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Features

Techtextil 2013: Sector Summit

A record 1,322 exhibitors showed their products and services at this year's technical textiles/nonwovens trade show in Frankfurt.

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

On June 13, 2013, Techtextil, the International Trade Fair for Technical Textiles and Nonwovens, closed its doors in Frankfurt. Show organizer Messe Frankfurt reports a record 1,322 exhibitors from 48 countries welcomed 27,500 visitors from 97 countries, compared with 1,199 exhibitors and 24,915 visitors in 2011. The parallel Texprocess International Trade Fair for Processing Textiles and Flexible Materials had 326 exhibiting companies from 37 countries.

A further positive trend in 2013 was the increased internationality of exhibitors — 65 percent compared with 63 percent in 2011. The main exhibitor nations after Germany were Italy, China, United States, Taiwan, Poland, Turkey, United Kingdom, South Korea and Switzerland. The numbers are no surprise — it is common sense that technical textiles and nonwovens are gaining importance throughout the global textile industry.

Techtextil1
Frankfurt's Messeturm towers over the Messe Frankfurt fairgrounds, venue for Techtextil

The main technical textiles/nonwovens markets differ from traditional markets, and a large part of the manufactured products are made in Europe — mainly Germany and France as well as Eastern Europe, and also in the U.S. In some, mostly Western, countries, technical fibers and fabrics are the only growth drivers for the domestic textile industry. For years, this sector has reported double-digit growth.

Those who have witnessed the rise of technical textiles and nonwovens in the last 10 years know that Techtextil is a must for all interested parties in the sector. Now held in parallel with Texprocess, the undisputed number-one event continues to gain importance.

In addition, Techtextil has experienced a dramatic and very positive development toward becoming a complete trade fair — with virtually all machines, processes and peripheral equipment to produce industrial yarns, fabrics, belts, tents, geotextiles and other products found under one roof.

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Highly Satisfied
How did exhibitors respond to Techtextil? Textile World wanted to know their feelings. All respondents were very satisfied with the show's outcome as well as with the high visitor quality. Expectations were met, and, in some cases, exceeded.

Jutta Stehr, marketing manager at Trützschler Nonwovens & Man-Made Fibers GmbH, Germany, said: "We are amazed at the large number of Chinese who visited our booth."

Sabine Duttenhofer, head of corporate communications at Germany-based Freudenberg Nonwovens, added: "Our company welcomed visitors from more than 15 nations."

Johann Philipp Dilo, CEO of DiloGroup, Germany, said: "Our expectations were more than fulfilled. Next to a lot of Europeans, we welcomed visitors from India and Brazil." He also mentioned visitors from Japan, and North and South America.

Market Situation
"We were truly surprised by the high number of very reputable visitors," Stehr said. "If one thinks of the euro crisis and declining growth rates in the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, it's amazing how high the global investment plans still are."

Florian Boch, head of marketing and communications, Lindauer Dornier GmbH, Germany, also rated the current market situation as positive. "Technical textiles and nonwovens are clearly growing markets," he said.

This assessment was confirmed by Edi Strebel, marketing manager of Jakob Müller AG, Switzerland: "We see a growing market for new applications, mainly in Europe. This is to a large extent provoked by the textile producers who want to compensate for the decline in traditional products."

Similar explanations were given by Sibylle Hänni Hofmann, communications manager for Switzerland-based Sanitized AG: "Sectors such as sunscreen, medicine, outdoor items and protective textiles are showing large growth rates. Therefore, we notice a strong demand for innovative products for antimicrobial protection of PVC [polyvinyl chloride] and heat resistance, as well as weatherproof and UV [ultraviolet] stability."

New Products And Processes
Some companies introduced new products or processes at Techtextil. Strebel said: "We didn't show a new machine, but a new application — monofilament tubular weaves for oil filters. And the feedback for this product was rather good. The advantages are that with this technology, one can weave or knit the product to its final shape, requiring minimal process steps after the weaving process."

A particular novelty was presented by Dornier. "We presented our new multiaxial fabrics applications," Boch said. "The weaver can produce a lot of new and innovative products."

Duttenhofer also mentioned something new: "Freudenberg is very much involved in the shoe industry. We presented the new Airliner 2.0 Vildona insoles, and the feedback was just great. It offers benefits like breathability and water resistance. Also in the focus of our customers is Evolon® microfiber material in all its different appearances."

Trützschler was very much in the focus of attention. Stehr, supported by some technicians, explained: "We presented our cooperation with Voith Paper to produce wet wipes on an integrated wetlaid and spunlace line. We brought a sample roll, which attracted both producers of flushable wet wipes and converters of nonwoven roll goods. Some of our customers and other interested parties didn't know about this new development. Flushable wipes are a hot topic right now. Currently, we are busy planning for follow-up visits.

Techtextil2
Trützschler Nonwovens & Man-Made Fibers GmbH presented its cooperation with Voith Paper to produce flushable wet wipes on an integrated wetlaid and spunlace line.

Hofmann mentioned Sanitized® protection for soft PVC: "It is applicable for the antimicrobial protection of soft PVC used in indoor and outdoor applications: Heat resistance during processing, and excellent weather and UV stability are attractive features. Soft PVC coatings and foams are frequently subject to microbial infestation and destruction. The breaks and cracks in the surface and the discoloration of the material caused by this shorten the useful life of the product considerably. We showed two new innovations to solve this problem."

DiloGroup, a provider of complete solutions, mostly informed about nonwoven staple fiber lines for the production of fabric filters and geotextiles; but other nonwoven applications also were discussed. "Filter fabrics reduce pollution, and geotextiles provide a better infrastructure," Dilo said. "Both products are in high demand at the moment." He expects annual growth of around 8 percent.

Changing Requirements
How have market requirements changed in the last decade? "Technical textiles markets will grow and with them, the segment for nonwovens," Duttenhofer said. "Megatrends like traffic gridlock, megacities, sustainability or work-life balance will increase global sales for technical textiles; and it means also that we have to think about new production methods and solutions."

Strebel made clear that today, there are many new applications for technical textiles: "Many customers are actively looking for new application areas. And customers are looking for machines that are easier to use, meaning more processes are integrated in one machine."

Boch said that "previously, customers had a total solution in their mind and came to us to talk about the production details. Today, they want from us the total solution."

Stehr added: "The world has changed a lot since the beginning of the new millennium. A major factor was the rise of China as both a major consumer and a producer of fibers, nonwovens, technical textiles and the respective machinery. Other trends inspiring the machinery sector are demands for convenience products and sustainability."

More Floor Space Required
Many exhibitors want to enlarge their floor space considerably at Techtextil 2015. It may well be inevitable for the organizers to open an additional hall. However, as Boch pointed out: "We don't think there would be a lot more visitors. Nevertheless, we believe the flow of visitors would be distributed more evenly, and we could take care of our visitors in a better way. Nevertheless, Techtextil should remain as it is, and not mutate into a textile machinery show and compete with ITMA."

July/August 2013