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End use markets for nonwovens.

END USE MARKETS FOR NONWOVENS

Covering The Spectrum...From Batteries To Wipes

it is not only the huge disposable diaper and medical segments that drive the worldwide nonwovens industry; a host of specialty niches have proved to be very profitable for scores of nonwovens producers It seems, especially in these days of the environment and disposability debates, that all of the attention of the nonwovens industry is focused on the baby diaper, feminine hygiene and medical products businesses. They do, after all, combine for just about $6 billion in retail and institutional sales every year and consume an inordinate amount of the square yardage produced annually.

But as anyone connected with the nonwovens industry anywhere in the world knows, the business is much, much more than making products for babies and hospitals. The business is the wipes used in shops and restaurants...it is the fabric used for household cleaning and laundry products...it is the composites that go into footwear, automotives and aerospace applications...and it is the miles and miles of nonwovens utilized in the geotextile and waste containment industries in every corner of the globe.

Many of these specialty niches seem to be concentrated in the durables portion of the nonwovens business. Even wipes, traditionally a disposable item, are now being made and promoted as "limited use," rather than disposable. The durables segment, in part because of the concern over the environment but more so because technological developments are headed in the direction of composites and other durable technologies, is growing two or three percentage points faster than the larger disposables business worldwide. It is these smaller, but more numerous, specialty markets that are driving this growth.

This article will take a look at a number of these specialty segments, ranging from the highly specialized battery separator business to the more widely known wipes market. These short articles are excerpted from papers presented in the past eight months at various nonwovens conferences and trade shows in the U.S. and Europe.

Battery Separators: Getting A Charge Out Of A Business

Nonwovens have found many applications in the battery industry. Here their properties of high porosity, labyrinth-like structure, excellent strength and high uniformity are extremely useful. This field of application demands tailor-made nonwovens with defined technological properties and the maintenance of narrow tolerances.

There are six elements that are necessary for the production of electrical energy by a battery and that are found in every battery: the positive electrode; the negative electrode; the separator between the two electrodes to prevent them from touching; the electrolyte, which is normally liquid and which allows the flow of ions within the battery; the current collector, which collects the electrons from the interior of the battery and allows their conduction out of the battery; and the container, which holds together all the components of the battery.

A Look At Nonwovens In Batteries

Let us now turn to consider the individual types of battery and check where the particular properties of nonwovens can be profitably employed. We will first start with the nonrechargeable primary cells.

The conventional Leclanche or zinc-carbon cell does not require nonwovens; a thickened electrolyte paste or coated paper makes an adequate separator here; paper is sufficiently resistant to the electrolyte.

The situation is different for the more powerful brother of the zinc-carbon cell, the alkali-manganese cell. Both cells employ zinc and manganese dioxide as electrode material, but in contrast to the Leclanche cell, the alkali-manganese cells use highly concentrated KOH solution containing ZnO as the electrolyte. Simple paper cannot be used as separator material here because it would not survive contact with the electrolyte for long; nonwovens have proven themselves here.

In Japan, manufacturers mainly employ prepared capsules of wet laid nonwovens made from polyvinyl alcohol fibers. European and American manufacturers initially began by using separator gauntlets from Japan. However, it soon became evident that the costs were too high for this to be a permanent solution. Later, the cross-winding method established itself here. Here two strips of separator material punched from a roll of defined width are laid onto each other at right angles and forced into the cell by means of a die, in such a manner that the two or three layers of separator material effect the separation.

On the basis of this design it is possible to compile a specification profile for the separator material used in alkali-manganese cells: resistance to electrolyte; mechanical stability, high tensile strength; especially uniform structure in order to inhibit zinc oxide penetration effectively; high capacity to take up electrolyte; and rapid wettability with respect to electrolyte.

Such specifications can be met by nonwovens. It is primarily wet laid nonwovens of polyvinyl alcohol fibers that find application.

Nonwovens In Lithium Batteries

Nonwovens also find application in lithium primary cells. Nonwovens of microglass fibers are employed in the cells; lithium cells with solid counter electrodes use electrolyte reservoirs consisting of thermally bonded nonwovens of polyolefin fibers. Here the actual function of separating the electrodes is often performed by microporous foils.

In the case of secondary cells, nonwovens have primarily won a place in the construction of nickel-cadmium accumulators and lead acid batteries.

First let us take the nickel-cadmium accumulators. There are both vented or sealed designs. The open cells find applications for energy storage in aircraft, rail vehicles and as emergency current supplies. The separators for nickel-cadmium accumulators are almost always constructed from nonwoven materials.

If a battery is to have a long working life it must be able to undergo as many cycles of charging and discharging as possible. This is true of all traction batteries for forklift trucks, electric vehicles of all types and battery operated locomotives.

The development of the lead acid accumulator started with a relatively simple grid construction that was covered by a glass nonwoven fabric.

A decisive improvement was brought about by the adoption of the reinforced plate design; here the active paste containing its current conductor is surrounded by a tube. Each plate is usually composed of 15 or 19 of such tubes.

The tubes or gauntlets that are most frequently used today are (still) woven from glass fiber, polyacrylonitrile or polyester. Appreciably finer-grained active pastes here yield initial capacities of approximately 85% and lives of 1500 and more cycles. The development of nonwoven tube gauntlets can also be regarded as an advance; it is possible to increase the initial capacity by another eight to 10% by their use.

Suitable nonwoven fabrics for this purpose can be produced from selected polyester fibers by mechanical or thermal bonding followed by reinforcement with a thermoplastic acrylic resin.

These nonwoven gauntlets have advantages and disadvantages in comparison with gauntlets of woven materials. Their major disadvantage is the lower but still adequate mechanical strength of the nonwoven material.

The advantage over woven gauntlets lies in the fact that nonwovens have a lower resistance to ionic penetration as a result of much higher porosity. The better filtration efficiency of the nonwoven also reduces the very disadvantageous side effect of the loss of active material from the positive electrode, namely what is known as "mossing." This is the deposition on the negative electrode of active material that has escaped through the gauntlets of the positive electrode, which results in the formation of short-circuiting bridges that can abruptly end the working life of a battery.

Simple nonwoven gauntlets can also significantly lengthen the working life of lead acid accumulators with grid plate cells just as they do for tubular plate cells. Such gauntlets are employed in smaller grid plate cells designed for applications where they must withstand cycles of charging and discharging. The same types of nonwovens are used as for the tube gauntlets; however, it is unnecessary to stiffen them with acrylic resin.

The preceding was excerpted from a paper "Application and Function of Nonwovens in the Battery Industry," given at the EDANA Nonwovens Symposium, June 11, 12, 1991, Monte-Carlo, by H. Hoffmann, Freudenberg, Weinheim, Germany.

Wipes Giving Nonwovens A Much Cleaner Image

With the national introduction of DowBrand's line of "Spiffits" products in early 1989, a home cleaning product category was created that grew from zero to $100 million in annual consumer sales within the first year. As of July, 1990, there were five brands of substrate-based home cleaning products in national distribution and no less than three in various stages of test market. In total, there are currently eight brands composed of 13 products marketed by five companies.

This exciting new product category holds many challenges and opportunities for the nonwovens industry. Even small volume products can easily consume five million sq. yards annually, with larger volume products and multiple product brands potentially exceeding 40-50 million sq. yards a year. As this market expands and matures, nonwovens manufacturers will be increasingly challenged to meet stringent consumer demands for substrates that leave no lint or other residue, provide uniform liquid release, have good strength and surface stability and are environmentally friendly.

While the household cleaning products industry is comprised of about 200 companies marketing more than 5000 brands of 32 major types of products, the five leading companies account for 60% of the total industry, with another 16% accounted for by the second five companies.

Six Segments In One Industry

The major types of household cleaning products can be categorized into six major industry segments. The "laundry detergents" segment, which represents

about 30% of total household cleaning products sales, includes only actual powder and liquid detergents. "Laundry additives" include bleaches, fabric softeners, starches, prewash stain removers and tints and dyes. The "soaps" segment includes dish detergents, all purpose cleaners and waterless hand cleaners. The "deodorizers and disinfectants" category includes air fresheners, carpet fresheners and disinfectant products for bathroom and kitchen areas. "Polishes and waxes" include products for floor and furniture care. The "specialty cleaners" segment includes oven cleaners, vinyl protectants, scouring cleaners, window and bathroom cleaners.

The categories of greatest interest to the nonwoven fabrics industry are specialty cleaners and polishes and waxes. These segments are the ones experiencing the greatest degree of activity in the area of substrate delivery systems. While there has been recent activity in the laundry detergents segment, as evidenced by Kimberly-Clark's "Command," Procter & Gamble's "Tide Multi-Action" sheets and Colgate-Palmolive's "Fab 1 Shot," the level of consumer interest in these products has been low, due primarily to the consumer's lack of control over the amount of cleaner delivered and perceived convenience of traditional products.

In the home cleaning towel segment, there are a variety of products being marketed. These products account for estimated annual consumer sales of $100 million. Currently available data does not support hard conclusions as to the breakdown of sales figures into trial and repeat purchases, but trends indicate that the market will stabilize around $100 million and continue to grow.

This new product category has the potential to consume in excess of 200 million sq. yards of nonwovens annually in the near future. With several major manufacturers of home cleaning products conspicuously absent, there will surely be many new products introduced in the next several years. Private label manufacturers are also expected to make initial product entries within the next 12-18 months.

The challenge to the nonwovens industry is to continue developing innovative products that will meet and exceed consumer demands. The greatest immediate need is for a low to moderate priced substrate that combines softness with uniform liquid release, good wet strength and absence of perceivable streaking and linting when used.

This material, which does not currently exist, will surely capture most, if not all, of the volume consumed for these products.

The preceding was excerpted from a paper, "Nonwovens as Substrates for Household Cleaning Products," given at IDEA '90, Sept. 25-27, Washington, D.C., by Ronald Brooker, Kimberly-Clark, Roswell, GA.

Nonwovens Wipe A Clean Slate

Industrial wipes can be defined as wipes sold to industrial and institutional users for the purposes of cleaning hands and machinery parts; this includes maintenance, polishing and finishing applications. This would not include wipes sold for retail/consumer or foodservice (restaurants and schools) wiping applications.

In a market dominated by rags or paper, nonwovens were a novelty to most customers. There was a grass roots education and awareness building program beginning to take place to establish the viability of nonwoven towels. This process was improved by the successful consumer introduction of "Handi Wipes."

Industrial users, while beginning to understand how nonwovens differed from paper, were not convinced nonwovens offered the bulk and absorbency needed to compete with wovens. This was addressed in the mid-1970s with the introduction of air laid products.

While meeting with initial resistance, these new products changed how industrial users viewed nonwoven wipes. Nonwovens market share has increased by 25% during the last 19 years.

The size of the market is estimated to be between $400 million and $1 billion; it has been difficult to estimate volumes for the African, Asian and South American continents. Nonwoven penetration of the industrial wipe market varies greatly among countries. In Europe, it is estimated that more than 70% of the market is dominated by woven products. In the U.S. it is estimated that wovens make up 60% of the wipe market. It is thought in underdeveloped countries wovens dominate, with more than 90% of the wipe market.

The major global companies engaged in the industrial wipe business include Chicopee/Johnson & Johnson, James River (Fiberweb NA), Kimberly-Clark and Scott Paper, which have locations all over the world.

Current customer-preferred technologies driving the industrial wipe business appear to be air laid, D.R.C., MEF and melt blown nonwovens. While each of these technologies differ, they all offer the customer the desired industrial wiping product attributes of bulk, absorbency and durability.

Examples of potential markets include maintenance facilities for federal, state and local governments, maintenance and physical plant departments for state and local educational facilities, maintenance and repair utilities and in the automotive aftermarket, at auto body shops, dealership service centers, repair centers and do-it-yourself shops.

The preceding was excerpted from a paper, "Global Markets for Industrial Wipes," given at IDEA '90, Sept. 25-27, Washington, D.C., by Sandy Pittard, Chicopee, New Brunswick, NJ.

Geotextiles' Share Not Eroding

The geotextile business is an industry that has grown enormously. In 1977, the world dollar volume was less than $10 million dollars. Those $10 million dollars were greatly inflated statements of volume. The average price per unit (square yards) was about $3. Today, the market has matured in prices and volume. Maturity means that prices are now represented in a range from $.25 to over $5 per square yard for specialty wovens.

This maturing in pricing structure has contributed to unfaltering growth in volume expressed in square yards and in dollars.

As the geotextile industry grew it acquired a name change. Geotextiles are now the largest sector of the geosynthetic industry. Geosynthetics encompass geotextiles, geomembranes (impermeable materials such as liners), grids and fabricated drains and related products.

Product Proliferation

The 1989 product issue of Geotechnical Fabrics Report lists 534 separate products, 39 companies, nine nations, four product categories and 21 product types. This is a far cry from 1977 when the pioneers, ICI, Du Pont, Rhone Poulenc and Phillips were the only players.

This product growth is further emphasized in where the totals are defined by detail in Table 1. The list that cites nine nations manufacturing geosynthetics represents those countries on record in the GFR files as of December, 1989. This list omits several important nations in geosynthetics, not the least of which are Austria, Great Britain and The Netherlands.

In addition to the multiplication of product types and companies making them, there has also been new capacity entering the market from the so-called Third World. In the past few months I have become aware of new geosynthetic producers in Bangladesh, Colombia, China, India and Hungary. Further, there are many indicators that additional capacity could be brought into the world market before the end of 1990.

This new capacity seems to be a contradiction. Confusion is caused because the expansion parallels a shakeout. Perhaps shakeout is too dramatic a word, but it remains a fact that the textile and chemical giants that founded the industry are almost all gone from it. ICI in Great Britain, Du Pont, Celanese and Monsanto in the U.S. and Rhone-Poulenc in France have all exited the industry during the decade of the 1980s.

It is true that some large polymer producers now play the role of large firms in the industry. It is equally true that the newer players are not filling the vacuum left by the pioneers. Those early companies that gave birth to the industry left a lasting legacy. Each of them had excellent people in large numbers who graduated into the industry and whose former students now manage the industry. It is imperative that the current corporate leadership accept the challenge of fostering the growth of an equally competent class of tomorrow's leaders.

Another group of producers is experiencing change. Many small firms have also exited. These include a number of firms who spent a few years or a few months in the industry and have now left. These opportunists did not, or could not, or chose not, to stay abreast of a technology that evolved to operate on specifications that require less than two standard deviations from the nominal.

One thing remains certain: geosynthetics and geotextiles are industries that are not dominated by giants. Nor is it a business where specialists defend small niches. It is in fact, a hybrid, with large strong players and many small producers. It is also an infant whose shape has not taken its final form.

Fierce Price Competition

There is one business element in the geosynthetics industry that is mature. High growth, high volume and the presence of major firms led to fierce competition throughout the 1980s with the result of rapid maturation of pricing. The process was ferocious bidding for share and the result was the wringing out of water from prices and margins.

Today's geotextile producers are stable. They operate mature technologies. New entrants will need a definitive competitive edge.

A truly important change in the geotextile sector is the change in the product mix, particularly the change in the relationship of woven fabrics and nonwovens. For some time now the market share of woven products has been eroding.

In the geosynthetic marketplace, wovens participate in three segments--silt fence, separation and super strength reinforcement.

The technical requirements for silt fence are so modest and wovens so inexpensive that this small application will likely remain a woven domain. Oddly enough, the opposite is true of reinforcement. Wovens of multi-filament polyester yarn are the only answer to specifications that require extremes in tensile and modulus. This specialization is limited to both fabric and polymer because olefins are generally unsuitable in the arena of high strength due to creep or elongation under load characteristics.

Separation, or as some call it, stabilization, can account for as much as 35% of the geotextile industry volume. Over the decade of the 1980s, organizations such as Task Force 25 developed and published new specifications and installation techniques to allow fabrics to survive the rigors of the installation process. Recent studies of exhumed fabrics have shown that heavier, needled fabrics of 6-8 ozs. sq. yard are superior to the lightweight fabrics typical of woven slit tape fabrics in both puncture resistance and hydraulic characteristics.

It is most likely that the industry will gradually shift to nonwovens as the states and the federal highway administration adopt the Task Force 25 guidelines. It is also likely that this shift will be slow in the erosion of share. Woven slit tape fabrics are less expensive than heavy weight nonwoven fabrics.

There is also a gradual shift between nonwoven products themselves.

First, thin heat bonded sheets are losing ground to needled structures. A typical example: both ICI in the U.K. and Du Pont in North America have divested their geotextile capacity. The products of these companies, ICI's "Terram" and Du Pont's "Typar," were definitive pioneering products worldwide.

Of course the new owners of those facilities continue to aggressively market their products, but the relatively poor tear and hydraulic characteristics of these thin, paper-like sheets convey a sense of inevitability to their eventual exit.

Second, continuous filament in needled structures is capturing increasingly large shares. This invasion of the domain of staple fiber by the "spunbonds" is of course driven by the economics of the continuous process as lower operating costs put pressure on the older staple processes.

The erosion of share is a gradual process, but the direction is clear.

The preceding was excerpted from a paper, "Geotextiles-Growth and Change," presented at IDEA '90, Sept. 25-27, Washington, D.C., by Peter Stevenson, Acme STW Inc., Easley, SC

Containment Is Not A Waste Of An Industry

The primary use of nonwovens in waste containment applications revolves around using geotextiles as filtration media. In general, geosynthetic materials are being used to replace natural soil material. Depending on availability and/or economics, nonwoven geotextiles are being used with increasing frequency in conjunction with drainage nets for leachate collection, leak detection systems and methane gas collection or release.

The geotextile can be bonded to one or both sides of the drainage net to form a drainage composite. Based on project specifics, however, the geotextiles and the drainage net can be placed separately. Selection of the appropriate geotextile type and thickness will vary with the intended use of the final product and with project specific requirements. Inappropriate selection of the geotextile material can lead to dramatically reduced flow characteristics.

The Predominant Nonwovens

Nonwoven geotextiles made out of primarily polypropylene (PP) and to a lesser degree of polyester (PET) polymers are the most predominantly used materials in waste containment applications. When used as one of the components of a lining or cover system, the geotextile's primary functions are filtration and separation.

A typical lining system consists (from bottom to top) of a compacted sub-base layer, a secondary containment layer, a leak detection system, a primary containment layer, a leachate collection system and a protective soil cover layer. The containment layer may consist of a geomembrane, a clay layer or a combination of both. The leak detection and leachate collection systems generally consist of a combination of pervious soil/geotextile or a drainage net/geotextile. When the geotextile is used in combination with the drainage net it can be installed in two different methods. The first method consists of bonding the geotextile to the drainage net prior to delivering the final product to the job site. Such a composite product is known as a drainage composite. The second method consists of separately placing the geotextiles directly atop the drainage net during actual field installation. Because of the dramatic savings in installation time and labor costs, drainage composites are being increasingly specified for waste management applications.

In current practice, a geotextile used as a filter media in a collection and/or detection system is specified as an independent component whether it is to be bonded to the drainage net or not. Similarly, the drainage net is specified as an individual element.

Unfortunately, recent experience with drainage composites has shown that not enough consideration is given to the function, performance and properties of the final composite system. Of primary importance in the selection of the geotextile, when considered as an independent item, are its filtration and its permeability characteristics. Different geotextiles can perform within a range that can be considered equal when it comes to filtration criteria.

Based on specific requirements, different bonds strengths are required for various applications. Site conditions might be such that the geotextile is to be peeled away easily to ensure overlapping and fitting during actual installation. On the other hand, a high bond strength might be required to prevent delamination and slippage during soil cover placement, typically on steep side slopes.

Different manufacturers use different bonding techniques. However, based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, only heat bonding is to be used when manufacturing a drainage composite to be used in a waste containment application. Chemical bonding will introduce foreign elements that may not be inert to most leachate encountered in landfill application.

When specifying a nonwoven polypropylene geotextile, a product with a consistent density and thickness is preferable. Burn holes are generated within the geotextile at the thinnest areas in the material. The use of relatively thick, consistent material is required to eliminate thin spots and reduce the risk of burn holes. When a high density polyethylene drainage net is specified, a strong bond can be achieved only if a heavier (8 oz. or greater) polypropylene geotextile is specified.

An alternative to increasing the thickness of a polypropylene geotextile is to use a nonwoven polyester geotextile. The melting temperature of polyester material is higher than that of polypropylene and thus it is more compatible with the heat necessary to produce composite materials using higher density polyethylene products. In addition, polyester geotextiles are generally more consistent in density and thickness than polypropylene. Thus thinner, lighter polyester geotextiles can still be specified and adequately bonded. Another phenomena is that nonwoven needle-punched polyester materials have high loft (or fuzziness), which melts only a small amount during the bonding process. The protruding filaments of the geotextile become embedded and encapsulated in the molten surface of the drainage net. In essence, the geotextile does not have to melt, as does a polypropylene, in order to provide a good bond.

Selection of the appropriate nonwoven geotextile is essential to the overall performance of a drainage composite. Polypropylene geotextile products are generally stiffer with good creep, high modulus and low percent elongation, and will not undergo excessive compression and protrude down into the flow channels of the drainage nets when under high stress conditions. Conversely, certain polyester geotextiles will produce lower transmissivity values under the same boundary and loading conditions than when using a polypropylene material due to their inherent potential to "sag".

When considering a drainage composite material for use in a waste containment application, it is essential to specify the appropriate material based on both the overall performance of the system and the project specific requirements. Based on both our experience and different testing, we have determined that bond strength is an important factor that can influence the hydraulic properties of a composite. Further testing and data are required to better evaluate the various available materials and the effects of bonding on the different physical and mechanical properties.

The preceding was excerpted from a paper, "Nonwovens & The Waste Containment Industry," presented at IDEA '90, Sept. 25-27, Washington, D.C., by V. Chouery-Curtis, D. Daugherty, & S. Butchko, Tensar Environmental Systems, Morrow, GA.

Nonwovens and Carpeting: A Market Underfoot

The American carpet industry shipped more than 1.3 billion sq. yards (1.08 billion sq. meters) in 1989--enough to encircle the earth several times. In fact, the American carpet industry is the world's largest supplier of carpet, accounting for almost 50% of the world's total production.

Nonwovens, specifically needlepunched goods, are an integral part of the industry. In fact, needlepunched carpet is in a promising position for future growth.

Needlepunched carpet involves manufacturers that can be divided into two groups. The first are suppliers of traditional automotive needlepunched fabrics that include such items as trunk liners, lower door panels and package deck fabrics. These include Collins & Aikman, Troy Mills, Foss Manufacturing, Masland and Sommer/Milliken.

The other group consists of companies using wider width production lines to meet the traditional 12 foot width requirements of the U.S. carpet market. These mills are, to an extent, involved in automotive fabrics, usually non-OEM goods, as well as more traditional carpet products, including wallcoverings. Typical companies in the latter category are Bretlin Needlebond, General Felt, Mary Anne Industries, Murray Fabrics (Beaulieu) and Tuft Bond (Instant Turf/Ozite).

In recent years significant market penetration has been made by carpet needlepunchers into outdoor carpet, marine, automotive and transportation fabrics, protective carpet runners, wallcoverings and, to some extent, carpet for commercial areas.

With the development of structured needlepunch capabilities, specialized needles and more variety in fibers, the industry appears able to compete against tufting in some additional selected areas. Structuring allows the addition of a third dimension to flat felt products in the form of ribs, patterns, loops, cut and loops as well as velour type surfaces. These effects, in many cases, create carpet similar to the appearance of tufted goods.

Compared to tufted goods, needled goods offer some advantages that cannot be ignored. Some of these are:

* Affordability. With more attractive and acceptable fabrics available, a direct comparison with tufted products of relatively the same quality results in a price advantage for needlepunched goods. A significant portion of this can be attributed to the type face fibers used. About 75% of all carpet is made with nylon as the face fiber. Nylon is considerably more costly than the olefin fiber normally used in needled goods. Needled fabrics also need minimal processing after the actual needlepunch process and, since the fiber is solution dyed, there is no dyeing process, thus an additional savings.

*Colorfastness. Properly UV and thermally stabilized solution dyed olefins offer excellent fastness to light, cracking or rubbing, staining and chemicals. The use of solution dyed fibers make needled goods an ideal carpet material for areas around pools and patios, marine applications, automotives and other market areas where colorfastness is important.

* Durability. With the proper selection of fiber, proper manufacturing procedures and correct construction specifications, needled carpets have proven themselves durable enough to meet the requirements of selected commercial areas.

* Easy installation and care. Since needlepunched carpets do not incorporate a woven primary and secondary backing, there is no ravel or delamination problems. This makes the product easier to seam during installation and also offers do-it-yourself possibilities for the homeowner.

Because of the positive attributes of needlepunched nonwovens, there are several markets that show great potential. Among them:

* Automotive floorcovering. This would appear ideal for needlepunched goods; however, no American car manufacturer has yet used needlepunched carpet on the floor or a "load bearing surface." This is expected by many to change if and when Japanese auto manufacturers take the first step and begin using it in cars they manufacture in the U.S. The initial market penetration would likely be in the lower cost units. The automotive carpet market represents an estimated 40 million sq. yards annually.

* Hospitality market. Comprised of restaurants, hotels and motels, resorts and amusement centers, this area offers an opportunity for better styled goods to compete against printed or graphically designed nylon tufted goods. The total market is reportedly around 75 million sq. yards annually and the rapid replacement cycle of carpet used in these facilities stimulates a constant demand as well as fierce competition.

* Institutional market. This market for nonwovens includes schools, libraries, churches and government buildings and constitutes an approximate 68 million sq. yards annually. Much of this would seem appropriate for needled goods, as the ease of maintenance and care are positive factors.

* Carpet cushion. According to the Carpet Cushion Council, the annual market is about 600 million sq. yards, with needled goods accounting for 32 million sq. yards, or 6% of the total. Synthetic fiber needled cushions have been growing at about 25% a year, primarily at the expense of jute or hair cushions.

The preceding was excerpted from a paper "Needlepunch Nonwoven in Carpet and Carpet Cushion," given at IDEA '90, Sept. 25-27, Washington, D.C., by Carroll Turner, Carpet & Rug Institute, Dalton, GA.

Footing The Bill For A Growing End Use Market

The importance of textiles to the footwear industry cannot be overstressed. Consider these two facts: Leather uppered shoes now account for less than 50% of world production. The bulk of the remainder have textile or coated fabric uppers; textiles and coated fabrics have largely supplanted leather as a lining for shoes with the result that leather linings are to be found in only a very small proportion of shoes.

In 1980, world footwear production stood at just under eight billion pairs. In 1989 it passed the 10 billion mark for the first time. It has been forecast that output will reach 12 billion pairs by the year 2000. Given the high rate of growth through the past decade, this forecast may well be on the conservative side.

Growth has been driven by world population growth, continuing industrialization of the less developed countries and increasing per capita consumption in the more mature industrialized nations. These can be expected to provide upward pressure on demand for the foreseeable future.

Market Needs

The footwear market is made up of many segments, ranging from high fashion, where aesthetics are paramount, to heavy industrial footwear, where functionality is the major concern. One common thread is the need for the footwear to offer a degree of comfort.

This means that footwear must insulate the foot from any negative influence of the environment, such as cold, heat, wet or rough ground. It should not create discomfort by pressure, restriction of movement, friction or by unduly inhibiting perspiration transmission by the skin. This is a formidable list of requirements. As far as upper materials are concerned, it is generally recognized that leather most closely approaches this ideal.

Many upper materials including leather have limited resistance to surface abrasion and as a consequence soon show signs of wear. With leathers, regular treatments with polish are normally required to restore and maintain a reasonable appearance. A material that withstood the disfiguring effects of wear better than leather would be welcomed, particularly if the only maintenance required was an occasional wipe with a wet cloth.

While it is possible to obtain good water resistance with leathers by use of special processes, they generally have low resistance to liquid water penetration and, if worn in rain, quickly allow the foot to become wet. Most fabrics used in footwear have even lower resistance to water penetration.

A material that prevented or greatly inhibited the development of footwear odors would find favor with very many consumers. If it also inhibited skin conditions such as athlete's foot, its attractions would be even greater.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that leather is essentially the skin of a dead animal. As such it is unacceptable to a small but growing and vocal group of consumers.

History provides some important lessons. One is that if a material becomes available that offers significant benefits valued by consumers that are not matched by leather, the material will displace leather in the footwear market.

Development Of Man-Made Leather

There have been many attempts to develop truly leather-like materials for use as footwear upper materials, particularly in the mid 1960s to late 1970s. Recently, significant progress has been made, as shown by certain Japanese materials that more closely duplicate the structure of leather than earlier versions. Given the developments that have occurred in the textile and other industries, there is room for hope that a genuine challenger to leather will emerge in the not too distant future.

It has long been recognized that the closest simulation of the structure of leather would be provided by nonwoven technology. All artificial leathers to date except one have utilized a nonwoven substrate to fulfill the role of the corium/flesh layers. All have used some form of microporous coating to simulate the grain layer of leather. None has been binderless and, until recently, none closely duplicated the structure of leather.

The challenge is to increase the fiber density of the nonwoven substrate, increase the degree of interweaving and reduce the need for impregnation. The developments that suggest success is much closer include microdenier fibers and nonwoven product techniques such as hydroentanglement. It is noteworthy that the impressive materials from Japan feature microdenier fibers.

Impregnation is likely to remain necessary--it is probable that polyurethane will continue to be used. However, improved formulations have become available, including ones with a greater hydrophilic nature than possible before and water-based ones offering a number of advantages, including environmental friendliness, an aspect of growing importance. Furthermore, new impregnation techniques have been developed that promise greater control of the distribution of polyurethane within the structure.

As well as duplicating the structure of leather as closely as possible, the product will have to be capable of maintaining a comfortable microclimate within footwear. This means it should offer a comparably high level of water vapor capacity--the influence of absorption far outweighs that of permeability in most circumstances. It should be noted that while many of the man-made materials produced to date have matched the water vapor permeability of leather, none has equalled leather's ability to absorp moisture vapor.

Lining Materials

A variety of materials are used to line footwear. The market is said to be 400 million sq. meters and is broken down into tricot knit, 45%; stitchbonded, 30%; nonwovens, 12%; polyurethane, 6%; woven, 5%; leather, 2%.

Linings can clearly affect foot comfort in much the same way as upper materials and therefore desirable characteristics for comfort also apply to linings. It is noteworthy that the material type used most widely, tricot knit, is generally backed with a thin layer of polyurethane foam to produce a class of linings commonly called "foam backed knitted." The fabric is usually nylon, though cotton is more popular in some countries.

Foam backed knitted linings make the uppers feel soft and comfortable when the shoe is first put on. However, the polyurethane foam, because of its thermal properties and hydrophobic nature, tends to make feet become hot and sweaty. Another disadvantage is that these linings are weak and therefore add little strength to the upper. A nonwoven that offered similar softness (and preferably greater strength) but did not cause feet to become uncomfortably hot would be ideally placed to capture market share from the major lining material type, provided it had a reasonable level of abrasion resistance.

A lack of abrasion resistance has been a problem with stitchbonded fabrics, the second most widely used type. However, this largely has been overcome by eliminating less abrasion resistant fibers such as viscose. It seems unlikely that nonwovens will seriously erode the position of this type of material. Recent developments have centered on building in specific benefits, such as enhanced moisture disposal characteristics, high wicking rates and long term odor control. The preceding was excerpted from a paper "Towards the Greater Utilization of Nonwovens in Worldwide Footwear Production," given at the EDANA Nonwovens Symposium, June 11, 12, 1991, Monte-Carlo, by A. Bingham and R. Turner, SATRA Footwear Technology Centre, U.K.
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Title Annotation:Special Report
Author:Hoffmann, H.; Pittard, Sandy; Stevenson, Peter; Butchko, S.; Daugherty, D.; Chouery-Curtis, V.; Turn
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:6432
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