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Nonwovens in furniture and bedding.

Nonwovens In Furniture and Bedding

Nonwovens today are an essential construction material in upholstered furniture and bedding manufacturing. In the past 20 years nonwoven products have made significant inroads in the replacement of traditional upholstery and bedding materials. Although these segments are considered mature industries, there are still opportuniteis to replace existing woven products.

In comparison to other nonwovens businesses today, the furniture and bedding market segments are not huge. In 1989 sales for these two markets reached a level of $105 million, which would equate to approximately 560 million sq. yards of nonwoven fabric, including mattress pad covers, draperies and window treatments.

If solely furniture and bedding construction applications are considered, this number becomes more in the range of 450 million sq. yards. By most accounts, growth rates are expected to be in the range of about 11/2 to 2% a year, growing to approximately 520 million sq. yards by 1994.

The industry continues to be tied closely with housing starts and resales of existing homes, as well as the cost of money, both of which directly influence furniture manufacturer and retail store inventory levels. As homes continue to shrink in size and more emphasis is placed on condominiums and apartment living, furniture units will be scaled down in size.

Also, surveys indicate that in U.S. households the 35 to 50 year old group (the baby boomers) is currently spending the most per household on furnishings (approximately $1400 per household). As this large group moves up in age it will spend less and will not be replaced by younger consumers with the same spending volume.

Sales in this market also tend to be somewhat seasonal, with peaks in March through June and August through November.

Furniture Construction Fabrics

In the upholstered furniture segment, in which nonwovens have already achieved high penetration, the largest end use is cushion ticking in conjunction with shredded or solid fill materials (Figure 1). Products of choice in this area tend to be spunbonded polypropylene and polyester due to the characteristics of softness, coverage, breathability and sewability demanded. Widths used most often are in the five- 40 inch range. Weights range from .8-2.0 ozs. sq. yard.

PHOTO : Figure 1: Solid foam used with nonwoven ticking

Spring covers (insulators) and "In Arm" and "In Back" constructions have also enjoyed similar growth and would be considered second in volume (Figure 2). Nonwovens that fit well in these applications include needlepunched polypropylene and heavier calendered spunbonded polypropylene. Strength, hand and quietness are very important. Widths involved are less than 60 inches. Weights on these products vary from two-four ozs. sq. yard.

PHOTO : Figure 2: Nonwovens used as an insulator

Next come dust covers and then other miscellaneous constructions, such as skirt linings, pull strips and cushion ties. In these areas, various light and heavy weight nonwovens are used with varying degrees of strength, opacity and hand being required. Widths normally used are less than 60 inches. Weights range from 1.25-four ozs. sq. yard.

Seat decking remains as the only large and virtually untapped application for nonwovens. The nonwoven products have not been able to satisfy the aesthetic and performance requirements for outer upholstered fabric.

Bedding Construction Fabrics

As with furniture, the bedding segment has enjoyed a very high degree of success in the use of nonwovens. Again, however, with the exception of outer ticking there is not a large volume construction item not already converted to nonwovens.

The primary application is quilt backing (Figure 3), usually in widths of 80-90 inches. Weight ranges from .4-1.25 ozs. sq. yard, with the fabric of choice being either a spunbonded polypropylene or polyester. The requirements for this application include enough strength to hold a stitch, softness and drapability and lack of noise.

PHOTO : Figure 3: Nonwoven used as a substrate for quilting

Changes in this area include a movement to heavier weights due to deeper tufting and "plusher" mattress products.

Other prominent end uses include dust covers (Figure 4) flanging, binding tape and insulators. Some small inroads have been made as lower end foam mattress ticking for use in convertible sofas. This has been possible in low end furniture units that use a slab foam and because the average use of the mattress unit is less than that of a traditional mattress. An estimate of the volume in this area is approximately five to six million sq. yards annually.

PHOTO : Figure 4: Nonwoven used for box springs dust cover


And A Wish List

Even though this is a market where nonwovens have already penetrated a high percentage of the current applications and the potential growth is relatively small, there are still opportunities for nonwovens among manufacturers who are creative enough and have the ability to include some value added features in their products.

If there was a wish list among bedding and furniture manufacturers for their nonwoven fabrics, it would look something like this:

* Create a decking fabric that more closely resembles a woven in texture. The fabric must be soft, have little stretch, be available in several colors and have the strength requirements to hold staples.

* Create a downproof fabric that has enough stiffness and appeal to be characteristic of the 104 x 76 woven construction, have an air permeability of 10-12 CFM and have the ability to prevent quill penetration from down and feathers.

* Create a mattress ticking strong enough to work for innerspring mattresses, be printable, have a soft, workable hand and remain cost effective against low end woven tickings.

* For outdoor furniture cushions, develop a waterproof, UV stabilized fabric as an alternative to vinyl in the replacement cushion market.

* Develop an outer fabric covering material, possibly by using a nonwoven as a substrate with a flocking or coating process. It could have a possible use as furniture upholstery or mattress ticking.

* For applications such as crib ticking, develop some type of film laminate to replace vinyl in baby cribs. It must be printable, waterproof and meet high strength requirements.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Markets For Nonwovens
Author:Watts, Terry W.
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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