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Melt blown nonwovens in Japan.

Melt Blown Nonwovens In Japan

the market for melt blown nonwovens in Japan is developing, but there are still many obstacles to be overcome; differences in marketing in Japan and the U.S. play a primary role

Melt blown nonwovens have opened up a completely new market in Japan. Characteristics of melt blown nonwovens include low tensile strength and abrasion resistance, high softness, high uniformity and large covering power, specific pore size and large surface area. These characteristics all come from the fact that single filaments constituting melt blown nonwovens have a much smaller fiber diameter as compared with conventional general purpose fibers.

Concerning the uniformity and covering power, melt blown nonwovens have far smaller unevenness than dry laid nonwovens having the same weight.

It is remarkable that melt blown nonwovens have, thanks to small fiber diameters, far smaller pore sizes than those of conventional nonwovens, which is a chief characteristic of melt blowns. This feature could contribute to a large extent in developing new end uses for melt blown nonwovens.

Market For Melt Blown Nonwovens

Principal uses and their consumption of melt blown nonwovens in the U.S. are shown in Figure 1. Hospital uses such as filters, face masks, surgical gowns and central service wrap, oil adsorbents, wiping cloths, pads, insulation and like items total about 40,000 tons a year. On the other hand, consumption in Japan is--with the above uses being classified into the three fields of filter and face mask, oil adsorbent and wiper and insulation--each about 500 tons, totalling only about 1500 tons a year.

Table 1 shows consumption per capita of fibers, nonwovens and melt blown nonwovens in Japan and the U.S. As is understood from this table, in spite of the fact that the consumption of fibers and nonwovens in Japan amounts to 75% and 64% of that in the U.S. respectively, melt blown nonwovens consumption is as small as 7%. Possible factors for this poor penetration include time lag in starting development, a technological gap, production costs and sales price and marketing difficulties.

Research and development in Japan for melt blown, as well as spunbonded, nonwovens started in 1971 and commercial production, although transient, started in 1974.

The Japanese technological level with respect to high performance melt blowns is not considered to be particularly inferior, since novel, unique products have been developed as a result of research done in Japan, such as a melt blown filters that can replace HEPA filters now available there. However, Japan may still be behind as far as productivity engineering is concerned.

Production cost is the sum of items such as fixed costs such as depreciation, labor, interest and overhead and variable costs such as raw materials, power supply and fuel and packaging. Obviously, raw material and utility costs differ between Japan and the U.S.

While the price of polypropylene resin, which is most widely used for melt blowns, ranges 100-150 [yen] a kg in the U.S., in Japan the price ranges from 200-250 [yen] a kg. The power rate is 6-7 [yen] per kwh in the U.S. and as high as about 13 [yen] per kwh in Japan. These differences reflect considerably on the production cost.

The depreciation cost is still higher and increases the production cost of melt blown nonwovens. This is because of small production in Japan where no end uses call for a large demand yet.

While this cost factor surely constitutes part of the causes of the penetration difference between Japan and the U.S., the biggest factor to be considered is difference in product marketing and distribution.

In the U.S., melt blown manufacturers produce melt blown nonwovens and at the same time process the nonwovens in combination with other materials into finished composite products, which they then sell under their brand names and through their various sales channels. The U.S. melt blown manufacturers, therefore, have a good chance of expanding sales of melt blown nonwovens by their own efforts.

On the other hand, in most cases Japanese melt blown manufacturers simply sell their melt blown roll goods and rarely process the roll goods into finished products that they can sell through their own channels. This difference in marketing is a fundamental factor in the difference in the penetration of melt blown nonwovens. [Figure 1 Omitted] [Table 1 Omitted]
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Author:Konishi, Takeshi
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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