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International top companies report.

Expanding Our Scope

During the last couple of years, the annual top companies report has significantly increased its global footprint, including more companies from outside the developed regions of North America, Western Europe and Japan. In fact, 10 years ago, there were only two companies--Avgol in Israel and Companhia Providencia in Brazil--based in developing regions. This year, there are 11, two of which are included among the world's top 10 producers. And, many--if not all--of the companies based in more developed areas have spent the last decade upping their exposure in places like China, the Middle 'East/Africa and Latin America.

This globalization trend was shown this year through the number of new companies who are based in developing countries. Hong Kong's. CECEP and China's Dailan Ruigang, appear in the ranking for the first time thanks to information supplied by XiangYang of CNTA. Also new this year is Gulsan Group, the second Turkish company to be included. In addition to its Turkey operation, Gulsan is expanding into the MENA region with a new site in Egypt.

Also this year, we welcome Bonar, who replaces Colbond (the two sister companies merged last year), and TWE Group to the report. TWE purchased the European business (Libeltex) of Vita Nonwovens in late 2012, improving its European scope.

Beyond globalization, another trend we saw was a leveling off of investment. After a few years of incredible expansion, particularly in the spunmelt and spunbond markets, most companies are relying on a wait-and-see investment strategy, taking time to see if all of the capacity that has come onstream in the last three years will be absorbed by the market. That's not to say, of course, that the shifts in sales are behind us. Several companies saw large investments come onstream in late 2012 and early 2013 and these lines will influence sales in coming years. Some lines, announced a few years ago, haven't even come up yet!

The Top Companies profiled in this issue are ranked in terms of their 2012 sales (in U.S. dollars). Sales figures are taken from a variety of sources including public documents, company statements, as well as industry estimates, and then converted to U.S. dollars at www.oanda.com. They are only intended to be a guide. The real value of this report is the company profiles, which are taken from interviews with key nonwovens industry executives and provide relevant information about the largest players in the industry. Nonwovens Industry strives to make the report as comprehensive as possible. If you know of a company you think should be included in this ranking next year, please contact us at nonwovens@rodmanmedia.com.

1. Fredenberg

Weinheim, Germany

www.freuenberg.com

2012 Nonwoyens Sales: $1.46 billion

Freudenberg Nonwovens

Weinheim, Germany

www.freuenberg-nw.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $840 million

Key Personnel

Bruce Olson, CEO; Dr. Rene Wollert, CFO; Dr. Frank Heislitz, CTO

Plants

Weinheim, Germany; Neuenburg, Germany; Kaiserslautern, Germany; Greetland, U.K.; Swindon, U. K.; Littleborough, U. K. Colmar, France; Parets, Spain; Sant' Omero, Italy; Cossato, Italy; Hong Kong, China; Suzhou, China; Nantong, China; Chennai, India; Pyungtaek, South Korea; Yang Mei, Taiwan; Tayuan, Taiwan; San Martin/Buenos Aires, Argentina; Durham, NC; Jacarei, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa

ISO Status

All locations are ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified; locations serving the automotives industry are TS 16469 certified; all sites are OHSAS 18001 certified.

Processes

Drylaid staple fiber, wetlaid, spunbonded, meltblown, needle-punched, thermal bonded, chemical bonded, water entanglement

Brands

Celestia, Comfortemp, Evolon, Lutradur, Lutrasil), SoundTex, Vildona, Viledon, Vilene, Vilmed, Vlieseline, Marelli & Berta

Major Markets

Automotive interiors, apparel, energy, geotextiles, building interiors, medical, hygiene and special applications.

The varied slate of investments announced recently by the world's largest nonwovens producer include an expansion of the company's proprietary microfiber Evolon technology in Colmar/France and the creation of a recycling unit in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Additionally, Freudenberg Nonwovens, Weinheim, Germany, has continued to focus on new product development and recent introductions have included Vildona airliner 2.0 for waterproof and breathable shoe soles and uppers, Viledon battery separators and Lutradur ECO made with Repreve.

"Business has been stable and on plan," says General Manager of North America, John McNabb. "I think the industry in general has recovered."

Freudenberg's Nonwovens business operates in a number of markets including consumer products for shoe and hygiene applications, battery separators, automotives and medical products where it produces products made through a number of technologies including polyester spunlaid, drylaid staple fiber, electrostatic spun micro-fiber (Evolon, needlepunch, thermal bonded, chemical bonded and water entanglement in plants located around the world.

In recent years, Freudenberg has expanded its offerings of products made from post consumer recycled (PCR) materials h rough its Lutradur Eco product range.

"Freudenberg is the leading spunbond company to offer post consumer recycled materials in its products," McNabb says. "For us, this has been driven by a desire to be green, not a lower cost products."

At PEA 2013 in April, Freudenberg introducing its eco-friendly nonwoven product Lutradur ECO, made with Repreye recycled PEI resin. Repreve is a brand made with recycled materials, including plastic bottles. Unlike any other recycled ingredients, Repreye is made with the highest quality standards in the industry, and certification and verification that ensure product integrity. Lutradur ECO has the same outstanding product properties such as dimensional stability, high temperature resistance, non-fray properties and surface uniformity, only it's better for the planet thanks to Repreye. Lutradur[R] ECO is suitable for many applications, including wall covering substrates, carpet backing, landscape and geotextiles, green roof systems, building and construction, coating and printing substrates and many other end uses.

Freudenberg's commitment to being green can also be seen through its commitment to achieving zero landfill status at as many of its global plants as possible since 2004. Calling it a "constant effort," McNabb reports that Freudenberg has been steadily decreasing its landfill contributions by recycling internal waste back into its products.

These efforts are sure to be enhanced through an investment, completed this year, in a new unit that allows excess materials, rejected during the production, to be reused down to the last fiber. This investment, located in Kaiserslautern, Germany', is valued at [euro]700,000. "At Kaiserslautern, we have been recycling rejected materials such as start-up material and edge strips for many years. Nevertheless, the new unit represents a quantum leap in our everyday work. This unit will allow us to improve the quality of our products and to offer our customers even better solutions, explains Steffen Reuther, the production manager responsible for operation of the new plant. In the new unit, material from production is melted cooled and chopped into small pieces to form a granulate. The chips are returned during the manufacturing process and used to make nonwovens. "This production loop allows us to use raw materials more effectively. It also makes a contribution to environmental protection," Reuther says. The Kaiserslautem plant makes spunlaid nonwovens for construction, hygiene products and carpet industries as well as horticulture products.

In other investment news, in May, Freudenberg announced it would to expand its Evolon business in Colmar, France, the site of the company's original Evolon investment. Evolon is manufactured through a globally patented technology combining the spinning of filaments with splitting through hydroentanglement. Since its development in the late 1990s, Evolon has been successful in a number applications including high tech cleaning cloths, automotives and, most recently medical areas. The latest expansion to this technology, is scheduled to be complete by October. The company is reporting the investment at [euro]5 million.

"Once the new production line is complete, we will combine various base materials and. create new products through hydroentanglement," says Ulrich Jahn, plant manager at Colmar.

Freudenberg's interlinings business, once its primary business, continues to perform well in Asia. Products from Freudenberg Nonwovens are number one in the menswear segment. The production site in Nantong serves the markets in South and Southeast Asia. However the technology continues to face competition from woven and weft products. While the company has followed this trend by increasing its woven and weft sales, restructuring measures have been required. The first measures have already been initiated at the Weinheim facility and in Italy, the Interlinings business at Mardi & Berta, has been realigned.

Speaking of reorganization, Freudenberg Nonwovens disposed its production lines in Kaiserslautern, Germany to Freudenberg Filtration Technologies in late 2011, allowing the division to better concentrate on core businesses in 2012. These include carpet applications and automotive products.

Looking forward, Freudenberg Nonwovens expects market conditions to remain difficult for the next two years. Nevertheless, the group will continue to work on making process improvements, realigning its interlinings division and reinforce the local R&D departments for innovations. Within the industrial nonwovens division, the focus is on generating growth with innovative products and market niches. In South America a very high performing nonwoven to improve liquid management has been launched for hygiene applications. One market niche gaining traction is urbanization and energy storage, which have driven Freudenberg researchers to develop high performance separators for lithium-ion batteries. This ultra-thin nonwoven contains a special surface coating, which outperforms conventional separator materials in terms of thermal and mechanical stability. These separators provide the needed improvements in battery technology that play a key role in the safety, reliability and service life of large Lithium-ion batteries.

Meanwhile, Freudenberg's Vildona Airliner 2.0 has exceeded all expectations as a shoe insole. The technology is based on a substrate, in this case a spunlace nonwoven, in which a superab--sorbent polymer is anchored using a chemical reaction. Freudenberg has already partnered with a leading Turkish brand Greyder as well as the Deichmann group.

Freudenberg Politex

Novedrate, Italy

www.freudenberg-politex.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $289 million

Sales for Freudenberg Politex declined slightly to [euro]217 million ($289 million) as sales in the group's core business, roofing reinforcements dropped by 2.9%. Sales in construction materials, a smaller segment for the division, grew 10.3% year-on-year.

Reporting a difficult situation in the construction segment of Western Europe, the company saw demand for roofing reinforcements in these regions mainly driven by repairs and renovations. At the same time, the group saw sales grow in. Russia, Turkey and the Middle East as infrastructures were modernized and expanded.

Freudenberg Politex operates sites in the U.S., China, France, Italy, Poland and Russia. In Russia, the company's factory in the Nizhniy Novgorad was expanded with a second line, which came onstream in September 2012. The investment, which was valued at [euro]20 million, will help Freudenberg Politex serve the growing Russian market with a complete range of fiber and spunbond roofing reinforcements.

Looking ahead, Freudenberg Politex does not expect any major changes in the market situation of Europe and North America and does not expect any increase in production volumes in these regions. Instead, the company will focus on expanding its footprint, through manufacturing assets and new products, in developing regions.

Freudenberg Filtration Technologies

Weinheim, Germany

www.freudenberg-filter.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $373 million

0n the back of increases in all regions and market segments, Freudenberg Filtration Technologies continued its growth trajectory of the previous two years, growing sales by 8.8% to E280.9 million ($373 million). Sales developed particularly well in North America and China.

Higher energy. raw material and transport costs were offset by sales growth, price increases, productivity improvements and technological innovations.

This group's position in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) was successfully expanded in 2012. In India, Freudenberg Filtration Technologies acquired part of the business of filter manufacturer Pyramid Filters Private Ltd., a manufacturer of air filter elements and systems for process-critical cleanroom applications in the pharmaceutical, medical, chemical and food industries.

Additionally, a subsidiary was established in Nizhiniy Novgorod, Russia in early 2013 to help boost momentum in the Russian industrial filter market and in Chengdu, China, a new site making micronAir automotive filters and Viledon industrial filters began operation.

Demand in the industrial filter space was generally described as good, but volatile. Freudenberg Filtration Technologies launched innovative products such as the particularly energy-efficient Viledon eMaxx cassette filters for use in gas turbines, Viledon sinTexx Plus filter cartridges for dust removal and high performance filters for room air purifiers

In new product news, the group added gas phase filtration technology for the pulp and paper, petrochemicals and mining industries. Investment in a production line for high temp filters has also opened up opportunities for the surface technology segment.

Global sales of micronAir cabin air filters to both OEMs and in the aftermarket remained at a good level. Freudenberg Filtration Technologies won major orders for new vehicle platforms where series production is scheduled to begin in the next few years.

In the next couple of years, Freudenberg hopes to evolve from a supplier of high quality filter products to an all-round partner for holistic, energy efficient filtration solutions. Already, significant progress has been made in India, North America and Europe.

2. DuPont

Wilmington, DE

www.dupont.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $1.35 billion (estimated)

Key Personnel

Marc Doyle, president, DuPont Protection Technologies; Kevin Corby, global technology director, DuPont Protection Technologies; Diego Boeri, global Tyvek and Sontara business director, DuPont Protection Technologies

Plants

Richmond, VA (Tyvek, Hybrid Membrane Technology, HMT); Old Hickory, TN (Sontara); Luxembourg (Tyvek, Typar); Asturias, Spain (Sontara); Shenzhen, China (Tyvek and Sontara converting facility); Brazil joint venture (Sontara)

ISO Status

All plants are ISO 9002 certified; Luxembourg facility is also ISO 9001 certified

Processes

Flash-spun (Tyvek), spunbond (Typar), spunlace (Sontara, HMT)

Brands

DuPont Tvvek, Tychem, Energain, Sontara, Typar.

Major Markets

Construction, healthcare., protective apparel, industrial filtration, absorbents, home furnishings, envelopes, geotextiles, graphics, packaging footwear, automotive.

DuPont, the maker of Tyvek and Sontara nonwovens remains bullish about its nonwovens business and the contribution it can have to the global industry. "Our focus is growing our core markets, finding new markets for our existing technology and also looking at new technologies that can expand our business," saysTvvek and Sontara global business director, Diego Boeri.

The majority of DuPont's nonwovens business falls within the business unit DuPont Protection Technologies, which was formed four years ago by combining the company's nonwovens business with its sister units on the aramid fiber side. This business unit essentially contains most of DuPont's technologies that protect people, the environment and critical processes worldwide. Within nonwovens, only construction falls outside of DuPont Protection Technologies and is managed by the Building Innovations business of DuPont. Within the protective market, key markets for Tyvek include protective apparel and medical packaging. New markets for the technology include optics, air cargo and consumer bags.

Within Tyvek, DuPont Protection Technologies is seeing two axes of growth. One is a strong focus on core markets including protective apparel and medical packaging; the other is the development of new business areas. In recent years, new business areas have included air cargo application, optics and, most recently, consumer bags.

The most successful of these three, air cargo, is the result of global mandates for controlled temperatures, between 15-25[degrees]C when shipping pharmaceutical products. To meet these mandates; DuPont has developed a new brand, Tyvek Air 'Cargo Covers, large hoods, available in regular Tyvek or metallized Tyvek varieties, which are placed over pallets of pharmaceutical products when they' are most vulnerable, such as during temporary air transit control chain breaks like sitting on the tarmac, where they are subject to solar radiation or temperature extremes.

"The cover really guarantees that temperature remains controlled," Boeri says, adding that the unique combination of properties offer high reflectance to shield the product from solar radiation, lower thermal conductivity which decreases the effects of temperature extremes and breathable barrier, which prevent trapped gas from damaging products. DuPont has already secured contracts for the covers with a few global pharmaceutical companies and is in the process of signing more deals both in pharmaceutical and in the food transport market.

Another of DuPont's developing market areas is consumer bags, such as reusable shopping totes, and the company is currently conducting several customer trials in North America under the brand name Verdiva. With several cities across the U.S. already banning retailers from dispensing free plastic bags, the market for nonwoven shopping bags is expected to grow.

To help it succeed in new markets, DuPont is continuously investing in and improving upon Tyvek technology. The addition of metallization in some grades of Tyvek is one interesting development that has allowed the company to make inroads in existing areas like construction as well as new ones, air cargo. "This is not standard metallization," Diego says. "The process allows us to apply an extremely thin coating of metal without destroying the properties of Tyvek. The big thing is it allows the breathability of Tyvek to remain mostly intact."

Beyond metallization, improving the breathability and the flexibility of Tyvek are among DuPont's main focus areas in offering news grades of the flashspun technology. These growth efforts toward new product development fueled DuPont's decision last year to reinstate an idled production line in Luxembourg. This adds to our global capacity and gives the technology a more balanced footprint across the oceans, Boeri says.

Meanwhile, in medical packaging, another core Tyvek market, DuPont is proving its commitment to the medical packaging market through a $30 million investment known as the company's Medical Packaging Transition Project. These efforts will not only modernize the technology for Tyvek flash spun nonwovens used for medical packaging, it will also allow DuPont to create a strong foundation for growth within the medical packaging market.

Through industry collaboration, DuPont is targeting the entire value chain within medical packaging, working with independent test labs, the U.S. FDA and other regulatory agencies internationally. DuPont is also working with several sterile packaging and medical device manufacturers around the globe in advance of the commercialization, which is scheduled for early 2015.

Earlier this summer, DuPont announced that transition protocol amendments have been made and accepted by the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the FDA in the U.S. Additionally; Europe's four largest regulatory bodies have received a copy of the amendments. In Japan, regulatory bodies are reviewing the data and in China testing criteria have been established.

From a technical standpoint, DuPont has completed developmental material assessments, has successfully produced and tested transition protocol materials, shipped materials to participating sterile packaging manufacturers for conversion and conducted a formal DuPont Product Stewardship review.

According to Boeri, a key milestone was making the transition protocol material available for purchase this summer, well in advance of full commercialization, which is estimated for early 2015. This will support MDM efforts to complete internal risk assessments prior to commercialization and enable them to qualify material for new device packaging, he says.

"We are really optimistic about the project. It's not just an internal operation. It's a massive activity where we are working with regulatory agencies and the whole value chain to minimize the impact for our customers," he says.

DuPont's other major nonwovens technology, Sontara, which is based on spunlace technology continues to be used in wipes and medical fabrics for gowns and drapes where it offers low cost, sophisticated products. Describing this business as "stable," Boeri says that the product plays in a more competitive arena than other DuPont technologies.

"There our focus is two things. The first is maintaining a customer-centric product development program, the second is to continue to find productivity improvements and focus on lean operation. We are always looking at ways to be more productive," he says.

Beyond medical, Sontara's other applications include high performance wipes for markets like car detailing, printing and aerospace, as well as other areas where innovation is valued.

Energain, DuPont's latest nonwovens-based technology, continues production on a pilot line in Chesterfield, VA. Marketed as a hybrid membrane technology (HMT), this technology primarily targets the energy storage battery separator and biopharma filtration markets.

"We have been working with customers to qualify products and I would say we are still in the middle of development," says Boeri. "We have trials in energy storage and some sales in biopharma filtration. Timeline is something you always have to keep in mind when you are dealing with new technologies and markets."

Still the introduction of new technologies as well as expanding in core markets continues to be a key part of DuPont's growth strategy for these products. "We continue to invest in our nonwovens technology and applications to benefit our customers," says Boeri.

3. Ahlstrom

Helsinki, Finland

www.ahlstrom

2012 Nonwovons Sales: $1.3 billion

Key Personnel

Jan Lang, president and CEO; Fulvio Capussotti, executive vice president, advanced filtration; Jan Koikkalainen, executive vice president, transportation filtration; Laura Raitio, executive vice president, building and energy; Paula Aarnio, executive vice president, HR and sustainability; Seppo Parvi, CFO and executive vice president, food and medical; Rami Raulas, executive vice president, sales and marketing; Luc Rousselet, executive vice president, supply chain; Aid Saarinen, executive vice president, strategic business development; Paul Stenson, executive vice president, product and technology development

Plants

Brignoud, France; Karhula, Finland; Malmedy, Belgium; Mikkeli, Finland; Stalldalen, Sweden; Tver, Russia; Bousbeceque, France; Chirnside, UK; Kauttua, Finland; Longkou, China; Mundra, India; Pont-Audemer, France; Saint Severin, France; Radcliffe, UK; West Carrollton, OH; Windsor Locks, CT; Barcelona, Spain; Bethune, SC; Fabriano, Italy; Binzhou, China; Hyon Poong, Korea; Louveira, Brazil; Madisonville, KY; Mount Holly Springs, PA; Tampere, Finland; Taylorville, IL; Turin, Italy

Processes

Wetlaid (Trinitex), microglass, nanotechnology (Disruptor), composites, creping/micrexing, spunmelt/spunbond, parchmentizing, coating, calendering

Major Markets

Transportation filtration, diagnostic filtration, water filtration, wall coverings, building, automotive, food packaging, beverage, medical, flooring and masking tape

In recent months, Ahlstrom has continued its strategy of focusing on high performance materials, as first evidenced through the company's late 2011 sale of its wipes business, including [euro]300 million in total sales, as well the demerger of its label and processing unit in August 2012. The essence of the company's business, which now operates through four major divisions--Transportation Filtration, Advanced Filtration, Building and Energy and Food and Medical--is to focus on fiber-based materials that protect people, purify air and liquids and provide surface structure to its customers' products, according to company spokesperson Bethany Schivley. Nonwovens made by Ahlstrom are mainly used in transportation, construction, food and beverage, medical, energy, water and life science markets.

In 2012, sales decreased 15% to [euro]1.01 billion ($1.3 billion) due to lower volumes and capacity closures which offset higher selling prices and favorable currency effects. Operating profits also declined due to lower sales volumes, adverse product mixes and increases in market-related downtime in production.

"Higher selling prices and the profit improvement programs implemented at the end of 2011 improved profitability," says Schivley." In addition, short-tem cost mitigation, related to maintenance and temporary lay-offs, had a positive effect on profitability."

Effective January 1, Ahlstrom reorganized its business into the aforementioned four business areas after dividing the company's former filtration business area into two separate business areas: Transportation Filtration and Advanced Filtration. This has enabled a stronger locus on filtration, along with demerging the label and processing unit and combining it with Munksjo in November 2012.

According to Schivley, transportation filtration is mainly focused on the automotive market while advanced filtration encompasses a broader reach, serving laboratory and life sciences, gas turbine, hydraulic, food and beverage and HVAC. Both areas continue to be strong areas of focus and growth for Ahlstrom and together comprise about 37% of sales, or [euro]352.7 million, up from [euro]324 million, in 2012.

Within the transportation segment, which includes media for automotive engines and other transportation-related applications, this year Ahlstrom launched Captimax, a great technology that combines high efficiency filtration with extremely high dust holding capacity. According to the company, the technology, which uses Eastman Cyphrex microfibers, will open different filter design possibilities for its customers and meet several needs from the automotive industry such as a smaller footprint in the engine compartment, glass fiber formulation and high filtration performance.

"This breakthrough technology is a new platform for Ahlstrom and several other products can be expected soon," Schiyley says.

The technology also gives filter media manufacturers the ability to obtain optimum micron efficiency ratings and dust holding aibility by providing a balance of excellent small-particle retention and the potential for longer media life.

Recent highlights of the advanced filtration business include the purchase of Sweden-based Munktell Filter AB in September 2012, a move Ahlstrom sees as a strategic step to grow its advanced filtration business particularly in life science and laboratory applications. The transaction included 100% of the shares in Munktell Filter AB, as well as its holdings in Munktell & Filtrak GmbH, Filtres Fioroni SA and Munktell Inc.

"When we combine Munktell's strong position in the European advanced filtration market with our solid presence in North America, we will gain access to new markets geographically. Driven by global changes in demographics, life science and laboratory filtration are lucrative growth areas for us," says Tommi Bjornman, former executive vice president, filtration.

Munktell is based in Falun, Sweden and it has production sites in Germany and Sweden, a joint venture in France, as well as a sales office in the U.S. The company's reported sales are [euro]15 million with an operating profit margin of roughly 15% in 2011.

Also in advanced filtration, Ahlstrom is collaborating with Dow Chemical Company to use its Disruptor technology in drinking water applications. Disruptor is Ahlstromrs nano-alumina technology designed for a wide range of water filtration applications.

"One of the key goals in our product development is to create products that purify air and liquids in a sustainable way. We are excited about the opportunity to work with Dow since we see a wealth of opportunities for providing pure water solutions through combining our expertise with Dow's industry-leading product offering," says Fulvio Capussotti, executive vice president, advanced filtration.

Amidst these efforts, Ahlstrom continues to see capital investment as a growth strategy. While the once steady stream of investments has slowed more recently, Ahlstrom has continued to add capacity within its filtration business. The most recent effort is the addition of capacity in Turin, Italy, which is scheduled to be operational by the third quarter of 2013 and will consist of an upgrade to a paper machine producing filter media for transportation and gas turbine applications.

"This investment is another important step in our growth roadmap, where we are strengthening our platform in Europe. By expanding our filtration operations, we are reinforcing our position as a global supplier in the filtration market with a full offering of filter media," Bjornman says.

Other recent capacity expansions include a new line in Binzhou, China to serve the Chinese market as well as an upgrade to its Louveira, Brazil site.

Ahlstrom's building and energy business, including products for construction, energy storage and even wall coverings continued to thrive in 2012 while representing 26% of sales.

One market that has consistently been strong within this segment is the global wall covering market, which Schivley says has remained stable mainly due to the global financial situation, political confidence and reduced consumer spending in Europe. In line with this stability, Ahlstrom has made some considerable investment to this segment in recent years including upgrades in Malmedy, Belgium to make the site capable of producing embossed substrates for digital print applications and a new production line in Binzhou, China where the market is expected to reach 300 million rolls by 2015.

"The Chinese wall covering market is changing from one of import to one of domestic production," Schivley says.

Another increasingly important business area in this segment is battery separators, a market Ahlstrom entered last year through the purchase of a stake in Porous Power Technologies, a Colorado-based company developing technology for lithiumion battery separators. Together with Porous Power, Ahlstrom is offering a new generation of separator solutions for safer batteries and capacitors in electric-drive vehicles, e-bikes, portable electronics and utility-grade storage products.

Ahlstrom's food and medical business area is benefitting from the addition of a new plant in Longkou, China, dedicated to the manufacture of crepe paper used for masking tape and sterilization pouches for the medical market. Marking Ahlstrom's third such plant--the other two are in Pont Audemer, France and Kauttua, Finland--the investment proves how important Asia is for all of Ahlstrom, especially the food and medical division.

In April, medical introduced Ahlstrom Reliance Tandem to the market. Ahlstrom Reliance Tandem is an expansion of Ahlstrom's interleaved SBS portfolio with the introduction of SMS. Adding SMS to offerings that formerly comprised just crepe and wetlaid is allowing the company to offer an optimal combination of sterile barrier system sheets for sequential wrapping.

Ahlstrom's food packaging and beverages categories are also seen as a high growth area for food and medical. These are areas where consumers want both products and packaging to be more environmentally sensitive but without the expectation of changing how they shop, prepare and cook.

In beverage applications, Ahlstrom is developing products made from PLA (polylactic-acid), an advanced renewable and biodegradable polymer. PLA is already used in Ahlstrom BioWeb teabags and is currently being expanded into coffee capsules for espresso machines.

In food packaging, Ahlstrom has created the sustainable Genuine Vegetable Parchment baking paper, which can be converted into molds replacing molds made of plastic or aluminum. Molds are produced from 100% sustainable and renewable resources and are biodegradable, helping to meet customers' sustainability requirements.

4. Kimberly-Clark

Dallas, TX

www.kimberly-clark.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $L25 billion (estimated)

Partnership Products and

K-C Professional Headquarters

Roswell, GA

www.kcprofessional.com

Key Personnel

Thomas Falk, chairman and CEO; Elane B. Stock, president, K-C Professional; Richard Thorne, vice president, K-C Professional North America; Bob Stargel, vice president, K-C Global Nonwovens; Tony Fedel, business leader, K-C Professional Partnership Products

Plants

Corinth, MS; Balfour and Hendersonville, NC; Lexington, NC; LaGrange, GA; Neenah, WI; Barton-upon-Humber, U.K.; Jaromer, Czech Republic

ISO Status

Certification achieved in Berkeley, NC, Lexington, NC, LaGrange, GA, and Barton (U.K.); other facilities in progress

Processes

Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, BCW, hydroentangled, film lamination, elastic lamination and Coform

Brands

Kimberly-Clark Professional; Protective Fabrics: Block-It, Du-stop, Evolution, and Noah; Filtration Media: Intrepid, Powerloft, Cyclean

Major Markets

Filtration, acoustics, consumer hygiene, industrial, medical, packaging, protective, sorbents, textile linings and wet wipes

0ne of the world's largest users of nonwovens, Kimberly-Clark is also one of the biggest producers of nonwovens in the world. While much of this company's output fuels its enormous consumer products business, including Huggies Disposable diapers, Depend adult incontinence and Kotex feminine hygiene products, Kimberly-Clark's Partnership Products business sells nonwoven substrates within a total of six cat-egories--filtration, protective fabrics, acoustics, absorbents, advanced personal care and wet wipe delivery systems.

While the major brands are what K-C is known best for, executives say developing the external nonwovens business, which represent about 15% of total output, is just as important to the company as the nonwovens used internally.

"The Partnership Products team leverages various, and often proprietary, nonwovens technologies manufactured by Kimberly-Clark," says Michele Neher, business development manager, Kimberly-Clark Professional Partnership Products. "We partner with outside companies that purchase these materials and convert them into end-use products. Our nonwovens are used as components of products you may use every day.

"We focus our attention on markets where we can provide differentiated technology and performance and where we can be a strategic, long-term partner with our customers," says Neher. "We sell our nonwoven roll goods to both converters and branded product manufacturers. These customers value getting the same product performance people associate with Kimberly-Clark's billion dollar brands."

At the core of K-C Professional Partnership Products is the Exceptional Products initiative. All of the business unit's products and activities center around the goal of making people's lives healthier, safer and more productive whether it be an air filtration product that improves indoor air quality, protective fabrics to safeguard high value property or wiping substrates used in medical, industrial and consumer products.

"Our success lies in the depth of our capability and experience in delivering value-added, innovative nonwoven solutions to our customers that enable them to win by bringing exceptional products to market," says Tony Fedel, business leader of K-C Professional Partnership Products.

Products being sold by Partnership Products include fine fiber metlblown applications used in high performance wipes areas, dual texture meltblown applications for industrial wipes areas, Hydroknit Material, Ultrasoft spunbond, SMS nonwovens and Coform. These products are made at sites in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi.

In terms of corporate sales, K-C reported a 1% increase to $21.1 billion last year and sales are expected to grow 2-3% by volume in 2013. These volumes account for lower sales in Europe where K-C announced in late 2012 it would exit the disposable diaper business. K-C said it would exit the European diaper market, except for Italy, and would divest some lower margin businesses in the consumer tissue market. At the time of the announcement, CEO Thomas Falk said the move would facilitate growth in other parts of the world.

The closures reportedly affected five diaper plants, which in total employed 1200-1500 employees.

Amidst this change, K-C continues to focus on building its global brands by providing products that improve the lives of its consumers. Within U by Kotex, a feminine hygiene brand targeting younger women, K-C introduced U by Kotex Extra pads--a new, super premium maxi pad designed to keep girls feeling clean and fresh while providing maximum, heavy duty protection. The brand's most absorbent pad yet, U by Kotex Extra pads provide such outstanding protection that the U by Kotex brand invites girls to put it to the test in their own "real life product demos" and experience firsthand how it performs and looks like no other.

"The U by Kotex brand knows girls are too smart to believe the absurd, unrealistic demos that some feminine care brands use to prove their products work," says Kanchan Patkar, U by Kotex senior brand manager, Kimberly-Clark. "When it comes to protection, real life is the only test that matters; so we encourage girls to try and see for themselves how the U by Kotex Extra pad protects against their heaviest flows."

With the launch of U by Kotex Extra pads, the U by Kotex brand, which was established in 2010, offers a full spectrum of coverage absorbency including U by Kotex Click and Sleek tampons, U by Kotex CleanWear pads and U by Kotex BarelyThere and Curves liners. The new U by Kotex Extra pads have a soft dual cover that keeps wearers clean and dry, an ultra-flexible four-layer absorbency system and Tru-Fit wings that help prevent bunching and scrunching and keep the pad in place. Like all U by Kotex brand products, U by Kotex Extra pads feature a bold, edgy aesthetic and fun colors that continue to challenge the boring and institutional look of feminine care.

Within the baby and family care segment, K-C has expanded its GoodNites disposable underwear with a new design that fits more like real underwear. New GoodNites Underwear can help kids boost their self-esteem by empowering them to participate without drawing unwanted attention to their condition.

"Many parents are unaware that bedwetting is a developmental condition that cannot be overcome through training, and it affects one out of every six kids between the ages of 4-12 years old," says Jen Wilder, GoodNites brand director for Kimberly-Clark Corp. "We want to provide effective bedwetting solutions and also educate parents on how to best support their child. This new Undercover Mission will help make the journey easier for their children."

Providing solutions for its customers also led to the creation of Depend Guards and Shields, two products specifically designed for men with light bladder leakage. Depend Guards and Shields are made to fit a man's body and can be worn securely in a man's own underwear. Depend Guards for Men fit like an athletic cup so they stay close to the body and feature maximum absorbency for larger surges. Depend Shields for Men are ultra-thin and offer light absorbency for drips and dribbles.

On the professional side of its business, K-C this year developed a suite of wipes, under its Kimtech brand, to address the unique needs of the aviation industry and help workers perform more productively and efficiently. This aviation-certified wiping solutions meet the requirements of Aerospace Material Specification (AMS) 3819C (Aerospace industry requirement) and Boeing Material Specification (BMS) 15-3F (Boeing).

Kimtech Wipes for aviation are specifically engineered to perform in all areas of Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) and Maintenance Repair Operations (MRO) operations--including paint surface prep, engine maintenance and general-purpose cleaning. These application-driven solutions are designed to deliver superior cleaning, improve operational efficiencies, reduce turn-around time, and maximize productivity while meeting the precision standards and requirements of the aviation industry.

"Aviation industry workers must have the best wiping tools available to make sure every job is done right the first time," says Marianne Santangelo, go-to-market leader, Manufacturing, Kimberly-Clark Professional. "Our goal is to provide them with a comprehensive range of customized tools that reduce waste and costs and increase efficiency. This supports our vision of creating Exceptional Workplaces that help keep workers healthier, safer and more productive."

Kimtech Wipes for aviation are available in four categories: Abrasive Wipes, Surface Preparation Wipes, Cleaning Wipes and a Wet Wipe System. The products also feature an intuitive, alpha-numeric, performance-tier identification system with visual cues that make it easier for technicians to identify the right product for the task.

5. Ploymer Group, Inc. (PGI)

Charlotte, NC

www.polymergroupinc.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $1.15 billion

Key Personnel

Joel J. Hackney, Jr, president and CEO; Dennis Norman, executive vice president and CFO; Mike Hale, senior vice president and advisor to the CEO; Michael Modak, senior vice president, global growth and innovation officer; Daniel Guerrero, senior vice president, global supply chain lead; Scott Tracey, senior vice president, general manager, Americas; Jean-Marc Galvez, senior vice president, general manager, Europe; Robert Dale, senior vice president, general manager, Asia; Mary Tornasello, senior vice president, global human resources and employee communications; Daniel Rikard, senior vice president, general counsel, secretary and ethics compliance officer

Plants

Benson, NC; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; North Bay, Ontario, Canada; Cujik, The. Netherlands; Tarragona, Spain; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Cali, Colombia

Processes

Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlace, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace and other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brands

Agribon, Air-Gard, Chicopee, Chicopee Cares, Chix, Chux, Comfortsilk, Geca-Tapes, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Durawipe, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Pentamax, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, ReticuIon, Soft-Touch, Spinlace, TopSwell. Trademarked Technologies: Apex, Amira and Arium

A new CEO and a Chinese investment are among the recent headlines from Polymer Group Inc., Charlotte, NC. The company is the world's largest manufacturer of spunmelt nonwovens with plants around the world and is also a producer of a range of nonwovens technologies.

In 2012, the company reported sales volumes increased 6.1% but sales decreased slightly to $1.15 billion due to lower raw material pricing. According to executives, highlights of the year included increased volumes in the Americas thanks to stronger sales in hygiene and wipes markets as well as strong sales in the Asian healthcare and hygiene market, thanks in part to the startup of a new spunmelt line in China in 2011.

In June 2013, PGT announced that CEO Veronica Hagen was retiring from her post after six years. She will be replaced by Joel Hackney, who has held varied global executive roles with General Electric, Nortel and Avava.

"I am pleased to join PCI and energized by the prospects that lie ahead for the company," Hackney says. "I will be focused on building on the previous momentum and strong foundation. Specifically, I am committed to achieving economic leadership and accelerating many of the growth initiatives that have been identified in our focus markets and increasing our strategic position with key customers"

Before her retirement, Hagen oversaw the organizational redesign at PGI that realigned and repositioned the company to leverage the benefits of its global footprint, aligning resources and capabilities with future growth opportunities. Among the major components of the redesign is the creation of a Global Growth and Innovation (CCI) unit., which will be the growth engine of PGI.

Another component of this redesign was the consolidation of its U.S. and Latin America regions into a combined Americas region. Included in this division are PGI sites in Cali, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Waynesboro, VA; Mooresville, NC; and Benson, NC.

This region continues to grow in importance to PCI despite the fact that the rapid rate of investment seen in the last decade has slowed in recent years. PGI's most recent efforts in the region are a proprietary, custom-designed spunmelt line in Waynesboro, VA, which became operational in 2011 and a seventh line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, which came onstream in 2010.

Meanwhile, across the globe investment continues in China., where PGI operates sites in Suzhou, China, where a state-of-the art spunmelt line came onstream in 2013, and Nanhai, where construction on a new site is currently underway.

The new plant in Nanhai, which replaces an existing site built in 1996, will allow the company to expand its manufacturing capacity for high quality nonwoven products for the global hygiene and healthcare markets. The investment will allow PCI to expand production of chemical bonded products for hygiene applications and better meet the needs of customers in the region.

PGI has operated in Nanhai for more than 15 years and the company will continue to expand the manufacturing footprint of the new site in sync with the needs of customers not only in China but throughout Asia.

"We see Nanhai's location as a great spot to target growth in China as well as throughout Southeast Asia," CCI Officer, Mike Modak says." Adding a new plant will really give us the footprint to capitalize on this growth."

The new Nanhai facility will combine the benefits of PGI's current and new manufacturing technologies and is expected to he complete by the first half of 2016, with no disruptions to customers.

Elsewhere in China, PGI completed construction on a spunmelt line in Suzhou, China in mid 2013. The largest manufacturer of spunmelt nonwovens in the world, PGI also operates significant sites in Virginia, North Carolina, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia.

Modak says the company is constantly looking at new areas for growth, despite an excess of capacity in many parts of the globe. "Everywhere is on our radar screen," he says. "We have a strategy that is global but also supporting our customers as they grow globally. We have the luxury of looking at the market from a broad base. Hygiene is strong but we also are seeing great things coming out of our industrial businesses and we like what we are seeing in healthcare. Even wipes continues to grow."

Last year, PGI unveiled a new platform technology to help broaden its participation across several non-hygiene markets. Arium uses submicron fibers to produce a matrix of fibers to deliver improved performance properties in a variety of applications in healthcare, industrial, filtration and other segments.

"Arium is a completely new technology platform for the industry that will enable us to meet the market need for increasingly cost-effective fabrics with improved performance at a value proposition unmatched by any other submicron fiber technology," said Hagen at the time of the launch. "Just as we did with our Apex and Spinlace technologies, PGI is leading the industry and investing in game-changing platforms."

Currently produced, Arium technology has been generating significant interest across a number of product categories, Modak reports. The submicron fibers contained in materials produced with the Arium technology can provide higher surface area, biosafety and tunable porosity that enhance performance benefits such as absorbency, adsorption, opacity, softness, barrier protection, acoustic performance and high-efficiency filtration. The technology can be used alone or along with another technology.

"We are always looking at new technologies and the possibility of adding to our portfolio," Modak says. "We see a lot of trends in the marketplace and we try as hard as we can to make sure our product offerings stand up to those trends."

While Modak could not comment specifically on what is in the pipeline, he did cite improved softness in newer generation spunmelt products targeting the diaper market as one example of how PGI is constantly seeking ways to build out its portfolio.

"We have the luxury of looking at the market from a broad base," he says. "Part of the challenge is getting the right sequence right, chasing the right markets and the right geographies."

6. Fitesa

Simpsonville, SC

www.fitesa.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $712 million

Key Personnel

Silverio Baranzano, CEO, Hal Singley, CFO

Plants

Gravatai, Brazil; Lima, Peru; Queretaro, Mexico; Simpsonville, SC; Green Bay, WI; Washougal, WA; Norrkoping, Sweden; Peine, Germany; Trezzarto Rosa, Italy; Tianjin, China

Processes

Spunbond, SMS, bicomponent spunbond and SMS, meltblown, carded (chemical bonded, thermal bonded, air through bonded), airlaid, laminates

Major Markets

Hygiene, medical and industrial specialties (filtration, agricultural, sorbent)

With new investments in Brazil and Peru onstream, Fitesa continues to expand its presence in the hygiene markets both in South America and around the globe. The U.S.-based nonwovens manufacturer has plants in North America, Europe and China as well as its strong South American presence.

In 2012, Fitesa expanded its operation in South Carolina, added a greenfield site near Lima, Peru to better serve customers west of the Andes, and started a new line in Brazil. These investments have already begun contributing to Fitesa's sales and have helped the company expand its global reach in the hygiene market.

Other lines, previously owned by FitesaFiberweb, which are now fully owned by Fitesa, include assets in Brazil, South Carolina, Washington and Mexico. In addition to these lines, Fitesa also gained spunmelt lines in Germany, Italy and Sweden, carding lines in Wisconsin and South Carolina and airlaid lines in Tianjin, China as part of its $286 million purchase of Fiberweb's hygiene-related assets in late 2011. The sale boosted the Evora (formerly Petropar) owned company's sales from about $160 million to $670 million in 2011 and $712 million in 2012. Ray Dun leavy, the company's market strategy and business development director, says Fitesa's partnership with Fiberweb, formed in 2009, helped prepare it to serve the global nonwovens industry.

"The joint venture with Fiberweb in 2009, which combined Fitesa's Brazilian operations with Fiberweb's North American spunmelt operations, provided the initial learning for expanding the Fitesa business model to new regions. This experience helped us to create the necessary systems and management practices to deal with Fitesa's global footprint," he says.

As for Asia, this region continues to be on Fitesa's radar. Back when the company was still affiliated with Fiberweb, the joint venture announced that it was examining the possibility of adding a spunmelt operation in China in partnership with Japan's JNC Nonwovens (formerly Chisso Corporation) but nothing has been said of this since the Fiberweb purchase. Still, Dunleavy admits that Asia is on its radar for growth when the right opportunity emerges.

"It cannot be denied that Asia is an important and rapidly growing market for hygiene products. Fitesa already participates there with its airlaid business in China. We are staying alert for growth opportunities in the region," he says.

As it explores expansion in developing regions, Fitesa expects to see only modest growth in the next few years in developed regions like the U.S. and Western Europe, where increasing demand for adult incontinence products is retarded by declines in demand for baby diapers, driven by declining birth rates and lower diaper usage.

"Fitesa is an important participant as one of the top three players in the hygiene market in the Americas and Europe," Dunleavy says. "We are constantly assessing opportunities, not only in those regions but also in other regions where we have presence, like Asia, or in new geographies, like Africa. Fitesa will always take investment decisions that present an opportunity to better serve our customers and shareholders."

7. P.H. Glatfelter Company

York, PA

www.glatfelter.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $683 million

Key Personnel

Dante C. Parrini, chairman and CEO; John P. Jacunski, senior vice president and CFO; Christopher W. Astley, vice president, corporate strategy; Jonathan A. Bourget, vice president and general manager, advanced airlaid materials; Martin Rapp, vice president and general manager, composite fibers

Plants

Canada, Germany, France, U.K., Philippines

Processes

Airlaid, Wetlaid

The acquisition of a major manufacturer of wallcovering materials is proof that Glatfelter continues to focus on growth, markets. In March, the maker of airlaid and wetlaid nonwovens sealed a deal to acquire Dresden Papier, a leading producer of nonwoven wallpaper base materials and a supplier to most of the world's largest wallpaper manufacturers. Previously owned by Fortress Paper, a Vancouver, B.C., Canada company, Dresden is based in Heidenau, Germany, near Dresden, where it operates a state-of-the-art, 60,000 metric ton operating facility solely dedicated to the wallcovering market.

At the time of the reported [euro]160 million ($210 million) acquisition CEO Dante Parrini described the acquisition as a continuation of Glatfelter's focus on adding industry leading nonwoven product lines to its composite fibers business. The nonwoven-based wall covering market is projected to grow 10% per year in coming years, outpacing demand for traditional paper products.

"We see a lot of growth potential for the wallpaper market, particularly in areas like China and South Korea," says Martin Rapp, vice president and general manager of composite fibers.

Dresden Papier, soon to be rebranded into Glatfelter Dresden GmbH, is now a part of Glatfelter's composite fibers business, which has been earmarked as a strong growth area for the company as it lessens its reliance on specialty papers.

Since 2006, Composite Fibers, along with the company's Advanced Airlaid materials business, which was acquired from Concert Industries in 2010, have grown to represent 43% of the group's sales compared to 30%. Specialty papers meanwhile, which once comprised 70% of sales, now account for 57% of Glatfelter's business. This shift comes as a result of the company's strategy of exposing itself to growth businesses, according to Parrini.

In 2012, Glatfelter continued to improve its position on both sides of its nonwovens business--composite fibers containing its wetlaid assets and advanced airlaid. Wetlaid sales grew 4-5% largely in technical and industrial applications such as wipes, furniture and tea bags while airlaid volumes increased 7%, largely driven by advances in feminine hygiene and wipes.

According to Jonathan Bourget, vice president and general manager of advanced airlaid materials, Glatfelter's airlaid operations, including operations in Canada and Germany, continue to see their supply tighten, leading the company to begin investigating smart ways to increase its global output.

"Strength in airlaid is being driven by downgauging, relying on less material usage in terms of basis weight and the simultaneous increase of square meter volume," says Bourget.

Also driving growth is the need for market development largely in the personal care segment. "These markets are large enough and rich enough that they are constantly looking at new products," says Bourget. "I think there is a shift in consumer taste that is promoting new product development in airlaid."

Glatfelter entered the airlaid business through the acquisition of Concert in 2010 as part of a strategy, begun in the early 2000s, to transform itself from a traditional paper company into a global provider of engineered materials and specialty paper-related products.

While the airlaid business has been in the headlines Glatfelter's wetlaid operations also continue to grow. The considerable boost from the Dresden acquisition should add about $150 million in sales and $38 million in earnings to the operation.

Apart from wallcoverings the composite fibers business unit is developing rapidly in the electrical segment. Last year the company made a significant investment into a dedicated machine in France. In addition Glatfelter is partnering with Dream Weaver to make a new generation of high performance affordable separators targeted for energy storage devices such as lithium-ion batteries. This partnership will allow DreamWeaver to leverage Glatfelter's state-of-the art inclined wire capabilities and expertise in making advanced fiber-based engineered materials.

Glatfelter continues to optimize the use of its eight inclined-wire machines to produce a diverse range of products including, nonwoven energy storage materials for the capacitor and lead-acid battery markets. These new fiber-based materials possess superior porosity and excellent web uniformity in low basis weight and thickness.

"DreamWeaver's technology is a natural fit, allowing us to extend our presence in the growing energy storage market with innovative and proprietary technology," says Rapp.

8. Johns Manville

Denver, CO

www.jm.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $670 million

Key Personnel

Mike Lawrence, senior vice president and general manager, Engineered Products Americas (EP Americas); Enno Henze, senior vice president and general manager, Engineered Products Europe/Asia (EPEA); Patti Rizzo, director of sales and marketing, EP Americas; Stefan Mohr, commercial leader nonwovens, EPEA; Martin Kleinebrecht, marketing leader nonwovens, EPEA

Plants

Waterville, OH; Richland, MS; Spartanburg, SC; Etowah, TN; Bobingen, Berlin, Wertheim, Karlstein, Steinach (Germany); Shanghai, Louyang (China); Trnava (Slovakia)

Brands

Dura-Glass, DuraBase, Delta-Aire, DynaWick, DynaWeb, DynaTech, Micro-Aire, MicroLith (U.S. brands); Evalith (EU nonwoven brand); ThermoFlow, DuraCore, KY-Tex (EU fibers brands)

Berkshire Hathaway-owned Johns Manville continues to report challenges within its core market of construction, particularly in Europe, even as it continues to expand its scope in other technical markets like filtration and battery separators, and new geographies. The Denver, CO-based company operates through four regional segments--Insulation Systems, Roofing Systems, Engineered Products Americas and Engineered Products Europe/Asia.

In July, JM said it would invest in a new spun bond production line at its Berlin, Germany facility. Representing an investment of [euro]32 million, the new line will support the growing demand for high-end polyester filtration media. It will use newly developed spinning technology and increase lightweight spunbond capacity in Berlin by more than 40%.

"This new investment clearly underscores Johns Manville's commitment as a market leader to responsibly satisfy the long-term demand of our valued filtration customers," says Enno Henze, senior vice president and general manager, Engineered Products, Europe/Asia. "This new line will have a capacity in excess of 4000 tons per year and will be built with JM's advanced bi-component spinning technology which will enable step-change improvements in product properties and cost performance."

The line will start production in 2015, creating a new generation of polyester spunbond filter media for cabin air, air pollution control and liquid filtration applications.

In other investment news, in June 2012, JM dedicated a plant in Milan, OH, to make ethylene propylene diene monomer, a thermoset synthetic rubber, single ply roofing membrane known for its durability, ease of installation and superior weathering characteristics. This roofing plant completes JM's portfolio of major waterproofing membranes and the company claims it now has the widest breadth of membranes in the industry.

In the glass mat segment, JM has made several investments to its lines in Ohio and Tennessee to improve product capability and ensure product quality. These have allowed JM to deliver the broadest product portfolio with the increasing quality standards demanded by its customers and enabled it to develop new products that historically have not been served by a glass nonwoven.

The company also announced in August 2012 that it had acquired Industrial Insulation Group, LLC, a manufacturer of insulation for industrial, commercial and fireproofing applications.

Within its core business of construction, JM is reporting signs of slow 'recovery in the North America commercial exterior and. interior applications market while the residential market is strengthening. In Europe, the economy continues to be a high-watch area for the company. Construction markets remain challenging with some markets eroding as much as 30% during the last couple of years.

"We expect a very limited recovery from low levels for the years to come for European construction markets in general," says Martin Kleinebrecht, marketing, leader for Johns Manville's Engineered Products Europe/Asia Nonwovens business. "However, this does not mean that JM's construction-related nonwovens business will stay flat. We participate in markets that show interesting growth potential, such as building insulation in general, fire retardant facade panels--a patented solution we developed together with one of our customers--as well as resilient flooring in Eastern Europe."

In North America, the roofing business has launched a full portfolio of tapes, adhesives and accessories to support its new EPDM membrane being manufactured in Milan, OH. Also, Invinsa FR coverboard can obtain a Class A fire rating for combustible decks and along with the standard grade Invinsa, are the only high density polyiso coverboards to meet ASTM type three designation for compressive strength.

"As a major player in technical nonwovens, we are continuously looking for opportunities to grow in adjacent spaces with disruptive innovation," Kleinebrecht says. "That means entering new business areas where nonwovens were not used before."

In Asia, where JM operates two sites, in Louyang and Shanghai, the company continues to see interesting growth rates despite the challenges associated with manufacturing and doing business in Asia.

In fact, the company continues to expand its regional coverage on a global basis, which is evident in sales activities in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

"We continue to explore activities outside our current locations," Kleinebrecht says. "While JM is committed to its traditional home markets, we will certainly not miss opportunities elsewhere."

9. Suominen Nonwovens

Nakkila, Finland

www.suominen.fi

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $602 million

Key Personnel

Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president, Suominen Nonwo-yens; Timo Hiekkaranta, vice president, Sales; Karen Castle, vice president Sales North America; Saara Soderberg, vice president, Business Development, Marketing and Innovation; Mimoun Saim, vice, president, Operations Europe and Sourcing; Lany Kinn, vice president, Operations Americas and HSE; Laurent Pennequin, vice president, Finance and Administration; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Technology Development & Investments.

Plants

Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Na-kk la, Finland; Windsor Locks, CT; Alicante, Spain

Processes

Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hvdroen tangled.

Major Markets

Wipes, medical, hygiene

Sales climbed for Suominen in 2012 as it continued to integrate Ahlstrom's former home and personal business, which was acquired in 2012. Not only has this acquisition brought Suominen's sales up to $602 million, it has propelled it to the top of the nonwovens industry, making it the largest maker of spunlaced materials for the wipes market.

"This rapid growth was not without its own challenges," says director of marketing and communications, Alistair Brown. "The creation of what was effectively a whole new company included a crucial task to merge a mix of international company cultures."

In its new form, Suominen, which is based in Nakkila, Finland, operates three nonwovens plants in the U.S. in Wisconsin, Connecticut and South Carolina, and others in Brazil, Italy, Spain and Finland, a considerable change from the one-site producer it was prior to the acquisition.

"The integration comprised also the retention and development of customer relationships around the globe. Becoming truly global after being mainly focused on Europe was another important step in the process of creating New Suominen," says Brown. "Significant markets, such as the U.S. and Asia, were reassured by a global marketing campaign to support Suominen Nonwovens statement of, 'Now the biggest name in nonwovens for wipes."

As the biggest producer of nonwovens for wipes, Suominen this year launched the "We Love Wipes" campaign to strengthen its understanding of the need of consumers and consequently ensure it is better able to serve its customers and increase the share of the higher value added products in its portfolio. Bolstered by a campaign hub website at www.welovewipes.com as well as a variety of social media activities, We Love Wipes also aims to raise the overall awareness of wipes and the wide range of uses for them.

"Innovation at Suominen is not just about products but about changing the way business is done and challenging traditional long-held views. The market is very dynamic and it is clearly in our interest to become faster to market with the right products. This is one aspect we aim to further improve, with the support from the consumers, the genuine experts of wipes," says Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president of Suominen Nonwovens at the time of the campaign launch.

On the new product front, in April Suominen launched Exodus and Hercules Nonwovens for personal care and industrial applications as part of its strategy to strengthen its share of the higher value-added products. Both products provide customers with a quality performance in industrial and household wipes and contain cellulose and synthetic fibers, a combination that ensures optimized strength and absorbency with dimensional strength.

"Despite its toughness, Hercules Nonwoven has a soft, cloth-like feel, which makes it perfect also for cleaning hands quickly and conveniently while working. Both are available in four basis weights.

"We are always improving nonwoven product characteristics in such areas as texture, feel and cleaning through enhancements to the technologies we use in our processes," Brown says.

Another area strong on Suominen's radar is flushability. In June, the company said it would invest [euro]2.5 million to increase the production capacity of Hydraspun substrates, some of which are defined as flushable by industry guidelines developed by INDA and EDANA, the industry associations.

"Suominen is constantly looking at the markets in which it operates," Brown says. "Where we see opportunity to add value with nonwoven products will determine where we take our future offering."

10. Fiberweb

London, U.K.

www.fiberweb.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $460 million

Key Personnel

Daniel Dayan, CEO; Kate Miles, group finance director

Plants

Old Hickory, TN; Aschersleben, Germany; Berlin, Germany; Pontypool, U.K.; Maldon, U.K.; Aberdare, U.K.; Terno d'Lsola, Italy; Mundra, India, Biesheim, France

Processes

Thermal bonded, air-through bonded, spunbond, needlepunch, meltblown, lamination, film, extrusion

Major Markets

Filtration, geosynthetics, medical specialties, crop covers, tree shelters, dryer sheets, adult incontinence components, house-wrap, roofing underlayments, grass protection

Continuing its goal of becoming a specialty materials company, London, UK-based Fiberweb has been focusing on growth across its two divisions--technical fabrics and geosynthetics. The larger of the two divisions, technical fabrics comprises the company's former Americas and European industrial business as well as remaining hygiene businesses in France and Italy. Meanwhile, geosynthetics combines Fiberweb's Terram business, the 2011 acquisitions of Tubex and Boddingtons as well as existing geotextile and construction businesses in the U.S. and includes sites in Maldon, Essex and Aberdare, U.K., as well as the new acquisition of Terram India at Mundra, Gujarat, India and housewrap and tree shelter production lines in Old Hickory, TN.

In 2012, nonwovens sales were primarily flat as growth in the North American construction and landscape fabrics market offset challenges in the European construction market as well as in the geosynthetics business in the U.K. and continental Europe.

"We haven't seen a turnaround in 2013," says CEO Daniel Dayan. "I would say sales have been flat. It's not declining the way it did last year. Of course; some of this is the negative impact of the long winter in North America."

In spite of these challenges, Dayan says he is still happy with the company's performance. "We did very well growing the bottom line. We grew earnings strongly. We achieved great volumes. We are in a nice position with no debt and we have a lot of cash thanks to the hygiene sales at the end of 2011."

The sale, of course, is Fiberweb's divestment of much of its hygiene business to former joint venture partner Fitesa in late 2011. The $286 million sale encompassed Fiberweb's stake in the FitesaFiberweb joint venture, including manufacturing sites in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Fiberweb's hygiene spunbond operations in Germany, Italy and Sweden and two airlaid lines in Tianjin, China.

Overnight, the sale transformed Fiberweb from a major player in the hygiene market into a streamlined company heavily focused on specialty materials and bringing innovation to market.

"This has absolutely been the right strategy for us," Dayan says. "It has led to better differentiation by working with the customers on what they need. This is the journey we are on. It's not unique but it's absolutely the right strategy."

In June 2013, Fiberweb continued to divest its hygiene assets, selling a specialized resin-bond hygiene line at Terno d'Isola in Italy to Fitesa for [euro]3 million. The sale, which had been planned for some time, will reduce second half 2013 sales by [eoro]3.5 million, according to the company.

Even as the strategy toward specialty materials continues to pay off, Dayan says he would like to see faster growth in filtration and some other specialty areas like composites and digital printing. "We would like to see quicker getting innovation to market. We have some great projects underway but it takes a long time to get it to market."

During the past 18 months, Fiberweb has made several investments to help it achieve its goals. These include the expansion of a breathable film line in Aschersleben, Germany, which has allowed Fiberweb to expand its microporous film production for roofing and medical applications, a new air-through bonding line in Italy as well as a new needlepunch line in the U.K.

The new U.K. line features technology that has allowed Fiber-web to meet demand for heavier geotextiles while at the same time achieving greater flexibility than with spunbond. One example of a new product being made on the new line is a five-layer geocomposite for the rail industry that can be placed under high-speed lines in areas with clay subsoils.

"That is a good example of where we are listening to customers," he says. "The result is that we are seeing innovation on both sides of the business. There is a lot of stuff in filtration and composites for technical fabrics in our pipeline."

If there is one area where the new Fiberweb is a little behind its former self is in its global footprint. Before the sale to Fitesa, Fiberweb had a strong Asian presence with a large airlaid operation in China. Today, its only real Asian operation is Terram, a joint venture within the geotextiles market in Gujarat, India. In July, Fiberweb announced it had increased its stake in the venture from 26% to 65% to enable expansion at the plant with the addition of a value-added manufacturing line. The investment was valued at [euro]2 million.

Terram India was started in 2012 with a geotextile spunbond line relocated from Fiberweb's Terram operations in the U.K. The unique Terram spunbond process produces strong, lightweight geotextiles and has long been a key component in many leading geocomposites, being utilized as a trusted element in road, rail and building foundations, as well as many other construction projects. According to Fiberweb, the line is currently supplying Fiberweb in the U.K. along with several Fiberweb customers in the Middle East, South America, Asia and Africa and is well placed to deliver strategic benefit from the growing Indian market.

Beyond India, Fiberweb is looking at other areas for expansion, particularly in other emerging markets, but decisions on where to go will not be made lightly.

"Wherever we go we would like to have a close to leadership position in some areas of the industry," Dayan says. "We are not satisfied with a me-too presence and we would rather be a leader where we can differentiate ourselves."

11. TWE Group

Emsdetten, Germany

www.twe-group.com

2012 Nonwoven Sales: $400 million

Key Personnel

Warnier Wim, CEO; Ortmeier Jorg, COO

Plants

Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, China

Processes

Air through bonded, chemical bonded, needlepunch, hydro entangled (spunlace)

Major markets

Hygiene, medical, automotive, filtration, building and construction, cleaning wipes, bedding and furniture, apparel

The big news from the TWE Group this year is the company's acquisition of the Libeltex business formerly owned by the Vita Group. In September 2012; the German company purchased the group, including its plants in France, Beltgium and Sweden, to help expand its footprint in the European nonwovens market.

"The integration of Libeltex has been seamless," says CEO Wim Warnier. "It's been a good cultural fit. Both companies were active in mostly the same types of markets but we complemented each other geographically. We actually created the business unit structure, which helped us to integrate management teams."

These seven teams, including hygiene, medical, automotives, filtration, building and construction, cleaning wipes and comfort (bedding, furniture and apparel), decide on market product focuses independently of where they are produced.

The Libeltex acquisition also expanded TWE's scope. Before Libeltex, TWE, with four sites in Germany and one in China, was heavily focused on Germany and Asia, whereas Libeltex expanded the focus into France, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

"We saw the Libeltex purchase as a way to become a truly international player in the nonwovens industiy," Warnier says.

Meanwhile, the group's operation in Hangzhou, China continues to perform well, largely reporting 7-8% market growth. Currently active in hygiene, medical and automotive markets in China, the company has been investing in new machines and technologies since establishing the operation in 2007 and the company plans to decide on investment elsewhere in Asia.

About half of the group's sales are now conducted within the hygiene market where the company is a leading manufacturer of acquisition and distribution layer materials for baby diapers, feminine hygiene items and adult incontinence products.

"The advantage we have is that we have some innovations that lead clear trends in the market," Warnier says. "The market is looking for thinner diapers and better performing feminine care and adult incontinence products as well as softer top and backsheets."

The company's Slimcore product, developed by Libeltex and introduced in 2012, is becoming more standard in core materials that go into baby diaper. The through-air bonded ADL material features a multi layer that can be used in any fluff versus super-absorbent polymer ratio.

Also strong on TWE's radar is automotives, which represents about 15% of turnover. Here, the group sees a lot of potential as nonwovens continue to replace materials in more parts of the car. TWE is able to offer OEMs many products on a global scale.

12. Bonar

Arnhem, The Netherlands

www.bonar.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $379 million

Key Personnel

Orwig Speltdoorn, managing director EMEA; Bart Austin, managing director NAFTA; Gareth Kaminski-Cook, managing director APAC; Marc Krauth, global business director, Interior & Transportation; Clark Halladay, Global Business Director Building & Industry; Orwig Speltdoorn, Global Business Director Civil Engineering; Wayne Currie, Group HSE Director.

Plants

Belgium (Lokeren and Zele); Germany (Gross Ippener and Obernburg); Hungary (Tiszaujvaros); the Netherlands (Arnhem and Emmen); USA (Asheville NC); joint ventures in China (Jiangsu) and Saudi Arabia (Yanbu).

Processes

Extruded, spunbond, thermal bonded and specialties, needle-punched staplefiber, woven, 3-dimensional polymeric mats

Brands

Adfil; Bontec; BonarAgro, Colback; Enka Solutions (a.o. Enkamat, Enkadrain, Enkagrid, Enka-Spacer, Enka-Channel, EnkaRetain & Drain); Tipptex; Xeroflor.

Major Markets

Agro; Building; Civil Engineering; Construction; Flooring; Filtration; industry; Interior; Roofing; Transportation.

During 2012 Low & Bonar, a multinational group of producers and suppliers of performance technical textiles operating worldwide merged its two major businesses within its Performance Technical Textiles division: Colbond and Bonar Technical Fabrics.

In January 2013, the merged business was rebranded 'Bonar'. Bones goal is to leverage its successful European business and expertise in other regions and this organizational change is designed to accelerate this development and put it on a clear path to globalization.

During the year the division increased its capabilities, particulaly in sales and marketing, and the company says this will also be a feature of the coming year as it invests in resources to build a more effective, globally present business.

Bonar serves the agro, building, civil engineering, construction, flooring, filtration, interior, industrial, roofing and transportation sectors through five companies: Bonar, with operations in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S.; Bonar Geosyn thetics in Hungary; Bonar Xeroflor in Germany; Yihua Bonar in China; and Bonar Natpet in Saudi Arabia.

The company's production facilities are based in Belgium, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, UK, U.S. and through joint ventures in China and Saudi Arabia.

Total turnover of Bonar in "2012 was $379 million. Results were in line with the company's expectations and growth was achieved in all segments.

Underlying sales to the building products, flooring and industrial sectors, which together represent more than 50% of sales, all grew strongly. Building products advanced 15%, including a maiden contribution from the Xeroflor acquisition, which contributed approximately half of this improvement. Growth in the U.S. was reported strong, supported by a modest recovery in the residential housing market and new product introductions, while sales in Europe were mixed.

Bonar reported that a strong performance in niche sectors, notably green roofing, more than offset a softening in demand for more traditional commercial building roofing products. The flooring sector had another good year, advancing 8%. Sales in the U.S. and Asia grew strongly with European sales stable. The company says sales also continue to benefit from the increasing preference for tiles in commercial flooring installations, with the business also enjoying some success in penetrating new application areas of the flooring market. Sales in the industrial sector improved by 9%, with agrotextile applications the strongest performers. New products were launched in both the screens and groundcover niches and the initiative to build sales outside of the dominant Dutch market was successful.

The civil engineering sector had a mixed year. Underlying sales were at the same level as a strong 2011, which delivered 20% growth. Sales of geotextiles and construction fiber products grew well; however, a reduction in tunneling projects adversely impacted sales of other geosynthetic products. Sales improved markedly from a small base in the U.S. and the company says it is reviewing options to be a more significant player in this region. The European market was tougher, particularly in the second half of the year when demand softened in some construction sectors.

The commissioning, in the coming year, of our geotextile joint venture plant in Saudi Arabia will be a catalyst for accelerating growth in this attractive region. Transportation sales were below target. The recovery in the US market was largely in low-to-mid-end platforms where our products are not specified and, in Europe, sales suffered from some destocking and premium brand platform transitions.

Bonar seeks to accelerate its expansion into markets, which have the opportunity to grow faster than the global average and build a global business. Geographically these include Asia, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and South America, where industrialization, urbanization, and high infrastructure expenditure are driving growth.

In 2012 Bonar completed its investment in a joint venture, Bonar Natpet, with National Petrochemical Industrial Company (NATPET) in Saudi Arabia. The joint venture will supply geotextiles to the fast growing Middle East and Indian subcontinent civil engineering markets.

The acquisition of Xeroflor in March 2012 has improved the company's access to the fast growing green roofing market, complementing the range of products that Bonar sells into that market.

Also in terms of future expansion, Asia Pacific is one of the regions high on Bonar's radar. It opened a sales office in June in Shanghai as well as a distribution warehouse in July.

On the new product front, the Bonar Research, Development & Innovation (RD&I) team has developed a range of flame retardant screens, under the PhormiTex name, to counter the risk of greenhouse fires caused by the increased use of electrical equipment to control heating and lighting in greenhouse horticulture. PhormiTex screens combine the proven qualities of Bonar screens with a certified fire performance under German and European standards.

Colback Profloor, an innovative extension to the Colback range, was launched at the 2012 Domotex international flooring trade show in Hanover. Colback Profloor is based on a new polymer composition that eases the creation of complex tuft constructions, thereby improving the appearance of carpets and giving superior dimensional stability to the finished carpet tiles. The product is the result of a significant RD&I program carried out in cooperation with leading carpet tile producers.

13. Sandler or AG

Schwarzenbach/Saale, Germany

www.sandler.de

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $326 million

Key Personnel

Christian Heinrich Sandler, CEO; Dipl. Ingenieur (FH) Wolfgang Hoflich and Ulrich Hornfeck, members of the management board

Plants

Schwarzenbach/Saale, Germany

Processes

Carded, waddings and drylaid nonwovens, thermally bonded, mechanically bonded, meltblown, thermofused, needle-punched, air-through bonded, spunlaced, hotmelt and thermal lamination, coating and flexoprinting, embossing and aperturing, composites

Brands

sawafill, sawabond, sawaloom, sawavlies, sawaloft, sawaflor, sawatex, sawascreen, sawagrow, sandler sports, sawacomp, sawaflock, sawaform, sawalux, sawaflex, sawasoft, sawasorb, sawatec, sandier fibercomfort, sandler fiberskin, sander Unico, sawadur, sawadry, sawabond White Lace, sawabond Silver Lace, sawatex mariquita, sawatex orsettino, sawatex sea dwellers, bio textile by sandier, sawatex wipinator

Major Markets

Nonwovens for hygiene, medical, wipes (baby, cosmetic, technical, cleaning), automotive, filtration, technical nonwovens (civil engineering, technical insulation, environmental nonwovens) and home textiles

Continuing a growth trajectory begun six years ago, Sandler Nonwovens reported growth across all of its market segments in 2012 from hygiene and wipes applications to technical applications in the automobile, filtration, construction and technical insulation to nonwovens for home office and automotive acoustics. All told, sales reached [euro]247 million ($326 million).

A good deal of this growth can be attributed to growth in the spunlace, and by extension, wipes market. Sandler's third spunlace line came onstream in mid-2011 as part of a [euro]40 million investment that also included building a new plant to house the line. In addition to adding capacity, the new line has allowed Sandler to diversify its spunlace output.

Currently, the majority of Sandler's spunlace output is going into wipes, a market being described as stable, but new business opportunities are coming from areas like hygiene and technical applications.

Ulrich Hornfeck, member of the management board, says that wipes continue to be an important market for spunlace but new product development, both within and outside of the wipes market, is a strong focus for Sandler. "The new line allowed us to add a lot of new technologies and to really make our production process more flexible with more processes and more raw materials and more finishing techniques," he says.

As it diversifies its business to grow outside of wipes, Sandler continues to prove is expertise in wipes. In April 2013, the company was honored at the International IDEA 2013 show for its bio textile by Sandler. Developed in partnership with its raw material providers, bio textile by Sandler is a nonwoven substrate for baby care, cosmetics and cleaning wipes. Proving Sandler's commitment to sustainability, the nonwoven is made from 100% viscose fibers and is completely biodegradable.

This substrate was launched through Sandler's Less is Best to Nature motto, first introduced in 2008. This initiative focuses on lower basis weights in wipes applications while maintaining the same level of quality. The bio wipes substrate is equipped with a unique hydro-embossing design with elements illustrating the manufacturer's commitment to sustainability. Naturally, Sandler also offers established qualities for numerous applications including industry, household and all-purpose wipes for the varying demands of the wipes market. Various printing and embossing designs for wipes substrates and hygiene materials open up a range of possibilities for product differentiation.

Beyond spunlace, Sandler offers a broad spectrum of technologies, including carded, drylaid, thermal bonded, meltblown and needlepunch with which it targets a broad range of disposable and technical markets.

"We try to find the right balance between hygiene and technical," Hornfeck says.

This will in part be achieved through the addition of a new meltblown production line in Schwarzenbach/Saale, Germany. After an assembly time of only four months, Sandler launched the start-up phase of a new production line in November. The new investment was reported at [euro]6.5 million.

Currently, the line known as "VS 61" is already producing materials for commercial sales and enhances the nonwovens manufacturer's capacities for the production of meltblown media, which Sandler sells in highly efficient synthetic filter media applications. The new production line can process diverse thermoplastic raw materials and is equipped with different nozzle systems allowing it to create new and unique nonwoven structures for pleatable filter media for air conditioning systems and other applications. The latest Sandler materials set standards, particularly regarding processability and performance, according to the company. These nonwovens combine higher efficiency, accurate pleat geometry and pleatability that previously could not be achieved in synthetic plea table filter media.

14. Avgol Nonwovens

Tel Aviv, Israel

www.avgol.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $315 million

Key Personnel

Shlomo Liran, CEO

Plants

Tel Aviv, Israel; Mocksyille, NC; Jingmen, City, Hubei Province, China; Uzlovaya, Russia

Processes

Spunbond, meltblown, hydroentangled spunlace

Brands

Zebra, Ayspun, Avsoft

Major Markets

Hygiene, medical and construction

Sales decreased slightly for Israeli-based Aygol Nonwovens due to a decrease in the average selling prices of its nonwovens. The company, in tact, reported an increase in sales volumes in 2012 due to the start up of new plants in China and the U.S.

"Avgol has concluded a year of growth in its production capacity and an increase in the quantity of nonwoven fabrics that we sold to our customers compared to last year," says Shlomo Liran, Avgol's CE0. "Aygol continues to show an increase in sales compared to last year after neutralizing the volatility in the raw material prices throughout the year."

For the full year, sales decreased about 4.4% from $329 million to $315 million. Gross profit was $63.2 million, which declined due to low operating efficiency in the U.S.

Liran says, "Demand for our products continues to be favorable with many of the products and solutions that we offer to our customers being at the forefront of technology, an advantage that helped us considerably when working with our customers during a challenging year."

At the end of 2012, the controlling interest in Avgol changed when a new major shareholder, HFH International, took over the company from Israel Petrochemcial Enterprises.

With six older lines operating at its Israel headquarters, Avgol operates sites in North Carolina, China and Russia, from which it serves global hygiene markets. Recent investments include a fourth line in North Carolina and a third line in China and executives have hinted at the possibility of a second line in Russia where it began making nonwovens in Uzlovaya in late 2007 to better serve emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Ukraine and other "-stan" countries.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Avgol's fourth line began operation in Mocksville, NC in August 2012. The new line added 15,000 tons of capacity to the site. Combined with another 15,000 tons added in China around the same time, Avgol's capacity increased 30% in 2012 to reach 140,000 tons.

Avgol first entered the U.S. market in 2001 when it purchased an existing spunbond line from textile maker Unifi. The company has continuously added to the site since then, becoming a leading player in the hygiene market in the Americas. The Chinese site was started in 2005 as a joint venture agreement with Hubei Gold Dragon. A second line was added to the site in 2011.

Since the establishment of this Chinese arm, Avgol has invested heavily in new lines and steadily increased its ownership position in the company, which now stands at 83-84%. With the establishment of the third line, the site can make 40,000 tons of nonwovens per year.

"It should be noted that, coupled with the robust demands in China, we are beginning to see entry by global companies that are investing in the construction expansion of plants in China and we believe that we will be seeing increasing competition in this territory," Liran says. "Such competition will benefit the entire diaper industry operating in China and will deepen the penetration into additional population segments that have not been using diapers until now."

Beyond China and Russia, Liran admits his company is considering entering other areas that show similar levels of growth potential. These include India, where customers indicate that the market is expanding and a surge in growth is expected to occur soon due to a high infant population.

"Avgol's momentum in substantial strategic investments in new infrastructure last year with the establishment of two production lines in China and the U.S. will ensure the strengthening of Avgol's business and competitive positioning and improve profitability in coming years," Liran says. "Notwithstanding, the investment of some $52 million in the new production lines in 2011, Avgol's level of leveraging did not increase significantly and its strong and stable financial position will also enable the company to prepare for strategic moves in the market, if needed."

15. Hollingsworth & Vose Company

East Walpole, MA

www.hollingsworth-vose.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $305 million

Key Personnel

Val Hollingsworth, president and CEO; John Madej, CFO; Mike Clark, president, High Efficiency and Specialty Filtration; Mitch Bregman, president, Energy and Industrial Specialties; Josh Ayer, president, Engine and Industrial Filtration; Jochem Hofstetter, vice president and managing director, Europe, Middle East and Africa; John Zhang, vice president and managing director, Asia-Pacific; David von Loesecke, vice president international; Don Bockoven, vice president, Global Operations; john Fitzgerald, vice president and CTO; Ken Fausnacht, vice president, Human Resources

Plants

Apizaco, Mexico; Corvallis, OR; East Walpole, MA; Easton, NY; Floyd, VA; Greenwich, NY; Hatzfeld, Germany; Hawkinsville, GA; Kentmere, U.K.; Suzhou, China; West Groton, MA; Winchcombe, U.K.

ISO Status

Apizaco, Mexico, ISO-9001:2008; Corvallis, OR, ISO 9001:2008; East Walpole, MA, ISO 9001:2008; Easton, NY, ISO 9001:2008; Floyd, VA, ISO 9001:2008; Greenwich, NY, ISO 9001:2008; Hatzfeld, Germany, ISO 9001:2008; Hawkinsville, GA, ISO 9001:2008 and AS 9100C; Kentmere, U.K., ISO. 9001:2008; Suzhou, China, ISO 9001:2008; West Groton, MA, IS09001:2008; Winchcombe, U.K., ISO 9001:2008

Processes

Wetlaid, meltblown, carded thermal bonded (point and flat calendered), latex bonded, through-air bonded, needle-punched, thermal lamination, aqueous and solvent-based saturation, nanofiber-webs, composites, webs incorporating functional particles

Brands

AFM, AFN, AQF, AlphaPerm, AlphaSeal, Capaceon, Cycleguard, DynaSeal, EnergyGuard, EnergyGuard Plus, Fastock, HiPerm, HiPerm Plus, H2oudini, Hovomat, Hovotex, Inviscint, Magnaseal, NanoWave, Nanoweb, PerForm, PurePerm, Stitchbackers, Technostat, Technostat Plus, Unisorb, ValPac, ViaMat, WallTek

Major Markets

Engine and industrial filtration; high efficiency and specialty filtration; energy and industrial specialties

Established in 1843, Hollingsworth & Vose (H&V) is a family-run company and a global leader in the supply of advanced materials for filtration, battery separators and industrial applications. The company operates manufacturing sites and research centers in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

H&V's nonwoven revenues were $305 million in 2012, up slightly from $300 million the year before. Revenues were impacted positively by the company's ongoing slate of new products, solid performance of HVAC, power generation and certain liquid filtration market segments and offset by challenging clean room and commercial truck segments.

China continues to be an important market for H&V. Despite the current slowdown, H&V has plans for continued growth.

"The poor air quality in China is driving new HVAC filter standards aimed at improving IAQ by reducing the PM2.5 impact on humans," says John Zhang, president and managing director, Asia-Pacific. "H&V has actively worked with the China National Standard Committee and has been a key member for the publication of the new standard following the EN779:2012."

H&V's recent investment in an engine filter media production line in Suzhou demonstrates its commitment to the China market.

Moving forward, Zhang says the Asia Pacific region will continue to be a major part of H&V's global business. "Many of our global customers have established their operations in Asia and it is important that we follow the same movement with our presence in the region," he says. "Our Suzhou facility has played a critical role in realizing our strategy. We have been able to significantly grow our sales in the region in the last five years. Now we have sales offices and trading companies across Asia, which enable us to serve our customers better in both on-time delivery and product development for local demand."

The engine and industrial markets expect generalized growth in the second half of 2013, according to Josh Aver, president, Engine and Industrial Filtration. "Economists suggest that relative market weakness experienced in the first half of 2013 may continue in Europe and China through the end of the year," he says. "Specific weaknesses in mining and commercial trucks have largely been offset by continued growth in power generation."

H&V says the largest market drivers continue to be energy conservation, new emission regulations, health concerns and an increasing global need for more power.

H&V continues to invest in three areas: new production capacity to support global customers; new product development including increased testing capabilities; and improved product stewardship including environmental, energy, and safety standards.

"Demand for high efficiency and specialty filtration products in 2012 was lower than expected due to a slowdown in the Asia Pacific clean room market," says Mike Clark, president, High Efficiency and Specialty Filtration. "Growth in our other core segments such as HVAC, facemask, liquid and specialty filtration were in line with our expectations."

H&V's Advanced Fiber Nonwovens (AFN) segment focuses primarily on FRP (fiber reinforced plastic) and high performance composite materials. "We are focused on producing wetlaid nonwoven structures using fibers such as carbon, aramid/para-ara-mid, glass, ceramic, nickel coated carbon, and other exotic fibers," says Jim Vogt, marketing director, nonwovens. "Our concentration continues to target aerospace--military and civilian--and FRP applications for consumer products such as sports equipment and cell phones."

On the new product front, H&V recently launched the NanoWave product line, which was selected as the winner of the Roll Goods IDEA13 Achievement Award, making it the most innovative and successful new product in the nonwovens and engineered fabrics industry launched during the past three years in the roll goods category.

NanoWave is an extended surface area, multi-laver filtration media for HVAC applications. Using nano and coarse fiber layers, NanoWave delivers 2.4 times the surface area of normal flat sheet media. The waved nanofiber laver allows for maximum mechanical efficiency with very low resistance, while more than doubling dust-holding capacity compared to standard synthetic media. A green product, NanoWave is composed of one polymer and can be incinerated to regain energy. NanoWave pocket filters achieve the highest filtration performance and deliver superior air quality. Other uses for NanoWave include residential filtration, liquid filtration and gas turbine intake air filtration.

"NanoWave has received great support from our customers and the broader nonwovens industry as the winner of the IDEA13 Achievement Award for Roll Goods," says Clark. "We are planning to add NanoWave capacity in Europe to support the increasing market demand for this innovative product line."

H&V also continues to expand the deployment of another new product line, the fine fiber Nanoweb technology in both air and liquid applications.

In support of energy reduction, H&V's Technostat and its newest hydraulic products feature some of the industry's lowest pressure drops; which save customers energy and operating costs.

The company also continues to enable the newest fuel systems with a new line of more than 99% efficient fuel products and its Capaceon products help customers make smaller filters that meet the needs of the newest vehicles.

Coming down the product pipeline in 2013 H&V plans to launch several new high performance HVAC product lines.

16. Companhia Providencia

Parana, Brazil

www.providencia.com.br

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $273 million

Key Personnel

Herminio Freitas, president and CEO; Eduardo Feldmann, CFO; Alexandre Domeque, commercial director; Romeo Bregant, engineering and technology director, Fabio Kryzanovski, operational director

Plants

Sao Jose dos Pinhais-Parana, Brazil; Pouso Alegre-Minas Gerais, Brazil; Statesville, NC Processes: Spunbond, SMS, meltblown, laminated nonwovens, printed nonwovens

Brands

Kami, Protect, Protect Advanced, Protect Ultra, Kami-Soft

Major Markets

Medical, agricultural, furniture and bedding, towel and coverlet, hygiene, filtration, wipes

With a new line up and running and a steady rise in sales, Companhia Providencia, Sao Jose dos Pinhais, Brazil is poised for even further growth moving forward. The maker of spunmelt nonwovens reported a whopping 15.8% increase in sales in 2012, which was largely attributed to new investments both in Brazil and the U.S.

In March, the company completed work on its second U.S. line in Statesville, SC, a move that adds 20,000 tons of U.S. capacity and doubles the size of the site, which was opened in early 2011 as part of a move to boost Providencia's U.S. sales and alleviate the strain on the company's Brazilian operation.

According to the company, this latest line fulfills a need for high tech products destined to the disposable hygiene market including infant and geriatric diapers, sanitary pads and others and for medical use such as aprons and surgical fields. The line, which represents a $60 million investment and is known as Kami 13, was expected to reach its maximum capacity within six months, according to Herminio de Freitas, Companhia Providencia's CEO.

"We're optimistic with the business increase in the U.S.," Freitas says. "The evolution in our first line, inaugurated in January 2011, was very positive. Providencia has a total productive capacity of 140,000 tons of nonwoven/year."

Beyond the U.S. site, Providencia operates two sites in Brazil where it added its 11th line in Pouso Alegre in June 2012. This new line added 20,000 tons to the group's capacity and has been meeting domestic need in the disposable hygiene and medical products segment.

This line was the third at Providencia's Pouso Alegrea site, which is logistically well placed to receive raw materials and rapidly meet the needs of the customers. Elsewhere in Brazil, Providencia operates an eight-line site in Sao Jose dos Pinhais, which received an investment in the shape of a new line nearly every other year in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As the company continues to invest in Brazil and the U.S., South American sales continue to represent the lion's share of sales, with domestic sales comprising about 60% of Providencia's total revenues. This figure is expected to decrease as U.S. investments come onstream.

17 CECEP Costin New Materials Group

Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong

www.costingroup.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $256 million

Key Personnel

Chim Wai Shing (Jackson), CEO; Chan Kwok Yuen (Elvis), CF0

Plant Locations

Xinhua Industrial Garden Niancuopu, Longhu, Jinjiang, Fujian, China

Processes

Needlepunch, stitch-bonded

Major Markets

Filter material, Nonwovenfabric, Chemical fabric, home textile, textile materials etc.

CECEP Costin New Materials Group Ltd. is China's first nonwovens producer to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange's IPO Main Board. Described as "a pioneer in the nonwoven materials industry, committed to using advanced and innovative technology for the production of nonwoven materials," CECEP Costin is China's first nonwovens maker to receive the "carbon footprint" certificate, and is a SCS Recycled Environmental Protection certified enterprise, and entitled as Fabric China Pioneer Plant of Environmentally-friendly Filtering Materials, Top 500 Enterprises of Textile and Apparel Industry, Top 10 Enterprises of Tec-textile industry.

The company's headquarters is located in Hong Kong, its manufacturing base is located in Jinjiang City, Fujian province, and its industry consultation division is located in Beijing. In April 2012, the company joined CECEP, which is the only state-owned enterprise engaged in energy conservation and environment protection.

CECEP Costin's two pillar industries are the production of recycled chemical fiber using renewable materials and three-dimensional nonwoven materials through clean manufacturing processes.

The company has two first-class production lines for differential fiber, which consume 53,000 tons of solid plastic waste and produces 42,000 tons of functional polyester staple fiber annually. All products are made from recycled PET bottles and polyester waste. The main production process includes feeding, drying, high temperature extrusion by melting, spinning, condensing, storing, clustering, stretching, curling, relaxation heat setting, cutting and packaging. The quality of the variety of products is consistent and complete due to several technology patents in fiber development and the production of materials that are anti-UV, permanent antibacterial deodorant, antistatic, thermal with moisture-permeability electromagnetic radiation grade owned by CECEP Costin.

CECEP Costin's nonwoven materials segment operates 12 needle-punch lines and 17 stitchbonding production lines, which were supplied from German, Taiwanese and domestic suppliers. Together, these lines can produce 181 million yards of annual production capacity.

The group's production facility includs the world's most advanced equipment in the industrial filtration material industry, including two Dilo needlepunching lines, one fiberglass production line, one Bruckner thermal setting line, one Osthoff singeing line and two sets of automatic keilmann sewing lines, which combine for an annual production capacity of 21 million square meters of industrial filtration materials.

The group also has seven production lines for finishing process including thermal setting coating pigment, etc. with an annual treatment capacity of up to 80 million yards. The major production processes include bale-opening, blending, carding, crosslapping, needlepunching or stitch bonding calendering, winding and finishing processes. The company's manufacturing processes are transitive and can be assigned for different features and physical properties, require little labor and are effective in energy conservation and emission reduction.

18. Toray Advanced Materials Korea

Seoul, South Korea

www.torayamk.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $251 million

Key Personnel

Y.K. Lee, chairman and CEO; W.C. Hwang, vice president/head of fiber division; Hitoshi Takeuchi, senior director/fiber division; W.S. Chun, senior director/fiber division; J.N. Kim, president of TPN; Y.K. Kim, president of TPJ

Plants

Korea, China, Indonesia

Processes

Spunbond PP (SS, SSS, SMS, SSMMS, SMMMS, bicomponent), PET (embossed and needlepunched)

Brands

Livsen

Major Markets

Hygiene, medical, protective apparel, industrial specialties, agricultural, upholstery, filtration, construction, geotextiles

Continuing its aggressive Asian expansion plan is Toray Advanced Materials Korea (TAK). The Seoul, Korea-based company most recently announced it would add the fourth spunbond Line in Nantong, China to help sate demand for disposable baby diapers in China, which is being driven by an improvement in people's lifestyles. The new spunbond line will be a polypropylene-based SSSS spunbond line capable of making 20,000 tons of material per year.

Including this new line, announced in June, the company's total Chinese output will amount to 78,000 tons on four production lines. Toray already operates a three-line site in Nan tong, which was established in 2006 and expanded twice, once in 2010 and again in 2012.

"Our spunbond business in China is one of the most successful overseas businesses for Toray Group," says deputy general manager of TAK's fiber marketing team, Evan (S.Y.) Lee. "We started the third Chinese line in August 2012 and it is nearly fully operational with strong partnerships. Through this investment, we are continuing to hold a leading position as the most advanced polypropylene spunbond maker in China."

The Chinese operation is being complemented by a new operation in Tangerang, Indonesia, where a 20,000-ton spunmelt line began operating in June 2013. This new investment not only increased capacity but also broadened TAK's footprint in Asia, allowing the company to supply all of Asia more easily and effectively.

Lee says it's the company's goal to continue to be a leading spunbond maker in Asia and the company will continue to expand its spunbond business in China, Indonesia and one other unnamed Asian country.

"We have proceeded with the continuous and planned investment in the Asian market with full consideration before the decision," Lee says. "But, we worry about the current oversupply situation due to over investments in a short period in certain areas even though the market is growing. There is not much differences between nonwoven suppliers because of similar machines used and manufacturing processes utilized. This can be negative and hinder proper profit management for growth."

A subsidiary of Japan's Toray Group, Toray was centered solely in Korea before expanding into China and later Indonesia in the mid-to-late 2000s. In recent years, investment in polypropylene-based spunmelt lines for the Korean hygiene market has slowed but the company added a second polyester line there last year to supply geotextile markets.

"We are seeing more growth in demand for high functional nonwovens in industrial applications such as automobiles and filters and construction in Korea and Japan, where diaper penetration in these countries is nearly 100%," Lee says.

19. First Quality Nonwovens

Great Neck, NY

www.firstquality.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $250 million

Plants

Hazleton, PA; McElhattan, PA; Wuxi, China

Processes

Spunmelt, spunlace

Applications

Hygiene, medical

First Quality Nonwovens started off 2013 with a new production site in Wuxi, China. The U.S.-based maker of spunmelt nonwovens announced in 2010 it would establish a Chinese nonwovens operation in Wuxi to better serve customers in the Asian hygiene market. The new line, described as a multibean Reifenhauser machine incorporating the latest technology available, will allow First Quality to provide premium nonwoven material to hygiene and medical markets in China and throughout the Asia-Pacific.

In announcing the new site, First Quality reported it would eventually house two lines but so far details on the second line have not been announced.

According to executives at the tight-lipped nonwovens producer, which also makes diapers, feminine hygiene items and other consumer goods for the private label market, the company's investment in China is a clear demonstration of its commitment to the global nonwovens industry and its dedication to satisfying the needs of the domestic Chinese market by providing innovative and high quality products.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Great Neck, NY-based company is said to make about 100,000 tons of spunmelt nonwovens at two plants in Pennsylvania. Much of this output supplies First Quality's massive private label business; which includes the former Covidien/Tyco diaper business purchased by the company in 2008, as well as its own interests in the private label feminine hygiene and adult incontinence market. As First Quality continues to vie for a top spot in the disposable diaper market, it is unclear how much of its new Chinese investment will feed an expansion of its consumer products into Asia.

In other news, First Quality began making spunlaced nonwovens last year on a 3.6-meter-wide Rieter hydroentanglement line, which will reportedly feed its private label baby wipes business. The company is said to be adding a second line to this operation already. First Quality had previously concentrated its nonwovens business only on spunmelt technology. The company's eighth spunmelt line was added in late 2008.

Beyond nonwovens, in August 2010, the company's baby care arm, First Quality Baby Products, LLC, said it would modernize its absorbent hygiene manufacturing facilities in Macon, GA, which was acquired with the Covidien deal.

Within the company's adult care business, First Quality has teamed up with Healthcare Academy to introduce a quality management initiative for long-term care facilities. The concept behind this initiative is to deliver an integrated approach with a low fee that is cost effective and results in management efficiency and consistency.

20. PEGAS NONWOVENS

Znojmo, Czech Republic

www.pegas.cz

2012 Nonwoven Sales: $248 million

Key Personnel

Frantisek Rezac, CEO; Frantisek Klaska, technical director; Marian Rasik, CFO

Plants

Znojmo and Bucovice in Czech Republic; Egypt

Processes

Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, bicomponent

Major Markets

Hygiene, agriculture, healthcare, ecology, furniture, building, protective apparel, industrial

As its new Egyptian line, the company's first foreign investment, gains steam, Pegas Nonwovens, Europe's largest nonwovens producer for the hygiene segment, reports that sales increased 13.2% to [euro]187.7 million ($248 million) in 2012, due to the installation of a new production line in Znojmo, Czech Republic, which came onstream in mid 2011. At the same time, earnings rose 5.7% due to the new production line, which offset lower than planned production volumes and an increase in electricity prices. Additionally, the impact of polymer price volatility on the full year 2012 ended up being negative, says CEO Fran tisek Rezac.

With nine lines in the Czech Republic, as well as one starting up in Egypt, Pegas manufactures spunmelt nonwovens, largely for the hygiene market. Up until the Egyptian investment, much of the company's sales were targeted in the greater European market but this is expected to shift moving forward as the new line broadens its scope in North Africa and the Middle East and other markets.

"We consider the investment in Egypt to represent an important milestone, which moves the company forward from its current position as a major European nonwoven textile manufacturer to that of becoming a company with a more global scope of operation and with a focus on fast growing developing markets," Rezac says.

Currently, 46% of sales are conducted in Western Europe while sales to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia represent 49% of sales. Sales outside of these regions amounted to 5%.

Pegas' new Egyptian line, which was announced in June 2011 based on a long-term delivery agreement with one of its customers, adds 20,000 tons to the company's global footprint. Located near Cairo, in an area that has escaped much of the political unrest that has plagued Egypt this year, the new investment was valued at [euro]64-67 million. In announcing the new line two years ago, executives said they would ultimately add a second line to this site in 2015-2016 but so far no firm plans have been announced.

Rezac says the company will take its experience in Europe and parlay it into a successful operation in North Africa. "Pegas has in-depth knowledge and know-how in the business environment in the Czech Republic and Europe as a whole," he says. "Indeed the new localization of a production facility outside the Czech Republic has brought new challenges. We identified several key areas where we need to focus our efforts and we believe that our experienced management team will deal with all potential issues and the project will be successful."

Even as it focuses on new investments, its main operation in the Czech Republic has not been ignored. The site's ninth line, a Reicofil 4 Special line, came onstream there in the second half of 2011 and represents the most advanced technology Pegas has to date. "Currently, this line represents the most advanced technology that Pegas has at its disposal and confirms our position as one of the technological leaders in the nonwoven textile production sector," Rezac says. "Apart from increasing our production capacity of ultralight materials, this technology makes it possible for us to offer our customers new bicomponent nonwovens."

The ninth line added 20,000 tons to Pegas' operation, much of which will comprise ultralight materials, new bicomponent applications and other advanced materials.

21. Fibertex Personal Care

Aalborg, Denmark

www.fibertexpersonalcare.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $235 million

Key Personnel

Mikael Staal Axelsen, group CEO; Mette Due Sogaard, CTO, Denmark; Anders Sogaard, COO, Denmark; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, CCO, Denmark; Claus Syanberg, CFO, Denmark; Peter Andersen, CEO, Malaysia; Peter Bach Sigvardt, COO, Malaysia; Ong Soo Fen, CFO, Malaysia

Plants

Three lines in Denmark, three in Malaysia

Processes

Spun bond/spunmelt

Brands

Comfort, Elite, Dual

Major Markets

Hygiene--applications within baby diapers, feminine care and adult incontinence

Exansion in Asia continues to be a focus for Fibertex Personal Care. Not only is the Aalborg, Denmark company increasing its Malaysian capacity by 30%, it has established sales offices in India and Japan to strengthen its presence in these markets. With production sites in Malaysia and Denmark, the company, which split from its technical business in early 2011 to become a company solely focused on hygiene, sells its products all over the world with a main emphasis on Europe and Asia.

A major maker of spunmelt nonwovens primarily for hygiene applications, Fibertex Personal Care operates six production lines, three in Denmark and three in Malaysia. In sync with its production footprint, Fibertex Personal Care reports that the bulk of its sales are to major international producers of diapers and other hygiene products located in Europe and Asia.

In spring 2012, the company announced it would add a fourth line in Malaysia, increasing that site's capacity by 30% to 70,000 tons by the end of 2013. This $50 million investment comes not long after the completion of a third line, which added 22,000 tons of capacity to the site.

"We have been experiencing great growth in Asia, that is for sure," says group CEO Mikael Staal Axelsen. "It's not just in Malaysia. We are seeing success in Japan, Australia, India, the whole region."

Fibertex Personal Care began production in Malaysia in 2003 and soon added line number two in 2005. These investments have been credited with driving the company's sales forward in recent years. To date, the company has no plans to add a production facility elsewhere in Asia, saying ills successful enough targeting the entire region for the Malaysian site.

"We have no plan to build elsewhere in Asia," Axelsen says. "Of course, there is a new line coming in India from Global Nonwovens and everyone is looking, there but China is crowded with companies and that is why we are not there."

Overall, Fibertex Personal Care's sales increased 11% to reach DKK1.459 billion ($254 million) in 2012 and growth was largely attributed to the full utilization of the third Malaysian line. The company expects sales to continue this upward trajectory in 2013 and receive a significant boost once line number four in Malaysia comes onstream in late 2013, boosting that site's capacity by 30%.

Fibertex Personal Care began making spunmelt nonwovens in 1997 when it was still known simply as Fibertex and also contained an industrial-centered division. In 2010, Fibertex separated its hygiene-related assets from its industrial side, creating two distinct companies, Fibertex Personal Care and Fibertex Nonwovens. Both companies continue to be owned by Schouw & Co.

Since entering the spunmelt market, Fibertex has attributed its impressive level of growth to maintaining strong professional relationships with its customers and this strategy has resulted in a number of awards and distinctions from key customers. The most recent of the were a Supplier of the Year award from Ontex, the Belgium private label hygiene products maker, which was awarded in June, and the Procter & Gamble External Business Partner award in September 2012.

Looking ahead, Fibertex will continue to focus on maintaining earnings by optimizing production lines, maintaining high operational efficiency and ensuring high capacity utilization.

"The focus will be on growing our sales to sell the new capacity in Malaysia," Axelsen says. "For sure, we will continue to grow."

22. Buckeye Technologies

Memphis, TN

www.bkitech.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $228 million

Key Personnel

Marko Rajamaa, senior vice president, nonwovens; Michael Brown, nonwovens sales manager--Americas and Far East; Norbert Busch, nonwovens sales manager--Europe and Middle East

Plants

North Carolina; Steinfurt, Germany

Processes Airlaid

This will be the last year Buckeye will appear on its own in this report. In April 2013, the company announced it would be acquired by Georgia-Pacific, also a major player in the airlaid nonwovens and pulp markets, and this deal was approved as a merger agreement by stockholders in August.

Upon closing of the transaction, Buckeye will become an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Georgia-Pacific. Buckeye stockholders will receive $37.50 per share in cash.

"This transaction enables our stockholders to realize significant value, while also representing an important next step in the growth of Buckeye Technologies," says John Crowe, chairman and CEO. "We are pleased that Georgia-Pacific recognizes the significant value of our company's special and unique assets, talented employees, and research and development capabilities. Georgia-Pacific's acquisition of Buckeye will provide our company and our employees with exciting future growth opportunities. We will continue to execute on our business plan in partnership with a committed new owner that has a long history of delivering superior business performance through its dedication to operational excellence and innovation."

During the year ended June 30, 2013, Buckeye reported its nonwovens sales decreased from $239 million to $228 million due to the sale of the company's Merfin Converting business in January 2012. Operating income nearly doubled from $11 million to. $22 million thanks to a large reduction in fixed manufacturing costs from the closure of Buckeye' Delta, B.C. airlaid facility in December 2012.

Buckeye announced it would close the Delta site in June 2011, saying it no longer made sense to operate the facility because of its unfavorable location relative to customers and raw material suppliers as well as low capacity utilization. In 2010; Buckeye consolidated the site by closing one of its two lines but this measure failed to make the facility cost efficient.

Output at the Delta site has been transferred to Buckeye's two existing sites--one in North Carolina and one in Steinfurt, Germany.

23. Japan Vilene

Tokyo, Japan

www.vilene.co.jp

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $209 million

Key Personnel

Toshio Yoshida, president; Yoshiaki Mizutani, managing director; Masahiro Kimura, director'Tomo Kawamura, director

Plants

Shiga, Tokyo

Processes

Resin bonded, needlepunched, thermal bonded, wetlaid, spunlaced, meltblown, tackspun

Major markets

Apparel interlinings, apparel insulations, air filters, plaster bases, automotive mats, automotive headliners, battery electrode separators

Reporting increases across several segments was Japan's largest nonwovens producer Japan Vilene. The Tokyo-based company says its sales rose in apparel and medical, electricity and industrial and automotive materials while sales within the air filtration market were down.

In regional terms, sales decreased in Japan but increased significantly in both Asia and North America. North American sales particularly' increased 37% due to the formation of Vitech Manufacturing, an automotives material manufacturing business formed in partnership with Freudenberg, the world's largest producer of nonwovens and a long time Vilene partner.

Sales in apparel and medical were driven by increased production of the epithem medicine base cloth overseas while electrical and industrial materials sales were boosted by increased battery separator sales. Automotive sales benefited from increased floor mat sales as well as increased use of Vilene products in ceiling facing materials. Vilene is also hoping to grow sales in this division through the establishment of an automotive mat manufacturing facility in Thailand, which will sell materials not only within Thailand but also throughout Southeast Asia.

To help it boost sales in the faltering air filtration market, Vilene acquired shares of Oshitari Labs, a manufacturer of filters for industrial air conditioning units. 24.

24. Asahi Kasei

Osaka, Japan

www.asahikasei.co.jp

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $201 million

Key Personnel

Katsuhiko Hinamoto, general manager, nonwoven fabrics; Hiroshi Maruo, general manager, spunbond fabric sales; Yasurnasa Shii, general manager, Bemliese sales

Plants

Moriyama and Nobeoka, Japan

Processes

Spunbond, meltblow

Brands

Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Smash, Precise

Major markets

Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packings, white blood corpuscle removing filters

Asahi Kasei makes 13,000 tons of SMMS nonwovens, 3,000 tons of polypropylene spunbond, 5500 tons of polyester spunbond, 3500 tons of nylon spunbond, 4500 tons of Cupra spunbonded nonwovens, 2000 tons of Compound spunbond and 200 tons of meltblown nonwovens per year.

The company established a Thailand site in November 2012 and expects the new line, with a capacity of 20,000 tons per year, to reach a sold-out status by the end of 2013. Materials made in Thailand are used for the topsheet and backsheet of the diaper, a field where Asahi Kasei can be competitive due to its proprietary technology.

Another area of focus for Asahi Kasei has been in nanofiber nonwovens, which it manufactures through cellulose nanofiber and meltblown methods. As for the cellulose nanofiber nonwovens, the fiber diameter is 30-100 nm, the mass per unit is 3-20 gsm and the thickness is 7-80 microns.

According to the company, these materials can be used in filters, battery separators and medical applications. One specific area of success has been in the filter market where Asahi Kasei makes its own cartridge filter with meltblown nonwovens of less than one micron in fiber diameter. This cartridge is sold under the brand name Eutec Nano.

25. Union Industries

Masserano, Italy

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $189 million

Key Personnel

Matteo Moltrasio, vice president; Luigi Cassano, managing director; Alessandro Taramasso, commercial director

Plants

Masserano and Biella, Italy

Processes

Spunbond, spunmelt, carded, thermal bonded, apertured Brands: Spundouce

Major Markets

Hygiene, medical, wipes, agricultural, industrial

Volumes rose 7% at Italy's Union Industries in 2012 due to a better optimization and a full allocation of its production lines. The company has a production capacity of 84,000 tons of nonwovens in Masserano, Italy. Sales were reported at [euro]142 million ($189 million).

With no new investment since 2010 when a 24,000-ton spunmelt line was added, Union has more recently been focusing on specialties and innovation in the face of a European market defined by overcapacity and reduced consumption, according to president Matteo Moltrasio. These efforts have been rewarded with the development of a new substrate featuring increased softness and texture for the hygiene market, where Union does about 80% of its business. The commercialization of the new material is starting now.

Other efforts have centered on new grades of apertured nonwovens for new applications, which became available in the second quarter of this year and the company is reporting more activity within the medical market.

"We have as well undertaken initiatives for the medical sector which we see more and more of interest," Moltrasio says.

26. Mitsui Chemicals

Tokyo, Japan

www.mitsui.co.jp

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $183 million

Key Personnel

Kensaku Takahashi, general manager, spunbond fabrics division

Plants

Yokkaichi and Iwakuni, Japan

Processes

spunbond, meltblown, needlepunch, thermal bonded

Brands

Tafnel, Synetx, Syntex Nano

With a new line up and running in Japan and one under construction in Tianjin, China, Mitsui Chemicals' global spunbond capacity is going to surpass 94,000 tons by the end of the year. The company operates six lines in Japan, two in Thailand and will start its first Chinese line, able to make 15,000 tons of material, this month.

Currently, about 80% of Mitsui's output is geared toward hygiene applications while the remaining is sold into industrial markets. Within hygiene, Mitsui has an advantage over other nonwovens producers because it is also a major supplier of polypropylene and Mitsui makes its nonwovens using the highest grades of polypropylene, resulting in a soft and flexible product.

In addition to its spunbond business, Mitsui makes meltblown nonwovens with very low diameter, which are sold under the brand name of svntex Nano. Although the other nonwovens manufacturers make the meltblown nonwovens of 600 nm, Mitsui is the first company to make them with a 300 nm. These products have been used liquid filtration media.

27. Jacob Holm Industries

Basel, Switzerland

www.jacob-holm.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $171 million

Key Personnel

Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Stephen Landon, president and COO; Finn Schoning, group controller; Alexis Porcher, global commercial manager; Richard Knowlson, vice president product development; Ginny Casstevens, vice president, sales and new business development, Americas; Jeff Sellers, vice president, operations and procurement, USA

Plants

Asheville, NC, U.S., and Soultz, France

Processes

Hydroentangling/Spunlace

Brands

Lidro, Rough N Soft, TAU

Major Markets

Personal care, home care, hygiene, medical, packaging, specialty and technical industrial applications

Sales decreased at Jacob Holm Industries in 2012. The reduction reflects lower raw material costs, changes in product mix and varying exchange rates, according to president and COO, Steve Landon.

"Margins in key segments were broadly in line with the prior year and lines remained full in 2012, operating on a 24/7 basis throughout the full year," he says.

Currently about 60-65% of Jacob 'Holm's overall capacity is sold into the global wipes market while the balance is primarily sold into the hygiene market for diaper components and feminine hygiene applications. While efforts to diversify beyond wipes have been strong in recent years, Holm continues to develop new products in its core wipes business. These include 100% synthetic wipes with an aperture or smooth surface for disinfecting applications, a variety of premium lightweight wipes that range from 30-40 gsm using specialty fibers and a new range of 100% cellulosic/sustain-able products.

Variety in raw materials has helped Jacob Holm in the global wipes market, which is still a growth market, albeit one with very pressurized margins, particularly in developed markets. Here, Jacob Holm's efforts have been recognized by wipes converter Rockline Industries, who honored the spunlace maker with its Supplier Innovation Award in 2011 and again in 2012.

While wipes undoubtedly remain a priority, Jacob Holm has expanded its processing capabilities beyond lightweight hygiene applications to develop mid- to heavyweight fabrics for industrial applications such as automotives, apparel and furniture, areas that have traditionally used needlepunch fabrics. In the lightweight hygiene category, Jacob Holm continues to push the lowest basis weight limits that spunlace can supply, continuing to target 20 gsm and lower, in order to compete with alternate nonwovens technologies while providing the same performance as heavier spunlace nonwovens.

Efforts like these have helped Jacob Holm continue to grow during the past several years without adding new capacity, Landon says. The company's most recent investment, a large line in North Carolina was added in 2006 and has been running at sold-out status for several years but to date the company has announced no final plans for a second line at the site.

28. Fibertex Nonwovens

Aalborg, Denmark

www.fibertex.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $161 million

Key Personnel

Jorgen Bech Madsen, CEO, Henrik Kjeldsen, CCO, Lars Bertelsen, COO, Henrik Eigenbrod, CFO, Keld Lauridsen, group R&D manager, Bjarne Knudsen, CEO, Czech Republic

Plants

Denmark, the Czech Republic, France and South Africa

Processes

Needlepunch, spunlace, impregnation, coating and a range of finishing technologies

Major Markets

Acoustics, automotive, bedding, composites, construction, filtration, flooring, furniture, geotextiles, home and garden, horticulture

Sales at Fibertex Nonwovens received a boost in 2012 due to the acquisition of French Tharreau Industries in May 2011 as well as a generally higher level of business activity across all of its business for much of the year.

Including the Tharreau business, which is now known as Fibertex Nonwovens S.A., Fibertex, based in Aalborg, Denmark, has operations in Denmark, the Czech Republic, France and South Africa and serves industrial markets like automotives, construction, filtration and geotextiles. The company was created in 2011 when it split from sister company, Fibertex Personal Care.

In the past couple of years, Fibertex Nonwovens has focused on broadening its global footprint. "We try to go where we see the right opportunities for growth," says Jorgen Bech Madsen, CE0. "And from there we adapt to competitive market situations."

The acquisition of Tharreau Industries reportedly generated: substantial synergies for both companies and has helped accelerate Fibertex Nonwovens' strategy of becoming a European market leader. The operation contains needlepunch and spunlaced nonwovens located in Chemille, France.

Fibertex Nonwovens has also looked to South Africa for growth. In January 2010, the company announced it had started a state-of-the-art needlepunch line in South Africa. The facility makes and markets needlepunch nonwovens, primarily geotextiles, for road construction as well as products for the growing South African automotives industry.

Since the site's establishment, most of Fibertex's efforts there have focused on building production and positioning the company in the marketplace. Demand has been ramping up, however, more recently, driven by a large number of infrastructure projects in South Africa and its neighboring countries. Also helping to boost his operation is the acquisition of the distributor Geotextil Africa in late 2012. This move is expected to boost both revenue and earnings in 2013.

In addition to operations in France and South America, Fibertex Nonwovens operates a sizable needlepunch center at its headquarters in Aalaborg, Denmark. En recent years, efforts have focused on modernizing these operations to increase both productivity and efficiency. The company also operates a Czech Republic operation, which was acquired from Vigona in 2008.

Key markets for Fibertex Nonwovens include automotives, construction, industrial, filtration and wipes. Throughout all of these markets, Fibertex has been focusing on increasing its earnings potential and improving the ratio between the price it pays for raw materials and the price it fetches for its products.

"We truly have improved out place in the European market," Bech says. "We are improving our earnings and we are passing through out raw material prices. We have a strong portfolio of products and we are working on growing sales in our more value added areas."

29. Gulsan

Gaziantep, Turkey

www.gulsan-group.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $160 million

Key Personnel

Mehmet Kuyucu, general manager nonwovens and films

Plants

Gaziantep, Turke and Cairo, Egypt

Processes

Spunbond

Major markets

Baby diapers, feminine hygiene, adult incontinence

New to this year's top company report is Gulsan Nonwovens. The maker of spunbond nowovens for hygiene applications is based in Gaziantep, Turkey and reportedly saw its sales hit [euro]120 million ($160 million) in 2013.

The increase came on the heels of the company's first foreign investment, a 4.2-meter, six-beam Reicofil 4 machine located in Cairo, Egypt. The new line, capable of making 20,000 tons of nonwovens came onstream in late 2012 and is expected to boost sales even further in 2013, according to Mehmet Kuyucu, general manager nonwovens and films.

"The decision to invest in Egypt supports future growth in the industry and the region and reinforces the company's position as one of the leading manufacturers of spunmelt materials in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)," he says.

Within Turkey, Gulsan operates two high capacity spunbond lines capable of making about 45,000 tons of nonwovens per year. The first was built in 2004 and the second followed in 2011. Kuyucu says the company is strongly focused on hygiene.

"With our advanced technology and experience, we produce high quality, ultra lightweight and diversified nonwoven fabrics for use in baby diapers, adult incontinence and femcare applications," he says.

Our entire building and production fields are designed to fully meet hygiene standards and produce in accordance with the EDANA norms. Our facilities are highly valued and approved by the global and local leading baby diaper manufacturers.

Gulsan, which prioritizes technology, quality and customer satisfaction has proven that it has the best service to baby diaper, adult incontinence and fern care industries in terms of its production capabilities and quality, Kuyucu says.

30. Georgia-Pacific

Atlanta, GA

www.gp.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $155 million

Plants

Green Bay, WI (two facilities)

Processes

Airlaid, carded

Brands

Airtex, Dritex

Major Markets

Baby wipes, industrial and food service wipes, feminine hygiene, absorbent cores, tabletop, medical, moist toilet tissue, meat packaging

After spending 2012 in divestment mode, Georgia-Pacific (GP) is poised to make a pretty significant investment later this year. In April, the company said it would acquire fellow player in the airlaid and pulp segments Buckeye Technologie. In August, the acquisition was approved as a merger by Buckeye shareholders, who will receive $37.50 per share under the terms of the agreement.

"Buckeye Technologies' competitive assets and capabilities strongly complement Georgia-Pacific's existing cellulose business and products. The talented employees, innovation capabilities, advanced technologies, and specialty fibers and nonwovens businesses of Buckeye Technologies will provide a significant platform for continued growth and success," says Jim Hannan, CEO and president, Georgia-Pacific.

On the nonwovens front, Buckeye will add manufacturing capabilities in North Carolina and Germany to G-P's existing business. Buckeye's total nonwovens sales were $228 million in 2012.

A maker of airlaid nonwovens for external and internal usage, GP sold its Italian tissue and airlaid buisnesses in January 2012 to the Lucart Group and finalized the sale of its European tissue business to SCA in 2012. Still, GP, which has been owned by Koch Industries since. late 2005, continues to operate a sizable business in North America.

While it is certainly best known for its paper and tissue businesses in both the retail and away-from-home sectors, the Atlanta, GA-based company also is one of the world's most successful users of airlaid technology. Its output targets both its own end product business as well as external businesses in the baby wipes, industrial and food service wipes, feminine hygiene, absorbent core, tabletop, medical, moist toilet tissue and meat packaging segments.

Meanwhile, GP's nonwovens business, which centers on airlaid technology, has continued to perform well by improving its production and reducing costs despite challenging raw material prices. The company benefited from existing contracts, put in place before raw material prices escalated, which kept their impact in check.

Additionally, GP has been successful in unearthing new market segments for its airlaid technology that had been using other materials. These markets were typically using technology that was more expensive than airlaid but the company was able to show how pulp can perform just as well at a lower cost, according to executives. Successful efforts included reduction in emissions, improved wastewater treatment systems and improved energy efficiency.

31. Tenowo GmbH

A company of Hoftex Group AG

Hof/Saale, Germany

www.tenowo.com

www.hoftexgroup.com

2012 Nonwoven Sales: $152 million

Tenowo Vittweica GmbH

Mittweida, Germany

Tenowo Reichenbach GmbH

Reichenbach, Germany

Tenowo Inc,

Lincolnton, NC, USA

Key Personnel

Harald Stini, managing director; Detlev Kappel, global sales director technical nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president--Tenowo Inc. NC/USA

Plants

Hof/Saale, Germany; Reichenbach, Germany, Mitweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC

Processes

Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace

Brands

Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Zetaloft, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint

Major Markets

Acoustics, automotive, filtration, roofing, industrial, composites, interlinings

The big news from the world's 31st largest nonwovens producer is its new name. Effective January 1, 2013 the "Eswegee" division of Textilgruppe Hof was renamed Tenowo GmbH while Textilgruppe Hof AG was renamed "Hoftex Group AG.

"The name change, which was not precipitated by any change in ownership, was intended to simplify the different names of its manufacturing locations and to follow the company's global approach and growth targets for the entire group, says managing director Harald Stini.

Speaking of a global approach, in 2012, Tenowo made a strategic decision to follow its customers in Asia. After serving the Asian market remotely for many years, Tenowo will establish a new plant in the Zhejian province of China beginning in 2014.

Technologies planned for the new site will largely target industrial markets, namely the automotives market, which has been a strong one for the company in recent years. This growth has been the result of a combination of economic recovery as well as successful new product introductions and increased market share.

"On the one hand, the economic environment, especially in the automotive area, provided room for further growth," says Stini. "On the other hand our corporate strategy in terms of investments, capacity expansions and global presence has paved the way in order gain more market share."

Other reasons for the company's success in 2012 were a strong customer commitment and close relationships across all markets.

But, amidst this success, challenges existed. These include the high demand from customers in the automotives arena as well as price pressure both at the OEM and Tier 1 level. However, the company managed together with its customers to achieve a win-win-situation by internal savings through higher productivity and alternative material solutions, according to global sales director of technical nonwovens, Detlev Kaeppel.

In fact, new products offered by Tenowo included lightweight needlepunched nonwovens for automotive applications and other industry markets such as filtration and construction. Additionally, Tenowo launched a new product group named "Zetaloft," which are highloft nonwovens targeting automotive and other industrial applications.

Within its spunlace operation, located in Reichenbach, Germany, Tenowo's specifically, designed products for industrial applications continue to be well accepted by the market and this line continues to run at full capacity.

"Due to our own tailor made machinery set-up, we are able to run a wide proliferation of products. The specific fiber orientation contributes to good coverage at low weights and enhanced acoustic properties, which is requested for the final automotive parts, "Kaeppel says.

While firm plans have yet to be made, a decision regarding expanding the company's spunlace operation, which it started in 2009, will likely be made by the end of the year. Additionally, the company continues to look at expansion possibilities across all of its businesses as all of its lines have been running at full capacity.

The other side of Tenowo's business, interlinings, has stabilized after facing years of competition from Asia and continues to be a strategic market segment for Tenowo. "Although market conditions for Europe are not very rosy, we are convinced it will play an important role in the future as not all demand can be covered by Asia, "Stini says.

Tenowo has an operation in India through a joint venture with Supreme Nonwovens.

The company's stitchbond specialsist Tenowo Mittweida GmbH has also been able to further develop its business across all market segments by wisely making investments and capacity expansions across all of its businesses--Malivlies, Maliwatt, Kunit and Multiknit--all at the right point in time. Some investments will overlap into 2013 and seem to fit perfect with new programs coming on-stream. The group's unique Multiknit technology is favored by many German automotives companies including BMW, Audi and Mercedes because they provide good air permeability, less fogging, a comfortable seating climate, recyclability and cost savings compared to other sandwich constructions.

To help further broaden its materials within automotives, Tenowo has developed a new product group that can be laminated under genuine leather and PUR artificial leather seats. Additionally, stitchbonded nonwovens for cable harnessing in automotive is another strategic market segment, where Tenowo products provide good abrasion resistance, acoustical and insulation features.

Back in the U.S., the group's North American division, now known as Tenowo Inc., based in Lincolnton, NC supplies thermal and acoustic componentry for the North American automotive industry. Automotive thermal and acoustic parts using Tenowo nonwovens provide effective noise reduction for a wide frequency range, superior appearance and excellent process capability when used in a wide array of different molding processes and when combined with various other materials.

New investment has led to better than 45% growth within the North American automotive business and demand for advanced thermal and acoustic componentry nonwovens continues to be strong in North America. Tenowo will continue to respond with major investments in additional capacity and new innovative products including a doubling of current production capacity within the next 18 months.

32. Andrew Industries

Manchester, U.K.

www.andrewindustries.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $150 million

Key Personnel

John Lewis, president, Southern Felt; Mike Konesky, vice president, sales and marketing, Southern Felt

Plants

South Carolina, U.K., China, India

Processes

Needlepunch, thermal bond, chemical finishes

Major Markets

Filtration, technical felts, laundry products

Sales remained flat for Andrew Industries as falling raw material prices: have lowered prices even as volumes have increased. At the same time, earnings met expectations but executives say it is becoming increasingly important to purchase wisely, lower manufacturing expenses and reduce waste.

"We are facing more and more competition from cheap imports that threaten our market and we must be diligent controlling costs, "says John Lewis, president' of Andrew's Southern Felt division.

Andrew's core market, the industrial air filtration market strengthened in 2012 compared to the prior two to three years as improvements in the domestic housing market drove demand for bag filters in the cement and asphalt industry, Lewis says. Additionally, strong demand for automobiles has given life to the steel and aluminum industries, driving demand for filtration.

According to Lewis, filtration continues to be important to his company.

"Southern Felt actively participates in other markets but we are focusing resources on new markets such as fire blocking and protective apparel," he says. "We feel these markets, offer the opportunity for niche products that we are capable of designing and manufacturing. Our core is filtration and will remain so while we diversify into other nonwoven fabrics for technical applications."

Andrew's U.S. division, Southern Felt, based in North Augusta, SC, commissioned a needlepunch line in September 2012, giving the division the ability to produce a full range of technical filtration needlefelts as well as other industrial felts. The new line has added six million square yards of capacity annually.

In other investment news, Southern Felt is actively pursuing specialized finished equipment needed for its Pleatloxx product line. This equipment will allow the company to penetrate the pleatable cartridge market with niche products.

Meanwhile, Bondex, Andrew's thermal bond business, has added new laminating and coating capabilities, giving the division better exposure in the electrical insulation market.

Looking eastward, China continues to be a rapidly growing market but also a competitive one. For success, Andrew, which is known in China as China Felt, has differentiated itself through innovative products, high quality felts and excellent customer service.

"Our high technical and commercial integrity also separates us from some of our domestic competitors and is required by multinational and large OEM and end user customers in China," Lewis says. "Yes, there is still growth potential in China as tighter environmental standards are put in action, thus creating more demand for industrial filter felts. We project growth being 5-6% annually for the next few years."

In India, Andrew India, where the company began a converting operation in 2012, is now operational, producing a full range of filter bags from both needlepunch felts and woven fiberglass. Lamination equipment has also been commissioned giving Andrew India the capability to offer ePTFE laminated felts, wovens, and spunbonds.

"There are tremendous growth opportunities in India due to massive growth in infrastructure throughout the country," Lewis says. "This internal growth, along with tighter emission standards, demand a high quality, reputable filter bag producer such as Andrew."

In the next two to three years, Andrew intends to add needlepunch manufacturing equipment in India but until then the site will be supplied by the Chinese operation.

Meanwhile, in China, Andrew expects its new spun lace line at its Wuxi facility to be operational in early 2014 when it will enable the company to offer new innovative high efficiency media.

33. Hassan Group

Istanbul, Turkey

www.hassangroup.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $147 million

Plants

Istanbul and Tekirdag, Turkey

Processes

Web Forming Technologies: airlaid, carded, spunlaid; Bonding Technologies: needlepunched, thermal bonded, air-through bonded, calender bonded, chemical bonded, resin bonded

Brands

Hygenius for ADL (acquisition distribution layer) from Merkas for baby diapers, sanitary napkins and adult incontinence products; Polybond spunbond

Lines

More than 15 nonwoven web forming lines and more than 50 converting and finishing lines, including several other extrusion, film and lamination lines in the group companies. Additionally, Hassan Group converts nonwoven waddings and interlinings in its own quilting and home textiles divisions. Trade, insurance and construction are other activities of Hassan Group.

Applications

Artificial leather (backing), automotive, carpet (underlay), construction (geotextiles), filtration, footwear, furniture and bedding, household (wipes), hygiene and medical, ready-to-wear, technical textiles, white goods (isolation)

Hassan Group's nonwovens operations serve European, Middle Eastern, African, South American and Russian markets. The company is divided into five roll goods producing companies (Siteks, Hassan, Telasis, Aksis and Merkas), which together produce nearly 100,000 tons of nonwovens per year, as well as three converter companies (Haspas; Catsis and Pe'sail).

Concerning roll goods production, Siteks, founded in 1980, produces 50,000 tons of nonwovens per year, with a range of 200-3000 gsm in cut sheets, rolls and die cuts. Hassan, founded in 1985, produces 20,000 tons per year, with a range of 50-2,500 gsm in cut sheets; rolls and die cuts. Founded in 1995, Telasis currently produces 12,000 tons of nonwovens per year, offering 10-80 gsm in rolls. Aksis. (2010) produces 6000 tons of spunlaid nonwovens per year (9-150 gsm in rolls).

Lastly, Merkas, which is one of Hassan Group's latest investments having begun production in 2011, produces 9000 tons of air-through bonded nonwovens with a range of 25-120 gsm in slitted or spooled rolls. The company uses the through-air bonding process to manufacture high loft nonwovens to be used as acquisition distribution layer (Surge Layer) and top sheets in the production of baby diapers, sanitary napkins and adult incontinence products.

Hassan Group's history can be traced back to nonwoven cotton wadding production in the 19305. In 1992 the group entered the hygiene industry when it began manufacturing household use nonwoven cleaning cloths. In 1995, it expanded its production to include carded and thermal-bonded nonwovens; the softness and performance of which are especially important in the production of baby diapers, sanitary napkins and adult incontinence products. In 2007, the group began manufacturing breathable and non-breathable nonwoven laminated films for the hygiene and medical industries. In 2010, Hassan Group invested in spunbond nonwoven technologies, thus establishing Turkey s first integrated spunbond, film and lamination facilities.

In 2011, Hassan Group strengthened and diversified its place in the hygiene industry by introducing the Hygenius brand high loft nonwovens along with its through-air bonded soft top sheet manufacturing capabilities; another first in Turkey.

With state-of-the-art technology and a high level of experience, Hygenius nonwovens provide best-in-class volume and fiber structure to assure optimal fluid management for excellent dryness.

Hygenius products can be delivered in pancake, spool or step winded rolls in various fiber structures, basis weights and colors to fulfill the diverse needs of its customers.

Total sales of the nonwovens related companies were $147 million in 2012.

The two young companies of the group, Merkas Inc. and Aksis are experiencing positive growth while there is also an increase in the use of existing capacity in all companies the group reports.

Asked if his company was satisfied with its results last year, Hakan Sisman, deputy general manager of Merkas, says while yes, the group produced satisfying results, there is room for more growth. "Operating in the current economic and political atmosphere has been challenging," he says.

Sisman says that the group has increased some more focus on the automotive, hygiene and geotextile sectors. In terms of new investments, he says several lines have been added to existing capacities.

"Hassan started another carding and needlepunching line for the automotive market while Siteks started another airlaid line for automotive and white goods," says Sisman. "Merkas has extended its slitting and spooling capacity while spunbond producer Aksis added a new SMS line with a capacity over 6000 tons annually and will start production in November 2013.

"In the first quarter of 2014, a new carding line will start up at Merkas for high loft air through bonded nonwovens used in baby diapers, sanitary napkins and adult incontinence products. The company will have an additional capacity of 7000 tons annually in this area."

There are also other investments besides nonwovens. The breathable film and laminates producer company Pelsan also made a new line investment to meet the increasing demand particularly in hygienic applications.

In terms of regional operation, the group exports about 40% of its production. "We are mainly active in the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia," says Sisman. "Moving forward our target is to extend activities in Europe and Russia."

On the research front, Sisman says Hassan's main goal is to create more synergy in the group. "This will help to bring out more new materials created by diversified materials made by Hassan Group companies with a combined R&D effort," he says. "Several projects are up and running."

34. Precision Custom Coatings

Totowa, NJ, U.S.

www.pcc-usa.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $145 million

Key Personnel

Peter Longo, chairman and COO; Scott Tesser, president and CEO; Rich Noble, CFO and treasurer; Dan Kamat, vice president, Industrial Textile division; Shaile Dusaj, director industrial marketing and sales; Keith Martin, industrial business vice president; Gerry Welkley, national sales manager; Dave Reaman, director filtration services

Processes

Needlepunch, thermal bonded, chemical bonded, high lofts, heat activated adhesive coatings, specialty finishes and composites

Major Markets

Apparel interlinings, automotive fabrics, medical, fabric softener substrates, furniture and bedding, filtration, vinyl substrates, home furnishings, wipes, hygiene, footwear, roofing and construction, filtration

Precision Custom Coatings LLC (PCC) as a whole was established in 1987 and is world-renowned for producing interlinings for some of the world's largest apparel manufacturing companies. The company's multiple nonwoven and coating lines produce the high quality nonwoven and knitted fusible interlinings.

PCC's corporate headquarters is a 210,000-square-foot production facility located outside of New York City in Totowa, NJ. PCC has the flexibility to create innovative products quickly and efficiently due to the company's state-of-the-art high-speed machinery and 250M yard production capacity. PCC currently has production in three factories in Asia, which is supported by a network of 38 distribution and sales offices worldwide.

PCC operates two divisions--PCC Precision Interlining and Precision Textiles. PCC Precision Interlining backs the apparel industry with the best in knit and nonwoven interlinings, while the company's Precision Textiles division is a pivotal supplier of coated fabrics, nonwovens and laminations to the industrial market, serving manufacturers in the filtration, bedding, automotive, healthcare, home furnishings, footwear, luggage, food packaging and protective clothing industries.

Sales in 2012 were $145 million and the company added capacity to help meet the demand for the growth in its filtration division and automotive market. According to Scott Tesser, president and CEO, "We saw steady growth amongst our three main divisions--auto, filtration and bedding," says Tesser.

During the year, PCC invested in additional filtration capacity and says new technology will be launched in 2013.

PCC has 20 offices around the world outside of the U.S. and continues to grow globally. "We are beginning a strategy of bringing certain product to those markets," says Tesser. "Currently those offices are selling apparel related nonwovens only."

Tesser says dry air filtration continues to be a healthy growth area for PCC while the automotive business has also seen a significant increase in sales.

"For 2013 we are adding more high loft capacity and a new product we are calling air spun," Tesser says.

35. Propex Global

Chattanooga, GA

www.propexinc.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $140 million

Key Personnel

Michael Gorey, president and CEO, Ralph Bruno, executive vice president, sales and marketing; Martin deVries, executive vice president and CFO

Plants

Ringgold, GA

Processes

Needlepunch

Major Markets

Geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates, sorbents

A maker of needlepunch nonwovens at a large site in Ringgold, GA, Propex continues to have its hand in a variety of industries. In addition to more traditional needlepunch markets such as geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and automotives, Propex has recently expanded into the sportswear space through an agreement with Bauer Hockey, the world's leading manufacturer of ice hockey equipment.

This multi-year partnership grants Bauer exclusive rights to Propex's Curv Composite Technology for use in its elite-level skates.

"Utilizing state-of-the-art materials for our equipment is a priority because players are always looking for maximum performance and protection, and they know our brands meet these demands," says Kevin Davis, president and CEO of Bauer Performance Sports. "Our partnership with Propex is a continuation of this commitment, and we're pleased this exclusive relationship has been extended."

CURV Composite Technology captures exceptional mechanical properties by incorporating a process for weaving different composite materials that does not require additional reinforcement, such as with an additional structure, to maintain stiffness. As a result, the product also yields high tensile strength and outstanding impact resistance at a significantly lower weight than many other composite materials.

"Propex is thrilled to be exclusively partnered with the leading hockey skate manufacturer in the industry and believes Bauer has used CURV Composite Technology in a way that showcases the technology's key properties and benefits," says Dave Gartshore, business vice president for CURV Composite Technology at Propex. "We anticipate many examples of ground-breaking, innovative product developments happening throughout

In more traditional spaces, Propex announced last fall it had been awarded a patent by the U.S. Patent Office for the yarn manufacturing technology it developed and currently uses in its proprietary EX3 line of lightweight carpet backings.

The patented technology allows Propex to efficiently produce uniquely textured tape yarns for use in applications such as carpet backing, geotextiles and packaging. For example, in carpet applications, EX3 backings made with this technology enable carpet manufacturers to produce patterned carpets with higher resolution using lightweight backings. Carpet manufacturers also benefit from 20% larger rolls, meaning fewer backing changes are needed on tufting machines. EX3 also translates to a reduced carbon footprint including as much as 12% less, energy consumed during manufacturing.

"As an established leader in the industries we serve, Propex is thrilled to have yet another example of a protected technology patent offering our customers a differentiated technological advantage," says Dave Gartshore, business vice president for Furnishings at Propex. "We are also continually looking at ways to leverage this technology in other Propex products and solutions in the future."

Amidst these accomplishments, Propex, which is owned by a private investment fund managed by Wayzata Investment Partners, a Minneapolis, MN-based private equity firm has continued its strategy of aggressively pursuing business opportunities in existing markets. Recent developments include the launch of Gridpro Biaxial and Uniaxial geogrids for the geosynthetics market. These geogrids are manufactured to meet all industry specifications and help build on Propex's promise to deliver the most complete portfolio of products to the industry.

Also included in Propex's geosynethics range, which is manufactured in Ringgold, GA, are woven and nonwoven erosion control products. In June 2012, the company announced it was adjusting its production schedule in response to weakness in the geotextile market, caused by lower precipitation levels, a few abnormal weather events and reductions in military and government spending.

"As part of our strategic growth initiative, balancing production levels with marketplace demand will help to establish discipline in the geotextile and infrastructure markets. that we serve," says-Mike Gorey, president and CEO.

Beyond geotextiles, Propex serves the flooring, furniture, bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substra Les and sorbents markets.

35. Dalian Ruiguang Nonwoven Group Co., Ltd

Dalian, China

www.ruiguangnonwoven.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $140 million

Key Personnel

Yuan Ming Gu, owner; Zuwei Gu, CEO; Jingxian Cui, CFO

Plants

Dalian, China

Processes

Spunbond, spunlace, melthlown, airlaid

ISO Status

IS09001; ISO14001

Brands

Ruiguang

Major Markets

Hygiene, automotive, medical, air filtration and personal care

Dalian Ruiguang Nonwoven Group started business in 1991. After more than 20 years of development, Ruiguang operates four subsidiaries and 11 nonwoven production lines. The firm continues to invest in different nonwovens businesses including spunbond, meltblown, spunlace sections. The group recorded sales volume of $140 million in 2012, and has achieved steady annual growth of more than 10% per year. The company says its meltblown and spunlace product lines are running well in the US, Japanese, Korean and Chinese markets.

"Overall, we have done a great job in the 2012 financial year even though we suffered under the weight of market stress in the fourth quarter," says Yuan Ming Gu, president of Ruiguang Group. "Furthermore, with the RMB exchange rate growing continuously, business, especially the export business, was affected to some degree, but is still running well due to the promotion of new products globally."

Dalian Ruiguang is investing in a new green, sustainable and innovative hygiene spunlace technology in 2013, which it says will impact the market positively. "The future of spunlace nonwovens for hygiene applications will offer different technical characteristics and excellent performance, in a move to become more green and sustainable due to the different fiber properties," says Cu.

"We shall supply the new products and joint research service to our customers, offering them great quality with considerate service incentives too," says Cu. "We will continue to establish strategic partnerships with the same core-valued customers."

Gu says there is a lot of competition in the Chinese spunlace market due to all of the capacity that has come onstream in 2012 and 2013. "We have to reposition ourselves in the market by improving the innovative nature and quality of our products under these circumstances," says Gu.

The company operates two in-line carding spunlace production lines with 300m/min production speed that began operations in May 2011, and reached its max throughput last year in 2012. The products have produced very good sales, according to Cu, who says the technology is very good for baby wipes due to the three dimensional structure, high water absorbency rate, more volume and bulky feel. "The performance of company rose over 20% in 2012 due to this investment," he says.

Regarding the specific nonwoven products, the airlaid SPC product is still unique in Asia, as it has the characteristics of good strength, competitive pricing and reasonable water absorbency. This product is designated by some of Dalian Ruiguang's customers for special branded products. The airlaiding CPC product offers another possibility to have bulky products, perfect water absorbency effect, versatile fiber structure with a feasible performance module. It offers much more opportunities for the consumer to use green products without any extra cost. The company says it has received very good market feedback in U.S and Korea while sales volume grows steady each year.

The meltblown material for lens wipes, screen wipes and air filtration are very popular. They are made with super fine melt-blown fibers with more surface and efficient cleaning, and it has a particular good sales in North America and Japan.

The elastic facial mask and automobile backsheet markets demand special high enlongation spunlace, and Gu says the company develops a special product with not only these properties but also with pretty good tensile strength for this purpose. "With these characteristics, the spunlace can keep the same deforming rate during the composite process material," says Cu.

The floor wipes market is important to Dalian Ruiguang and here it offers several products including a 100% polyester mesh style, high bulk embossing structure, fishbone style etc. "They achieve perfect static performance, with maximum surface area, and are soft with enough tensile strength," says Cu. "Over the past three years we have grown our floor wipes business by more than 20%. We see very good market prospects in U.S and Japan, and there are strong signs that the Chinese market has very big potential as well. We are conducting some market promotion accordingly."

The company has a very healthy development in the last 20 years, Ruiguang shall concentrate on the nonwoven carrier continuously, based on the existing spunbond, meltblown and spunlace technology, we shall develop and invest new technology to create better life for the people.

36. Toyobo

Osaka, Japan

www.toyobo.co.jp

2010 Nonwovens Sales: $129 million

Key Personnel

Shigeki Tanak, general manager, spunbond division; Akio Oda, president of Kureha

Plants

Tsuruga, Iwakini, Shiga

Processes

Spunbond, needlepunch, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, stitch bonded

Major Markets

Geotextiles, roofing sheets, carpet backings, automotive interiors, automotive filters, needlepunch carpets, hot melt bonding sheets, plaster bases

Production capacity of Toyobo is 12,000 tons per years. Kureha is a subsidiary of Toyobo and has a capacity of about 7000 tons per year within resin bonded, needlepunch, thermal bonded and spunbond technologies. Another subsidiary, Yuho, makes needlepunched, spunlaced and stitchbonded nonwovens with a capacity of 3000 tons per year.

Although the polyester spunbond nonwovens made by Toyobo failed to raise sales in 2012, sales in this segment are increasing in 2013 due to the fallout from the great earthquake in east Japan. This has increased demand for materials used in the reconstruction of the disaster area, namely geotextile materials which are produced by Toyobo.

Meanwhile, Kureha is a large producer of air filter material for mobile engines and is producing the filters in Japan and Thailand. To meet Chinese demand, the company exports products from Kureha Thailand, which is also meeting increasing demand for products domestically.

To help Kureha meet demand, both within Thailand and abroad, the company updated its facilities in June 2013. Other growth areas include Indonesia.

In new product news, Toyobo has developed a cushion material out of polyester nonwovens, which are being sold under the trade name Breathair as seat cushioning in trains and mattresses. Breathair is both breathable and durable and can be recycled without releasing harmful gases. Toyobo will next expand production of these materials to Europe where demand for environmentally sound and recyclable products is strong. A new facility able to make 1000 tons of the material per year is currently beginning operation.

37. Nan Liu Enterprise

Kaoshiung City, Taiwan

www.nanliugroup.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $128 million

Key Personnel

C.S. Huang, chairman; HS Huang, president; M. Yang, vice-president; Sam Chang vice president; Paul Cheng, general manager; Bernard Kerstens, commercial director, overseas business

Plants

Kaoshing, Taiwan; Pinghu, China

Processes

Spunlace, thermal bond, air-through bond, needlepunch

Major Markets

Hygiene, medical, wipes

Nan Liu Enterprise has been serving a number of hygiene markets since 1978. Its core businesses are hygiene and medical nonwovens and cosmetics.

The company's growth from $118 million in revenue a year ago to $128 million turnover in 2012 can be attributed to an increase in sales volume of spunlace wood pulp/PET fabrics for surgical gowns from in last year's fourth quarter.

According to Bernard Kerstens, commercial director, overseas business, Nan Lui was not entirely satisfied with these results because he says the company faced a limitation of capacity, which forced it to cancel some orders.

In addition, the company faced other challenges in 2012 and into 2013. "The drop in selling prices for spunlace fabrics and at the same time an increase in costs, labor and raw materials has created a challenging, operating environment," says Kerstens.

Amid these challenges, Nan Liu Enterprise made the decision to join the Taiwan Stock Exchange. "Nan Liu Enterprise has gone public as of May 7, 2013," says Kerstens. "We would like to use this opportunity to run the business more efficiently and also to attract more professional people to join our operation. Through this procedure, we made some long-term company development strategies to meet the public's expectations."

To continue growth in its core hygiene and medical segments Nan Liu began construction last year on a 6.2-meter-wide spunlace line that it says will be the widest in the world and is in the final test stage now. "We expect it will be in commission around the end of August or the first half of September this year," says Kerstens. "This line will produce first-class spunlace fabrics for wipes and other applications. It has many unique functions, which will help us to meet clients' special needs."

Discussing the wet wipes business, which in China has experienced growth in the 20% per year range, Kerstens says because family income continues to increase in China and an easing of the country's one-child policy is very likely in the near future, the baby wipes business in China will continue to enjoy a double-digits growth for next five years.

In terms of competition in the Asian spunlace market, he characterizes the market as "tough, and very tough" because there are so many locally made machines and a huge range of quality levels, which will confuse clients and also easily upset end users that buy poor quality products.

Another evolution the Asian wipes market is the growth of branded products. "People trust brand name products and as a result we 'saw the business growth of branded products," says Kerstens. "This trend will narrow down private labels' existing opportunity. Special function wipes, for example, flushable wipes, baby wipes for mouth and hands only and cosmetic removal wipes, will grow faster than traditional wipes."

With its thermal bonded and thru air lines, Nan Liu sees sales continuing to grow as they primarily serve the baby diaper market. "The market for baby diapers in China has enjoyed a rapid growth during past several years," says Kerstens. "Customers are looking for high-end products today, which benefits our fabric's needs."

Aside from wipes, the medical market is next in line in terms of importance for Nan Liu, spending much of its efforts and costs to develop wood pulp/PET spunlace fabrics for surgical gowns and drapes over the last five years.

"We are the only producer who makes this fabric and along with the final finishing treatment at the same facility compound allowing us to control the quality from the beginning to the end," says Kerstens. "Our capacity for medical fabrics will double after our new line is in commission."

Moving forward, Nan Liu will continue to expand its bases as its clients continue to move around the globe, according to Kerstens." Nan Liu Enterprise was founded in Taiwan 35 years ago and we have made a strong alliance with our clients since then," he says.

"The reason we came to China was to supply fabrics to our clients and we will continue to do so to follow our clients steps who are also operating in Southeast Asian countries, India, Middle East and Russia. Nan Liu will also set up supply bases there soon."

38. Spuntech Industries

Upper Tiberias, Israel

www.spuntech.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $127 million

Key Personnel

Rob Stollar, global vice president, sales and marketing; Ron Broshi, vice president, new product development; John Rank, director, sales and marketing

Plants

Tiberias, Israel; Shamir, Israel; Roxboro, NC

Processes

Hydroentangled spunlace

Major Markets

Wipes, hygiene, medical, industrial, filtration

In 2013, Israel's Spuntech Industries reaffirmed its commitmient to the nonwovens industry through a decision to add another spunlace line in the U.S. In May, the company said it would double its North American capacity with the addition of a new spunlace line at a yet-to-be-announced. U.S. location. The new line is on track to begin production in 2015. Spuntech currently operates one spunlace line at a facility in Roxboro, NC, which opened in 2006, and runs two lines at a site in Galilee, Israel and another in Shamir, Israel.

In 2012, the company reported positive results, with sales increasing from $113 million to $127 million, according to director of sales and marketing John Rank. "Spuntech had a successful 2012 and results were good. We expect improvement in 2013," he says.

Spuntech continues its focus on growth in specialty engineered and value-added spunlace fabrics with more emphasis on sustainable products. While a high percentage of its sales, both from its U.S. operation and its Israeli site are conducted in the wipes segment, the company has successfully been developing new products outside of wipes.

Currently, Spuntech's sales are split between North America, South America, Europe and Asia, where it serves wet and dry wipes, medical, technical, filtration and engineered fabrics markets. Spuntech continues to review opportunities in emerging markets to further its global expansion.

39. Jofo Nonwovens

Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

www.jofo.com.cn

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $125 million

Plants

Guangzhou, Weifang, Shandong, China

Processes

Spunbond, meltblown, SMS

Major Markets

Hygiene, medical, industrial

Sales will receive a big boost in 2013 for China's the Jofo Group. The company started up its new 3.2-meter wide, multi-beam Reicofil-4 spunmelt line and a separate finishing line in its Weifang plant in Shandong, China during the final months of 2012 and the line should start contributing to sales this year.

Representing a reported $60 million investment, the new line will join an existing 4.2 meter Reicofil-4 multibeam line at the Weifang plant, which will be able to make more than 30,000 tons of material after the second line is complete. Jofo will target the rapidly growing disposable hygiene and medical application areas in Asia with the new capacity.

Jofo's current nonwovens capacity is more than 55,000 tons, and the company has production facilities in Guangdong, Shandong and some other areas in China. The second Weifang line and other ongoing projects will bring the company's total capacity above 100,000 tons by the end of 2012.

Jofo plans to continue investing in adding new capacity as well as research and development in the nonwovens areas to forge core competence in supplying premium nonwovens to disposable hygiene, medical, geotextile, industrial and other application areas, according to executives. The Jofo Group was established in 2000 with the goal of becoming one of the world's largest nonwovens producers.

The company currently owns 10 subsidiary companies in Guangdong, Shandong, Hubei, Sichuan and Hong Kong and has annual sales of about RMB 800 million ($125 million). Based in China, Jofo sells its nonwovens all over the world. Processes include composite, meltblown, SMS and spunbond for hygiene, industrial and geotextile applications.

Through a joint venture agreement with Weifang Investment Corporation, established in 2007, Jofo spent reported $50 million on a 4.2-meter Reicofil 4 SS line capable of making 16,000 tons of nonwovens per year. According to the companies, Jofo Weifang ultimately plans to operate at least eight advanced spunmelt lines with a total production capacity of more than 150,000 tons, making it one of the largest nonwovens producers in Asia for the hygiene, medical and protective apparel markets. Additionally, the venture plans to set up a research and development center for hygiene and medical applications in Weifang with financial support from the Chinese government.

Since 2000, the company has operated Shandong Jofo Nonwoven Co., a maker of spunbond, meltblown and SMS composite nonwovens located in the New & High Technology Industrial Development Zone in Dongying, Shandong Province. In 2001, the company introduced the SW third-generation, improved twin-engine production line from Italy and the matching Kusters hot rolling mill from Germany. Its annual production capacity for spunbond polypropylene silk nonwoven fabrics is 7000 tons; in 2004 Shandong Jofo introduced a Reifenhauser meltblown nonwoven fabric production line with an annual output of 3000 tons of polypropylene or polyester.

Meanwhile, Jofo has introduced a Kusters hot rolling mill compound facilities and adopted the unique one-and-a-half-step processing techniques to provide world-class SMS compound nonwoven fabrics to its clients. In addition to the hygiene market, where Jofo offers lightweight, soft spunmelt nonwovens, other core markets include medical and industrial protective apparel, automotive, furniture and bedding materials, filtration media, agricultural and horticultural and geotextiles.

40. Lycall Inc.

Manchester, CT

www.lvdall.com

2012 Nonwovens Sales: $118 million

Key Personnel

W. Leslie Duffy, chairman of the board; Dale Barnhart, president and CEO; David Williams, president, performance materials

Plants

Rochester, NH; Saint Rivalain, France; Green Island, NY; Heerlen, The Netherlands

Brands

AppLY Mat, Arioso, Biotherm, CRS Wrap, Cryo-Lite, LydAir MG, LydAir MB, LydAir SC, LyPore Defender, Ly Pore MB, LyPore SC, LyPore XL, Lytherm, ManniGlas, Solupor

Major Markets

Specialty insulation, high-efficiency air and liquid filtration media

Sales in the performance materials segment of Lydall Inc. decreased $16 million, or 12%, to $118 million in 2012 due to lower volumes and the negative impact of foreign currency translation. Part of the reduction in sales was attributed to the sale of an electrical papers product tine in 2010 as well as decreased demand in certain commercial building products markets.

Industrial filtration products decreased 6.2%, or $4.5 million, due to a reduction in demand for the materials in Europe and Asia. Sales of life science filtration products decreased due to decreased demand for products used in water and life protection application products.

Opportunities for Lydall are mainly driven by markets engaged in product and technology development that are demanding higher levels of filtration performance. Additionally, opportunities exist for geographic expansion in filtration and insulation in regions including Eastern Europe, South America, India and China. These regions continue to invest in infrastructure improvements and demand more from their filtration and insulation applications.

In new product news, Lydall's Arioso high performance air filtration composite media was chosen as the premium filter media in a range of high efficiency fume extraction filters being produced by a prominent filter manufacturer in the U.K. Fume extraction filters are used to remove fine particulate matter that is contained in smoke and fumes generated by laser/plasma cutting and welding operations. The filters engineered with Arioso are designed to remove even the finest particles to provide cleaner air discharge in the workplace and the environment.

New product development has always been a priority for Lydall performance materials across all of its market segments. In filtration and separation, the company offers LyPore and LyPore Defender microglass media and LyPore Unity, a microglass series that is optimized for coalescing. More specifically, in air and industrial filtration, LydAir microglass media and Arioso high performance composite filtration media are both critical components Of clean-air systems in a number of areas.

Meanwhile, Lydall's filter media for the biopharmaceutical, medical, food and beverage, specialty process and drinking water industries include microglass, meltblown and synthetic grades for removing particles ranging from bacteria to large sediment.

Lydall recently expanded its Solupor membrane series, based on ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene. These new grades perform at high flow rates in venting and air/gas line filters. Within specialty insulation, Lydall products include Manniglas fiberglass papers, appLY Mat needled fiberglass mats, Biotherm biosoluble ceramin paper and Lytherm ceramic paper for a variety of cavity, gasket, sealing and surface protection applications in the home appliance, industrial HVAC, energy and petrochemical markets.

To view the Top Companies Report online, including an interactive chart with past and present sales figures, visit www.nonwovens-industry.com

Visit Nonwovens Industry online for more International News www.nonwovens-industry.com

Visit www.nonwovens-industry.com to read the September issue online, along with the complete Top Companies Report.

To access an interactive sales chart on Top Companies past and present, visit www.nonwovens-industry.com

Visit Nonwovens Industry online for more International News Nonwovens-Industry.com

To view the Top Companies Report online, including an interactive chart with past and present sales figures, visit www.nonwovens-industry.com

For more information visit nonwovens-industry.com
2012 Nonwovens Sales

1. Freudenberg                        $1.50 billion

2. DuPont                             $1.35 billion

3. Ahlstrom                           $1.30 billion

4. Kimberly-Clark                     $1.25 billion

5. Polymer Group, Inc. (PGI)          $1.15 billion

6. Fitesa                              $712 million

7. Glatfelter                          $683 million

8. Johns Manville                      $670 million

9. Suominen Nonwovens                  $602 million

10. Fiberweb                           $460 million

11.TWE Group                           $400 million

12. Bonar                              $379 million

13. Sandler                            $326 million

14. Avgol Nonwovens                    $315 million

15. Hollingsworth & Vose               $305 million

16. Companhia Providencia              $273 million

17. CECEP Costin New Materials Group   $256 million

18. Toray Advanced Materials           $251 million

19. First Quality Nonwovens            $250 million

20. Pegas Nonwovens                    $248 million

21. Fibertex Personal Care             $235 million

22. Buckeye Technologies               $228 million

23. Japan Vilene                       $209 million

24. Asahi Kasei                        $201 million

25. Union Industries                   $189 million

26. Mitsui Chemicals                   $183 million

27. Jacob Holm Industries              $171 million

28. Fibertex Nonwovens                 $161 million

29. Gulsan                             $160 million

30. Georgia-Pacific                    $155 million

31. Tenowo                             $152 million

32. Andrew Industries                  $150 million

33. Hassan Group                       $147 million

34. Precision Custom Coatings          $145 million

35. Propex Holdings                    $140 million

35. Dalian Ruigang Nonwovens Group     $140 million

36. Toyobo                             $129 million

37. Nan Liu Enterprise                 $128 million

38. Spuntech Industries                $127 million

39. Jofo Nonwovens                     $125 million

40. Lydall                             $118 million
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