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A hot market gets hotter as globalization takes hold.

the awareness of '1992' and the need for globalization remain high on the list in importance for hot melt adhesive and equipment suppliers; the environment is also a major concern, although most do not see it adversely affecting their business In the hot melt business, as throughout the nonwovens industry, the dominant themes of globalization and the environment are impacting on the business in terms of acquisitions, research and development and changes in marketing focus as the industry gets set to move into the next decade, a decade that promises sweeping changes globally and certainly many new hot melt opportunities.

Most hot melt equipment and material suppliers are casting their eyes overseas as they seek to extend their global focus, while others are content in their current position for the upcoming worldwide market. The theme of the 1990's for the hot melt industry was set in the last months of the 1980's when Nordson, the foremost supplier of hot melt equipment, purchased its European rival Meltex to position itself as a global supplier.

For the most part, while all the manufacturers Nonwovens Industry spoke with expressed concern over the environmental dilemma, most felt that the hot melt business would not be hurt by this concern. Although all manufacturers were looking into development of "environmentally friendly" processes and materials, the brunt of the environmental burden rests elsewhere in the industry and the hot melt suppliers must take their cues from the disposables manufacturers.

Other trends spotted in the industry included the use of less adhesive per individual application, but more adhesive applications within a product. Also, companies are looking for specialty niches and unique opportunities for hot melt adhesives to compete with other types of applications means.

The Impact Of Globalization

While hot melt equipment and adhesive manufacturers are certainly conscious of the globalization sweeping the nonwovens industry, most feel they have their individual positions well in hand when it comes to being prepared for "1992" and the implications it brings. Many have expansion plans in place, either in terms of overseas facilities or added sales personnel and marketing offices, and all are certainly considering the market as global, no longer divided by the geography of continents.

Perhaps the busiest company in the global hot melt industry in the past year has been Nordson Corp., Westlake, OH, which purchased Meltex last fall. The integration of the two companies is still in progress.

We are posturing ourselves for 1992 in the disposables and nonwovens industries," said John Raterman, general manager, nonwovens business group at Nordson. "Our Meltex operation in Luneburg, West Germany will manage the full Nordson and Meltex product portfolio in support of the European market, as well as provide us with unsurpassed application development and manufacturing capabilities in Europe. The Nordson Nonwoven Group located in Atlanta will provide technology, product and application development for North and South America, Australia and the Far East for both lines."

Another equipment supplier, Mercer Corp., Hendersonville, TN, is also involved in the international market with a U.K.-based sales and distribution office. It does some specialized machining at the site and is also, according to international sales manager Dennis Mercer, looking into some potential affiliations overseas.

Acumeter Laboratories, Marlborough, MA, reports a great deal of interest from foreign markets. We are fostering an interest in some new markets outside the U.S.," said the company's Peter Barnard, "primarily in the Far East. We are making other long term plans as well."

One company comfortable with its worldwide position is equipment manufacturer Spraymation, Fort Lauderdale, FL. "We do not see the upcoming changes in Europe in 1992 having a major impact on our position in the industry," said jim Williams, product manager. "We sell a considerable amount of equipment overseas, much of it of a specialized nature and which has been proven on critical applications."

Mr. Williams did, however, caution some manufacturers. "To the manufacturer who is producing equipment that is highly price sensitive and is dependent to any extent on European sales, we believe that 1992 can bring problems when the European manufacturers become established as a coherent group and become more competitive," he said.

Equipment manufacturer May Coating, Roseville, MN, is also adopting a wait-and-see attitude. "We are not doing too much in Europe yet," P.B. Gunnerud, director of marketing, told Nonwovens Industry. "Europe is really just getting into it. They are developing rapidly, but most of the ideas come from the U.S." He did say that Eastern Europe is another potential hot melt market, "although it's probably five to 1 0 years down the pike."

Most of the adhesives manufacturers are likewise gearing up for the coming global market. "We have a good position in the Middle East and Europe," said Denis Nolan, manager of IGI Nonwovens, Lyndhurst, NJ, "and more expansions are planned."

Ecomelt, Inc., Rocky Hill, CT, formerly Dexter Ecomelt, already has a sister company in Sursee, Switzerland. Steve Kolpa, national sales manager, said that whichever subsidiary can produce a product at a better price handles that particular sale. "We have exactly the same product lines at both locations."

Likewise, National Starch and Chemical, Bridgewater, Nj, already has subsidiaries around the world, so it doesn't see a great deal of change coming with 1992. We already treat the business as a global market," said the company's Don Nadler. "Things aren't really going to change. There are probably some longer range opportunities in the Eastern Bloc countries, although it is too soon to tell."

The maturity of the U.S. market compared with Europe is another consideration in the hot melt sector. "The real growth is in the international market," said Mike Klonne, of Findley Adhesives, Wauwatosa, WI. "It is a changing market place with changing players and new opportunities are opening up in Latin America and Asia as well. We have experienced major growth and expect that to continue," he added.

Adhesive manufacturer and converter Oliver Products, Grand Rapids, MI, is also in the process of expanding overseas. It has placed a direct sales person in Germany and is looking to establish converting operations in Europe within the next few years.

The Impact Of The Environment

The other issue dominating planning within the hot melt industry, as throughout the nonwovens industry, is the environment and the impact it may have. While everyone has admitted to growing awareness of the challenge, many feel that it has become too much of a "hot" issue and that emotions need to cool off" before the problem can be addressed logically

"There's a lot of emotion on the part of environmentalists and users," said Mr. Barnard, of Acumeter. Manufacturers are taking these issues seriously, but so much emotion is clouding it. This is a real problem for manufacturers to deal with."

Mike Modak, business manager at adhesive manufacturer H.B. Fuller, St. Paul, MN, agreed. "There's a lot of chaos out there right now. We're trying to feel this out and look at things from a broad perspective." H.B. Fuller is also researching formulas and raw materials to see what happens to adhesives in a landfill.

"We have to think about what is progress,"' added Mr. Nolan, of IGI. "Diapers are getting picked on, for whatever reason. We can also get rid of air pollution by doing away with cars and trucks and going back to the horse and buggy. It's a matter of determining progress," he said.

Mr. Mercer concurred. "Disposables have been put in a scapegoat position," he said.

"It's a specter that hangs over the industry," added Mr. Gunnerud, of May Coating.

The hot melt industry is looking on these problems as an opportunity in many ways, however. Work is being done on biodegradable and recyclable adhesives and R&D focuses much of its attention on the environmental issue. "It's such a complicated issue," said Mr. Kolpa, of Ecomelt, but we haven't had any negative impact as a result of it.

An important point that the public seems to have forgotten was addressed by George Ritter, sales and marketing representative at Century Adhesives, Columbus, OH. "Consumers are still very pleased with the convenience of disposable diapers,' he said. "There are so many legislative issues that still need to be worked out, not to mention the technical issues that will arise."

Technology was also touched on by Mr. Nadler, of National Starch. "There is long range research going on with biodegradability and there may be successful ways to attain this," he said. "However, this is going to require major changes in processes and technology. It will be fairly expensive and some compromises may have to be made. This must be done in cooperation with manufacturers and end users. The current conventional methods won't do it," he concluded.

Findley Adhesives is also active in investigating all potential solutions to the problem. "We are active in source reduction, recycling, biodegradability, composting and the development of new, all natural materials," said Mr. Klonne. "All of these areas are being focused on right now."

Likewise, at May Coating work is being done on environmental solutions. "We must work on making bits and pieces that can be classified as disposable. They may not go away, but at least they will fall apart," said Mr. Gunnerud.

Mr. Raterman, of Nordson, summed it up. "The green movement should have a positive affect on the hot melt industry in the short to medium term," he said. "Because of the reduction in plastics with the use of sprayed hot melts and the concentration now on source reduction, we should displace other autogenous bonding methods in the next few years." The Impact Of Changing Trends

Next to the global market and the environment, the next most important influence on the hot melt market is the constantly changing market itself. Constant research and development brings a host of new product ideas and applications. Within the nonwovens industry, hot melts are finding a broader range of end uses, even while the actual amount of adhesive used is decreasing, in most cases.

"We see less adhesive being used per application on a baby diaper, but there are more and more applications per product," said Mr. Raterman. With the addition of features such as standing leg gathers, in-line coating of frontal tapes and the acceptance of foam waists in almost all private label and branded diapers, we have counted up to nine hot melt applications in a single product."

Creativity is the key, agreed Mr. Klonne, of Findley. "We are going beyond the standard material bases in compounding as well as looking at different applications for adhesives. We are going beyond the standard chassis, leg and core applications."

John Green, product marketing manager-specialty products, at Oliver Products, also thought a wider variety of applications was the trend of the future. "The move is toward more hot melt applications, particularly on open construction material, such as air laid webs," he said. We can laminate an open construction together, whereas previous methods couldn't put a mass of adhesive on the face of an open constructed material."

Mr. Mercer saw two new trends developing in the hot melt industry. One was the continued importance of PLC or microcomputer interfaces with existing machines. "Many people want to interface their adhesive application equipment with programmable logic controls; this is just raising its head in the past few years."

The other trend he predicted is a return to gravure printing. "This type of printing was popular 20 years ago but had control problems. Now because of good temperature and process controls it is coming back into popularity."

Mr. Mercer also reported more companies testing multi-spray lines. Many are converting from fine line to multiple spray applications, he said. "The wait and see period is over."

Mr. Klonne also mentioned burgeoning supplier/vendor partnerships as an important trend. "While these are not a new concept, they are now in the evolutionary period and starting to produce results. We are sharing beyond obvious needs in these joint development programs." The Impact Of New Products

In keeping with the changing trends and marketing focus, new products are constantly being introduced by all the hot melt suppliers. Here's a brief rundown of some of what's new in the market.

Nordson recently introduced its HM 640 unit with the "MicroSet MultiScan" control system. Output can be keyed to line speed or manually set to a specific rate. It has a holding capacity of 40 pounds and the ability to melt and pump up to 35 pounds an hour of adhesive. Target markets include elastic attachment, pad stabilization and feminine napkin construction.

Also new is the "Helix" controlled fiberization system. It has a control panel for hot melt spray guns that can tied into many existing hot melt units-including both Meltex and Nordson.

Spraymation introduced its Ultra Fine Air Dispersed (UFAD) applicator head, which forms a very fine, thin pattern. It is effective for laying down either a spiral or well atomized pattern of hot melt from a fraction of an inch to two inches. It is applied with relatively low pressure and uses heated air for atomizing or dispersion.

The company's new 3900 series "Thermopulse" hot melt system features several developments that provide better control over the application of the hot melt at a high speed. Operation is enhanced by simplified controls, removable covers and plug-in components. Better control of adhesive temperature, minimum downtime, ease of maintenance and precise placement of adhesive are other attributes of the system.

The continued success of its "Acufiber" fiberization process was reported by Acumeter. After receiving a good response at the INDEX'90 show in Geneva in April, the company is examining the possibility of other markets, including medical tapes, breathable garments, textile interlinings and filtration elements.

* J&M Laboratories, Gainesville, GA, offers a laminating device for constructing the diaper and attaching elastics, tapes or target strips, all through the use of a single applicator head. The device is based on melt blowing technology from Exxon and extrudes a very fine net of adhesive material.

* Century Adhesives is working on upgrades to its sprayable systems while also continuing to focus on its current line, including the CA905 low temperature, low viscosity adhesive.

* H.B. Fuller has had success with its multi-purpose adhesives for both construction and elastic applications. "Unlike the first generation of multi-purpose adhesives that sacrificed elastic creep to have low viscosity," said Mr. Modak, "we are patenting a product with good creep resistance and low viscosity."

* May Coating, which supplies hot melt melters, drum unloaders and converting equipment, has an active product development lab for in-house and customer use. It recently replaced two machines with new coaters and laminators for die and spray coating applications. May Coating sells about 30% of its equipment into the nonwovens business.

* Oliver Products has a series of new products. In the medical area, its 24AL autoclavable sterilizing material can withstand sterilization cycles up to 130 C. Also for medical end uses is Oliver's 27HT6 for thermal formed fill-seal applications.

In the specialty area, a new adhesive for desiccant packaging, 20DP-2, is available. The adhesive meets government specifications for withstanding regeneration cycles.

*One of the more interesting new products from National Starch was introduced with the environment in mind. "We have developed a strategy to formulate an adhesive that is compatible with the component of a diaper, which will help the entire product's recyclability," said Mr. Nadler. He added that there is more of a focus on recycling than biodegradability in the U.S.

* IGI Nonwovens, which specializes in low application temperature hot melts, is currently working on two new products in partnership with diaper manufacturers. While details of these products are not yet available, they are expected to be commercial by the end of the year.

* Ecomelt is also involved in low temperature adhesives, with sprayability at 250 F. "This is a hot item in the hygiene area," said Mr. Kolpa, "because thinner polys can be used without burnthrough. Less expensive products with better hand are the result."

Two European Suppliers On The Cutting Edge

Two European suppliers to the hot melt industry-RMC Belix and Novamelt-have been extremely active in the worldwide hot melt industry recently. They, like their North American counterparts, are acutely aware of the impending changes of the disposables market with the 1992 initiative.

* RMC Belix, Betz, France, offers a range of adhesives for elastic attachment, multi-line, fluff stabilization and barrier coating for baby and adult diapers and tack strip for the sanpro market. It offers adhesives that are suitable for all kinds of applications including controlled fiberization. RMC Belix supplies adhesives in a novel format-rather than using siliconized paper to protect the adhesive it supplies in dry blocks protected by a powder coating. The company already has a widespread customer base in Europe and doesn't see 1992 causing great changes. It is, however, targeting the Far East as a possible market, while also keeping an eye on the U.S.

Trends noted at RMC Belix include the arrival of new applications, such as landing zones and waist bands and a more sophisticated style of diaper. The company predicts more hot melt will be used and research and development closer to the customer's needs will become more vital.

The company recently invested in an R&D lab applicator that allows it to perform on diapers and feminine protection products with the same materials as the customers and at similar line speeds.

An interesting new company, Novamelt, Zug, Switzerland, was established last year with an independent research company, Novamelt Research GmbH in Wehr, West Germany and a trading company, Novamelt Trading, located in Zug. The company targets the European market, but is looking at possible expansion into the U.S.

A complete range of adhesives for the nonwovens industry has been developed. These include "Novamelt" NW 1006, an adhesive developed for spunbonded nonwovens that avoids strikethrough; Novamelt NW 4003, an adhesive for elastic attachment with high creep resistance at elevated temperatures and excellent bonding properties; and Novamelt NW 1004, an APAO-based adhesive for diapers, with short solidification time and high blocking resistance.

Also new at the company is "Channel Stop," which enables full endseal coating of diapers without open channels at the elastic zones. Novamelt has also developed NE 2501, a hot melt available in a variety of colors, which is capable of barrier and endseal coating.

Another development is "Target-Sorb," a material applied to coverstock that will increase the rate at which fluid will pass through. A primary application is in gender specific products, which utilize a common high performance core.

Novamelt has also signed a cooperation agreement with PKL Packaging Systems, Linnich, West Germany, for adhesive solutions and new developments in disposable hygienic products. Under terms of the agreement, Novamelt will be responsible for market activities and the development of tailor made adhesive solutions, while PKL will produce these adhesives using the latest processing and quality methods.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Rodman Publications, Inc.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on European suppliers to the hot melt industry, RMC Belix and Novamelt; market for hot melt adhesive and equipment suppliers
Author:Noonan, Ellen
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Previous Article:Cotton: a natural move into nonwovens.
Next Article:CMM East: a smaller medium for converters.

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