Nonwovens Technology: Implications For The Nonwovens Industry
The larger number of nonwovens exhibitors at ITMA 2007 illustrates the growing interest and demand for nonwovens machinery.
By Behnam Pourdeyhimi, Technical Editor
Historically, the nonwovens industry has been organized differently and separately from the traditional textile industry. While the nonwovens and traditional industries share some common heritage, nonwovens has grown to represent a broad array of engineered fiber- and polymer-based products that are driven by high-speed, low-cost, innovative and value-added processes. This has led to the adaptation of technologies from the pulp and paper as well as extrusion industries to bring about the desired products at reasonable costs, and consequently has created a separation from the more traditional textiles.
Today’s industry segments include raw material suppliers, roll goods producers, the converters/fabricators of the end-use products and machinery industry supporting the previous three categories; auxiliary material suppliers; and winding, slitting and packaging equipment makers; among other segments. Even this segmentation does not offer as clear a picture as one might imagine, because the picture is further clouded by varying degrees of vertical and horizontal integration in the industry. Globally, the picture is further complicated by local market and economic nuances.
In terms of market segments, the industry is focused on medical and hygiene, filtration, wipes, automotive, industrial, and interlining — the only segment directly related to apparel. This segmentation has come about because the industry has looked at itself at the macro-level from two distinct but entirely overlapping perspectives — process technologies and markets. The two are intimately tied together through overlaps. For example, needlepunching technology is important to both automotive and geotextile applications. As another example, the filtration market is served by wetlaid, needlepunched and meltblown technologies, among others.
Figure 1: Projected Lifecycles of Different Process Technologies
ITMA 2007 Nonwovens Technology
At ITMA 2007, a separate section was not set aside for nonwovens, as was the case at ITMA 2003. Unlike at ITMA 2003, many of the major nonwovens equipment suppliers were present at the most recent show including Autefa Automation GmbH, Bettarini & Serafini S.r.l. with its bematic® brand, Fleissner GmbH, Dilo Group, Groz-Beckert KG, Hills Inc., Laroche S.A., NSC nonwoven, Rieter Perfojet S.A., Cormatex S.r.l. and some newcomers to the world of nonwovens such as Trützschler GmbH & Co. KG. Among the nonwovens companies absent from the show were most of the spunbond/meltblown machinery and auxiliary machinery suppliers including Reifenhäuser Extrusion GmbH & Co. KG, A. Celli Nonwovens S.p.A. and Parkinson Technologies Inc.
In North America and Europe, the spunmelt technologies — spunbond and meltblown technologies and their composites — dominate, while in the rest of the world, staple-fiber process technologies dominate. A global view of the growth potential of nonwovens technologies is given by John T. Conley in his article, “Airlaid Comes of Age,” published in the June/July 1999 issue of “Nonwovens World,” and is shown in Figure 1.
Conley suggests spunmelt technologies will continue to grow, while carding technology will continue to decline. Today, this is potentially true of lightweight, disposable products where spunmelt products can compete favorably with carded products. Recent and continuing advances in high-speed carding technology, however, will allow this technology to continue to compete in certain markets such as hygiene and other lightweight products; and the advances in crosslapping technology and higher-weight nonwovens through chutefeed systems will encourage the use of such technologies for heavier-weight products. It is believed high-speed carding technology and its associated processes are not maturing technologies that are holding their own. Note, however, that the composite, pulp-based, airlaid products are finding applications in “co-form” process technologies as opposed to stand-alone systems utilizing pulp and latex binders.
A key difference between textile machinery makers and nonwovens machinery makers has been the degree of vertical integration in these two segments. Starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the nonwovens industry began creating alliances and mergers. Some of these took the form of horizontal integration with a buyout of parallel or competing technologies. Some took the form of vertical integration that encouraged one-stop shopping — the buyer could purchase complete manufacturing lines to produce nonwovens for specific markets. In the latter case, the machines from different parts of the alliance, merger or partnership were better integrated as well. This was evident at ITMA ‘99, and much more so at ITMA 2003 and ITMA 2007, and is a positive move for the growth of both the machinery and the nonwovens industry. The best example of improved integration is the NSC nonwoven group, which now provides cradle-to-grave sales and services for complete lines using staple fibers, and participates in alliances with other companies such as Rieter to complete its offerings.
And Significant Technologies
A notable trend at ITMA 2007 was the availability of cost-effective process technologies for nonwovens. Historically, the cost for nonwovens processing equipment has been far greater than that for textiles. This was partly due to the degree of customization required for nonwovens equipment and the cost of engineering. Several companies were exhibiting lower-cost — and lower-tech — versions of their technologies for solutions that do not require a high degree of quality control.
Germany-based Trützschler was very prominent at ITMA 2007, with one of the largest booths at the show. Trützschler now offers the standard traditional textile processing equipment and is a newcomer to the world of nonwovens. With its acquisitions of Erko and Fleissner, it has added the capability to offer a full array of staple-fiber nonwovens process technologies including, but not limited to, carding, needlepunching, hydroentangling and thru-air thermal bonding. Fleissner was exhibiting separately, but in close proximity to the Trützschler and Erko-Trützschler booths.
Trützschler systems have become the industry standard for fiber-opening, mixing and feeding. They are being used throughout the world in conjunction with other equipment, such as that offered by other machinery makers. With the company’s entry into nonwovens, one will expect the same level of excellence, and Trützschler will be a company to watch over the coming years.
Perhaps the most important feature of a Trützschler opening and feed system is the Scanfeed TF tuft feeder system. This system is equipped along the width with a fiber distribution system that is self-regulated by means of a stream of air. The Scanfeed TF also is equipped with a web profiler that monitors and controls the machine uniformity of the feed, thereby ensuring product uniformity. The Scanfeed TF works according to the proven double-trunk principle. Via the distribution line, a fan blows the tufts continuously into the large upper material reserve trunk. The distribution in width in the fillhead has clearly been improved by optimizing the air current conditions. Air outlet combs at both sides of the upper trunk separate the tufts from the air. The material condenses through the permanently effective positive pressure.
The filling height in the upper trunk remains constant and regulates itself via pressure control. If the air outlet combs are more covered, the pressure rises, leading to a reduction in the amount of material fed. By contrast, free comb surfaces result in a low pressure and an increased amount of material fed.
The feed roll at the lower end of the material reserve trunk seizes the tufts and feeds them to the opening roll. To ensure safe guiding and clamping of the material, the feed tray consists of individual spring-loaded elements that automatically adapt themselves to the respective fiber mass. The large-dimensioned opening roll, clothed with special needles, opens the material in a very gentle manner. Several fans — spread about the width — doff the fibers from the surface of the roll by means of a constant air stream and blow them into the bottom feed trunk.
A constant air stream in the feed trunk is the precondition for the self-regulating distribution in width. The feeding principle of the bottom trunk functions in a comparable way. The feed roll is pressure-controlled. The basic speed of this roll is determined by the roller card that follows the line. As the air takes the line of least resistance, air currents to the free comb surfaces of the feed trunk develop. By this, a self-regulating distribution in width is obtained. In the feed trunk, too, the comb covering, and thus the air pressure, regulates the amount fed.
The Scanfeed TF’s built-in circulating air fans are adjustable. This adjustment allows an adaptation of the condensing air stream to the fibers. Coarser and more crimped materials, for example, require a higher pressure and a stronger air stream.
The web profile control (VPR) is the only leveling unit that improves web evenness both in length and width. VPR is an optional supplement to the Scanfeed TF.
With the VPR, usually a homogenization of the web in width and length is obtained. It is also possible, however, to produce selective web cross-sectional profiles. When feeding a roller card, for example, it is often desired to reinforce the edges in order to compensate for the fiber loss in the side areas of the roller card.
The challenge for carding technology has been to compete for productivity and product characteristics with spunbond products in both the heavy — needlepunched — and light-basis-weight — thermally bonded — range. Operationally, the challenge translates into learning how to control the card-web structure, its uniformity — both lengthwise and crosswise — and its throughput rate. The Trützschler systems are a step in the right direction.
At this ITMA, Germany-based Fleissner focused on exhibiting the utility and versatility of its AquaJet technology, showing samples of filtration media for hot gas filtration as well as samples for sportswear and other applications in competition with needlepunching.
An intriguing set of samples exhibited was related to the production of innovative fabrics by Korea-based ANT NanoTechnic, which is using AquaJet technology to produce completely new products for synthetic leather, sportswear, functional fabrics, nanofiber webs, filter production, automotive interior fittings and the furniture industry. It was reported that Fleissner’s spunlace technology was used for bonding spunbonds and staple-fiber webs from splittable conjugate fibers, and also for incorporating electrospun nanofiber webs into a knitted fabric.
Another of Fleissner’s focus areas was related to the use of hydroentangling for incorporating pulp into webs. The company exhibited several interesting pulp composites for applications in the wipes, medical and absorbent product sectors. In a pulp/spunbond or pulp/carded web composite, pulp offers absorbency, while the spunbond or the carded layer provides strength and leads to a more functional and cost-effective solution. Fleissner also unveiled its LeanJet spunlace line of machinery for customers who wish to enter the wipes market with a limited, but still economical, production output. Fleissner announced it had sold several LeanJet machines over the previous twelve months.
Perhaps the most notable innovation by Fleissner at this show related to the company’s new SteamJet technology, developed and patented by Germany-based Sächsisches Textil Forchungs Institut, and unveiled at ITMA 2007. Fleissner exhibited various samples produced on its 1-meter-wide pilot line. SteamJet technology does not replace hydroentangling, but instead complements it. The main difference compared to the spunlace process is the use of superheated pressurized steam to bring about bonding by a combination of fiber entanglement and thermal bonding. Subsequent drying is not required since this is a “dry” process. Note that steam jets cannot have the same level of entangling energy, and therefore will be limited initially to lower basis weights and will be of use to products that would be difficult to dry. A similar technology already has been commercialized in Japan by Kuraray Co. Ltd. Watch for a new array of innovative products appearing in the marketplace over the next few years as this technology matures.
Composed of eight industrial companies, each known for its own unique strengths. There were a significant number of innovations visible at the NSC nonwoven booth at ITMA, both in processes and in new machine engineering. The company considered the show a success. It sold three complete needlepunching lines and two for spunlacing applications.
NSC’s Asselin-Thibeau company has specialized in integrating nonwovens lines for 30 years, and the multiple innovations on the different components of a line are all designed to work in synergy with one another to make a first-quality finished product, with optimum aesthetics, performance and fiber yield.
One of NSC’s core technologies — the Asselin-Thibeau ProDyn® system originally introduced at ITMA ’99 — applies only to crosslaid products but has become the established method to produce totally flat, controlled basis-weight fabrics for hydroentangled, needled or through-air bonded fabrics. NSC achieves this by varying card doffer and crosslapper input speeds in a systematic manner to create the web weights as needed at different points in the fleece.
NSC claims more than 75 ProDyn systems have already been sold worldwide and are delivering fabrics with regularities measuring around 1-percent coefficient of variation or better. The technology primarily applies to fabrics of 40 grams per square meter (g/m2) and upwards, and uses a scanning X-ray transmission gauge to measure the output of the line. It then provides an upstream, closed-loop control to continuously optimize weight distribution and basis weights. The electronics part of this proprietary process is an essential part of the system’s user friendliness and success.
Two innovative additions to the ProDyn system were introduced at ITMA 2007 — Iso-ProDyn® and the BattCruise crosslaid system, which are intended to consistently orient the fibers at all points in the finished fabric to maintain constant thickness and tensile properties from center to edge of the fabric. This is a flaw of drafting, or of earlier profiling systems, and will be particularly beneficial in making fabrics for automotive molding, geotextile or other iso-tensile applications where buckling and/or shear-dominated failures are controlled and minimized or eliminated. NSC reports two BattCruise units have already been sold — one to a company in Poland and one to a company in China.
A radical innovation was the design of the Asselin-Thibeau Excelle® card, which puts all the accessory card cleaning systems inside rather than outside the drives and adjustment points. Operator convenience and accessibility are unparalleled. These are combined with a completely sealed airflow system and transparent design that allows total visibility of the carding process, and virtually eliminates the need for card cleaning. Claimed improvements in fiber usage and downtime are financially interesting. The Excelle design is equally applicable to either direct lay or crosslaid systems. Like most good ideas, this design concept will now become self-evident and will be imitated by other machinery makers.
Many significant advances have been made to the A.50 RS series needle loom, with dedicated adaptations for high-speed deliveries, for fine-denier lightweight, or for very dense needling and for recycled waste materials.
A major NSC objective of the last several years has been to produce aesthetic, harmonic and pattern-free needled fabrics using randomized and dense needle patterns and combining specific patterns, as well as to increase fabric production speed. It achieves its objective by using the very novel Asselin Intermittent Advance System, which had demonstrated capability at well over 100 meters per minute (m/min) with relatively low stroke speed. The same aesthetic objective has been applied to structured, velour-surface fabrics to eliminate the characteristic rectangular impression of the brush bed in the finished fabrics. To overcome this problem — which is inherent in traditional velour loom design — NSC introduced the A.50 RS needle loom type SDV-2 HD, which allows the use of different needle patterns without requiring a change of stripper plate. As a bonus, this technique also permits greater productivity, and line speeds can be increased by 25 percent with better quality of fabric. It is now economically practical to put a velour loom inline with the basic fabric formation — saving not only in fiber materials, but also greatly in downtime and manpower requirements.
To improve needling uniformity on wide needle looms, Asselin-Thibeau recently introduced a Dynamic Frame Management system, a sort of self-leveling system to make sure penetration depth is equal in the center and on each edge of the fabrics under all loom operating conditions and penetrations. This appears particularly useful for heavily needled, dense fabrics.
Several specialized innovations also were presented for papermaker felt lines, with particular emphasis on a completely new preneedler, draft reduction and control through the very wide preneedled fleece — up to 14.5 meters wide — and to improve uniformity.
NSC nonwoven and France-based Rieter Perfojet presented at ITMA their joint promotion of NSC and Rieter Perfojet hydroentanglement lines. Personnel from each company were on hand to offer information on the joint solutions. NSC and Rieter-Perfojet have a long history together of offering successful hydroentanglement lines throughout the world for a wide variety of fiber types and applications. The cooperation completes their range of machines for high-speed direct lay or hydroentangled fabric lines, and also covers spunbond lines and thermobond lines.
NSC was showing for the first time its Monomatic EasyWinder, a fully automatic, autodoffing winder that offers inline slitting capabilities with working widths of up to 4 meters. The EasyWinder features a very sensitive tension control and a bobbin drive system containing approximately 11 different built-in tension profiles to permit handling of all delicate, low-strength fabrics without crushing or ovalizing of the mother rolls.
At the other end of its capabilities, the EasyWinder is also perfectly prepared to handle denser spunbond materials without defect or distortion. The EasyWinder is a modular unit that is offered either as an in-line mother-roll winder, an inline slitter-winder or an offline rewinder-slitter. It can be reconfigured later into another role without wasting any of the components. It will be particularly attractive to the smaller developing businesses that are upgrading existing lines and whose needs are evolving.
The most significant Rieter Perfojet developments related to its entry into the meltblowing and spunbonding sectors, and the coupling of hydroentangling with spunbonding. Rieter refers to this coupling as SPUNjet® and offers new solutions for the production of superior-quality spunlaid nonwovens under that brand name.
Spunlaid nonwovens are generally appreciated for their good uniformity and mechanical properties at low and even very low basis weights. Spunlaid nonwovens are often the first choice for low-basis-weight hygiene nonwovens. It is also well-known that bonding via a thermal calender has drawbacks such as lack of bulkiness and softness, degradation of filaments at the bond periphery, loss of permeability due to compaction and partial melting of the fibers.
The utilization of high kinetic and very fine water jets for the bonding of continuous-filament webs overcomes most if not all of these drawbacks. Rieter estimates that compared to similar thermally bonded webs, SPUNjet nonwovens demonstrate 25- to 30-percent higher tensile strengths, 50- to 80-percent more bulk and up to 75-percent higher tear strengths. The web of unbonded filaments is directly picked up on the surface of the forming conveyor of the spunlaid section without draft. This allows the use of low pressures and the conservation of the natural isotropy of the spunlaid webs.
Rieter also offers systems for incorporating pulp into webs. Its inline machine configurations cover two- and three-layer product construction.
To be a major player in the largest nonwovens markets — medical and hygiene — requires the ability to offer spunbonding and meltblowing lines separately and/or together. Rieter decided to play a major role in these markets and now offers spunbond/ meltblown/spunbond (SMS) technology. The first and foremost step was to deliver stand-alone spunbond and meltblown lines.
Rieter offers spunbond and meltblown machinery separately. Over the past six years, Rieter Perfojet has strengthened its position to become a serious market player in spunbond. Over the last three years, Rieter Automatik GmbH — a member of the Rieter Group — has dedicated a complete team based in Grossostheim, Germany, to its meltblown activities, and has branded its meltblowing technology EMBLO®. Several lines — including repeat orders — already are operational.
At the beginning of 2008, Rieter will take another important step toward a strategy to demonstrate its SMS capability in the pilot facility. Rieter Perfojet will house a Rieter Automatik meltblown tower inline with the existing spunbond tower. Bringing EMBLO and PERFObond™ together will complete the loop. Watch for innovative developments from Rieter.
Groz-Beckert KG, Germany, also was quite prominent at ITMA. The company exhibited a number of key technologies for both felting and hydroentangling, in addition to its weaving product line.
While Groz-Beckert is a newcomer to the world of hydroentangling jet strips, it has already introduced several innovations in this area, the most notable being the introduction at ITMA of the HyTec® Gebedur® jet strips featuring a long service life. A typical jet strip may have as many as 1,600 to 2,000 orifices per meter. The quality of each orifice is critical to the quality of the final product. Defects in orifices can result in streaks in the final fabric. A typical orifice — most range from 80 to 140 microns today — is in the form of a cone-capillary nozzle and is used in the cone-down configuration.
Premature loss of the edge sharpness of the capillary edges can lead to turbulence in the water jet and hence to irregularities in the water curtain. Fluctuations in the energy impact of the bonded-fiber fabric result in irregular stripe markings on the finished end product. The HyTec Gebedur jet strip combines long service life with unmatched quality leading to uniform product quality. The durability is achieved by providing resistant surfaces to control the wear at the edge of the capillaries. Consequently, the orifices retain their edge sharpness for longer periods. More importantly, this longer life results in better and more consistent products over the life of the jet strips.
Benefits of the HyTec Gebedur jet strips include:
• long service life as a result of reduced capillary edge wear;
• improved resistance to damage and scratching during strip changes and cleaning processes;
• uniform product properties over a long period of time; and
• resistance to external conditions including damage from being dropped, hit or bent.
Another innovation unveiled by Groz-Beckert was its new Groz-Beckert Master System — a complete system designed for more efficient, reliable needle board handling. The system comprises three components: Needle Master; GebeScoot; and GebeStore. The basis of the system is the Needle Master, a semi-automatic device for the insertion and removal of needles in needle boards for the needlepunching industry. Compared to the current manual methods of replacing needles, this partially automated process helps to minimize the time required for fixing damaged needles in needle boards or when switching to a new set of needles. The optimum care of the needle board taken during needle insertion and removal is also expected to result in an increased board life. The precision and quality of the needle replacement process are in full compliance with stringent board and needle precision requirements. A process patent application is pending for the Groz-Beckert Needle Master.
The GebeScoot is a high-lift truck featuring a special board fixture developed by Groz-Beckert for the safe, simple transport and handling of needle boards from the storage location to the Needle Master, to the needle loom and back to storage.
GebeStore is a needle board rack specially adapted to the other components for simple admission and removal of boards into and out of storage using the GebeScoot. The ergonomically designed and CE-compliant component make for fast, reliable and timely needle board handling.
The Germany-based Dilo Group — including Dilo Temafa, Dilo Spinnbau, Dilo Machines and Dilo Systems — showed its latest developments in nonwovens machinery and technologies at ITMA 2007. The group exhibited a total of 32 machines and components, 14 of which were stated to be new developments. The company demonstrated three web-forming and needling lines. The first was a high-performance line, including a totally new needling technology called HyperLine, for the production of lightweight nonwovens to be used in the medical and hygiene sector. The second was the AlphaLine, an economical alternative for the medium-capacity range; and the third was the Fiberlofter line, an aerodynamic web-forming and needling line.
Fiber preparation by opening and blending consists of Temafa components including two bale openers with increased throughput capacity, based on new software for the weighing process, followed by a redesigned carding willow to provide higher throughput using an enlarged working width.
Fiber from the Baltromix opening and blending line is pneumatically conveyed to the completely new DON dosing opener, which has a very large upper trunk as a reserve silo with a fine-regulating system of the flock level. The fiber flocks from the upper trunk are pre-opened and released to the lower trunk, which includes a fine-opening station. The finely opened flocks are transferred to a newly developed HyperLine card feeder named VentoFeed.
Dilo Machines' HyperLayer is claimed to be the only crosslapper to accept infeed speeds of around 200 meters per minute.
The Spinnbau DeltaCard is a universal double-doffer card where breast and main section are connected via the Delta arrangement of three transfer rollers, one being a random roller, for increased throughput and improved fiber blending. The double web is conveyed to the Dilo Machines HyperLayer, which resembles the old camelback in appearance, but it is claimed to be the only crosslapper to accept infeed speeds of around 200 m/min. The Profiline CV1 web control device at the infeed side of the crosslapper delivers lightweight areas of web to be positioned exactly at the batt edges as a precompensation for later rethickening of these edges during the needling process. Profiline CV1 is controlled by the newly developed Proximax unit, an X-ray scanning system for the batt profile as part of a closed-loop system. The accurate lapping action of the Hyperlayer in conjunction with Proximax gives the highest precision of weight distribution in the machine and cross directions. This automatic regulation and batt forming process provides a high potential for fiber savings. The more the batt weight is controlled to be even across the width and in running direction, the lower can be the final product weight, with associated savings of raw material — the highest cost factor in a textile mill.
The DI-LOOM HVASCL is a universal Hyperpunch double needle loom for two-sided needling, and includes the new EPMC Hyperpunch feature with elliptic phase motion control. This innovation is a compact solution to provide the Hyperpunch feature for a reduction of batt dimensional changes in the needle loom in a more economical way, at the same time allowing increased needling speeds of up to 2,200 strokes per minute.
The HyperLine web-forming and preneedling line delivers highly uniform and lightweight preneedled batt to be further processed using the Hyperlacing technology, which applies the revolutionary Cyclopunch needling units. The VentoFeed, Hyperlayer, EPMC Hyperpunch unit and Cyclopunch machines made their trade fair debuts at ITMA 2007.
The Dilo HPCL Hyperlacing technology was developed to provide an alternative to other bonding methods such as hydraulic spunlacing systems. With this needling concept, it is now possible to needle batt as light as 35 g/m2 with high-density needling to deliver nonwoven material highly resistant to frictional surface forces when used as wipe or medical material. The Hyperlacing units use four needle boards — two down-stroke, two up-stroke — each equipped with around 20,000 needles per meter of working width. The needles have barbs with an extreme barb-depth fineness of 0.02 millimeters. This Groz-Beckert needle transports only one fiber per stroke with one barb per needle. The single-fiber transport feature provides entanglement of virtually any fiber in the fibrous batt at high stitching densities. With several Cyclopunch units in a Hyperlacing line, very high throughput speeds of more than 100 m/min are possible.
The Cyclopunch needling unit applies a completely new needle beam kinematics that guides the needle on a circular path and in a translatory way. The needle always stays vertical to the fleece plane and is moving in two directions — up and down and horizontally forward and backward. While penetrating the fleece, the needle moves with the material, thus allowing extremely high throughput speeds.
This Hyperlacing needling technology is a highly attractive bonding method for the production of lightweight fine-fiber nonwovens in a very economical way, with one-sixth the energy consumption of a water-entangling line, and with no fiber losses and no water consumption.
In some sectors of the nonwovens industry, staple-fiber web-forming and needling lines are used to provide medium-range fiber throughput and speed. Therefore, Dilo Group has developed the AlphaLine as a compact and economical solution for such needs where machines of reduced complexity and with a highly attractive price/performance ratio are required.
The Spinnbau AlphaFeed and AlphaCard found on the AlphaLine provide a solution that uses far fewer drives and electronic controls, smaller rollers, simpler mechanical means for roller adjustment, and simplified features for the installation and housing of the machines. The medium range of up to approximately 80 m/min of web speed does not require suction and filtering stations to control the air flow in the card. The AlphaCard is a standardized design available in a working width of 2.5 meters.
The Dilo-Layer is a newly developed horizontal crosslapper for universal application. Various models of the Dilo-Layer series allow a web infeed speed range of up to 160 m/min. At the same time, this is an economical crosslapper that features very high layering precision. The Dilo-Layer unit at ITMA 2007 had an infeed width of 2.5 meters and a layering width of up to 3.5 meters.
The Alpha Loom series is a new range of needle looms with medium capacity and good economy for universal needling applications.
Technical felts for molded car parts are increasingly produced from recycled and natural fibers, and blends with glass fiber. For the web-forming of such products, airlay machines offer an economical advantage at high throughput capacity and a medium evenness level. Besides the range of high-performance aerodynamic web-forming units for the fine-fiber range, Dilo Group also offers the newly developed universal Fiberlofter for medium to high product weights between 300 and 3,000 g/m2 with a production capacity of up to 1,000 kilograms per hour per meter working width.
Also for the automotive sector, DI-LOUR velours are enjoying a revived interest as a car interior decoration product with low weight and good moldability. The DI-LOUR II-SLG is a high-capacity structuring machine with excellent pile formation due to a new needle board design.
Other Noted Exhibitors
Among other exhibitors, one would note Laroche, Cormatex, Bettarini & Serafini and others offering highloft nonwovens production systems using airlay and/or chutefeed systems unique for recycled- and natural-fiber nonwovens utilizing fibers hat cannot easily be handled by carding.
Italy-based Cormatex was exhibiting its simple but elegant chutefeed system processing bast fibers. With sustainability becoming a global issue, watch for developments in this area.
The limiting factor today remains the lower basis weights achievable on such systems. With the technology being improved continuously, the anticipation is that the boundaries will be pushed and newer products between now and the next ITMA will appear using these technologies. Automotive, building, home furnishings and geotextiles are areas that would likely be targeted.
Hills, West Melbourne, Fla., was showcasing some of its new and exciting developments. Hills began many years ago by offering filament and staple extrusion lines in both homocomponent and bicomponent configurations. Its bicomponent technology is unique, flexible and expandable. Hills began offering both meltblown and spunbond equipment some years back, and its spin beam and bicomponent/multicomponent technology has been used together in systems offered by Nordson, Reifenhäuser and others.
The latest development in the area of meltblowing was Hills’ 100-plus-holes-per-inch meltblowing die. Typically, most meltblowing spin beams have approximately 35 holes per inch. The increase to 100 holes per inch has two significant implications: At the same throughput in grams per hole per minute, production can be significantly improved, reducing the need for multiple beams and providing significant cost savings; and, at lower throughputs, production can be the same or higher, yielding, however, significantly smaller fibers. Because of the increased surface area, a composite made up of a sub-micron meltblown web can be lower in weight, leading to significant cost savings.
These types of innovations from Hills have led to the development of many revolutionary products. The developments in the area of multicomponent fiber extrusion coupled with needling and hydroentangling are worth watching.
Equally important is the availability of water-dispersible polymers such as the EastOne series — available from Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn. — that enable the use of such technologies without any significant environmental concerns.