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The Chinese nonwovens industry marches towards the year 2000.

The Chinese nonwovens industry has made great progress during the past 15 years. In the 1980's, nonwovens production increased tenfold, with annual increases of up to 28%. In 1990, Chinese nonwovens output reached more than 60,000 tons. After entering the 1990's, the nonwovens industry continued to grow at a fast rate. For the three years from 1990 to 1992, there has still been a high annual increase of 17%, a rate that overtook the rate of national economic development. In 1992, the production (excluding Taiwan) increased to more than 80,000 tons, making China second only to Japan as a manufacturer of nonwovens output in the Asian region. As a result, the Chinese nonwovens sector has now formed an energetic prosperous department within the Chinese textile industry. It is a relatively new trade with an annual production value of more than 1.5 billion yuan.

In recent years, the Chinese nonwovens industry has experienced many exciting changes. The major facts are as follows:

* Most of the nonwovens enterprises are being forced to participate in market competition. The competition has given the companies the impetus to exploit new markets, improve management and develop new products. While some traditional textile manufacturers have been confronted with a depression, most nonwovens firms are enjoying good sales and profit margins. In the last several years, a lot of new nonwoven products have been introduced into the domestic market; these include nonwoven asphalt felts, composite geotextiles, microfiber air filtration nonwovens, stitchbonded nonwoven vertical curtains, high grade nylon fusible interlinings, silk flosslike spray bonded nonwoven waddings and needlepunched tiles with pitch backing.

* The share of new technology that is applied to nonwovens operations has increased rapidly. In 1990, spunbonded nonwovens output was only 10% of total nonwovens production in China. As a result of 12 newly imported spunbonded production lines soon to be installed, the proportion will increase to 30% in 2-3 years.

Meanwhile, the application of calendered bonding has been gradually expanded. More than 50 production lines have been imported. This makes the current output of thermal bonded nonwovens more than 20% of the total. Also, other new technologies have found application in the Chinese industry. They include thermal bonding in combination with spray bonding for the manufacture of silk floss-like waddings, hot air through bonding and melt blown technology. In particular, the production lines for making silk floss-like nonwovens already amount to more than 20. In addition to several decades of existing Chinese-made melt blown production lines, two lines will be imported in the near future from the U.S. to produce wide width melt blown nonwovens.

* According to rough statistical data, almost 100 joint ventures have been established to produce nonwovens or converted products. They were invested in partnership or by single capital investments. These investors come from abroad, Hong Kong or Taiwan. Some of these ventures are wholly export oriented and most operate well. Their operation has a positive effect on increasing nonwovens exports and improving factory management of the Chinese nonwovens industry. Now, leading firms in the European and U.S. nonwovens industry--such as 3M, Hoechst, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont and Dominion--have expressed their intent to enter China to set up wholly-owned companies or joint ventures.

* The geographical distribution of the nonwovens enterprises has become more rational. Today, the location of nonwovens factories is rapidly radiating from coastal areas toward interior provinces. During the last several years, more than 150 nonwovens firms were founded in these provinces. If a firm is to produce thermal insulation waddings in an inland region, its products can be manufactured and distributed onsite, reducing transportation costs considerably. Nonwoven geotextiles produced in the inland areas have been locally used as new materials in the water conservation projects with excellent social and economical results.

Of course, it is clear that the Chinese nonwovens industry is facing some problems. A gap still exists between the industry and that of developed countries in many respects. For example, too many companies are too small in size. This drawback hinders the formation of mass production for nonwoven products as increasing production costs negatively effect the industry's economic results. Some of the small firms also lack technical strength and operate under mismanagement. Although China's chemical fiber industry has capacity of more than 1.7 million tons, different fiber varieties are scarce. Raw material suppliers to the fiber industry cannot cope with production demands. This phenomenon considerably restricts the development of nonwoven varieties, quality and output. The intensity and extension of nonwovens processing usually results in inadequate characteristics, which translates into a negative effect on product development and application expansion.

Nevertheless, the outlook for the year 2000 for the Chinese nonwoven industry is encouraging and manufacturers are confident. Reasons for this include:

* In the 1990's, the growth of the Chinese economy will continue its steady and fast pace. The rapid development of national industry and agriculture and the establishment of many new industrial sectors will provide the nonwovens industry with new possibilities for technical applications for its products particularly in transportation (railways and highways), energy, water conservation, harbor construction, land preservation, automotive, civil construction, environmental protection and agriculture sectors. The development of these areas require a large variety and volume of various nonwovens including geotextiles, roofing felts, automotive interior furnishings and construction materials, filter media, electrical insulation fabrics and various agricultural materials.

* Reformation and opening have become irreversible trends in China. The steady growth of the national economy has made it possible for the more than 1.1 billion Chinese people to better their standard of living quickly. As a group, they are marching towards improved living by the year 2000. This will provide a big market for those consumer oriented nonwovens including various warmth retention materials (spray bonded waddings, silk floss-like waddings, thermal bonded waddings), disposable sanitary products (napkins, diapers, medical articles, operating gowns), various interlinings and home textiles (carpets, wall coverings, curtains).

* The Chinese economy is preparing to be in harmony with international routines. Before long, China will restore its status in GATT. This will create many favorable conditions for the Chinese nonwovens industry. The industry will have easier access to foreign-made specialty fibers and to better products to satisfy domestic demand. In addition, the industry will have greater opportunities to narrow the gap between itself and foreign advanced counterparts with respect to product variety and quality.

* The steady and rapid development of the Chinese nonwovens industry has formed a sound industrial production foundation consisting of most of the nonwovens processing methods. Half of the production capacity is manufactured on imported equipment. By the end of 1994, Chinese nonwovens capacity may reach 150,000 tons.

The nonwovens industry has definitely become a prosperous trade. Currently more than 10 colleges and institutes are involved in nonwovens; these are facilities that train nonwoven technical candidates, research nonwoven programs and develop technical cooperation with foreign institutes. The efforts spent these past several years have laid a good foundation for nonwovens research and education. During the progress of the Chinese nonwovens industry, the Nonwovens Technical Committee of the China Textile Engineering Society and the China Nonwovens Technical Association (CNTA) have done their best to push forward China's nonwovens industry. The latter now has three subassociations--nonwovens, sanitary materials and apparel interlinings. All these achievements are necessary steps required in driving the Chinese nonwovens industry to further development in the 1990's.

Obviously, it is within the realm of possibility for the Chinese nonwovens industry to fulfill its goal of 200,000-250,000 tons annual output by the year 2000. For this to occur, the industry must make every effort to implement the technical restructuring of the existing enterprises, improve product quality and form larger, more competitive groups. Through the competition in the market, some firms may be eliminated for poor management and low efficiency. To strengthen the cooperation with foreign firms and utilize their advanced experiences, the Chinese nonwovens industry needs to step into a new stage of higher quality, offering more varieties and improved products, to contribute to the development of both China's national economy and the worldwide nonwovens industry.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Rodman Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Yanxi, Wang
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:1342
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