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Japanese spunbonded nonwovens.

Japanese Spunbonded Nonwovens

Rapidly becoming one of the more important nonwovens technologies in Japan, the production of Japanese spunbonded nonwovens continues to grow at an annual rate of more than 10%.

The predominant material remains polyester, but its share has decreased from 53% in 1985 to 46% in 1990. Recently, polypropylene has grown dramatically in usage and has managed to increase its market share from 13% in 1985 to 30% last year. The use of nylon shows no marked variations, while cupra and rayon are slowly but steadily increasing in spunbonded utilization.

Polyethylene is being used in flashspun nonwovens by Asahi Chemical, which started regular production of that specialty type of spunbonded in 1989. That production, which remains at a relatively low level, is increasing and should become a real competitor to Du Pont's "Tyvek."

Other than nylon, all of these materials are increasing in use in the production of spunbonded nonwovens in Japan. The increases in the utilization of polypropylene and polyethylene have been most remarkable (Table 1).

Polymer 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Polyester 11,630 13,400 14,900 16,200 18,400 20,200
Polypropylene 2910 3400 4300 5800 10,400 13,500
Nylon 3890 4100 4000 4100 4000 4100
Cupra 1620 1880 2260 2490 2620 2850
Rayon 1910 2050 2280 2350 2580 2720
Polyethylene 70 400 900
TOTAL 21,960 24,830 27,740 31,010 38,400 44,270

Japanese Spunbonded Manufacturers

There are currently nine manufacturers of spunbonded nonwovens in Japan (Table 2). There is a domestic production capacity of 165.2 tons a day. The largest manufacturer is Asahi Chemical, with a 35.4% share, followed by Unitika with 22.4%. [Tabular Data Omitted]

That figure grew in the latter half of the 1980s from 88.8 tons a day in 1985 to the current level, which is almost double the capacity available only five years ago. This is due to successive capacity increases at almost all of the major manufacturers as well as the entry of a number of important newcomers to this field.

Asahi Chemical, Unitika and Mitsui Petrochemical intend to increase their capacity this year, while Toray intends to do so in 1992. When all of these announced expansions are in place, Japanese spunbonded production will exceed 220 tons a day in 1992.

Spunbonded Trends in Japan

Demand now exceeds domestic production levels in Japan, resulting in even faster growth of imports than exports. The primary spunbonded products coming into Japan are Tyvek, "Lutradur," "Trevira," "Celestra" and "Tekton."

Spunbondeds have found an array of end use applications in Japan, just as they have in markets around the world, and they are growing in most of these fields (Figure 1). Primary applications include coverstock, wipes, geotextiles, carpet backing, roofing, agricultural materials, electric wire insulators, packing materials and bags.

The consumption of polypropylene spunbonded nonwovens has increased the most dramatically in the past two or three years, particularly in coverstock applications. In this area Asahi Chemical competes directly with Mitsui Petrochemical.

Wiping cloth applications use basically cellulose-type spunbondeds such as Asahi's "Bemliese" and Futamura Chemical's "TCF." Polyester spunbondeds are primarily used in geotextiles, carpet backings, roofing, agriculture, electric wire insulators and bags. The largest suppliers to these markets are Unitika, Toyobo, Asahi, Toray, Unisel and Japan Lutravil.

One of the more promising technologies is flashspun nonwovens. Although currently only produced by Du Pont (Tyvek) and Asahi ("Luxer"), this spunbonded variation is finding increased demand in house wrappings in particular and, to a lesser extent, specialty jackets. The demand for disposable apparel remains small in Japan; this market must be developed before these flashspun nonwovens become a significant contributor for their manufacturers.
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Title Annotation:Far East Report
Author:Ohmura, Kin
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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