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Fluid entanglement principles and systems: a primer; a history of the origin and look at the growing applications for spunlaced nonwovens.

Hydraulic entanglement of dry laid nonwovens is the process that transfers conventional low-strength nonwoven webs into entangled, spunlaced or jet-laced nonwoven fabrics with good physical properties. By utilizing this same technology, wet formed mixtures can also be transformed into nonwoven fabrics with good physical characteristics.

Today we have the ability to produce soft lint-free products with increased tensile, improved draping and better absorbency qualities. The ability to achieve such improved qualities, coupled with the flexibility of manufacture, has greatly increased the interest of the water jet entanglement systems as a viable method of producing many of the nonwoven products of today.

History Of Hydraulic Entanglement

The origin of the hydraulic entanglement technique dates back to the late 1960's when Du Pont cautiously showed laboratory samples from its proprietary work done in its research center. However, it was not until 1974 that Du Pont went onstream with its first hydraulic entanglement production line. This first production line was located in Old Hickory, TN.

Although fluid or hydraulic entanglement was a technological breakthrough in the area of nonwoven manufacture, the market place at that time was not quite ready for this new nonwoven product and did not immediately respond to this new technology Hence, the materials produced from this entanglement system were somewhat limited to the medical nonwovens market.

Surgikos, a Johnson and Johnson medical disposables company, was a primary user of the Du Pont fabric. Another J&J division, Chicopee (now Johnson & Johnson Advanced Materials Company), became intently interested in hydraulic entanglement in the early 1980's and introduced its version of the fiber entangler in 1981. This entanglement system was installed in Chicopee's Benson, NC plant.

With increased market pressure and a significant decline in its medical/hospital and gown market, Kendall brought on-line its hydraulic process in 1985. This was a system that had been in the works since the 1970's and was installed in Kendall's Bethune, SC facility.

As far as activity in the worldwide market, the J.W. Suominen Company, a large manufacturer of nonwoven products in Nakkila, Finland, brought on line its spunlaced system in 1985. Thus, hydraulic entanglement came into international prominence.

Today there are three major suppliers of hydraulic entanglement systems: Honeycomb Systems, Perfojet and UniCharm.

Honeycomb Systems, Biddeford, ME, is a supplier of complete or industrial hydraulic entanglement systems. The rotary units made by Honeycomb were part of some of the original systems first started in the U.S.

"Jet Lace" is the trademark of the Perfojet hydraulic entanglement system. This was a spunlaced system introduced in 1986 as a complement to the "patterning" or perfojet machine.

A process coming from Japan known as UniCharm is still another version of hydraulic entanglement. The UniCharm concept utilizes lower pressure water jets to semi-entangle or partially modify the nonwoven material. This process was introduced in the 1980's.

Advantages Of The Hydraulic Entanglement Process

The list of advantages of utilizing a hydraulic entanglement system to manufacture a nonwoven fabric continues to grow at a rather significant pace. These advantages are now allowing the nonwoven producer to infringe upon markets that once were predominantly woven fabrics only. What are some the advantages of using the hydraulic entanglement process or concept of manufacture?

1. It eliminates or reduces the need of the chemical binder.

2. A softer nonwoven fabric with better draping qualities can be produced.

3.Greater absorbency can be achieved, adding to the comfort of the nonwoven material.

4. Strength commensurate or better than many of today's woven fabrics is possible.

5. It offers greater flexibility and variability of styles and patterns.

6. Increased production capabilities are possible.

7. With the elimination of the binding agent, we now can make a fabric that is recyclable.

Hydraulic entanglement of the nonwoven web is achieved by using fine water needles directed through the web that is supported by a conveying belt. The water pressures used to achieve this entanglement may vary from 5-250 bar. The dewatering or suction boxes are located immediately under the conveying element and correspond with the jet manifolds. These boxes allow for the removal of water after it has penetrated the web. The water collected by this dewatering unit is them taken to an air/water separator and on to the filtration unit.

Depending on the product formation, entanglement can be achieved on either one or two sides. Pressures can be regulated on individual manifolds to control the degree of entanglement. Likewise, the number of jet manifolds can be varied for greater or less entanglement.

Potential Of The Hydraulic Entangled Product

In the opinion of many nonwoven market researchers, the market for the fabrics produced by the hydraulic entanglement process may have only had the surface scratched in the overall potential of these fabrics. The increased strength properties, the elimination or reduction of the chemical binders, the ability to make a soft, lint-free fabric and improved draping qualities have certainly enhanced the use of the entangled product.

The use of the fluid entangled product has well established itself in the medical disposable product line and continues to gain recognition in many other nonwoven applications. Some product end uses of these fabrics include apparel fabrics, interlining fabrics for men's and ladies' clothes and decorative fabrics such as wallpapers and drapes.

The interest in hydraulic entanglement continues to increase in a variety of different market places. The ability to produce nonwoven products that have good tensile, are soft, lint-free and have good draping qualities along with aesthetic value is greatly promoting water jet entanglement as a viable method of producing many of our nonwoven products of today.
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Title Annotation:Nonwovens Technology; nonwoven fabrics; excerpt from paper by C. Michael Daily at 1992 Clemson Nonwovens Forum at Clemson University, June 23-26, 1992
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:Sales of fibers for nonwovens decline.
Next Article:Operating room sponges: a nonwoven product opportunity.

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