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The top companies in the European nonwovens industry.


1 Freudenberg Group

Postfach 1369, D-6940 Weinheim, West Germany; (06201)80-1; Telex, 465531-14; Fax, (06201)69300 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 1.26 billion DM ($650 million); 2.013 billion DM ($1.08 billion) including sales from its minority interests Corporate Worldwide Sales: 3.532 billion DM ($1.91 billion); there are about 130 Freudenberg companies in 26 countries, in businesses ranging from rubber and plastics processing to shoes and leather Key Personnel: Norbert Dahlstrom, managing partner; Karl Wuttke, managing director, Spunweb Div. (commercial); Dr. Helmut Eschwey, managing director, Spunweb Div. (technical); Willi Hasselbrink, managing director, Nonwovens Div. (commercial); Peter Schlenzig, managing director, Nonwovens Div. (technical); Walter Bokamper, managing director, Consumer Products Div. Plants: There are 18 plants (15 for staple fiber nonwovens) in 11 countries, Nonwovens Div.: West Germany (three plants), U.K. (Freudenberg Nonwovens Ltd.); Spain (Freudenberg Telas sin tejer S.A. and Freudenberg Recubrimientos S.A.); Argentina (Freudenberg S.A. telas sin tejer); Brazil (Freudenberg Nao-Tecidos Ltda. & Cie); and South Africa (Freudenberg Nonwovens (Pty.) Ltd.); U.S. (Freudenberg Nonwovens and Freudenberg Spunweb); East Asia (Japan Vilene minority interest); Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan (joint affiliates), Spunweb Div.: West Germany, U.S., Taiwan. Professional and Household Cleaning Products Div.: Vileda GmbH, Weinheim, West Germany (professional and household cleaning products, wipes); Fremawerk Martini GmbH, Augsburg, West Germany; affiliated companies in Europe. Processes: Staple fiber nonwovens (dry laid, wet laid), Spunbonded, Hydroentangled (in pilot plant) Brand Names: Viledon, Lutravil, Vileda Major Markets: Interlinings for garments and foot wear, industrial nonwovens, personal and health care nonwovens, household and institutional wipes, synthetics and composites Notes: For the first time in its long history, the Freudenberg Group released the sales figures of its three Nonwovens Divs. A changing of accounting and financial disclosure rules in West Germany prompted the radical departure for this closely-held company, the largest nonwovens producer in the world.

Consolidated worldwide sales of the three divisions--the Vileda Consumer Products Div., the Carl Freudenberg Nonwovens Div. and the Spunweb Div.--increased by 16.5% in 1988 to 1.26 billion DM ($650 million). This figure includes sales achieved by the Italian Vileda sales company, which was taken over by Freudenberg in 1988 on a majority-owned basis. Without the inclusion of these figures, growth was about 12%. Leading the surge were high increases in the branded articles business and sales by foreign holdings. Overall, nonwovens accounted for 36% of corporate sales in 1988,up significantly from only 22% of sales in 1984, when corporate sales reached 2.971 billion DM.

Sales of unconsolidated minority holdings in Asia surged almost 30% to 756 million DM ($410 million). Total sales "within Freudenberg's sphere of influence," as the company put it, exceeded the 2 billion DM mark for the first time.

This excellent growth of 1988 carried over in 1989. In the first six months of this year consolidated nonwovens sales increased approximately 17%, with the Staple Fiber Nonwovens Div. and the U.S. affiliated companies doing particularly well, although no details were available. In an official statement, however, the company admitted "it will not be possible to maintain the high growth rate of the first six months in the second half of 1989 because sales had increased very vigorously in the same period a year earlier."

The level of capital expenditures, primarily in the field of staple fiber nonwovens, was extraordinarily high in the past year. At the Weinheim site the Staple Fiber Div's. new pilot plant was inaugurated and the futuristic warehousing and shipping center was considerably expanded. Total investment in capital in 1988 was 236 million DM ($138 million), down from a high of 297 million DM ($160 million) in 1986. In addition, construction work on the first polyester manufacturing facility for spunbonded nonwovens in Taiwan made considerable progress.

The Nonwovens Group employed 4727 people in 1988, a figure that has also continued to grow since the early 1980's In 1982, there were only 3271 employees within the group and in 1985 only 3695 employees.

On a worldwide basis, approximately 50% of Freudenberg's nonwovens business is produced in Europe, 37% in Asia and the remainder in North and South America.

Consolidated sales of its minority interests were 755 million DM ($408 million), all in Asia, the great majority in Japan. U.S. and Canadian sales of its nonwovens products, through its Freudenberg Nonwovens operation in Chelmsford, MA and Freudenberg Spunweb (formerly Lutravil) in Durham, NC were $125 million in 1988 (these two companies are profiled more in-depth in the U.S. companies section of this feature).

As the largest, most versatile and some say most progressive nonwovens roll goods producer in the world, Freudenberg is uniquely positioned to benefit not only from the coming Europeanization of the business but from the increased globalization of the entire nonwovens industry. Norbert Dahlstrom, managing partner of Freudenberg, said the enviable position in which the company stands is the result of long standing tradition of international investment at a company that has long considered nonwovens a core business.

"Our concept of internationalization is far, far older than this concept of a common European market," Mr. Dahlstrom said during a recent interview at his Weinheim, West Germany offices. "Freudenberg is well prepared for the globalization of the market because it has been doing exactly that for a very long time. The philosophy of running an international business had nothing to do with the original EEC or the coming integrated European market."

Indeed, the history of Freudenberg is the history of the nonwovens industry around the world. From the development of the first nonwovens technology in Weinheim by Prof. Carl Nottebohm in 1936 and the start-up of the first dry laid, staple fiber nonwovens production in 1948, Freudenberg's international expansion has been the model for the rest of the industry.

The company's international style first emerged in 1951 with its Pellon venture in the U.S. to produce dry laid nonwovens; that operation is now the fully-owned Freudenberg Nonwovens business. Highlights during the next three decades included expansion into Japan with a dry laid nonwovens venture Japan Vilene in 1960, the Lutravil joint venture in the U.S. in 1984, the acquisition of a nonwovens producer in Brazil (1985) and just last year the start of construction of a joint venture manufacturing operation for polyester spunbondeds in Taiwan with Far Eastern Textiles. In the middle was the introduction of spunbonded polyamide technology by Dr. Ludwig Hartmann in 1965, the start of wet laid nonwovens production in 1973 and the start of polyester spunbonded production in Kaiserslautern, West Germany that same year, and in 1986 the first signs of its polyolefin microfiber spunbondeds.

Freudenberg continues to eye other strategic markets, including more in what Mr. Dahlstrom describes as the "under-represented" North American market on the consumer products side. Earlier this year Freudenberg purchased the Enka Consumer Products business in Holland, a producer of viscose cloths and sponges.

"We are constantly analyzing our portfolio to see in what markets we are under-represented," he said. "We will try by selected moves, either acquisitions or by grass roots investment, to be better prepared. We will look for any opportunity that will give us an edge, either if the technology is unique or for share in a new market." Freudenberg has looked closely at a number of acquisitions in the past few years, including, of course, the Colgate-Palmolive sale of its Kendall operations, but, according to the managing partner, the businesses have either not been synergistic or "not on the level of Freudenberg profitability standards."

A classic case of Freudenberg developing its in-house technology rather than pursuing outside expertise is in its approach to the rapidly emerging hydroentanglement technology. The company has developed its own proprietary spunlacing technology but is waiting for it to develop to a point where it is commercially viable. It already has a commercial scale, two meter wide line dedicated to development and research activities and completely at the disposal of the process and product development people. That line, together with appropriate buildings, infrastructure and other development equipment, representing a 30 million DM ($16 million) investment, opened in 1988 and came about simply because the company was having difficulty developing commercial quality products at the necessary speed on laboratory or production equipment.

But even with this extraordinary in-house technology base, and with producers around the world rushing to join the spunlaced battle, Freudenberg has waited patiently until it feels the time is right. The primary purpose of the research line, Mr. Dahlstrom said, is to "speed up our innovation rate." No one at the company would comment on precisely when the inevitable Freudenberg commercial move into this technology would take place.

Freudenberg's spunbonded operation now has three plants worldwide (Kaiserslautern, Durham and in the Far East) and its spunbonded fabrics are sold into 50 countries; about 80% of its business is done outside of West Germany. It, too, is organized on a worldwide basis, with Karl Wuttke and Dr. Helmut Eschwey the managing directors of the recently-renamed Spunweb Div.

"We have been, and we will continue to be much more so, very internationally integrated by coordinating international marketing and R&D, especially since one of our major markets is the automotive industry," Mr. Wuttke told Nonwovens Industry. "The Toyotas and General Motors must be approached from an international standpoint."

The first commercial spunbonded--"Viledon M" polyamide-came out of Freudenberg's Weinheim laboratories in 1965. One of its major breakthroughs came in 1969 with "Viledan" table cloths made of polyamide spunbondeds. In 1970, all spunbonded nonwoven activities were concentrated in the new Lutravil Spinnvlies, in Weinheim, and in 1971 production facilities were built in Kaiserslautern to manufacture "Lutrabond" spunbonded. The initial large scale spunbonded line went on-stream in 1973 making "Lutradur" primary backing for tufted carpets.

In the automotive area, the company estimates that there is three to four sq. meters of its nonwovens on average in every passenger car, ranging from the carpet in European and Japanese models to luggage compartment, door panel and head liner fabrics all over the world. Its spunbonds are also contributing to the move towards thermoformable, structural reinforcing designs in automobiles.

Freudenberg also boasts of its worldwide reach in the automotive market. "We operate in all three major auto markets in the world," Mr. Wuttke said. "This is essential, because it is not easy to go into the Far East market with imported products." With this in mind, construction of a spunbonded plant in Taiwan is scheduled to be completed next spring.

In the carpet backing area, Freudenberg supplies spunbonded fabric for high quality tufted residential and commercial carpeting; it is one of the leaders in Europe in this segment. It also supplies backing for carpet tiles.

The roofing industry is moving away from heavier weight needle-punched substrates and towards lighter weight spunbondeds, another primary area for Freudenberg.

With two new lines in the U.S. and the new Taiwan plant already accounted for in the past 10 years, Freudenberg's commitment to the capital intensive spunbonding segment is unquestioned. Mr. Wuttke said the company is expanding from its polyester base into polypropylene (where a lot of specialty work is being done), polyurethane and polyamides, all of which are vying for research dollars.

One of the more commercially viable new technologies is its microfiber spunbondeds, which it is currently demonstrating on a semi-works line in Europe. Mr. Wuttke confirmed that once the technology does become commercially viable a first line would most likely be placed in Kaiserslautern.

The microfiber spunbonded is being targeted at filtration, medical, hygienic and consumer product end uses. It is, as Mr. Wuttke put it, "an excellent method to combine the strength and durability of a woven fabric with the feel and esthetics of a spunbonded. The challenge will be to assure that the industry recognizes the value of these new materials because they may be slightly more expensive."

Mr. Wuttke said the next few years will see "substantially new and different products from Spunweb," in particular using microfibers, different polymers and the combinations of these technologies. "One of our strengths is that we have this long learning curve in nonwovens in general," he added. "If variety is a strength, then we have this strength. The other is our international base. Operating in 50 countries gives us feedback from everywhere in the world."

2 Hoechst AG

D-6230 Frankfurt am Main 80 Frankfurt, West Germany Telephone, (0611)3 05-50 67; Fax, (069) 30 40 25 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 270 million DM ($146 million) Key Personnel: Gunter Kohnlein, marketing manager, Technical Fibres Department Plants: Bobingen, West Germany; Spartanburg, SC USA Processes: Spunbonded (polyester), Calendering, Needlepunched Brand Name: Trevira Major Markets: Roofing, Geotextiles, Coating Substrates, Filtration Notes: With a strong fiber background through its Hoechst parent company, the spunbonded nonwovens operations at the West German producer have grown since 1971 to make Hoechst one of the world's largest polyester spunbonded suppliers, with about 270 million DM ($146 million) in worldwide sales in 1988.

Now Hoechst is opening a new plant for its "Trevira" spunbonded thermal bonded polyester in Berlin, West Germany. Scheduled to open near the end of 1990, according to Gunter Kohnlein, the 40 million DM ($22 million) investment employs a completely new process that spins, lays down and stabilizes low denier polyester filaments to produce lightweight nonwovens with a weight between 30-100 grams sq. meter; production will focus on the 60-70 grams sq. meter weight range, however.

The marketing aim of the new plant will be to expand from Hoechst's traditional strengths in roofing and geotextiles to new applications in coating substrates and lightweight filtration media. Its current lines produce spunbondeds in a weight range from 100-1000 grams sq. meter.

Another recent expansion was in March, 1988, when Hoechst started-up a plant for needled types of roofing materials in Bobingen, West Germany, site of its spunbonded facility.

Hoechst also has a quality control and research and development laboratory in Bobingen, where its technical efforts are centered. Included there are a six year old spunbonded line and a modernized spunbonded line dedicated to research efforts.

The extent of new polyester spunbonded capacity being introduced into Europe is a concern to Mr. Kohnlein, who in a recent interview said he foresees some overcrowding in a slightly maturing segment. "We know our company will come with new capacity in 1989, 1990 and 1991 and we are astonished that newcomers will build polyester spunbonded plants," he said. "They are saying the roofing market will grow a lot in the next years, but we don't think that is right at this time."

Hoechst believes the market, which has experienced solid growth in the late 1980's, may be stagnating in three or four years. "We have to be careful in investing now in nonwovens for roofing applications, because we think there is enough capacity for the next four to five years," Mr. Kohnlein added.

The European nonwovens business is also being hard hit by price contraints from customers and by raw material price increased by its suppliers. "There is a problem with profitability in the European industry now, because of the higher cost of polyester raw material," Mr. Kohnlein said. "We cannot get higher prices for our products, so profit is going down."

Hoechst is fighting that downward spiral by concentrating on supplying geotextile market niches where pricing better fits its production capabilities. In roofing, Hoechst remains the market leader and sells best on quality and service, so margins are somewhat better.

More research work is planned for lighter weight Trevira spunbondeds, more so in technical applications than in the hygiene field. But that will not be to the detriment of its core businesses.

"We will remain the market leader in roofing," Mr. Kohnlein said." And we will not exclude our geotextile capacity, where our capacity is already too small for the expected 10% growth for the next few years."

3 Lantor International

Tootal House, 19/21 Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2TL, UK; 061-8317777; Telex, 668196; Fax, 061-8351223 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 55 million [pounds] ($93.5 million) Key Personnel: Roel Lubbinge, chief executive Plants: Lantor Ltd., U.K.; Lantor bv, The Netherlands; Lantor of Australia; Lantor Hong Kong; Lantor Korea; Lantor Fiber-Taxis, Bellingham, MA USA. Processes: Dry Laid, Hydroentangled, Composites Brand Names: Firet, Firet Coremat, Firet-Isol (insulation material), Firet TP (interlining), Firet Fixoret (fusing tape), Lantorine Major Markets: Medical (dressings, swabs, ostomy components, waddings, drapes, gowns, tapes); Wipes, Air and Liquid Filtration, Automotive, Interlinings, Protective Clothing, Military Defense, Electrical, Cable Wrap, FRP, Construction Notes: Lantor, part of the Tootal Group international textile company, is heading into the 1990's with new leadership following the appointment of Roel Lubbinge, who was formerly manager of Lantor by, the Dutch portion of the international nonwovens supplier. This followed the unexpected resignation of former chief executive David Dry. Mr. Dry, who was also chairman of EDANA at the time, left the company July 1 to become chief executive of Baxi Partnership Ltd., a U.K. producer of heat exchangers and environmental control systems with 70 million [pounds] ($119 million) annual turnover.

Lantor has developed a worldwide reputation as an innovative producer of dry laid nonwovens. Where many companies claim to be focusing on specialized niches, an array of new products from Lantor seem to frequently find their way to commercial applications.

Although it is now owned 100% by Tootal (annual turnover 500 million [pounds] ($850 million), until the beginning of 1988 Lantor was a joint venture between West Point Pepperell in North America and its British parent.

Earlier this year the Tootal board recommended to shareholders a merger with Coates Viyella, the biggest textile group in Europe. At the end of June, the merger was referred by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The outcome is not expected until autumn.

The largest Lantor unit is the Dutch operation, Lantor by, with turnover of about 30 million [pounds] ($51 million). The Dutch company, located in Veenendaal, produces dry laid nonwovens. Bonding is by both chemical and thermal bonding, with interlinings the major market; estimates place Lantor's share of the European interlining business at close to 10%, with significant exports to the Far East.

Two of the most important Lantor businesses in terms of value added are its "Coremat" GRP, a core material packed with microspheres that displace and reduce the number of fiberglass layers in composite structures for marine and transportation applications. These are only produced in Holland; 50% of Coremat sales are to the U.S. The second strong, value added market is the "Firet" cable wrapping tape, a nonwoven that is wrapped around underground cables to absorb moisture and protect against leakage.

The U.K. Lantor business has about 15 million [pounds] ($25.5 million) annual sales. It produces dry laid nonwoven fabrics and interlinings for military applications, including a new generation fabric that is a composite of a nonwoven and other materials. It also supplies medical products (dressings and ostomy pads), as well as wipes and swabs.

Reflectivity in a new satellite launched earlier this year is provided by a layer of "Lantorine," a highly reflective aluminum nonwoven made by the U.K. company. The nonwoven forms an integral part of the composite dish, which features a unique compression molded SMC plastic reinforced with glass fiber. Several European dish manufacturers are incorporating Lantorine into their products using both hand lay-up and compression molding processes. Lantorine is also being examined for use as a screening fabric to protect electronics from outside interference.

Last October, Lantor invested approximately 2 million [pounds] ($3.5 million) in hydroentanglement technology in the U.K. The technology is described as a basic Perfojet system with a number of improvements. It has also committed to a 5 million Sterling manufacturing facility; discussions for a second line are underway. All spunlaced output is currently targeted for medical applications currently, although plans call for a move into other more specialized segments.

Lantor made its U.S. move in November, 1988 with the purchase of needlepuncher Fiber-Taxis, Bellingham, MA. The expansion was undertaken primarily to develop a manufacturing presence in the U.S. and to establish a base for local production of Coremat, with the potential of expanding medical spunlaced production overseas. The work Fiber-Taxis has done in developing needling of high performance fibers was one of the attractions. The U.S. operation also supplies a number of specialty coatings and finishes. The company has indicated it is still examining acquisition potential in the U.S.

More recently in the U.S., Lantor opened a distribution office in LaGrange, GA called Lantor Plastics. It will initially focus on sales of its "Firet" nonwovens, which were previously handled by a North American distributor.

In Korea, where Lantor owns 49% of a joint manufacturing and marketing venture, the primary market is, and will remain, interlinings. The company is a primary source of interlining fabric in the Far East. Annual turnover is approximately $7 million.

In Australia, a smaller, $8 million (Australian) operation is highly profitable and has acquired a 52% share of the Australian interlinings market as the only domestic supplier. Health care and filtration are two other segments.

4 Textilgruppe Hof

Postfach 529, Fabrikzeile 21, D-8670 Hof/Salle 11, West Germany; 09281-490; Telex, 6439090; Fax, 09281-49216 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 100 million DM ($55 million) Key Personnel: Ernst Haecker, Werner Lohmann and Dr. Gerhard Hegels, managing directors and members of the board; Manfred Knieling, sales manager-interlinings; Jurgen Frisch, sales manager-technical nonwovens; Dieter Gronwald, production manager Plant: Hof, West Germany; corporate has 14 factories employing 3500 people in West Germany Process: Day Laid Staple Fiber, Binder Bonded, Powder Bonded, Thermal Bonded, Needlepunched Brand Names: Eswegee interlining, Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft (combination woven and thermal bonded product), Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetatherm industrial nonwovens Major Markets: Interlinings, Filtration, Coating Substrates, Automotive, Hygiene, Upholstery, Construction Fabrics Notes: Textilgruppe Hof is a partnership of two textile companies--Neue Baumwoll-Spinnerei und Weberei Hof Ag (NSH) and Voglandische Baumwollspinnerei AG (VBS). Group sales in 1988 were 676 million DM ($365 million). Its primary activities include spinning (open end, ring carded and combed cotton), weaving, dyeing and finishing. The NSH business includes an expanding nonwovens plant.

Nonwovens sales for Textilgruppe Hof increased in 1988 by 7% and in the first six months of 1989 grew another 15%.

The company, a well-known producer of woven and Raschel interlinings, expanded rapidly in the past few years into nonwoven interlinings. The move was made, according to company officials, because of the shift of the European apparel business towards nonwovens.

Textilgruppe Hof has also expanded its production of technical nonwovens. One of its primary technical areas is in automotives, where its "Di-Lour" structured needled nonwovens are gaining acceptance. Other markets include air and liquid filtration.

The West German producer is represented in the U.S. by Rik Textile Group, New York, NY, headed by president Mitchell Rick. The company has a major emphasis on thermal bonded and saturated nonwoven and weft inserted interlinings for mens and ladies clothing. Rik is also increasing its emphasis on the industrial market based on Textilgruppe Hof's strong automotive position in Europe. Hof Textiles, the proposed U.S. subsidiary of Textilegruppe Hof, is currently expanding its U.S. distribution with offices and warehousing facilities in Florida and California.

5 J.W. Suominen Oy

P.O. Box 25, SF-29251 Nakkila, Finland; 358-39-375400; Telex, 66234 jwse sf; Fax, 358-39-72419 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 226 million Finnish Marks ($50-55 million) Key Personnel: Heikki Bergholm, managing director; Jouko Pentila, marketing director; Esa Palttala, production and purchasing director; Dr. Simo Makipirtti, R&D director; Kristiina Lilja, finance and administration director Plant: Nakkila, Finland Processes: Carded Thermal Bonded (polypropylene, viscose), Chemical Bonded (polypropylene, polyester), Through Air Bonded, Hydroentangled (polyester, viscose and blends); also spin own polypropylene and polyethylene fibers Brand Names: Novelin (carded polypropylene for coverstock), Fibrella (medical and technical), Noven (structured fabrics for garments and furniture) Notes: The largest single investment ever at J.W. Suominen is almost ready to start paying dividends. A new hydroentanglement line is scheduled to be completed either late this year or early in 1990 as the Finnish nonwovens producer puts its marketing gears in motion to sell the additional 7000 metric tons of spunlaced materials soon to be at its disposal. The new line, employing proprietary Suominen hydroentanglement technology, will add to the 3500-4000 metric ton capacity of the first Suominen spunlaced line that started-up in mid-1986.

Heikki Bergholm, managing director, told Nonwovens Industry the new production will be aimed at medical barrier fabrics and wipes. A key is the ability of the new line to produce pulp and textile fiber grades. It will only be used to produce roll goods and will not be integrated into a downstream converting process. "If we did that, we would start competing with our customers and we would have to change our strategy," Mr. Bergholm said. "We are not going to look on the other side of the fence. We will remain in the business of selling to business."

J.W. Suominen, with about 270 employees, is a 100% daughter company of the Lassila & Tikanoja Group, Helsinki, which has estimated 1989 turnover of 1200 million Finnish Marks ($300 million). The hygiene coverstock business, with its "Novelin" carded polypropylene and polypropylene/viscose blend nonwovens, accounts for about 65% of turnover; the company holds an estimated 14% of the European coverstock market. Suominen, purchased by its current parent in 1982, also produces its own polypropylene and polyethylene fibers; about half of its demand is spun in-house, making it one of the larger polypropylene fiber producers in Europe.

Mr. Bergholm takes a unique look at the nonwovens business and at the trend towards composite technologies, preferring to concentrate on performance rather than the route used to get there. "We are more interested in the functional properties of fabrics," he said during a recent interview. "If you can reach this with simpler structures, why make it more complex. Customers are looking for the functional properties and they are not interested in how we make the fabric." Suominen's policy is to look first at the simple approach and move on to a more complex system if the end use requires it.

"If we talk too much about the concept, then the concept becomes more important than the product," he added.

This does not mean Suominen is not interested in expanding its nonwovens portfolio. It already has four bonding technologies in-house (carded thermal bonding, chemical bonding and through air bonding in addition to spunlacing), but, with the exception of the new spunlaced capacity, its recent investments have centered on fiber production. "There are two main items in our investment strategy," Mr. Bergholm said. "All investments are targeted at the hygiene and medical business and all fiber efforts are aimed at increasing the quality of fiber production."

A great concern to the Suominen executive is the market demand for a growing supply of nonwovens, particularly in the spunlaced area. "There is enough capacity for all purposes, it is a question of the market," Mr. Bergholm said. "You want to have more supply than demand. Then the strong and clever ones survive." The second hydroentanglement line is designed to produce the medical barrier fabric for the medical industry and to help service the customers of the first line. Suominen also has pilot lines for all of its technologies, including fiber spinning.

With strong corporate support from a parent that has made two major non-nonwovens related investments in the past year--investments that will effectively double the group's size--Suominen also promises to be active in the acquisitions area. "We certainly have the resources for acquisitions if they fit in with our business plan," Mr. Bergholm said.

Suominen is not involved at all in the U.S. market yet and Mr. Bergholm would only say "we have no such plans for now that we can announce." He did admit the company is looking at "business opportunities" in the Far East and Asia, where it already sells some roll goods.

Mr. Bergholm added that the new investment is a strong indication of Suominen's priorities in the nonwovens business. "We will remain for now in staple-based nonwoven technologies," he said. "We are not looking at the specialties, we are looking for the big markets of hygiene and medical. It is our responsibility to fill what our customers are looking for with our technologies. It is always a question of either focusing or trying to be a department store."

6 Vliesstoffwerk Christian Heinrich Sandler GmbH

D-8676 Schwarzenbach/Saale, Lamitzmuhle 1, P.O. Box 144, West Germany; 092 84/60-0; Telex, 643824; Fax, 092 84/60-205 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 92 million DM ($50 million) Key Personnel: Dipl. Kfm. Christian Heinrich Sandler, managing director Plants: Schwarzenbach/Saale, West Germany Processes: Dry Laid, Resin Bonded, Mechanically Bonded, Thermal Bonded Brand Names: sawafill, sawabond, sawaloom, sawavlies, sawaloft, sawaflor, sawatex Major Markets: Apparel, Upholstery, Technical Nonwovens, Construction, Hygiene, Medical, Filtration, Automotive Notes: Like so many European nonwovens producers, the history of Vliesstoffwerk Christian Heinrich Sandler goes back to the 19th century when the company was founded in Hof/Saale as a manufacturer of shredded waddings for upholstery and tailoring. It was not until 1967 that it became a significant producer of nonwoven fabrics. Expansion first took place in 1983, with thermal bonded nonwoven technology beginning in 1987. A 35 million DM ($19 million) investment in a second building at its manufacturing site will be completed this year.

Turnover on strictly nonwovens production reached 92 million DM ($50 million) in 1988 and is expected to surpass 100 million DM ($54 million) this year. Staffing at the end of 1988 was 460 people; in 1989 it has surpassed the 500 employee mark.

The most important points of Sandler's nonwovens philosophy, the company's Lothar Wild told Nonwovens Industry, are: modern, market oriented management; close market partnerships with customers; production and technological know-how; quality assurance; and quality staff through on-going training and practice. "This is the philosophy to which the company is committed through the 1990's and into the next century," Mr. Wild said.

Sandler currently produces a range of nonwovens for very specific applications. Product areas include noise and fire protection fabrics, as passive and active pollution control media and in apparel design.

In order to react to various market demands, Sandler divides its nonwovens operations into separate market segments:

* Clothing: Traditional market partnerships with the apparel industry.

* Upholstery: Traditional market partnerships with the home furnishings industry.

* Technical: New market partnerships with different high tech industries. Important application fields are moldable, industrial and construction textiles.

* Hygiene: New market partnerships in the areas of hygiene and medical as well as clean room applications.

At Techtextil in Frankfurt, West Germany in June, Sandler was focusing on a new range of special nonwovens used for the strengthening of plastic parts for the automotive industry. Sandler has developed a 100% polyester nonwoven that offers a weight reduction up to 20%, high tenacity, improvement of impact tenacity and better bending strength.

Also at Techtextil, Sandler introduced a binderless polypropylene nonwoven for operating gown applications. The hydrophobic characteristics demanded for infection control fabrics are achieved by the use of specialty fibers; air permeability and soft hand were other benefits of the engineered fabric. Sandler also unveiled a thermally bonded polypropylene nonwoven for operating caps; it avoids the problem of color runnability by special processing. This material is also used for face masks.

In the hygiene area, Sandler has developed a binderless polypropylene feminine napkin coverstock. The one-sided moisture permeability provides no rewet and a dry feel.

At the Filtech Europe fair in Karlsruhe, West Germany this month Sandler plans to introduce a comprehensive program of filter mats and roll band filters, which are designed for ventilation and air conditioning systems as well as for surface finishing and spraying booths.

7 Molnlycke Consumer Products AB, Nonwoven

Kvarnbacken 2, S-435 81 Molnlcyke, Sweden; 46 31 37 83 00; Telex, 27364; Fax, 46 31 88 43 94 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 300 million Swedish kronor ($47 million); this figure includes cast film production Key Personnel: Fred Graf, vice president; Helena Jonsson, manager-research and development Plants: Molnlycke, Sweden; Hoogezand, Holland Processes: Dry Laid, Thermal Bonded, Print Bonded, Resin Bonded; rolls up to a width of 3.2 meters for thermal bondeds and 2.3 meters for print bondeds. Wet laid production is situated in the company's Tissue Div., Friesland, Holland. Major Product Areas: Diapers, Feminine Napkins, Incontinence Products, Medical Drapes, Gowns, Sheets, Bibs, Wipes Notes: While still primarily a supplier to Molnlycke Consumer Products' extensive disposable products business (1988 sales of 1.9 billion Swedish kronor (approximately $300 million), a 5% increase from 1987, the nonwovens business, headed by Fred Graf, remains involved with a number of outside customers as well.

Molnlycke nonwovens plants in both Sweden and Holland specialize in dry laid production, utilizing thermal bonding and print bonding technologies. The primary product is polypropylene carded thermal bonded nonwovens. Between 75-85% of its production is used internally for the Consumer and Health Care Divs. Molnlycke is the oldest of the Scandinavian nonwovens producers, having started selling carded, spray bonded nonwovens in 1960.

"We are also selling on the open market where we have old customers," Mr. Graf said. "It is a very good idea for a company such as ours, which does a lot internally, to remain in the open market. Otherwise, we are too far removed from the market situation and trends."

Yet internal demand continues to drive the nonwovens engine. "There is no doubt that all the R&D is, of course, directed towards Molnlycke to produce a nonwoven that will fit exactly to our machines and our products," he explained.

Helena Jonsson, manager of R&D for Molnlycke Nonwoven, added that her department has direct contact with the marketing people at the parent company. "We have input from raw materials all the way to our customers. With our relationship, there is immediate feedback," she said.

Labeled in the corporation's 1988 annual report as "the most important event undoubtedly" of the past year was the 2.1 billion Swedish kronor acquisition of the French company Peaudouce (2.7 billion Swedish kronor in annual turnover ($417 million). The merger of the two European giants means Molnlycke is now the largest manufacturer of fluff products in Europe; these articles dominate group sales and account for about half of total turnover. The acquisition also enabled it to lay the foundation for continued growth in baby diapers, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products.

The Molnlycke nonwovens operation did start up new production early in 1989. The new flexible dry laid capacity actually utilizes the equipment acquired from Borregard, the Norwegian roll goods producer that went out of business last year. Molnlycke had originally given Borregard a license in 1968 to produce dry laid nonwovens.

Molnlycke is also supplying carded and thermal bonded nonwovens in Columbia, South America, through a joint venture with Sancella Columbia that started in early 1989. The company makes feminine hygiene products and baby diapers and the Molnlycke operation is supplying polypropylene coverstock to it, as well as selling on the open market.

It is not that well known that Molnlycke is also a significant supplier of diaper film, again primarily for its in-house operations. It started producing co-extruded polyethylene film about two years ago at its nonwovens facility in Hoogezand, Holland. Research is continuing into apertured, breathable, biodegradable and laminate alternatives.

"This is another step in the process that allows us to design the total diaper beyond designing the coverstock," Mr. Graf said. The Molnlycke consumer operations still buy diaper film from outside vendors as well, while Peaudouce also does much of its own single layer cast film production.

The future for Molnlycke Nonwovens may see it become even more of an in-house supplier, Mr. Graf said. "I see a rather stable situation, but I don't think we will go more into the open market," he said. "If there is any significant change, it would be to become more internal." Any such move would depend on the growth of the Molnlycke consumer products operations.

8 Sodoca S.a.r.l.

Zone industrielle Est, B.P. 29, F-68600 Biesheim, France; 89 72 47 00; Telex, SODOCA 880 514 F; Fax, 89 72 89 82 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: $45 million Key Personnel: Guido Patroncini, executive vice president, Holstoff Group; Pierre Vauterin, general manager, Sodoca; Pieter Meijer, marketing manager, Holstoff; Jean Bachmann, director-sales and marketing, Sodoca Plant: Biesheim, France Processes: Spunbonded, Thermal Bonded, Melt Blown (semi-commercial), Staple Fiber (polypropylene) Brand Names: Agryl (agriculture), Dipryl (industrial) Major Markets: Coverstock (baby diapers, adult incontinence, feminine hygiene), Medical, Upholstery and Bedding, Coating Substrate, Leather Goods, Protective Clothing, Agriculture Notes: Sodoca views itself as a medium sized nonwovens supplier with the flexibility of its smaller competitors and the resources of the larger players in the European nonwovens game. Founded in Biesheim, Alsace, France by the Swiss Holstoff group in 1969, Sodoca has been able to reach its current turnover on the strength of a range of disposable and durable nonwovens.

"Sometimes it is like the half empty and half full glass," explained general manager Pierre Vauterin. "We are too small to compete with the big guys and have too much fixed capital to fit with the small. But then, we can also offer significantly more research and development than the small but more flexibility than the big. We fully intend to utilize this advantage to expand our activities beyond those of today."

Sodoca does all of its manufacturing from its single plant in the Alsace region of France. Production capacity of 14,000 metric tons annually includes two Lurgi-based spunbonded lines, three thermal bonded lines, a small, semi-commercial melt blown line and a polypropylene staple fiber line used for its thermal bonded equipment. New at the site is a semi-commercial spunbonded line based on proprietary technology developed from 20 years of spunbonding experience. Samples were expected late this summer, with the higher value specialty markets the target.

Pieter Meijer, marketing manager of the Nonwoven Div. of Holstoff, told Nonwovens Industry that while the combining of the various technologies is a possibility at Sodoca, composites are not the primary purpose for the diverse portfolio. "We are starting to get into that area, but we remain strong in coverstock and traditional spunbonded applications. And of course we want to stay market leaders in the agriculture business. Now we have targeted higher value added melt blown and spunbonded markets."

Sodoca started up its third thermal bonded line earlier this year. It represents what the company calls a "significant improvement" from its older lines. "The thinking behind the new thermal bond line is to add flexibility," Mr. Meijer said. "It will allow us much more accurate fiber blending. That line was built with the idea of diversifying our thermal bonds and to optimize our own staple fiber."

Sodoca also just began this year with the production of polypropylene staple for its thermal bonding units. It currently supplies about half of its in-house polypropylene demand. "This allows us to tailor the fiber to our process," Mr. Meijer added. "We can keep some of the spinning know-how in-house. We can get better economics and make specialties in relatively small quantities." Sodoca will continue, he said, to utilize its own fibers where needed and buy on the open market "when it makes sense."

With all of this traditional technology expansion underway, Sodoca is also fine tuning its 60 cm melt blown pilot line. It is currently producing commercial quantities for some customers for test market purposes. Based on Exxon-licensed technology, market tests for the new fabric have been successful.

Sodoca is active in the U.S. through a Holstoff subsidiary called American Agri Fabrics, Atlanta, GA, which distributes Sodoca's agricultural fabrics in the U.S. Mr. Vauterin said this company may act as a stepping stone to a "rapidly expanding role in the U.S." for Sodoca.

Flexibility will remain a key factor for Sodoca as it balances on the thin line between a small specialty producer and a large commodity supplier. "I will put a lot of pressure on my people that we keep this flexibility and that we take advantage of the research and development capacity we have," Mr. Vauterin said. "The group's expansion plans for the nonwovens business, together with this advantage, will allow us increasing importance."

9 Corovin GmbH

Woltorferstrasse 124, P.O. Box 1107, D-3150 Peine, West Germany; (0 51 71)408-0; Telex, 9 2 622; Fax, (0 51 71)408-999 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 77 million DM ($42 million) Key Personnel: Peter Kociemba, managing director; Walter Bruckner, managing director-technical; Andreas Kirsch, marketing director; Rudolf Leberle, sales director; Heinz-H. Boich, research and development director Plant: Peine, West Germany Processes: Spunbonded (polypropylene), Melt Blown, multidenier (in development stage) Brand Names: Corovin (hygiene, medical, protective clothing, home furnishings, construction, filtration, automotive), Corosoft (hygiene), Covertan (agriculture), Corogard (sold by outside converter into industrial and retail protective clothing market) Notes: Just walking into the still growing offices of Corovin in Peine, in northern Germany, it is possible to feel the energy of a young nonwovens company comfortable with its technology, its products and its financial resources as a subsidiary of BPB Industries, a U.K. building materials supplier with annual turnover approaching three billion DM ($1.6 billion). Yet, under the direction of managing director Peter Kociemba, Corovin, founded in 1969, is hardly standing still.

Its 77 million DM ($42 million) in turnover in 1988 is nearly double the 42 million DM ($22.7 million) in sales of only two years earlier and a healthy increase from about 66 million DM ($36 million) in 1987; 1989 sales are expected to remain relatively static, however, because of line stoppages to install new control systems. The quality of production of its spunbonded polypropylene nonwovens has actually doubled in the past two years, as recent investments have allowed production to increase another 20%. Corovin has done all of this on three spunbonded lines, ranging from 2.6 meters to the newest 4.5 meter line, in one location. Now, with a recently announced plan to expand into melt blown multidenier technology, the company stands to become one of the leading nonwovens roll goods suppliers in Western Europe.

Corovin is one of the top suppliers of spunbonded polypropylene coverstock to the European diaper industry, with its "Corovin" and "Corosoft" (a softer version); these also are sold into the medical segment. Its Corovin product also goes into workwear and protective clothing, home furnishings and construction applications. Its "Covertan" product is a lightweight spunbonded for farming and horticulture applications.

"We believe in the spunbond process, in its technical properties and in the very high variety than can be done," Mr. Kociemba told Nonwovens Industry during a recent interview at the company's headquarters. "The dream of everybody is to have the technical properties and the economics of a spunbond and the look of a thermobond material. This is what we want to achieve with our developments, including our work in composites."

The heart of all of this development work will be the company's new research center, scheduled for completion this fall; actual work on the building only began earlier this year. The new building will house a one meter wide totally new line with the possibility to homogeneously combine present spunbondeds with melt blowns and other innovative technologies. The melt blown line will be provided by Accurate Products, of Hillside, NJ. Another pilot line will be dedicated to fiber research. Altogether, the research facility represents a significant part of the total investment of 100 million DM ($54 million) for a company with 77 million DM ($42 million) in turnover last year.

"Our R&D department is oversized for our company, it could easily handle 200 million DM ($108 million) in turnover," Mr. Kociemba said, adding that more than 5% of turnover on average is dedicated to the R&D group. "It makes sense to find the solutions to new products first. What doesn't make sense is to do `me-top' products and commodities and only talk about price at the end."

Having seen the pure melt blown market being dominated already by the major producers, Corovin will be working on specially areas and composites with its new melt blown research line. To that end Corovin, in conjunction with Accurate Products and with its raw material suppliers, is developing a combination spunbond and melt blown process. "We call it `multi-denier,'" Mr. Kociemba explained. "We want to use the very thin melt blown properties and the strenght of the spunbonded." Corovin's plans call for the pilot line to be up and running this fall; a decision on a full scale production line, which would be put in-line with one of its existing spunbonded lines, would be made either late this year or early in 1990.

A key to the moves Corovin will be making into the nonwovens business in the 1990's is a proprietary computer control system it has almost finished developing as part of the 100 million DM investment. Corovin brought in a full time IBM technician to develop the quality control and process control system.

"The difficulty was to develop a system and program that only reacts when it makes sense," Mr. Kociemba explained. "It was also important to combine it with process control." He said the 3 million DM investment will be completed this month.

The next step for the West German producer is expansion from its European base into Asia and the U.S. "We have to have production facilities in these markets and we have to decide what technology we will use," he added.

"There is no secret that a company like ours should do the jump overseas, but to understand the U.S. or Asian market we have to have the people there. Right now we do not have the management to shift there. When it makes sense, we will." Without providing details, he said Corovin has had a number of discussions with potential overseas partners. "We will do it as soon as possible with a partner that is as good as possible," was as precise as he would get.

The future for Corovin means two other major steps. The first will be into new polymers other than its traditional polypropylene. Work is already underway in conjunction with a chemical company to develop just such an alternative. The second is the development of new processes with in-line capabilities to produce composite nonwovens.

"We still believe very strongly in our basic spunbonded process," Mr. Kociemba said. "But it is time to add to that and head towards melt blown and composite technologies."

10 Bonded Fibre Fabric

Bath Road, Bridgewater, UK-Somerset TA6 4NZ, England; 0278-428500; Telex, 46284; Fax, 0278-429499 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 21 million [pounds] ($36 million) Key Personnel: John Bouma, chairman; Helen Henstridge, managing director Plant: Bridgwater, UK Process: Dry Laid, Thermal Bonded, Spunlaced Brand Names: Seranova, Novoweb; Freshtex and Tumblefresh consumer products through Freshtex Div., London, England Major Markets: Industrial--Battery Separators, Shoe Components, Coating, Wipes, Liquid Filtration, Horticulture, Upholstery, Sound Insulation. Hygiene--Coverstock for baby and adult diapers, sanitary protection. Medical--Spunlaced fabrics for Compresses, Surgical Dressings, Substrates, Apparel and Wipes, Disposable Garments, Sheets, Pillow Cases. Interlinings Notes: Bonded Fibre Fabric, a subsidiary of Courtaulds, has a plant located in Bridgwater in the southwest of England alongside BCL, British Cellophane Ltd, another Courtaulds subsidiary. Chairman is John Bouma and Helen Henstridge is the new managing director; she took over from Bill Kennard, who has moved to Courtaulds Research.

The history of BFF is really a series of accidents, like many other successful companies, Mr. Bouma pointed out. "BFF was started as an offshoot of BCL because viscose was used as a bonding agent to make nonwoven fabric. That is why we are located next door to BCL," he said. "We had 100% viscose bonded fabrics up to two or three years ago. In the meantime, dry laid carded processes were added."

In order to compete in an increasingly competitive European nonwovens business, Courtaulds decided a few years ago to invest in new equipment. Thermal bonding was the first process to be added; it was needed because BFF holds a fairly strong position in interlinings and it already had a pilot thermal bonding line. New coatings equipment for interlinings was also purchased and coating technology was further developed.

In May, 1988 BFF's spunlaced line was commissioned. This was the result of work begun by former managing director Mr. Kennard and his staff. The capital cost was 6.5 million [pounds] ($11 million). The line is three meters wide and capacity is 2500 tons annually at grade one production. The spunlaced nonwoven produced is called "Seranova," from the French word "Sera," meaning "I weave."

"It is not easy to take a system from the ground, but we are doing quite well," Mr. Bouma said in a recent interview with Nonwovens Industry European correspondent Clare Haddad. "We are licensees of Unicharm but only for the entanglement system of the process." BFF already had the carding technology for the process. Products introduced thus far are concentrated in medical applications such as swabs, wound dressings and retention fabrics, similiar applications to those served by DuPont's "Sontara" spunlaced fabric. There are also industrial applications being research.

"I think spunlaced will open numerous applications in industrial, medical, hygiene and filtration applications," Mr. Bouma continued. The BFF system is considered to be "low pressure," although the Unicharm system has some features that make this low pressure irrelevant. "You can get the same lacing as any other system," he explained. "It is based on the same principle--entangling fiber through water jets--but a feature of Unicharm is that we do not need these very high pressures in order to get the same results. The spunlaced process gives tremendous flexibility, for example, in laminate form."

In the first stages of spunlaced product development BFF is targeting the less complicated products, such as swabs, retention sheets and industrial applications of sprayed and apertured spunlaced fabrics. The second phase will be combination fabrics, including scrims and films.

One product under development is an apertured retention sheet to hold a wound dressing in place; a range of very attractive materials has also been produced for swabs. There is potential for spunlacing fibers through scrims to make drapes and gowns. The filtration area is another potential market, particularly fine filtration such as clean rooms. Protective clothing is yet another--drapes and gowns act as filtration media.

Current interest in the biodegradability of disposables offers opportunities for BFF's viscose spunlaced fabrics. One very exciting fiber development is Courtaulds' "Tencel" fiber. Spunlaced viscose, being a natural fiber and having no binder, is biodegradable and could become very important given the increased consumer demand for biodegradable disposables. It is particularly relevant for incontinence pads because only one-third of the pad normally gets used--a spunlaced central layer is useful here.

BFF can process all synthetic fibers, but has found limited uses for natural fibers such as wool, flax and cotton on its dry laid lines. However, more trials with natural fibers will be carried out on the new spunlaced line.

BFF also has plans to replace a number of chemical bonding lines with new dry laid chemical bonding lines. This stage is scheduled to begin this year.

BFF is active in the consumer market in the U.K. and now on the continent through its Freshtex Div., where its biggest growth is in the wipes business; wet wipes under the Freshtex name are about one-third of its retail sales, but BFF remains primarily a private label supplier. "The wipe market in Germany is well established," the chairman explained. "People in the market tried to get market share by making cheaper products--lighter weights with less performance and ultimately they came very close to simple paper products. People should be careful not to destroy their own market by getting cheap and nasty products into the market, which ultimately do not satisfy the customer."

A leading consumer product from BFF is "Freshtex" "Bidet in a box," a flushable moist toilet tissue based on dry laid paper. It is a product already well-established on the continent.

In the past, product development and sales/marketing operated as separate functions. BFF has altered the responsibilities and now thinks in terms of customer-focused problem solving teams. These teams come from production, R&D and sales divisions and are cross functional. BFF, with an eye on specialization, has also set up project teams to focus on specific products.

"We have to get BFF into shape for the year 2000," Mr. Bouma concluded. One third of current sales consist of wipes and related retail products, one third industrial, including hygiene and medical products, and one third interlinings. While the interlining business is not expected to grow by more than a few percent per year, the other two areas should expand much faster.

The retail sector will become much more significant with various impregnated wipes forming the core of this business. This includes fully converted products such as Freshtex wet wipes. A concerted effort will be made to expand the retail business. This includes fully converted products such as Freshtex wet wipes. A concerted effort will be made to expand the retail business in Europe. The hygiene sector will continue to consist of some integrated products while also selling roll goods. The industrial sector will remain direct selling of tailor made roll stock."

11 Lohmann GmbH

Postfach 120110, D-5450 Neuwied 12, West Germany; 02631-7861; Telex, 867883; Fax, 02631-786467 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 60 million DM ($32 million); corporate sales 300 million DM ($162 million) Key Personnel: Dr. Martin Barth, managing partner; Claus Bertrams, sales director-nonwovens Plant: Dierdorf, West Germany Processes: Dry Laid, Eisenhut Process (chemical bonding), Thermal Bonded, Print Bonded, Needlepunched Brand Names: Paratex; Paratherm thermal bonded; Paraprint print bonded; Paramoll, Paraskin and Paradur needlepunched Major Markets: Coverstock, Filtration, Wipes, Coating Substrates, Shoe and Leather Goods, Protective Clothing Notes: Compared to the rest of the European nonwovens industry, Lohmann, for a variety of reasons, has remained fairly quiet in the past few years. It has chosen to concentrate on its existing, traditional technologies and has yet to expand through acquisition or internal development into the more recent technology developments.

The Lohmann corporate operations are divided into three divisions: Medical, which markets bandages, neck braces, drapes and the like and accounts for two-thirds of corporate turnover; Double Sided Adhesive Tapes, primarily for technical applications, auto trim, graphics and the furniture industry; and the Nonwovens Div., with about 200 employees and 60 million DM ($32 million) annual turnover.

Lohmann's first nonwoven technology, according to sales director Claus Bertrams, was developed in 1944 and is known as the Eisenhut process. The only such technology of its type, it runs viscose through a caustic solution to bind it, then neutralizes and washes it into a binder-free, degradable fabric. This "Paratex" product is produced on two lines in a weight range of 20-80 grams sq. meter; applications include medical bandages (where it is said to promote the healing process) and in filtration for the metal working industry.

The company's most significant technology (50% of sales, 80% of sq. meters) is thermal bonding. It currently has four thermal bonding lines in Dierdorf that produce nonwovens (16-30 grams sq. meter) for the hygiene industry, primarily for sanitary napkins and panty liners. Lohmann recently introduced a new polypropylene "Paratherm" that has a special surface preparation on the fiber itself. Competing with spunbonded coverstock for diapers, it comes in 16-22 grams sq. meter and was, as Mr. Bertrams called it, "a necessary and successful development" for Lohmann.

Lohmann now produces about 10 different types of coverstock, with varying properties of absorbency, softness, hand and runnability, he added. In two variations it utilizes bicomponent fibers (one Chisso fiber and one from a Scandinavian supplier).

In the print bonded segment, its "Paraprint" is a viscose fabric with acrylic binder for the baby wipes segment; 70% of the Paraprint output goes into baby wipes and Lohmann supplies the four major German converters of wipes. The rest of the output is used in cosmetics and liquid filtration. The weight range is 20-60 grams sq. meter.

Polyester, polypropylene, viscose and fiber blends are utilized by Lohmann's needlepunching operations, which consists of two needling lines (one with five looms, one with four) with widths up to 3.3 meters wide. The basic needled product is called "Paramoll;" a variation, in which the needled substrate is split and impregnated with an NBR latex, is called "Paraskin" for the shoe and leather industry. Another variation that impregnates the needled nonwoven without splitting is called "Paradur" and is used for shoe insoles.

Dr. Martin Barth, managing partner of Lohmann, told Nonwovens Industry that the company continues to look at new technologies but so far has stayed out of the expansion game. It has studied hydroentanglement technologies but has yet to even install a pilot line. With misgivings about the growing overcapacity in the diaper coverstock area and in spunbonding in general, Dr. Barth did say any expansion would probably remain in the staple fiber side and would not involve spunbonding.

"We still believe in a highly technical approach to nonwovens and we are working to make fabrics in a less complicated route, but not at any price," he said. Potential short term moves would involve forward integrating in some areas in order to get closer to the consumer "to enable us to react more promptly." Lohmann has some converting and distribution systems throughout Europe and the U.S. through Lohmann U.K., Lohmann Nontisse (France) and in operations in Italy and Spain.

Lohmann remains very cautious about the U.S. market, where it has an on-going presence but nothing substantial currently. "If you want to do it right in the U.S., you have to do it on a large scale," Dr. Barth said. "This means downstream integration and substantial investment."

12 HJR Fiberweb AB

S-601 88 Norrkoping, Sweden; 46(0)11 23 66 00; Telex, 8155082; Fax, 46(0)11 23 61 99 Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: 176 million SK ($27 million) Key Personnel: Ulf Scharin, managing director; Urban Linbbergh, sales manager; Bengt Arnesgo, technical manager Plant: Norrkoping, Sweden Processes: Spunbond (three lines, new line will incorporate thermal bonding, needlepunching and resin bonding); also import James River melt blown products into Europe Brand Names: Holmestra, Cerex Markets: Personal Hygiene, Industrial, Furniture and Bedding (primarily in Europe) Notes: Perhaps the biggest nonwovens news in Europe this year has come out of Sweden as HJR Fiberweb, a joint venture of MoDo in Sweden and James River in the U.S., announced expansion plans designed to eventually make it one of the largest suppliers of spunbonded fabrics in Europe. Sales this year are expected to reach 200 million SEK ($31 million).

Construction was scheduled to begin last month on a 190 million SEK ($29 million), 5.4 meter spunbonded line at its Norrkoping facility. Planned to be operational by next summer, the new line, which will employ 60 additional people (to the existing 105 employees), just about doubles Fiberweb's existing capacity to more than 16,000 metric tons a year.

The new capacity will incorporate in-house spunbonded technology and technology developed by its U.S. partner. It will be capable of producing nonwovens from several different polymers, including polypropylene, nylon, polyester and linear low density polyethylene. In addition, the line will include three different bonding technologies--thermal bonding, needlepunching (an Ernst Fehrer line) and resin bonding; its first line only utilized thermal bonding.

Importantly, the company emphasized that the new investment will open up the European roofing market. Fiberweb will now be able to supply polyester needlepunched nonwovens to this growing durables segment.

Processing improvements have also enabled Fiberweb to increase the output on its two existing lines in the past year. Its reconstructed first line was expanded from 6500 metric tons to its current 9000 metric ton capacity, while the smaller second line now has 1000 metric tons capacity. The smaller line is based on "Reicofil" technology and serves mostly the smaller, niche markets for spunbondeds.

The expansion this year, according to managing director Ulf Scharin, will fuel Fiberweb's more concerted move into these smaller European segments, including furniture, heavy basis weight substrates and roofing. "We came to the decision in the beginning of 1988 to concentrate a line mainly built for polyester, but also with the capability to run polypropylene," Mr. Scharin told Nonwovens Industry in a recent interview. "We learned from our small line that we could enter new market segments with a new fiber." This does not mean, however, that Fiberweb is foresaking its coverstock heritage.

"Coverstock is our most important market segment and we will be even stronger now," Mr. Scharin added. "We have today established a strong position in coverstock. Our goal number one is to keep it and even strengthen it. But goal number two is to expand into other areas such as durables and spread the risk."

"It has always been our philosophy to be a low cost, high volume producer," added Urban Lindbergh, sales manager. "We know we have to take these huge steps, but we have to do it in an intelligent way. We knew all along we would have to add a big line three."

Fiberweb currently has put its earlier plans to expand into melt blown technology on the back burner, primarily because it feels the market in Europe is not yet large enough. It continues to import melt blown fabric from James River in the U.S. and is making composites in Sweden for sale in Europe. Fiberweb produces the melt blown fabric only to customer specifications or for certain business areas and not as a commodity fabric.

The relationship between Fiberweb and James River (profiled in the U.S. companies section of this feature) has been outstanding from the beginning, Mr. Sharin pointed out, echoing comments from James River officials. "The experience of the past year-and-a-half with James River has been fantastic on both the technical and personal side," Mr. Scharin said. "I don't think our growth could have taken place so rapidly without two owners." There has always been a deep technological exchange between the two partners, although marketing has tended to remain more separate because of the differences in the markets.

The partners have also initiated forays into the Far East. Initial efforts have focused on sales opportunities, with roll goods being supplied from both operations.

Mr. Lindbergh feels the adult incontinence market in Europe is going to drive spunbonded nonwovens sales for the next few years, fueled by increased government reimbursement of purchases of these products. "The market is leaning towards spunbondeds because it is a stronger material with lower basis weight," he said. "This is the breakthrough year for spunbonded incontinence products."
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Publication:Nonwovens Industry
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Date:Sep 1, 1989
Previous Article:The top companies in the worldwide nonwovens industry.
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