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Numerous nonwoven strengths at Asahi.

As the largest spunbonded nonwovens producer in Japan and the 11th largest nonwoven roll goods manufacturer be world, Asahi Chemical, Osaka, Japan, has us d its base in fibers to carry it strongly into the nonwovens business. Corporate restructuring has been the latest change designed to make Asahi an even more powerful force. The company has reorganized its Nonwoven Division by merging its Spunbond and Nonwovens Business Promotion divisions. The former Nonwovens Business Promotion Division, which had to date worked on developing new nonwovens and their markets, will now take charge not only of developing new spunbonded composite products but also of finding new markets for them.

Overall, the company's annual nonwovens production capacity is divided among several technologies. Production consists of 16,300 tons for spunbonded "Eltas" (nylon at 4500 tons, polyester at 5400 tons and polypropylene at 6400 tons), 1800 tons for flashspun "Luxer" (both polyethylene and polypropylene), 500 tons for "Coldon" and 100 tons for melt blown "Microweb." The demand for Eltas increased in the fields of diapers, packings and medical materials in 1992, but demand remained stagnant in the automobile and electric cable segments, resulting in stable sales. However, Luxer, Coldon, Microweb and "Bemliese" all saw increased interest, resulting in an overall sales increase for nonwovens.

Coldon, which is the general brand name for Asahi Chemical's spunlaced nonwovens, includes a notable nonwoven fabric called "Shaleria," a microfiber spunlaced nonwoven made from porous acrylic fibers (FCA). The FCA fiber contains a very large number--up to 1000--fine linear microcrevices along the fiber. Many such fibers are formed into a web by means of carding or wet laying. When the formed web is then subjected to water jets, the water penetrates into the microcrevices and divides the constituent FCA fibers into microfibers.

Adjusting the strength of the water jets controls the fineness of the microfibers and in theory, fibers can be made as fine as 0.001 denier. It is also possible, by adjusting the water jets not to penetrate fibers that are deeper within the web, to make a nonwoven whose outer surface is of microfibers and whose inner area is of undivided non-microfibers as thick as 1.5 denier. Asahi Chemical has developed the Shaleria nonwoven for the industrial wipe segment, marketed under the tradename "Sunpact."

Asahi's flashspun Luxer material continues to successfully serve the house wrap segment, with a sales increase of more than 50% reported in 1992, attributed to an intensified marketing focus. While Luxer has shown remarkable growth, it remains at a lower level than imports of its main competitor, DuPont's "Tyvek." New uses for Luxer are under development in the roofing and agricultural segments, areas expected to be tapped in the near future. A touring tent, introduced in May, is one example of the possible uses for Luxer. With high moisture permeability for breathability, yet good water resistance, the tent weighs less than traditional materials and is available in one and two person models. While sales predictions for 1993 are for only 1000 units, more than 20,000 tents are expected to be sold in 1994.

In the area of Eltas, Asahi's spunbonded nonwoven, a new production line is to be added by 1995 for producing thick spunbonded nonwovens. Currently, Asahi Chemical produces thin spunbonds of 30-40 grams sq. meter and has yet to develop nonwovens for carpet backing, geotextile and roofing applications. With the additional production line, the company will develop and produce thicker nonwovens to supply these as yet untapped markets.

Asahi Chemical 1-2-6 Dojimahama Kitaku, Osaka, Japan 06-347-3111 Worldwide Nonwoven Sales: $142 million (8.0 billion [yen]) Corporate Sales $7.8 billion (994.4 billion [yen]) Key Personnel: Tukasa Shima, general manager of Nonwoven Division; Tadashi Sasaki, general manager of Spunbond sales; Nobuhiro Tunoda, general manager of Bemliese sales Plants: Moriyama, Japan and Nobeoka, Japan Processes: Spunbonded, Melt Blown, Flashspun and Spunlaced Brand Names: Eltas, Bemliese, Luxer, Microweb, Coldon and Shaleria Major Markets: Packing, Automotive Urethane Reinforcing Cloth, Architectural Materials, Coverstock and Wipes, Gauze
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Title Annotation:International Top 30; Asahi Chemical Industry Company Ltd.
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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