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Akzo Industrial Nonwovens.

Akzo Industrial Nonwovens

P.O. Box 9300, 6800 Arnhem The Netherlands (85)66 38 21; Fax: (85)66 55 88

Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: $125 million Key Personnel: Folkert Blaisse, general manager; Co van der Ploeg, production manager; Tom van Gassel, technical/marketing manager; John Wieland, sales/marketing manager, roofing and construction; Jozka Slovacek, sales/marketing manager, flooring and automotive; Eckhard Schulz-Oster, sales/marketing manager, other markets; Frits Giesbers, controller Plants: Emmen, The Netherlands (Coltron for roofing applications); Arnhem, The Netherlands (Colback, Colbond) Processes: Spunbonded, Dry Laid, Chemical Bonded, Thermal Bonded, Needlepunched Brand Names: Colback spunbonded polyester/PA6 bicomponent (30-250 grams sq. meter); Coltron polyester spunbonded (175-250 grams sq. meter); Colbond dry laid polyester staple (100-500 grams sq. meter) Major Markets: All Industrial, Roofing (bituminous waterproofing rolls, BUR), Flooring (primary and secondary backing for automotive, tiles, broadloom and dust control mats), Automotive, Filtration, Geotextiles, Reinforced Plastics Notes: A major European producer of industrial nonwovens whose technology has already been exported to the U.S. through a licensing arrangement with BASF is set to move even further abroad with an agreement to import and sell all "Colback" products into Japan with Mitsubishi Rayon. Akzo has signed a letter of understanding with Mitsubishi Rayon to begin the process in Japan, with the aim of establishing a production joint venture between the two companies in Japan.

Akzo general manager Folkert Blaisse told NONWOVENS INDUSTRY that the company has already surpassed its targets for selling into Japan, having shipped several million sq. meters there this year, primarily for floorcovering applications. The goal is to further penetrate in the flooring market and increase roofing's share.

The Akzo technology is well known in the U.S. through BASF, which is selling Colback products domestically (BASF recently announced a capacity expansion for its domestic Colback production). This agreement precludes Akzo from utilizing its primary technology in North America, but that has not stopped the company from exploring other avenues of entry into this lucrative market. The company has expressed an interest in acquiring access into other nonwoven technologies and would prefer this to spearhead its move into the U.S. The disposable segment, however, is not of interest to Akzo.

The industrial business in Europe remains Akzo's strongest area. That is manifested in a new product called "Colback SDS" that is actually a fleece reinforced with a glass scrim. It is said to offer exceptional dimensional stability for roofing applications, functioning well also with the lower weights.

Another new product is Colback SDF, which is a combination of Colback spunbonded nonwoven with a glass fleece for flame retardancy in roofing applications. The process is currently being patented.

The primary nonwoven at Akzo is "Colback," a thermally bonded polyester bicomponent (PET core/polyamide skin) whose applications are in flooring as primary backings in tufted carpets (automotive carpets, tiles, dust control mats and broadloom carpeting), as secondary backing for molded car carpets and in roofing as a carrier for bituminous roofing membranes. The company said the optimal polymer composition, a unique circular web laying system and its special thermal bonding technology result in a high grade product with a uniform structure, high strength and elongation, isotropic, dimensional and thermal stability, moldability, high affinity for coatings, dyeability and non-fraying properties.

All of Akzo's production is done at two plants in The Netherlands. The Emmen facility, which is part of a larger Akzo plant, produces primarily Coltron for the roofing segment. The Arnhem plant makes Colback and Colbond. Altogether there are about 600 people in the nonwovens operations. A 3000-5000 ton expansion of the Arnhem plant has come on-stream in mid-1991 utilizing an advanced version of the Colback technology. It will serve existing markets but will also open up market expansion opportunities for Akzo.

New areas being explored include automotives (as headliners and sound absorbers), composites, filtration and electronics. The above expansion of Colback frees up the product for new areas. This increased capacity is coming at a time when there is actually overcapacity in some markets, but Akzo has its plans in place to deal with that.

"There is more and more capacity in Europe coming on-stream and the days when production was scarce are over," Mr. Blaisse said. "But you don't sell on price in this market, you sell through quality and innovation. We are not afraid of our competition because in the end the only thing that matters is the quality of the product you make."

Mr. Blaisse reported that Akzo will also be modernizing its Coltron capacity in the mid-term future, although no decision has been finalized.

Akzo is one of those companies blessed with a parent company with vast experience in raw material research and production. Industrial Nonwovens is part of the Akzo group organization that is divided into business units that are each responsible for bottom line results, from research to final sales. The board at Akzo acts very much like an active supervisory council, with committed people in Akzo research who focus on products like nonwovens. Akzo has increased its investment in research and development for nonwovens and now regularly spends some 4% of nonwovens turnover on R&D.

Akzo is ready to translate this investment into a higher profile in an admittedly low profile industrial nonwovens segment. Sales growth in the past five years has ranged between 6-7%. "We used to be a quiet company, but not anymore," Mr. Blaisse said. "You will be hearing more from us."
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Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:company profile
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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