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Spunbonded nonwovens, the first choice: charting the future of one of the most vibrant nonwoven technologies remains a full time job.

Spunbonded Nonwovens, The First Choice

In my column of September, 1989, I discussed which nonwoven process a company may choose to enter or expand production in the nonwovens field. Numerous comparisons were made and I attempted to give you a score card to rate each process. I would like to continue that subject with additional observations.

If you read our trade magazines, papers and the like, or if you attend conferences and trade shows, you have no doubt become aware of the recent expansions, acquisitions and new manufacturing facilities for producing spunbonded nonwovens. This process appears to have been the first choice for those large companies that were interested in obtaining a significant position in the nonwovens business for the past 25 years. Apparently, this situation continues today.

Why have they selected the spunbonded process and why do they continue to do so? The simple answer is that the information one gets in a process/market study indicates it is the preferred opportunity. This method of manufacturing nonwovens has a proven success story in numerous end use markets, it is dominating many markets today and it has more to offer in the future than any other nonwoven processes. Therefore, a company either entering the nonwovens field or planning a major expansion here would see spunbonding as the one offering lower risk, higher return and excellent growth potential.

Keeping Track: A Full Time Job

It is difficult if not impossible to calculate the exact number of companies currently involved with spunbonding. There are the obvious producers that advertise, market roll goods and discuss their capabilities. However, there are other companies that produce for internal consumption, have pilot or development lines and conceal their positions.

I believe the combination of these two categories today to be more than 50 companies and the number should reach more than 100 by the year 2000. As we have witnessed during the past 10 years, the producers of spunbonded nonwovens are increasing at an accelerated rate and the environment of the future looks favorable for this to continue.

During the 1970's, many companies watched with interest and envy as spunbondeds grew and took market share from the more traditional nonwovens processes. They believed that this process was too complicated for them, that patents would prohibit or limit their process and products, that the markets for spunbondeds might decline and that only major producers could survive the capital investment and difficult start-up of such a business. In the 1980's, many of these beliefs have been changed and are continuing to be changed.

Today there are several companies offering a turnkey spunbonded line. This package may include all the processing equipment required to produce specific finished roll goods, the technology and training to operate the line and even some type of package offering assistance regarding litigation.

Some of the companies offering spunbonded lines today include Reifenhauser, Meccaniche Moderne and STP Impianti. There are several other companies offering complete lines and/or portions of a line as well as technologies. In addition, several fiber producers, equipment manufacturers serving the fiber and spunbonded producers and polymer producers have the capability to set up spunbonded production.

Some of the basic patents on spunbonded processing have expired and many more will expire in the next few years. However, there have been many patents issued each year following these regarding spunbonding and a study of them would be advised before entering the field. Several companies have not entered spunbonding because of recent patents regarding a particular end use or process that was key to their marketing decision. Examples of these include certain laminates and composite fabrics that demonstrate excellent market potential.

The Big Guys: Success, Few Failures

There have been many success stories in spunbonding and only a few failures. In 1965, had one projected what kind of companies would be the major spunbonded producers in the 1970's and 1980's, we would have expected the names of large textile companies in weaving, knitting or fabricating. This has not been the case.

Most of the producers of spunbondeds have a base in chemicals, fiber production, paper and/or plastics. Another category is the entrepreneur that may or may not be in one of the previous categories. Will some of the textile companies enter the spunbond arena? In the U.S., it appears that they are too busy buying and selling plants, divisions and each other at the moment to notice that nonwovens continue to take more and more of their markets, with spunbonded being a major competitor.
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Title Annotation:Holliday Talk
Author:Holliday, Tom
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Previous Article:Something's got to give.
Next Article:Western European nonwovens update.

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