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The Rupp Report
Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Nonwovens Gaining More Ground

By Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Nonwovens are probably the most astonishing and remarkable textile product of recent decades. From humble beginnings — and only developed by accident in Freudenberg Nonwoven’s laboratory in Germany — they started their triumphal procession, and there is no end in sight.

The grandchildren of company founder Carl Johann Freudenberg ventured out on a new enterprise strategy. Beginning in 1929, the company started manufacturing leather seals, and in 1936, radial shaft seals with a sealing lip made of Perbunan man-made rubber. Working with Buna S and Buna N man-made rubber, chemists and engineers at Freudenberg developed man-made leather and rubber soles and finally floor coverings and nonwovens, which were originally derived as a further development of the base material for synthetic leather.

Accepted Products
Nonwovens became accepted: Nonwoven interlinings under the name Vlieseline and household products under the Vileda have been available since 1948; and since 1957, nonwovens have been used in a constantly expanding and developing range of filters for industry and the consumer market under the name of Viledon.
Over the past ten years, the development of new products is second to none. From rigid paper-like products to fabrics in a range of 15 to 400 grams per square meter, nonwovens have textile characteristics that were never achieved before. Technologies such as spunbond and spunlaced nonwovens enabled nonwovens to penetrate new application fields. Today, not only are disposable products made from nonwovens, but also very sophisticated materials used in medical applications.

A lot of traditional companies are investing heavily in nonwovens production lines. Large Indian spinning groups are adding production capacity for nonwovens. All kinds of fibers are applied in nonwovens manufacturing, and this is just the start. In June 2007, Techtextil, the international trade fair for technical textiles and nonwovens, recorded more than 23,200 visitors to the event in Frankfurt. Many exhibitors were traditional textile machinery manufacturers with a strong technical textiles or nonwovens division. At Techtextil, France-based NSC nonwoven sold a thermobonding nonwovens line to the Indian Welspun group for the production of wadding.

And also the chemical industry is exploring the nonwovens industry. Recently, Huntsman Corp. announced that its Textiles Effects business has signed an agreement to acquire DuPont’s global fluorochemical business for the nonwovens industry (See “Huntsman To Acquire DuPont™ Zonyl® Fluorochemical Product Line,” www. TextileWorld.com). The DuPont Zonyl fluorochemical product line is used in nonwoven applications as effective repellents for water-, alcohol- and oil-based fluids. The nonwoven textiles are primarily used in medical, filtration, automotive and construction applications.

“Following a brief transition period to ensure smooth handover and uninterrupted supply, Huntsman will assume full responsibility for all commercial activities related to the business. The transaction with DuPont includes a long-term supply agreement for finished products and intermediates,’ Huntsman stated in a press release announcing the acquisition agreement. “The parties have also entered into a joint development agreement to bring new innovation to the nonwovens marketplace.”

ITMA 2007 in Munich in September certainly will underline the nonwovens growth trend, and plenty of new machinery will be shown there for the production of nonwovens.

July 31, 2007