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Which nonwoven process to select? For the manufacturer considering expansion or nonwovens involvement, a guide to which process is best for what.

Which Nonwoven Process To Select?

for the manufacturer considering expansion or nonwovens involvement, a guide to which process is best for what Today there are many companies that are considering expanding their existing nonwovens businesses or companies that are evaluating an entrance into the nonwovens business. One of the major questions they attempt to answer is "which nonwoven process should we select?"

There are, of course, different answers depending on the needs and objectives of the particular company. However, we all continue to make comparisons of the various nonwoven processes because of extending our business, keeping up with the competition and attempting to improve existing facilities and products. We do this to maintain an awareness of the changes and progress being made in converting capabilities, finishing advancements and the end use products and markets. Each of the different nonwoven processes has advanced dramatically during the past twenty years and while one may have made improvements in the raw material supply/feed area, another may have improved in fiber to fiber relationship within the web or the bonding of the fibers.

How does one compare the different nonwoven processes and attempt to select the process and specific equipment within that process for a particular situation? The complexity and variations that are available today in a given nonwoven manufacturing line are difficult to comprehend for those who are not directly involved and a challenge for those who are in that profession. After we have accepted the fact that "it can't be did," we will attempt to compare them anyway.

In Chart I you will find the nonwoven processes listed and opposite each is a numerical indication of how favorable or desirable the parameters of that process are rated. A rating of 10 is the most favorable, desirable or least difficult.

The Processes Compared

* Air Laid. The growth of these type products in the past ten years has encouraged some major advances in the equipment and the processes in general. The raw materials such as pulp, cotton and short synthetic fibers are readily available, but can be expensive in some of their current absorbent end use products that have been their primary market. With current technology, their versatility is somewhat limited but this could change in the next five years.

* Carded & Random Webs. The "work horse" of the nonwovens industry continues to be one of the best bets for the future. Its ability to run nearly every fiber and/or combination thereof, its ability to use various bonding methods and additives inline and its relatively low investment with versatility insure its position in the future markets.

* Meltblown. This most recent of the nonwoven processes is finally coming into its deserved position. It has the capability to run many of the polymers of the present as well as those of the future to produce unique materials. It can be automated and controlled to produce micro fibers like no other commercial process. It has an excellent future since it can utilize many of the advancements in polymers, electronics, molding and composites/laminates.

* Needlepunched. Innovations and new products continue to come from this well established group, but competition is rough and it will continue to be. Creativity and innovations in processing as well as in marketing will be the key to growth and profits here.

* Scrim. These fabrics are large in yardage consumed (well over 100 million sq. yards a year), but have maintained a low profile in the nonwovens industry. The equipment has been somewhat complicated and difficult to obtain, and there are patents to consider. Bonded or entangled yarn fabrics are doing well in many markets and will continue to do so.

* Spunbonded. Many experts in our industry believe that the spunbonded process is the nonwoven process of today and will be even more attractive and dominating in the future. It has many superlatives in its pocket, including automation, high output, excellent yield, ability to run different polymers and additives, bondability with thermal, chemical and needling, and its ability to meet the fabric specifications of many end uses.

* Spunlaced. The fabric that has excited more buyers and can have that "textilelike hand" is this water entangled material. There have been numerous road blocks to its growth and success. These include patents, high invesment, high production costs, technology and skill to operate, relatively slow output and finishing. Spunlaced will no doubt do well in the future since it does have major attributes as a fabric and because many major companies are pushing the development efforts of the processes and the products.

* Stichbonded. This process is not recognized as a nonwoven by many within our industry, but I will forgive them and proceed with my comments. Stitchbonding has continued to grow and be recognized as a major fabric source in many markets. It has many desirable characteristics, including versatility in raw materials it can use and in fabrics it can produce; technology and equipment is available as well as the ability to finish the fabrics for textile and other applications.

* Tow. Fabrics made of tow have not been recognized as a significant source in the market place. There have been fabrics made with tow that have excellent properties, but normally their high price has discouraged most potential markets. One of the major problems has been the supply of spreadable tows at reasonable prices. Other negatives have included equipment availability, patents and method of bonding. The future of this process depends on overcoming these negatives.

* Wet Laid. There are several negatives that stop most companies from entering the wet laid field. For one, initial investment for a line with the capability and capacity to meet your requirements may cost more than $40 million. Other negatives are long production runs, technology and art required and problems with waste. However, those that are in this field presently are making numerous excellent products and are doing well in their markets. [Chart I Omitted]
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Title Annotation:Holiday Talk
Author:Holliday, Tom
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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