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Melt blown nonwovens in Japan.

Melt blown nonwovens production in Japan remains at a level of the order of 2000 tons, although 20 years have passed since production was started in Japan. Production is estimated to have been 1950 tons in 1990, 2180 tons in 1991 and 2350 tons in 1992, making the growth rate in 1992 lower than 10%. The rate of growth is expected to decrease further in 1993, causing production to remain at a level between 2400-2500 tons. These nonwovens, which have a variety of applications, are relatively largely used in apparel insulation, oil absorbers, filters, masks, sheets, hot melt adhesives and wipes.

Japan currently has 1 0 manufacturers of melt blown nonwovens (Table 1). Since the latter half of the 1980's successive newcomers in the field of melt blowns have rapidly increased the number of manufacturers. This caused a rapid increase in production, with annual growth rates higher than 15% lasting until the end of the 1980's, although the quantity of production has been very small in comparison with other types of nonwovens. However, the recent general slump of business has suppressed the rate of growth and the figure of 2000 tons is far below the U.S. output of melt blowns.

[TABULAR 1 DATA OMITTED]

The market scale of melt blown nonwovens is considerably smaller in Japan because of high prices, ranging from 1000 to 7000 yen/kg with a standard price between 2000 and 3000 yen/kg. Such a high price level is due to the high cost of raw polymers and production energy. Production costs in Japan are much higher than in the U.S. and Europe and this is a main obstacle to reducing the price of products. Manufacturers have been trying to make various improvements in die design and the selection of energy but no remarkable achievements have been made.

Melt blown nonwovens, which are inferior in strength to other types of nonwovens, are unsuitable for use independently; this is another reason for the low production level. Melt blown nonwovens are usually made into a composite with other types of nonwovens or with fabrics other than nonwovens. In these cases, the associated materials, the structure of the composite and the technology of making the composite are essentially important factors. They are widely diverse in accordance with the purpose and use of the composite. The materials, structure and technology must be selected properly to meet the end use. Such work not only increases the cost of production but also requires a longer period of time to develop new markets, often failing to comply with real demand.

Melt blown nonwovens also have other problems left unsolved. Nevertheless, they are considered to be promising because they are made up of microfibers and capable of using many kinds of polymers as raw materials. Particularly, the diversity of applicable polymers is a remarkable characteristic of melt blown nonwovens. Polyurethane and various elastomers, which cannot be spun by spunbonding, are used to produce the melt blown nonwovens.

It appears that it will take some time before the production of melt blowns reaches 5000 or 10,000 tons/year. In Japan, upgrades in quality are ahead of production increases and end users are beginning to recognize the value of these improved fabrics. Melt blown nonwovens, although possibly increasing in quantity, are rather expected to grow in the future as high-functional nonwovens.

Kin Ohmura is the president of the Osaka Chemical Marketing Center, which specializes in research and consulting for the nonwoven, synthetic fiber and industrial textile industries. 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, 06-441-1845; Fax: 06-445-8850.
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Title Annotation:Far East Report
Author:Ohmura, Kin
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:611
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