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"High Tech' nonwovens - higher profits and still growing.

|High Tech' Nonwovens - Higher Profits And Still Growing

The marketing or sales manager of most businesses today can readily explain why high tech products are more desirable for his company.

The primary reason would probably be that they offer higher profits. Many other reasons would follow, such as less competitive markets, more growth potential, direct exchange in communications with the customers and justification to obtain technologies that can be used in other products. Then it could be said that becoming involved in high tech improves the reputation and sales of the company, opens doors and provides opportunities to other sales within a company or brings in business from a totally new sales area.

You may even hear that the customers are a more desirable group and pay their invoices on time.

What Are "High Tech" Nonwovens?

Like most of the categories or segments of nonwoven products and markets, "high tech" nonwovens also require their interpretations. We also see and hear other terms for these products such as "high performance fabrics,"" specialty materials," "space age textiles" and even "non-traditional nonwovens."

Most of us would agree that high tech nonwovens could be described by all of the above, including the comments from the marketing group. Since most of these comments and descriptions appear to be positive, we would think that the nonwovens manufacturers would concentrate on these materials and markets. Although most of us are familiar with a few of these products in our industry, we would ask why there are not more of them.

Their names or categories imply that these products or markets are unusual, the leading edge, sophisticated and maybe unique. Often the raw materials used to manufacture them fall in the same category, which could mean that they are more expensive, difficult to obtain and may require special equipment and/or processing. Yields may be poor in comparison, special packaging/handling may be required, guarantees or warranties may be necessary and product liability may be a major consideration. There may also be patents involved to further complicate the situation.

Let's take a look at some of these products in the nonwovens marketplace. The floppy disk liner is a product that many of us have used but few have noticed or understood the function. Simply, it allows the disk that would be coated with iron oxide/urethane to move on a surface that I refer to as a solid lubricant while containing dust and foreign matter inside the envelope.

In the beginning, there were instances where the binder and/or finish of the nonwoven destroyed the information on the disk. Some of the nonwovens submitted to the converter would not cut or seal properly in the manufacturing of the envelope and left fibers extended from the poor cut and/or loose fibers in the final product. However, after many problems, nonwovens became the standard in this product and market.

Another product category of high tech nonwovens that has remained the leader for many years are those used in polishing. Some of these polyurethane impregnated polyester felts have become the industry standard in processing silicon wafers in the computer/electronics industry worldwide. They are also used in polishing television face plates, finishing the surface of razor blades and other markets.

It may be surprising that there are several types of disposable wipes in the high tech category. These include fabrics that contain special fibers with special binders and special finishes. They have been used to collect and contain "radiation dust," cleaning micro industrial parts, cleaning computer equipment and in certain medical applications.

Filtration is another area where we find high tech nonwovens, such as media that will allow vapor transmission, even breathability, while preventing the passage of bacteria or certain substances. Others will selectively attract, absorb or contain certain matter or gases.

Position In The Total Market

High tech nonwovens are also found in very high temperature resistant insulation, bullet resistant vests (see this month's cover story on page 24), armor plate, aircraft structural parts, reinforcing materials, circuit boards, battery separators, conductive and non-conductive electronic parts, gaskets and seals and many other end uses.

It is estimated that all of the high tech nonwovens account for some 8% of the total nonwovens business. During the past 10 years, high tech nonwovens have maintained their position in the total market picture and have showed growth nearly every year in most of their markets even as they enter new end uses.

There are many reasons why this portion of our market has not grown more rapidly. To simplify the situation, money (time and effort) has been the major factor slowing the growth. Obviously, it is an involved and complicated task getting a high tech nonwoven onto the market. Market research and product requirements must be determined. Raw material availability, processing requirements including know-how, patent position, marketing requirements and the question of whether it fits into the company's objectives, as well as environmental concerns, are some of the considerations and obstacles that must be overcome. Many of the smaller companies involved in our industry simply cannot afford the time and effort involved to develop the product. Even the larger companies will not commit to the significant research and development required for these products today.

The major incentive we have mentioned will continue to attract some intrepid organizations to pursue these products and markets. Many manufacturers will continue to succeed at an increasing rate with new high tech nonwovens.

One of the major reasons for their success will be that which we have stated many times before. Nonwovens have more versatility and capability than any other method of processing fiber/additive to fabric/material. The rapid transition and evolutions of materials and processes in our high tech world will assure a place for the better high tech nonwovens in the near and distant future.
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Title Annotation:Holliday Talk; nonwoven fabric products for computer industry
Author:Holliday, Tom
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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