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The Rupp Report: Paper And Nonwovens? What A Flushable Idea!

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

On June 13, 2013, Techtextil, the International Trade Fair for the Technical Textiles and Nonwovens Industries, closed its doors reporting overwhelming success. According to the organizers, some 1,652 exhibitors from 56 nations presented their products, ideas and visions for the future and the ongoing growth of technical textiles and nonwovens.

All Smiles
From the show's very beginning on June 11 up to the last minute, the halls were packed with visitors. It was simply impossible to ask detailed questions about the show. However, short discussions with exhibitors proved the positive expectations of the Rupp Report, explained in previous reports: every company was more than happy with the event. Each booth was virtually a crowded house up to the last minute with lots of people looking for new products and solutions. More information about this outstanding event will follow in the next issues of the Rupp Report and in Textile World .

Changing Rules
It could very well be that Texprocess had a positive impact on the visitor frequency at the event. However, Techtextil has experienced a drastic and very positive move toward a one-stop-shop exhibition. When the show had its beginnings in the mid 1980s, textile machinery manufacturers didn't attend owing to old-fashioned regulations by the European Committee of Textile Machinery Manufacturers (CEMATEX), owner and organizer of ITMA. In a nutshell, the rule said that in times of a four-year rhythm of ITMA (Europe), no exhibitor was allowed to attend any other show for a certain period of time before or after ITMA. Luckily, those times are over.

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From Strategic Alliances To Total Suppliers
Today, Techtextil is offering its visitors more - including virtually every machine and tool to produce industrial yarns, fabrics, belts, tents and such - all under one roof. From the very beginning of the success of technical textiles and nonwovens, this industry worked in exactly the reverse direction from conventional textile production. Traditionally, there was the established spinning line, a weaving machine or the finishing equipment to produce well-known and traditional textile products. On the industrial fabrics and nonwovens side, the customer doesn't buy a machine, but requires a solution to produce the targeted products.

Many traditional machinery suppliers realized that with their existing - and limited - product range, long-term survival of a company could be endangered. Strategic alliances were formed among partners to provide comprehensive and turnkey production lines. But this situation also has changed: In the last few years, and especially since the last ITMA Europe in Barcelona, Spain, many textile machinery manufacturers with a certain product have been taken over by their former partners, mostly to the benefit of both parties.

Germany-based Trützschler GmbH & Co. KG is one of those companies that has completely changed and increased its presence and portfolio in the last 10 years, evolving from being a traditional supplier of only spinning equipment to include being a full-scale supplier of nonwovens production lines and accessories. Companies like Hollingsworth, Erko, Fleissner, Bastian Winders and Swisstex have been acquired. Shortly after ITMA Asia + CITME 2012 in Shanghai, The Rupp Report reported that one of the highlights of the event was the announcement of cooperation between Japan-based Toyota Industries Corp. and Trützschler to develop, manufacture, and market combing machines. (See " The Rupp Report: Toyota´s And Trützschler's Joint Machinery Project," TextileWorld.com, June 19, 2012).

Paper And Spunlaced Technology
Some weeks ago, Trützschler has announced another smart move toward new boundaries in the production of nonwovens: a combination of a paper-like wetlaid product and spunlaced technology. The company has started a collaboration with one of the leaders in the paper machine business: Germany-based Voith Paper, a division of Voith GmbH (See " Trützschler Nonwovens, Voith Paper Collaborate On Nonwovens Lines," TextileWorld.com, April 9, 2013).

The Rupp Report wanted to know some more facts about the deal: According to Trützschler, the dialogue started one year ago. The idea is very simple but very clever: combine two promising processes - wet-laying and spunlacing. Wetlaid products stand for homogeneous nonwovens, can be formed with multiple layers, may be made using short 1-millimeter fibers, and are extremely flexible and able to use fiber blends.

On the other hand, spunlaced products have a soft hand and excellent drapability; are easy to structure and perforate; can be multilayered; and, last but not least, consist of binder-free webs.

To produce the paper-like web, the machine layout consists of a Voith HydroFormer™ with one-, two- or three-ply options. The HydroFormer - a well-established line with currently 72 installations - has high fiber flexibility and capacity, and the web can be formed without any problem. Another advantage is the wide range of tensile strength ratio adjustment. For the bonding, or spunlacing, Trützschler's AquaJet is a machine with a special jet head design and optimized jet strips. The AquaJet, of which some 100 installations are running around the world, works very effectively and incorporates a bend-proof spunlace drum shell.

Flushable
The process has very obvious advantages: It's fast, flexible and suitable for processing ideal fiber blends, such as 80-percent wood pulp and 20-percent cellulosic fibers for products in a range from 20 to 150 grams per square meter, with a production speed up to 400 meters per minute. In times of increasing problems with wastewater disposal caused by all kinds of wipes and other disposable products, this new process and blend allows the production of very lightweight nonwovens such as flushable wipes.

Tests using different materials show the advantage of this new product: the Voith-Trützschler product virtually dissolved after 50 turning cycles, while other samples still show a much slower rate of disintegration.

There is much more information to come in the future about this promising alliance between two experts in their field. One could ask, why didn't this idea appear earlier on the ever-so-competitive market of wipes and other disposable products?

June 18, 2013