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The 'other' nonwovens processes should not be forgotten.

The |Other' Nonwovens Processes Should Not Be Forgotten

the major nonwovens technologies will naturally continue to dominate industry efforts, but the smaller processes should not be ignored as the business seeks to continuously improve and innovate

When we speak of "nonwovens," we normally refer to those major processes that consume most of the raw materials and generate the majority of products in our industry (Table 1). We typically base our market numbers on them and, therefore, they are the ones that are seen and somewhat understood by those interested parties outside of our industry.

But then there are others that get little recognition. However, these minor processes are major factors in many ways to our business and to the markets they serve (Table 1). If they weren't, they would probably not exist in the first place.

More To Come

As history teaches us, we will see additional processes and the evolution of existing processes in the near future (Table 2). These processes of the future will no doubt be designed to function with more efficiency to meet market needs and make higher profits than many of the older ones that "happened" or were put together with what was available.

There is little doubt that the major nonwoven processes will continue to dominate our industry for the next few years. The producers of nonwovens are slow and cautious when it comes to dramatic changes. However, the minor category has and will continue to influence the major group.

As an example, scrims and nettings are used in conjunction with many other nonwovens today. They provide strength, stiffness, abrasion resistance and/or properties to carded, air laid, needlepunched and other webs. Some of these are laminated to one or both sides, while others may be inside the fiber network, such as in needlepunched nonwovens.

There are continuous filament webs or networks made of "hot melt" polymers that are used in conjunction with other materials as a binder. These are not thought of as a nonwoven generally since they lose their web-like properties after melting. Some of these are, in effect, a small spunbonded unit and by changing the polymer could produce meaningful nonwoven structures.

Nonwoven scrims have been one of the most underrated processes in our industry. The total annual production of this category is estimated to be approaching one billion yards. Most of this is used in reinforcing paper tapes and similar products. The nonwovens industry has seen them in limited use health care products such as gowns or garments and drapes. We have also seen them in wipes, towels, packaging, wall covering, roofing and as support structures inside needlepunched fabrics. It is a growing area but still does not compare to the majors.

Tow: Destined For Greater Things

Tow fabrics have also been neglected by our industry. Although there have been problems in getting tow with desired properties at a reasonable price that is competitive with staple nonwovens, this process offers many advantages to spunbonded or other nonwoven processes. Tow fabrics have been made with crimp and high strength fibers that produce superior end products for geotextile and other markets when compared to spunbonded and staple needlepunched materials. Fiberfill, highloft and filtration have been major markets for tow, but someone will surely see that this process and concept is destined for greater things.

The future processes and the wonderful products they make will indeed take years to develop and bring to the market. That does not stop those industrious inventors that are working on them today and tomorrow.

We have seen the concepts and the lab models that demonstrate how new and different nonwoven processes can perform. Some portions of these inventions will no doubt be used in existing production operations or incorporated into a major nonwoven process facility being planned for the near future. But the major processes will continue to dominate our industry for the next five to 10 years unless there is a dramatic turn of events.

Table 1


The |Majors' Carding Air Laid Wet Laid Needlepunched Hydroentangled Spunbonded Melt Blown

The |Minors' Tow Stitchbonded Netting Scrims Fibrillated Film Flock Type Hot Melt Webs Unique Sonic and Thermal Bonded Winding/Wrapping/Layering Stuffing/Filling

Table 2


* Unique Extrusions That Produce and Position Fibers * Growing Fiber Networks * Combining Existing Processes With Innovations * Chemical and Gas Laid Fiber Networks * Innovations That Control Natural Fiber Into Web * Fused Filament Sheets and Structures * Centrifugal Fiber Forming * Stretching and Elongating of Polymers Into Fibrous Webs * Foam Technologies That Produce Fiber Instead of Cells * Finishing That Alters Structures Into a Nonwoven

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:Holliday talk; secondary nonwoven technologies hold promise for the future
Author:Holliday, Tom
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Kimberly-Clark.
Next Article:Nonwovens industry favors successful negotiation of U.S./Mexico free trade agreement.

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