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Moving higher into highloft: the concepts are expanding.

We will attempt to bring the highloft portion of the nonwovens industry several stpes closer to establishing definitions, test procedures and standards on June 4, 5 when INDA holds its annual conference on highloft nonwomens in Charlotte, NC. This will be the seventh such conference held specifically for the highloft industry. Speakers will present ideas for new products and markets such as insulation for consumer and industrial buildings using polyester highloft and homes designed primarily of textiles having walls of fabric.

INDA, Association of the Nonwomen Fabrics industry has recognized thathighloft is a major segment of the nonwomens industry and has been committed to serve it with its continuing efforts in bringing together the suppliers, manufacturers, converters, users and other participants to discuss common problems as well as opportunities. The highloft segment of the nonwomens industry has been fragmented and has not taken advantage of the opportunities of having an organization to serve it. As an example, although the highloft industry has made progress in the past few years, it is still behind many suppliers of other products to their common customers and markets in presenting their products and capabilities.

Aiming For Better Highloft Times

The bright side of this situation is that if the highloft manufacturer can do well under this existing situation, then they should be able to be much more successful when standards are established and improvements in communications and other areas are made. During this conference, you will hear of some of the results from the meetings held by several organizations serving the furniture, filter and insulation markets. Some of these will include the type of tests they would like to see instituted, specifications regarding certain properties and uniform descriptions and nomenclature.

Presentations will also include an update on the highloft market areas, the economic outlook, designing highloft materials for medical and health care products, requirements for filtration markets, test methods for filtration, highloftin furniture applications, highloft in bedding, the present equipment and systems for curing and bonding highloft and a new test method for assessing resin/binder uniformity in the manufacturing of highloft. Open panel discussions will encourage questions and provide information on subjects of interest to those attending.

The definition of highloft has been addressed in previous INDA conferences and will be discussed again this year. One of the proposed definitions last year by Dr. Edward Vaughn, of Clemson University, and others was, "Highloft nonwomens are low density fiber network structures characterized by a high ratio of thickness to weight per unit area. The fibers may be continuous or discontinous, bonded or unbonded. A highloft nonwomen has no more than 10% solids by volume and is greater than 1/8 inch in thickness." (See the article by J.F. Baigas in the February, 1991 issue of NONWOVENS INDUSTRY for more on this discussion.)

Highloft continues to be the largest segment of the nonwovens industry and, while its definition may not be concrete, it is obvious that it consumes some 500 million pounds of fiber, not including a few billion pounds of glass and pulp. For about 10 years now a few of us in the nonwomens industry have attempted to have the term or category of "highloft" accepted in an effort to recognize more of its potential and give it the effort and energy it deserves. Every type of nonwomen process, with the possible exception of wet laid, has made highloft products. Nearly every type of fiber has been used and variations of raw materials and processes continue to expand each year.

Not Exploiting Market Potential

There are many reasons why the highloft producers have not achieved their potential in existing markts, as well as not having developed new and more profitable markets. These include understanding the raw materials available and their properties. There is an almost infinite possible combination of fibers and binders in the market today.

Looking at polyester, polypropylene, nylon, glass, pulp and other fibers available in numerous diameters and other configurations is more than the typical highloft producer can manage. There are hundreds of binders, finishes and additives also available to them. Equipment innovations, new technologies and manufacturing inventions are available each year. In short, the typical highloft manufacturer does not have the research and development, the depth in technologies and, of course, the time and money necessary to investigate and evaluate all that is available to him.

Marketing has and does suffer from these same problems. To find new markets for highloft is difficult for most highloft producers. If the product development group does not push its new concepts and/or if the salesman does not recognize the properties necessary to meet a new market need, then these opportunities cannot be communicated to the manufacturing people.

Accidents Do Happen

However, variations, evolutions and accidents do continue and inventive minds find a way to exploit, so new products manage to surface even from some of the smaller highloft producers. Some of the new ideas for products come from outside of the industry.

The building insulation products are a good example where several approaches are being taken. One is from a company primarily in the cotton processing business, another form a company that is concerned with plastics processing. Both of these see an opportunity to fill needs that the current glass products are not satisfying. Both plan to select equipment to make their products that is not typical of the highloft industry, but the end product will be all fiber and, of course, will be a highloft to work on the trapped air insulation concept.

Medical and geotextile end users have taken similar approahces where they developed concepts with highloft and then went to the highloft manufacturer to supply them.

Highloft (fiberfill for you ol' timers) is continuing to grow at a rate of some 7-10% a year. Concepts for new products are being developed and the number of products made of or with highloft will expand.

Most of these will not be "fiberfill" and if the "fiberfill" manufacturer does not recognize his potential in "highloft," then his will probably not be the company that makes and profits from them.

Tom Holliday is a well known consultant to the nonwovens and textile industries whose column on a wide range of nonwovens-related topics appears every month in NONWOVENS INDUSTRY. Mr. Holliday operates his consultancy firm, Thomas M. Holliday & Associates out of his office at 25 Edgewood Road, Yardley, PA 19067; (215) 493-2501.
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Title Annotation:industry efforts to establish standards and test procedures closer to those in nonwoven fabrics industry
Author:Holliday, Tom
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:May 1, 1991
Previous Article:Tampax going green; Playtex following suit.
Next Article:Japanese microfiber nonwovens.

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