportunities for disposables in the Latin American Market, defined as the 454 million people living south of the USA. 1996 data showed diapers had only penetrated 16% of the market, feminine pads 24% and adult incontinence products 1%. Chile, Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico used the most disposables, and Mr Dominguez felt that Brazil, Columbia and Mexico provided the best opportunities for inward investment, with adult incontinence being the most attractive sector. He felt that any investment should target several countries, should obtain the available grants, should take advantage of free trade agreements, and should link up with a local company for sales and distribution.

Battery Separators: A Growth Market

The growth in mobile communications and computing has created a large and rapidly growing market for high performance rechargeable batteries that depend for their performance on high quality battery separators. Now the introduction of electric and /or hybrid vehicles by Nissan, Honda and Toyota looks set to drive this once niche market into the mainstream of hi-tech specialities. Tetsuo Sakai of the Osaka National Research Institute reviewed the scene, indicating that the growth may go to products other than nonwovens. Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries were the fastest growing with 80% of the portable appliance market and increasing use in cars. Honda were using NiMH for their new hybrid car and Nissan had adopted Li-ion. For portable devices, small size was obviously crucial and with some 20% of battery volume being separator, thinner, stronger more uniform separators were needed. Membranes were being used, their thickness being reduced from 150 to 120 microns to make AA size Lithium Metal Hydride (LiMH) batteries possible.
Dry-lay technology once dominated the sector and although wet-lay was now predominant it had strength shortcomings. These were solvable by moving to bicomponents which could be split in hydroentanglement, the resulting nonwovens being calender bonded to strengthen and densify them. The move to microfibres was crucial to get good barrier performance in thin products and relatively unusual fibres such as PE/EVA bicomponents performed well. Fibre surfaces had to be modified by adding an ion-exchange group to allow them to hold onto electrolyte under high pressure. For lithium batteries a multilayer microporous film separator was proving best because this construction gave the necessary “shut-down effect” in the event of accidental shorting. Lithium Polymer and Solid Polymer Lithium batteries are under development, the former using a gel polymer separator, the latter using a “solid polymer electrolyte film”.

Ultra-high modulus laminates

Professor Chang Whan Joo of the Department of Textile Engineering at Chungnam National University, Daejon, South Korea described how high strength high modulus felt conveyor belts were made. Strengths in excess of 180 kgs/ with extensions below 3% were achievable but only in composite products where the needlefelts were laminated on either side of a scrim by further needling prior to thermal stabilisation. He took as an example a 5000 gsm, 7mm thick belting made from a blend of 20 denier 88mm polyester (60%) with 40% of 4 denier 51mm “low melting point” fibre. These fibres were formed into a 150gsm pre-needled felt with a thickness of 6mm. A 4-ply laminate of this was then made, also by needling, and the final belt was assembled, by taking two layers of the 4-ply laminate and needling them either side of 4 layers of woven scrim made from multi-ply continous filament Kevlar weft yarns across a continuous filament polyester warp. The resulting 12-layer laminate was stabilised by heating at 150 C for 3.5 hours. Such “nonwovens” were used in compressive shrink finishing, transfer printing, calendering, ironing, and embossing processes. The work had been funded in part by the Bo Woo Co. of Korea who also make lighter weight versions for use in shoe construction.

Wool for Noise Control

Wool, being relatively low density (1.33), highly flame retardant and having surface scales that absorb sound, is well suited for use in noise control if it can be delivered in the right form. V.B. Thakare and A.K. Rakshit of ADRDE (India) have now taken 21 micron, 10mm comber waste wool blended it with 3 denier 75mm polypropylene and produced a range of needlefelt blends. The best balance of Noise Absorbtion Coefficient (NAC) and strength was achieved at around 70% wool for a 300gsm felt, 4.4mm thick, needled to 200 punches/square cm. As expected multiple layers of felt were more effective than a single thick layer, due to the increase in entrapped air. The same effect allowed good performance when a jute cloth (1.1mm thick, 12x12 tpi plain weave) was placed between two layers of the needlefelt.

Footnotes to Anex:

  • Of the 17 papers in the programme, 7 appeared in the book of papers and 2 of these were in Japanese only.
  • An additional 6 were distributed on the opening day.
  • Several speakers who sent their papers in on time found they were neither in the book nor available as copies.
  • While the exhibition seemed well attended there were fewer exhibitors than ENA 97, and very few stands had set out to provide adequate information in English.
  • The original vision of an annual major conference and exhibition, the venue rotating through Europe (Index) USA (IDEA) and Asia (Anex) has not materialised: Anex is still just one of several Asian meetings, all much smaller than either IDEA or INDEX.
  • There seem to be too many Asian nonwovens associations and too many conferences.
  • Whether the planned creation of an Asian Nonwovens Association can correct this remains to be seen.

Points from the CINTE Conference and Exhibition

This was, to use the new terminology introduced by Ted Wirtz at Anex, a conference biased towards long-life nonwovens. However the presence of Acordis Industrial Fibres, Lenzing and Alceru Schwarza provided some useful insights into the current state of the lyocell business. This is dealt with first.

Lyocell Developments

  • Lurgi-Zimmer held a lyocell seminar in China in early May attracting 60-70 interested companies.
  • Alceru Schwarza’s collaboration with Lurgi- Zimmer has not yet resulted in an order for a lyocell plant, but there are three Chinese lyocell R&D projects all competing for government funding to build the first large pilot plant in China.
  • AS believe there is no more work to do on the conventional staple approach, and seem unsure about the next steps on filament. They believe Acordis might do a JV with filament lyocell in South America. (JV in China is more likely according to Acordis)
  • AS have had a “really hard time” getting around the patent suites of Acordis/Lenzing (now pooled). They are now 99% sure that they are in the clear. They say there is absolutely no truth in the Acordis/Lenzing statements that if AS are in the clear, they must have an uneconomic process.
  • The US deal being discussed between Lenzing and Acordis could now involve lyocell as well. AS believe that Lenzing could take control of the viscose operations of the two companies leaving Acordis with lyocell. This is not confirmed by Acordis or Lenzing.
  • The Alceru pilot line is rated at 500 tonnes per year, but now operates at only 300 tonnes. It uses belt washing of staple. Having recruited several people from Heiligenkreuz, Lurgi-Zimmer are pretty familiar with the Lenzing technology. They do however feel Acordis’s ability to mechanically crimp a tow is superior to the washbed “deformation” approach used by Lenzing.
  • Acordis now have the second MobileTencel line restarted and plan to reopen the third in September. The market, especially in Asia is very strong, and they are even talking debottlenecking to increase their capacity – nominally 85,000 tonnes but Grimsby is not yet up to nameplate capacity. Non-apparel sales are still below 4000 tonnes/year. (The improving apparel market has once again allowed them to increase prices to reduce their aspirations in the nonwovens and technical products field.)
  • Viscose is in short supply and prices are increasing. (Spun-lace producers are finding that the shortage is preventing them expanding the baby-wipe market at the rate the market would stand.)
  • Lenzing are slowly getting up to (lyocell) capacity at Heiligenkreuz, and claim some unspecified successes in nonwovens. They also claim to have considerably strengthened their position with viscose in nonwovens in the last few years.
  • With regard to the high hemi pulp for lyocell from Weyerhauser, AS believe the resulting fibre is unsuitable for high quality yarn production, but agree it would be suitable for nonwovens. It works well in the melt-blowing, centrifugal spinning and fibrid work they have done.
  • Alceru’s work on cigarette filters is proving interesting to the Chinese. They have used both the tow and the nonwoven routes to tips. However the Chinese will not scale up the work until a viable local production of staple for textiles has been established.

The Chinese Nonwoven Market:

The following statistics have been compiled by extracting data relevant to nonwovens from information on the total technical textiles markets presented in the paper from Mr Xu Pu of CNITA.
The Chinese nonwovens industry has an annual capacity of 600,000 tonnes and in 1999 produced 350,000 tonnes of roll-goods. Production is growing at 10% per year. Total output of the Chinese man-made fibre industry was 6 million tonnes in 1999.
Looked at by sectors involving, but not exclusively, nonwovens:
Geotextile output (for infrastructure construction) is now 20,000 tonnes/year and will reach 100,000 tonnes by 2010. Only 5-10% of this is spunbond: woven split-film products being the leading material in China at present.
12,000 tonnes/year of waterproof civil engineering fabrics, either needled staple or spunbonded PET reinforced bitumen, are now used. This will grow to 30,000 tonnes/year by 2010.
100,000 tonnes of cement reinforcing fibres will be needed in 2010 in an attempt to stop cracking. None are used currently.
Medical and hygiene fabric output is currently 220,000 tonnes and expected to reach 300,000 by 2010. However this appears to include woven bed-linen.
Production of cigarette filters from acetate and PP is 130,000 tonnes and is expected to rise to 200,000 tonnes by 2010.
Paper machine press felt production - 15000 tonnes in 2000 - would reach 20,000 tonnes by 2010. Current local production is not good enough for the faster paper machines so China will invest to correct this.
Of 150,000 tonnes of Artificial Leather, about 85% is woven, coated and sueded. The remaining 15% (22,500 tonnes) is split between needlefelt and spunlace.
Technical textiles including nonwovens now use 15% of Chinese fibre production, compared with 32% of Japan’s, 28% of the USA’s and 20% of Europe’s. By 2010 the Chinese figure will be 23%. (Glass fibre is excluded.)
The problems China has to be address in the next 10 years were listed as follows:
  • The lack of capacity for advanced fibres such as aromatic polyamides, ultra-high strength PE, polyimides, polyphenylene sulphide and high strength carbon.
  • The lack of flash-spun nonwovens like Tyvek.
  • Tencel, PEN and PTT fibres need to be developed in China.
  • There are too many small uneconomic plants. (574 producers of nonwovens have a total of 1000 production lines. 60% of producers make less than 1000 tpa. There are only 9 nonwoven plants with a capacity in excess of 5000 tonnes.)
  • Locally made paper machine felts are not good enough for the newer machines. They will develop BOM felts (“Base Of Mesh” – sounds like scrim reinforced)
  • Recent floods indicated underinvestment in geotextiles, and this will be corrected.
  • They will do more new product development.

New Developments in Japanese Fibres

Tatsuki Matsuo, a Japanese Textile and Composites Consultant provided an overview of new developments in his country’s technical textiles industry:
  • Teijin have developed coloured fibres without using dyes or pigments. The fibres are made up of what appeared to be 30-70 alternating layers of two different clear polymers with differing refractive index. Colour is generated by interference, is bright and metallic, changes according to the viewing direction, and is controlled by layer thickness. He called it the butterfly-wing fibre.
  • Kuraray’s Kuralon KII PVOH staple is made in 3 forms, soluble, high tenacity and easy fibrillating: to bind nonwovens, to reinforce cement and to reinforce rubber respectively. They plan to have a 25,000 tpa capacity within two years.
  • Toyobo’s Zylon (Polybutylene oxazole fibre?), developed using a Dow polymer has twice the strength and modulus of para-aramid and a limiting oxygen index of 68 oC, making it the most heat resistant organic fibre (decomposes at 650 oC) Applications mentioned were optic cable tension yarn, conveyor belts for glass and aluminium melt processing, ballistic protection, hot-gas filters and sails.
  • Asahi’s Planova cellulosic virus filter passes plasma particles less than 10nm but catches HIV which is 10-100 nm in diameter.
  • Ultra-fine fibres for HEPA filters, oil-water separation and blood-cell separation continue to be developed by Toray and others.
  • Dr Suzuki’s Japan Absorbent Technology Institute will commence the production of “Mega-Thin” absorbent core material this summer. The new sheet is made from 100-300 micron superabsorbent granules bonded with microcrystalline cellulose and a little pulp. It has twice the absorbency per unit volume of conventional cores.
  • Kuraray’s anti-fouling yarns are based on a bicomponent fibre with a high tenacity core and a biodegradable resin sheath containing antifouling agent and a leachability control agent”. They appear to be targeting fishing and mariculture markets.

NMMO Process possibilities

Ralph Bauer of Alceru Schwarza reviewed the various ways of dissolving cellulose before describing the possibilities for taking the NMMO route forward.
  • Very fine fibrillation-free filament yarns (40 dtex/30 fils) were possible alternatives to nylon in luxury hosiery.
  • Good results are being obtained in cigarette filters, but the route used was not spelt out (tow? Paper?)
  • Composite materials reinforced by using higher modulus fibres or filaments.
  • Utilising the high strength to allow the fibres to be filled with very high levels of functional materials e.g. conductive particles, ceramics.
  • Direct production of nonwovens by spunbond or centrifugal spinning as described in Weyerhauser patents.
  • Production of fibrids by hydrodynamic spinning rather than wet-grinding of short fibres.

Tandec Promotion

Professor Larry Wadsworth’s overview of Tandec’s facilities and programmes, and of developments in spunbonding and meltblowing, encouraged more questions than any other paper. The key points to emerge were:
  • Tandec Technology Licencing, formed to manage the Exxon melt-blown patents donated to UTK three years ago, has consolidated and renewed their main contracts. These are with Accurate Products in the USA, Reifenhauser in Germany and Kobelco (A division of Kobe Steel) in Asia. They can only manufacture in their respective territories but all three can sell anywhere. These licensees have a co-operation agreement but AP is one of three manufacturers of MB equipment in the USA.
  • Reifenhauser III is not always preferable to Reifenhauser II spunbond technology so Tandec intend to stay with II rather than upgrade. The faster spinning speeds used on III are producing a harder, more crystalline fibre which some feel gives a harsher nonwoven.
  • 50% of Tandec’s running costs are covered by Exxon. Corporate members, about 30 in number cover the next 30% of costs, each paying $15,000 per year membership fees and getting 5 days “free” time on the pilot lines. The shortfall of 20% has to be made up from non-member trials ($6,000 per day) and testing and consulting services.

Recycling Plastics

Mr Paul X Ju of Erema Austria described their plastic waste recycling machines, and dealt with the difficulties a manufacturer of waste recycling machines has in an era of low virgin polymer prices. The basic line for clean mixed olefin waste of the non-gassing variety, with or without a pre-shredder generates enough heat in the cutter compacter zone to save energy in extrusion. Typical conversion costs would be 5 to 8 cents/lb. To cope with gassing from moisture, coatings and spin finishes a degassing system is required and the costs rise to 6-10 cents/lb. As wastes get dirtier, more sophisticated filtration systems are needed. Their self-cleaning laser-perforated metal disc filters remove particles above 150 microns and cope with the 5-10% aluminium or copper foil that typically contaminates yoghurt pots, jam beakers and cable waste. These were even more expensive. In an extension to this paper that was printed but not presented, he described a modification to prevent PET oxidation problems caused by spin-finish residues in the recovered product. This involves cutting and melting under high vacuum to remove 80-98% of the finish thereby eliminating the viscosity loss in the process.

New Tyvek Application

Jimmy Wang of Dupont Shanghai described how Tyvek could be used to replace bitumen-based roofing felts and reduce condensation problems. Insulation blocks fitted between the beams of a ridge roof are covered with a Tyvek layer on the outside and a Tyvek/spunbond laminate inner layer. The inner layer was less permeable than the outer layer, so the cold outer layer could easily transpire the moisture getting through from the warm side. The tiles had to be mounted on spacers to allow outside air to ventilate the outer surface of the Tyvek for it to work. The diffusion rate of the outer Tyvek was put at >3.5kg/sq meter/hour.

Geotextile Strength

Mr Fang Qing of the Tianjin Petrochemical Corporation had studied the factors affecting the strength of a 300 gsm needlepunched geotextile. Unsurprisingly, increases in fibre strength (2.7 to 3.5 CN/tex), fibre length (40 to 75 mm) and reductions in fibre denier (20 to 3 dtex) all had a significant and roughly linear effect on nonwoven strength. Crimp level proved irrelevant, but an optimum in strength curves occurred when needling at 500 punches/ using a needle penetration depth of 1 cm.

Perfojet Spunbond

Since their acquisition by Rieter, ICBT Perfojet has been renamed Rieter-Perfojet and is now signing contracts for the first sale of their Spunbond – Meltblown lines. The melt-blown offering is based on a technology agreement with Kasen of Japan. Their line includes no new inventions: the objective is simply to eliminate all the known problems of existing lines. The key steps involve modular construction, the use of three independently controllable zones between jet and conveyor, gaining much better control of air temperature both in drawing and in the plant as a whole, and providing easy maintenance and user interfaces. The spunbond line produces 225kgs/hr/m from a single beam on PP at 1.7 dtex. MD/CD ratio obtained is 1-1.3. It uses 1kw/kg energy.

Test Methods

The Institute Textile de France (Lyon) carries out some unusual tests in characterising geotextiles:
  • In biaxial testing of fabrics, loading MD and CD simultaneously, they use a CCD camera/computer to track the movement of a grid of dots marked onto the fabric before loading commences. There are significant differences between uniaxial and biaxial tensile results.
  • An assessment of durability is obtained by two methods, creep testing and accelerated UV ageing. Both have been validated by comparison with fabrics exposed naturally over 380 days in Lyon.
  • Creep testing involves using the biaxial testing equipment to load the fabric and monitoring the dot movements over 1000 seconds. They find that testing at 115 oC allows 1000 seconds to replicate 1 years natural creep.
  • Both mercury vapour lamp (SEPAR) UV exposure and 1 year natural exposure testing has been applied to samples of HDPE, LDPE, PP, PET and PVC Coated PET, with and without UV stabilisers. FTIR spectroscopy is used show up the loss of antioxidant with exposure time and hence allow the calibration of the UV method.
  • Agrotextile wind resistance and anchor point strength is measured in a wind tunnel.

Carbon for Concrete Repairs

China has a real problem with premature deterioration of concrete structures so Mr Yue Quingrui of the National Diagnosis and Rehabilitation of Industrial Building Engineering Research Center described their trials with carbon fibre surface reinforcement. The carbon fibre sheets and epoxy resin used to bond it to the concrete have so far been imported from Japan. Starting with the first pilot project in March 98 they have completed 50 building repairs and expect to use 20,000 sq.meters of CFRP sheet this year. They bond the sheets to beams, slabs, columns, roof-trusses etc and find it performs much better than glass-fibre reinforced sheet. They are now moving on to bridge repairs and are also investigating the use of carbon fibre rods to replace steel rods in new structures. Chinese carbon fibre producers are now hoping to gear up to take over production of the necessary higher performance fibres.

More Efficient Fishing

Ultra High Strength ropes and nettings based on ultra high molecular weight polyethylene can allow fishing fleets to consume less fuel or catch more fish. If the strength benefit is used directly, bigger trawls can be used at greater depths, opening up new deep water fishing grounds. Used indirectly in more conventional fishing, the lower drag arising from the smaller diameter ropes and yarns allows significant savings in diesel fuel. Last year the Chinese fleet used 1.7 million tonnes of diesel to catch 14 million tonnes of fish. Trials in the US and Europe were suggesting a 15-25% fuel saving for UHSRN. Mr Le Wei of the East China Sea Fisheries Research Institute estimated that China needed 534 tonnes/year of UHSRN for the fishing fleet. If large-scale fish farming was considered, much larger cages could be constructed from the stronger fibres, and a further 550 tonnes/year would be required for this sector.

Other points from the CINTE Exhibition

  • Dupont Asturias is still not working properly and is still running trials to meet the drape and gown market specifications. Off spec. product is being sold as wipes.
  • Eastex , an offshoot of the China Textile Academy have a new 1.6 metre wide Perfojet HE line. Spinnbau cards feed an Autefa cross-lapper. Their brochure also shows a 0.5 metre wide Perfojet development line.
  • Hangzhou Tian Li Water Jet Nonwoven Co. have a 1.6 metre wide Taiwan Spun-Lace Group machine fed from Chinese cards via an Asselin cross-layer. They appear to be concentrating on artificial leather from splittable synthetics.
  • Acordis Industrial Fibres were promoting their industrial yarns in anticipation of their JV with Wuxi for an expansion of their industrial polyester filament plant. A letter of intent has been signed and a project proposal approved. Feasibility studies are starting (technological and market aspects). They expect contracts to be signed and a business licence granted by the middle of next year. Colbond, Acordis’s spunbonded polyester is not involved.
  • The Hainan Xinlong stand was offering water-soluble HE nonwovens designed to dissolve at above 80 oC. They also had repellent nonwovens, wet-laid and HE'd chitin fibres as "artificial skin", pure-cotton nonwovens, HE'd silk nonwovens, anti-microbial nonwovens, non-adherent nonwovens for wound dressings. Their "Skin Comfort Webs" were said to use new process technology to create laminates comprising a hydrophobic topsheet, absorbent middle layer and a "functional layer" which could be any of the above nonwovens.
  • Thibeau has installed 1230 cards, 421 of them for nonwovens, since starting in 1970. Associate company Asselin have installed 680 needlelooms in the same period. Their biggest loom, the A50 is 7.1 metres wide, runs at 1400 punches per minute with a 60mm stroke and uses 200,000 needles. The linking of Thibeau cards and Asselin crosslayers in the new computer controlled “Pro-Dyn” web-forming system give dramatic reductions in web weight variability. Fibre savings amount to 6.9% as a result. Since launch at ITMA last year they have sold a system to Japan.
  • Smith and Nephew displayed their advanced polymeric nets and reminded us that they were the original inventors of the "emboss and stretch" process licenced to J&J (Delnet) and Applied Extrusion Technologies. (The RN30 product looks remarkably like Dri-weave). Their Op-Site breathable bacteria barrier films were of a similar vintage and now marketed in various speciality dressings. To make Op-Site they mix about 5% of high-impact polystyrene into polyurethane. This forms weak spots which can be opened in a stretching process to form micropores. Their CICA CARE scar-dressing is a heavy silicone gel dressing made under licence from Dow Chemical.
  • EMS-Inventa-Fischer were promoting their versatile spunbond line, first introduced 2 years ago. They have just completed their first installation in “Nonwovens Phillipines” in Manila. They claim true versatility to make PP, PET or PA fabrics, the first line making PET products in the 8-120gsm range for filters, wrapping, technical uses and protective clothing.
  • Andre Vuillaume “father” of Rieter-Perfojet reported concern from his customers that viscose shortage was now holding up the expansion in baby-wipe production, and hence the further expansion of HE capacity. He says that without exception all the users of his lines are close to full capacity. He has installed 8 lines in China, but here baby wipes are not important. They make drapes, gowns, masks, shoe covers protective clothing and artificial leather. His private concerns about the Rieter take-over relate to their ability, as a quoted company, to keep up with the fast-moving privately owned Fleissner operation. Nevertheless Rieter are better than most being very wealthy and having an industrial (as opposed to financial) vision of the future.

Footnote to Cinte:

The overall organisation was excellent compared with Anex, all papers appeared in the proceedings, and all in both English and Chinese. Unfortunately the simultaneous translation at the conference was poor. It worked only when it wasn’t needed i.e. when the speaker stuck rigidly to the text in the Proceedings. Questions were only occasionally interpreted, the result being that non-Chinese delegates were unable to extract full value.
There were 160 delegates at the conference and 120 stands at the exhibition. English translations were, with few exceptions, only available on the non-Chinese stands.
CRW May 30 th 2000

Thursday 4 May 2000

INDA Needlepunch, Greenville, 26-28th April 2000

  • Data on the new 5 metre cards is still classified, but 4.5 metre versions are running routinely at 375-400 m/min on fine denier polypropylene
  • A redesign of the cross-lapper has led to a less mechanically-complex, high speed, high performance design.
  • The development of needlelooms with elliptical needle paths has raised the theoretical speed limit to 150m/min while reducing drafting and improving nonwoven surface appearance. These machines may be able to compete with hydroentanglement in the 70-100 gsm range.
  • A fully automatic needle changer has been developed.
  • In a comparison between hydroentanglement and needlepunching, the extra costs of the wet process were put at only 2.7% of the total HE fabric costs.
  • Significant hydroentanglement energy savings arise from alternating single nozzles - compared with the traditional approach of using multiple nozzles on one side followed by multiple nozzles on the other.

    Production Technology

    A typical needlefelt production line would have the usual fibre opening and blending equipment feeding cards or garnets. A cross-lapper would be used to raise the basis weight, achieve the target width and orient the fibres mainly in the cross direction. A pre-needler reduces the bulk of the cross-lapped web and gives it sufficient integrity for finish needling. This varies in type and intensity according to the density, strength and structuring required.
    Conventionally, needlefelts have two similar flat surfaces obtained by punching from both sides, sequentially or simultaneously. Needle densities are now typically 3,000 to 5,000 per metre of board length, and boards can punch the web 3000 times per minute. Needles are available in numerous shapes and sizes, triangular section with barbs cut into the apex being common. Structure is obtained by needling with barbless needles with a forked tip, the web being supported on grids or brushes that allow a pattern to develop as the needles penetrate the lower surface.
    [Bill Neely, Sales Rep. Groz-Beckert, 803 48 4769]

    Improved Carding…

    4.5 metre wide nonwoven cards are now running routinely at speeds in the 300 to 400 m/min range with PP fibres of 2.3 denier and less to make webs of 10-35 gsm. A 5 metre card is also operating, but no data on it's performance can be released yet. Reviewing how such progress has arisen, Jean-Noel Cozon, VP Schlumberger (USA) Inc. listed numerous design improvements , many involving gaining more control of
    the air currents in the cards and around the conveyors taking webs from the doffers. The Injection principle pioneered by FOR “harnesses laminar flow around the main cylinder with a specially shaped plate-profile to create a Venturi which helps to strip the web off a worker”. This, in conjunction with an air-curtain eliminates stripper rolls and allows simplification of design. Internal suction systems allow Spinnbau and other's sealed cards to operate under a partial vacuum reducing dust, keeping fibre from the edges of the rollers and enabling the delivery of very clean webs. Thibeau's patented ISM system uses different widths of stripper, worker and cylinder linked to such air control to allow near-perfect edges.
    Doffing onto perforated conveyors with suction boxes controlling the web; the use of suction rolls at web transfer points, and the use of suction aprons based on short-fibre air-lay technology, all combine to allow webs to be fed from card to bonding at 400 m/min without disruption. With needling in mind, total integration of card and crossfolder to produce flat, stress free batts which no longer need profiling is under development.
    [Jean-Noel Cozon, VP Schlumberger (USA) Inc. 803 548 7233 or email ]

    Faster Needloom…

    One of the fundamental problems with modern needlefelt quality arises from drafting; the web being stopped every time the needles penetrate while web-feed and take-off rolls run continuously. The take-off rolls are thus pulling against a stationary web for about 40% of the time so the advance per stroke and hence machine speed is limited by how much distortion the web can take: in practise this is rarely more than a 30mm per stroke.
    In response to a demand from the spunlaid producers for a system that would run at 150 m/minute, Dilo have developed Hyperpunch technology , which uses an elliptical needle path capable of advancing the web by up to 50mm for each revolution of a 3000 rpm machine. Terry Purdy of Dilo, Charlotte described a series of trials on a 3.5 metre wide Hyperpunch system at their Technical Centre in Eberberg , Germany . The data gathered demonstrated that the new system removed the drafting associated with needle penetration completely, allowing heavier, wider webs to emerge at higher speed, unspoilt by needle marks and having reduced variability in profile.
    Benefits were most pronounced when needling with 4 boards, the needles assisting web passage from both sides simultaneously. Such finishing looms appear to be capable of taking webs straight from the crossfolder, allowing the pre-needler to be dispensed with. In response to questions Terry said that elliptical needling technology improved edge-quality so much it allowed paper machine felt producers, who generally trim a metre off each edge of loomstate fabric, to use narrower machines.
    [Terry Purdy, Technical Director, Dilo Inc., 704 357 3456, or email See also USP 5,732,453 March 1998]

    Faster Crosslaying…

    Rodney Kershaw of William Tatham Ltd., (the inventors of the crosslapper in 1929) 9described a fundamental design change allowing the elimination of traverse drives and hence the elimination of apron stress caused by small speed differences between conveyor motors and traverse motors. The new ‘U' format conveyor systems are mirror-imaged top to bottom to provide a balanced stress-free motion. These simplified conveyor paths eliminate wrap-backs but most important, the reduced inertia of the traverses and the absence of reversing motors allows higher speeds cross-lapping.
    Maintenance schedules and downtime are also reduced. The Quin Servonet integrated control system features reduced wiring, provides accurate control of all AC Servo motors and includes extensive real-time diagnostics.
    In response to questions, there is one machine operating in California and another due for US delivery in May. There are four operating in the UK and two more on order. Outer conveyors can be changed in 2 hours and inner conveyors in 4 hours.
    [Rodney Kershaw, Sales Director, +44 1706 345888]

    Automatic Needle Changing…

    The VSC 1000 is a fully automatic needle loading and changing system from Officina Meccanica Montenero . It laser-scans an empty board memorising and charting each hole position no matter how they are arranged. It can take a bucket full of needles, sort and mount them in a chain-magazine from which they are inserted in the board with the orientation desired. When, after use, an operative reinserts the board, the VSC 1000 recalls the needle position file, extracts needles as requested, records the positions of any breakages and stores the data on needle-life.
    The needle-change options include Replace All, Replace only Broken, Replace only in Zone Specified, Replace only those with a Specified Rotation, and Remove All. It works with boards up to 85” x 16” with thicknesses between 0.6" and 1.0”. Needles can be up to 3.5” long and 1.83mm diameter. The chain-magazine loader can sort and load 1200 needles per hour. The Replace All option works at 1000 needles per hour, and runs for 5 hours on a single chain-magazine.
    In response to questions, Paulo Finocci said it cost a little under $200,000, the first machine being installed near Florence in Italy in May, and the second in September this year. Would it detect the occasional wrong needle when loading the chain-magazine? Yes, but only based on needle length.
    [Paulo Finocci (President) +39 0574 650743, email]

    Needle Forces…

    Measuring the force experienced by needles at different positions across a needleboard while varying basis weight, needling density and fibre parameters generated some unexpected results. With transducers on needles in a line along the machine direction in the centre of the board, forces were observed to rise to a maximum near the centre and fell as the web became more consolidated. As needling density or fibre length was increased, the position of maximum force moved towards the feed side, but changes of basis weight did not affect it. The peak force experienced by needles increased with increasing length, needling density and basis weight. Asked about the practical implications of his work, Prof Abdelfattah Seyam of NCSU thought that if similar transducers were fitted to needles in production, they would: a) provide a valuable additional measure of fabric uniformity, b) would enable variations in fibre finish to be detected, and, if sufficient were used would c) be sensitive enough to pick up the increased forces resulting from needles breaking in the neighbourhood of the transducer.
    [Prof Abdelfattah Seyam, 919 515 6583 or email]

    Hydroentanglement v. Needling…

    The economics of hydroentanglement according to Perfojet were used by Daniel Feroe, their North American Sales Manager, to draw some interesting comparisons with needlepunching. Counter-intuitively, the costs of electricity, gas (for drying), water, and water filtration materials amounted to only 2.7% of the $2.29/kg total cost of the hydroentangled fabric in question. He made the point that while energy costs per hour were much higher than needling, the output per hour of HE was much greater. While the two processes targeted different market sectors at present, he saw HE being capable of moving into needling territory in automotive, horticulture, roofing, geotextiles, coating bases and cable construction. Within automotive needlepunched fabrics would remain pre-eminent in lower door trim and composites, but would be vulnerable in package trays, trunk liners and rear hatch covers and headliners.

    He put the 1999 world capacity for HE fabrics at 230,000 tonnes and foresaw a continuation of the exponential growth as fabrics like PGI's “Miratec” and Freudenberg's “Evolon” (HE'd spunlaid splittable polyester) penetrated further into conventional textiles. Asked about lines using both HE and pre- needling, he knew of none. HE headliners were absent from the US market but under development in Asia and Europe . The coarsest fibres used in HE were currently 3 denier, largely because, leather substitutes aside, the technology was still targeting lighter weight disposables.
    [Daniel Feroe, N. American Sales Manager 336 668 9581 or email ]

    Improved Hydroentanglement…

    Don Gillespie, Vice President of Fleissner Inc. looked to the future of hydroentanglement line development. They would be showing a 5 metre wide unit at ACHEMA in Frankfurt between May 20 th and 27 th this year and while 600 bar and 600 m/min figures have been associated with this next generation of machines, Mr Gillespie indicated that 200 bar and 250-300m/min were more typical. In fact the highest working pressure known to be installed on a commercial line was 350 bar. 600 m/min would be needed to allow HE to be used on spunbond lines.
    New filtration systems, better perforation techniques, better jets, a new manifold design and reduced energy consumption were all under development. Part of the improved energy consumption would arise from the discovery that the two-sided entanglement needed for heavier products is best done with alternating nozzles (ABABABAB) rather than the AAAABBBB approach which is now standard. A 600 gsm felt has been made from only 5 high-pressure treatments “up to 600 bar” using this technique. The ability of the high pressures to split splittable fibres, including lyocell, was illustrated. (although in the case of lyocell, the SEM shown was of fibres refined by Acordis in a beater.
    [Don Gillespie, Vice President, 704 394 3376]


    The use of sheath-core bicomponents in needling to achieve mouldability especially for automotive applications is well known. However a new low-melt sheath on a bicomponent fibre from Kosa gave stronger fabrics at 143 o C than standard bico at 166 o C, allowing energy savings or higher line speeds. Another new bico, this time with a high-melt sheath allowed automotive headliner specifications to be met.
    Lana Irish, Kosa's Staple Market Manager went on to indicate how exotic polymers could be “cored” with cheaper carriers to deliver their attributes at lower cost. When it required protection from the rigours of carding and needling, the premium component would be in the core.
    The high-melting polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) was a possible sheath for hot filtration, and the polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT) polymer with it's improved abrasion resistance, dye uptake and elastic recovery would add these features to an ability to give self-bulking bicomponents.
    Asked about the slow uptake of the islands-in-a-sea types in the USA , the problem was the lack of finishing machines capable of extracting the “sea”. With regard to the flame retardant bicomponents, Kosa were making the core FR to allow the sheath to be dyed normally.
    [Lana Irish, 704 948 3705 or email ]

    Trends in Staple Fibres…

    After explaining the main features of two-step, one-step (compact), and in-line high speed staple fibre spinning processes, John Hagewood, Business Development Manager of Hills Inc., examined trends in the staple fibre industry.
    Polypropylene staple is increasingly made by what used to be the fibre industry's customers. Numerous major users have installed their own compact spinning machines, and others have switched to spunbond, including bico and ultra fine denier fabric production.
    The reducing staple market is driving the fibre producers to specialise on the harder-to-make fibres and polymers. Hills Inc. were now increasingly involved with poly lactic acid (PLA), poly trimethylene terephthalate (PTT), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and even poly vinyl alcohol (PVOH).
    Asked about poly-lactic acid he said it was an excellent fibre to spin provided it's properly dried and preconditioned. Asked about it's performance in ironing, he said his knitted PLA golf shirt (probably from Kanebo) did not need ironing.
    Cargill-Dow Polymers LLC were said to be concentrating on apparel and yoghurt pot outlets for the polymer. The yoghurt pots used a lower molecular weight and hydrolysed in hot water to become fully biodegradable.
    [John Hagewood, Business Development Manager, 407 724 2370 x216 or email ]

    Kenaf composites?

    The increasing automotive industry interest in biodegradable composites with jute and hemp as reinforcements has encouraged the USDA's Southern Regional Research Centre to examine the potential of that other bast fibre, kenaf. The problem with kenaf, according to SRRC's D.V.Parikh is that it is uncardable when normally extracted by natural retting. His chemical retting process, in essence a caustic extraction at the boil in a stirred kier, yielded a fibre which he thought could be carded and needled for testing.
    After the 5 hour hot-wash/caustic boil/hot-wash/neutralising wash/finish sequence in the keir, weight losses of between 30 and 40% were recorded as the lignin etc. was extracted. However a further 25 to 30% of the fibre was lost, presumably as dust in carding, even when optimally lubricated with soap finish.
    Asked about the fibre denier, it had not been measured but was thought to be around 20. The fibre extension had been reduced to between 1 and 2% by the chemical treatment and this could account for the carding losses.
    The needled nonwovens properties presented were based on a 7.5 oz/sq.yd 80/20 kenaf/cotton blend and a 20 oz/sq.yd composite of 35% kenaf, 35% recycled polyester and 30% PP. A similar blend had been air-laid and then needled to a spunbond PET scrim.
    [D.V. Parikh, 504 286 4406 or email ]

    Needled Superabsorbents

    In addition to being brittle, superabsorbent fibres tend to be coarse, have no crimp, and get sticky if exposed to elevated humidity for any length of time. Carding them therefore requires special care: too low a humidity and they break up, too high a humidity and they stick to the wire.
    Nevertheless they are being carded, needled and converted into a variety of new products outside the obvious hygiene market.
    Ed Homonoff (Consultant) described several:
    • Protective garments with a central layer of SAP-containing felt between a conductive waterproof liner and a breathable shell have been patented for use by fire-fighters. The garment is pre-wetted before exposure to flames.
    • Chemical spillages can be controlled using felts containing SAF, and a similar product has been patented for controlling body fluid spillages in autopsies, surgical procedures and transport.
    • SAF-containing pads are used in fish and meat packs to immobilise fluid without contaminating the produce. Similar pads can be prewetted and used to wrap fish before freezing. This form of packing weighs less than the ice normally used, and there is no water leakage on thawing.
    • The use of a SAF-containing filter in a respirator allows absorbtion of exhaled moisture and re-humidification of the next inhalation.
    • SAF-containing fuel filters can detect moisture in fuel and if required, shut off the fuel flow from faulty sources.
    [Ed Homonoff (Consultant), 860 774 5949 or email . See also USP's 5,885,912; 5,577,494 and 4,242,206 and WO 91/017766A]

    Market Information

    Excepting big names like Foss, Amoco, Lydall and Phillips, most of the 270 needlefelt producers in the USA are small family concerns. Lines could be obtained for between $200,000 (pre-owned) and $3,000,000, and while the latest equipment was necessary to compete in the two biggest and most competitive markets, automotive and geotextiles, some home-furnishings, industrial and marine fabrics could be made successfully on older machines.
    In Europe , the 370 companies using needlelooms have a product range at least as diverse as the USA , but make a greater proportion of technical felts such as the synthetic leathers.
    Japan , with over 130 producers, many driven by automotive industry quality requirements, probably make the world's best products. They typically use finer denier PET rather than PP, have their own R&D departments, and were of course the originators of the microfibre felts first developed as artificial suede.
    Korea and Taiwan are now the world's largest producers of impregnated and coated needlefelts for “leather” uses thanks to the concentration of sports shoe producers such as Nike and Reebok in the region.
    China , is a large producer of relatively non-critical products for home furnishings, with some 90-150 needlers.
    Latin America has 60 needlepunchers, the majority being small family-owned firms, but with US educated CEO's. Blankets, Paddings, Automotive, Carpets and Filtration are typically targeted markets, but the fact that 40% of Argentina 's needlefelts went into Wiping, and 80% of Brazils carpets were made by needlepunching stood out.
    Sisal, jute, tampico , tequila and hair were the main fibres used in automotive and furnishings fabrics, but blankets were still mainly made from shoddy. Mexican production for automotive use had tripled in the last 15 years, 60% being used locally.
    Geotextile production is relatively new but growing fast. Unlike Brazil , the rest of Latin America and even Europe, the USA used negligible quantities of needlepunch in carpets.
    [John Foster, VP - Foster Needle Co., Inc, 920 682 6314]

    Far Eastern Progress…

    The "Emerging Five", defined as China , Indonesia , Thailand , Malaysia and the Philippines , produced 216,000 tonnes of roll-goods worth $810 million in 1999. This was 9% of global roll-goods use, up from 4% a decade ago, and expected to grow to 12.1% by 2004.
    Mature western markets were using about 2 kgs/head of nonwovens per year (1.4 kg disposables and 0.6 durables) while the emerging five were consuming less than 0.3kg.
    Nonwovens Production in the Five was:• 38% dry-lay latex or thermal bonded,
    • 28% spun-bond (25 PP lines and 4 PET lines in China but only one other in Indonesia),
    • 27% needlepunched (300 lines, two-thirds being in China ),
    • the remaining 7% being mainly spun-laced (10 lines in China ) and meltblown.
    The absence of air-laid in 1999 was notable, the gap now being filled by the 20,000 tonne BBA plant recently announced. Where were the needled products made by the Five mainly used? In geotextiles, coating bases, and shoe materials. Shoddy and the coarser natural fibres were used for bedding, matting and blankets.
    [Ian Butler, Consultant, 905 885 8815]

    A New Market?

    Fire ants, despite pesticides and biological controls, have spread from their original foothold in Mobile Alabama to become a nuisance over most southern states. A novel suggestion for their control involves the use of needlepunched geotextiles. Howard Thomas of Auburn University has experimented with various geotextiles and discovered that while the ants easily eat their way through dense flash-spun olefin house-wrap, they are stopped by looser 3.8 oz/sq.yd felt made from 1.5 denier polyester fibres needled to 550 ppi.
    Because the ants cannot survive cold or elevated temperatures he recommends laying the felt about a foot below ground to prevent ants forming their colonies at the 3ft to 12 ft depths where the temperature is constant enough to permit their survival.
    He calculates that if 10% of all the new housing starts in the fire ant's US territory used a felt layer under the yard, these yards would remain ant-free and a new market consuming 112mm sq.yds per month of nonwoven would be created. The same technique appears to control termites also, yielding another 15 mm sq.yds/month if 10% of house foundations used the method. Similar problems exist in Australia , Brazil and Mexico . Dr Thomas is now looking for support for field trials.
    [334 844 5461 or email ]

    Trade Statistics…

    US government trade statistics reveal imports and exports of needlepunched fabrics. Two of the Harmonised Tariff Schedules, HTS5602 and HTS5603, are worth looking at. HTS5602 (10% duty applicable) covers all felts: traditional or needled, loomstate or coated or impregnated, whether made from animal fibres or manufactured fibres. This category also includes stitchbonded materials.
    HTS5603 is the nonwovens roll-goods tariff, not strictly relevant to needlepunched, but having recently become duty-free, its illegal use for needlefelts could be distorting the import statistics.
    Of the 20,500 tonnes of felts exported by the US in 1999 (up from 11,400 tonnes in 1994) Canada received 8,400 tonnes, Mexico 3,700 tonnes and Korea 2,000 tonnes. Canada was also the main exporter of felt to the US , accounting for 6,700 tonnes of the total 1999 imports of 11,500 tonnes, the UK being second in importance with 1,500 tonnes.
    The written text includes a complete print out of HTS 5602 statistics for 1994-99, for every country and to the nearest kilogram. For the net enthusiast, the websites to watch were: (source of the data used in the paper) , ,
    and .
    [Peter Mayberry, Director of Government Affairs, INDA, 703 847 6747 or email ]


    John Mycock of ETS Virginia described a baghouse filter fabric verification test that would allow the Enviromental Protection Agency to streamline the process of granting permission for fabric use by the US air-pollution control industry. Tests on the ETS test rig cost $9500 per fabric, but the EPA will pay 90% of this. Fabrics which pass get a verification certificate signed by the EPA for use in promotional literature.
    [John Mycock, Executive VP, ETS, 540 265 0004 ext.2]
    Donald Hindman, the Director of Engineering at Thantex Specialties Inc illustrated how the omnipresent, economical, but underused Microsoft Access could be used to record, analyse and report a multitude of statistics arising from a needlepunch line.
    [828 687 0940 or email ]
    Mark Wolpers of Temafa reviewed their machines for opening and blending staple fibre.
    [+49 22 02 10 01 0]
    Ed Vaughn of Clemson University provided an overview of fibre types and their properties (illustrated with information from the and Fibersource web sites) followed by the basics of web preparation.
    [Prof. Ed Vaughn, 864 656 5965]
    Robert Parsons of RAP Associates gave an overview of fabric finishing techniques.
    [508 778 5226, or email]
    The INDA website ( ) bibliography now has abstracts of the papers given at the last 10 years of conferences in keyword-searchable form. Full copies of the papers can be obtained for $20. They are also setting up an online resource database , effectively a list of suppliers and their products.
    CRW 1/5/00

Inda Needlepunch Photos - Greenville 2000

Names needed: Please add as comments

John Foster

Nick Hrinko on Left with Bill Neely