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Japanese market for medical nonwoven products.

A look at product segments and marketshares for leading manufacturers.

Demand for medical nonwoven products such as surgical gowns, drapes, masks, caps, sheets and gauze significantly increased in the mid-1980's and is still on the rise. The market scale for medical nonwoven products - estimated at [yen]30 billion for 1998 - had nearly doubled over the previous seven years from 1991's figure of [yen]15.8 billion. The current growth rate, however, has dramatically dropped.

Although the annual growth rate of medical nonwoven products was experiencing jumps of 10% or higher during the mid-1980's to the mid-1990's, the figure fell by 6% in 1997 and reduced even more to a mere 4% in 1998. This negative change is due to unit price reduction influenced by severe sales competition and the fact that a greater amount of items produced is not always accompanied by a hike in the sales price.

Manufacturers' Marketshare

The 1998 marketshares of medical nonwoven products are shown in the accompanying figure (see page 23). As the data reveals, drapes hold the highest percentage, closely followed by gowns and sheets at equal shares. These three product types make up the major share, 67%, of the entire market. The nonwovens use ratio in gowns and drapes is estimated to be 2530%, providing an opportunity of extended use of nonwovens in these niches.

Medical Nonwoven Product Manufacturers And Their Products

Among the leading companies selling medical nonwoven products, whether by production or import, are Hogy Medical, Baxter, J&J Medical, Japan Medico, Kawamoto, Japan Medical Products and J.M.S. In the market specifically for gowns and drapes, Hogy Medical's share exceeds 50%. While Hogy Medical and Japan Medical Products produce and market gowns and drapes, the other companies import and sell products from overseas manufacturers.

The nonwoven material used in medical nonwoven products varies by application. In gowns and drapes, processes such as spunlaced, spunbonded, wet laid and SMS - otherwise known as spunbonded/melt blown/spunlaced - are applied. Spunlaced nonwovens are most frequently used, representing 85% of all processes.

Product Segment Leaders

Of the spunlaced nonwoven materials, DuPont's "Sontara" is the most popular. This may be due to Hogy Medical's cooperative agreement with DuPont's Sontara Division and also the fact that gowns and drapes imported by the other companies are also made of Sontara.

In gauze, spunbonded and spunlaced nonwovens are used and spunbonded materials occupy 80% of the market. Asahi Chemical's "Bemlisse" is the most popular spunbond, holding a 60% share of the nonwoven gauze market. In sheets, spunlaced, spunbonded, air laid pulp and needlepunched nonwovens are used in equal measure. In caps and masks, nonwovens made from a myriad of processes - spunbonded, thermal bonded, wet laid pulp and melt blown - are possible.

Of all of the medical product segments for nonwovens, surgical masks, specifically, have filtering components made of electret-processed melt blown nonwoven material that raise bacteria-capturing efficiency. Interestingly, glass fiber nonwovens that were once employed as filtering components in surgical mask applications are now no longer used.

Kin Ohmura is the president of the Osaka Chemical Marketing Center, which specializes in nonwovens, synthetic fibers and industrial textiles. His Far East Report appears every other month in NONWOVENS INDUSTRY. He can be reached at No. 13-7, 1-chome, Utsubohonmachi, Nishi-ku, Osaka, Japan 550; 81-6-441-1845; Fax: 81-6-445-8850.
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Author:Ohmura, Kim
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:May 1, 1999
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