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Nonwovens in medical applications in Japan: surgical gowns and drapes still make up largest marketshare.

Various types of nonwoven roll goods are increasingly being used in medical institutions in Japan. However, the market size has not grown significantly due to the substantial price reduction of these products. The market size in 2006 was estimated at [yen] 3.8 billion. Table 1 shows the shares of medical applications involving nonwovens.

Accounting for nearly half of the market, surgical gowns and drapes are the main nonwoven products targeting medical end uses. Although cotton is still used in certain cases, most materials have been changed to nonwovens. Approximately 90% of gowns consist of nonwoven fabrics while about 80% of drapes are nonwoven. The most common material is pulp/PET spunlace, at 67%, followed by SMS, which accounts for 17% of the products. In addition, nylon spunbonded, wet laid, rayon/PET spunlaced and cotton spunlaced are used, although in small quantities. Other application areas for nonwovens, such as sheets, gauze, masks and caps, are small.

Roll Good Production Trends Hogy Medical, Japan Medical Products, Cardinal Health Japan, Kawamoto, Livedo and Daiei are leading manufacturers among many makers of nonwoven roll goods for medical applications. Hogy Medical is the top producer of gown/drape products made of nonwovens and is the only company allowed to use DuPont's Sontara material for gowns and drapes in Japan.

Although Hogy Medical once held more than an 80% marketshare in the nonwoven gown and drape market, this share has diminished due to intensive competition from other companies. As for medical masks, San-M Package is the leading manufacturer with a predominant share of about 90% of surgical masks in the country. San-M also exports many products to Europe and the U.S.

In terms of the nonwoven materials used for gowns and drapes, the majority of these are produced by the same manufacturers as in foreign countries--DuPont, Ahlstrom and Kimberly-Clark Corporation--while an insignificant amount is produced in Japan's domestic market.

Compared with the nonwovens produced in Japan, which are widely used for sheets, gauze, masks and caps, field-proven nonwovens produced in Europe and the U.S. tend to be used for gowns and drapes in Japan, as they demand very high barrier performance.

By Kin Ohmura Chemical Marketing Center

Kin Ohmura specializes in nonwovens, synthetic fibers and industrial textiles.

Table 1

Product                     Marketshare
Drape                          32%
Gown                           17%
Sheet                          15%
Cap                             8%
Gauze                           8%
Mask                            8%
Remainder                      12%
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Title Annotation:Far East
Author:Ohmura, Kin
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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