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Barcelona: Center Of The Textile Universe In 2011 (Part II)

ITMA 2011 confirmed its position as the top show for sophisticated textile machinery, especially for nonwovens and technical textiles.

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Since ITMA 2003 in Birmingham, United Kingdom, there have been a lot of discussions within the global textile industry, and among Western European machinery suppliers in particular, about whether an ITMA in Europe still makes sense. It seems these discussions are over now. Reflecting on the recent ITMA Europe in Barcelona, Spain, one can say this event is still the top performance show for high-quality machinery, especially for nonwovens and technical textiles production.

Increasing Importance
It took quite a while to convince officials from ITMA owner CEMATEX (European Committee of Textile Machinery Manufacturers) that nonwovens machinery is not a part of spinning equipment in spite of the cards, which to some extent apply the same technology. Since ITMA 1999 in Paris, nonwovens has had its own nomenclature in the ITMA catalog. And with its steady growth, this important sector is today one, if not the, cornerstone of the Western textile industry. On top of that, other fabric production machinery, such as that for woven and warp-knitted technical textiles, is classified in the catalog in a much better way.

Even one decade ago, the nonwovens sector was rather a mass market. Those days are gone forever, at least for durable and custom-made products. Today, there are two different nonwovens manufacturing sectors: disposables including products such as feminine care products, wipes and other one-use items; and tailor-made nonwovens, which are becoming more and more a specialized niche market with a growing demand.

That's one reason why high-quality nonwovens machinery is still produced mainly in Western Europe, and particularly in Germany and France. There are companies such as Andritz Küsters GmbH, Germany; NSC nonwoven (now Andritz Asselin-Thibeau), France; Trützschler Nonwovens GmbH, Germany; and Andritz Perfojet, France, just to name a few — but also France-based Laroche S.A. with its recycling equipment, which today is an important part of the nonwovens business.

DiloGroup, Germany, was the only ITMA exhibitor to present a complete nonwovens production line, on which it ran fiber to show a number of newly developed characteristics. According to DiloGroup Chairman Johann-Philipp Dilo, this line attracted some 3,500 visitors to the company's 1,000-square-meter booth.

DiloGroup presented a complete nonwovens production line in its booth and ran fiber on it to show a number of newly developed characteristics.

Top products were the new Alphamix as well as suction, filtration and sound insulation techniques from DiloTemafa; MultiFeed and MultiCard from DiloSpinnbau; and the Webguide of the DiloLayer as well as the Isomation Process to produce a more consistent fiber mass flow and a more even end product.

Of course, one must not forget weaving and warp knitting machines for technical textiles — with labels such as Dornier, Karl Mayer and Sultex. The Sultex P7300HP projectile weaving machine still plays a prominent role for technical textiles as well as polypropylene ribbons. All these and other companies prominently exhibited their top products. Many confirmed that only at ITMA in Europe would they show the high end of their production lines. For Asian fairs, the products exhibited are mainly produced at their Far Eastern production sites.

The Sultex P7300HP produces fabrics of high quality, from all raw materials and for all applications, as well as fabrics made of polypropylene ribbons.

Europe In The Foreground
Visitors for nonwovens and technical textiles came mainly from Western Europe and North and Latin America. Visitors from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and the Middle East mainly were looking at traditional textile manufacturing machinery. China was absent, which is no surprise considering there are a lot of domestic events in China — in particular, ITMA Asia + CITME next June in Shanghai.

The importance of European markets for technical fabrics and nonwovens is a fact. Marc Wolpers, sales director, nonwovens, Trützschler Nonwovens, said his company is enjoying very good business in Europe, particularly in the fields of filtration, automotive and hygiene products. It is very difficult to get firm facts and figures for European nonwovens and industrial fabric production, but experts say that today, some 40-plus percent of all textile articles produced in Europe are made of woven fabrics and nonwovens.

However, Asia Is Keeping Up
On the other side, Wolpers mentioned, "China, India and Indonesia are becoming more and more important also for the nonwovens industry. Further industrialization, rising standards of living as well as improvement in infrastructure will support further growth in the next few years."

Good Show
Most of the exhibitors were very pleased with visitor quality and level. "The quality of the visitors was excellent; we have been busy every day and were able to fulfill our entire goals for the show and are very satisfied with ITMA 2011," Wolpers said.

Trützschler Nonwovens presented two new machines: the Streamliner drum dryer with improved air flow distribution and higher drying capacity with lower energy consumption; and the Erko EKLB439 crosslapper with improved material guidance for enhanced web qualities at speeds greater than 160 meters per minute. "At the same time, we have been able to reduce the energy consumption of the crosslapper drastically," Wolpers added. Both machines received excellent feedback from the industry, and Wolpers is sure these products will be top sellers for Trützschler Nonwovens in the future.

Trützschler's Erko crosslapper EKLB439 offers improved material guidance to enable enhanced web qualities at speeds above 160 meters per minute.

It seems the nonwovens industry is not that jeopardized by the current financial turmoil. Furthermore, Wolpers added, "We don't see any slowdown in order income or requests for new quotes. We feel well-positioned because we can offer all major staple-fiber-based web forming and bonding technologies. Therefore, we are not dependent on certain product markets. We can fulfill most requirements of our customers from our portfolio, which certainly helps to continue our growth. In addition, we can offer know-how from staple fiber production to the final product. This will help us to support our customers even more in developing new products."

Concentration Of Producers
The manufacture of machinery for technical textiles and particularly nonwovens production requires a certain company infrastructure and size. Until recently, there were many more players in this sector. As seen in the past few months and at ITMA in Barcelona, there is an ongoing concentration in these markets. One big issue was the takeover of NSC nonwoven by the Andritz Group. Andritz had already acquired Perfojet from Switzerland-based Rieter Group some months earlier.

Another astonishing move was the acquisition of Autefa Solutions  by the China Hi-Tech Group Co. Ltd. (CHTC). CHTC's target is to become a number-one player in the nonwovens business to manufacture complete lines for spunbonds, spunlace, needlepunching, through-air thermal bonding, hot-calendering, melt-blowing and composite material.

That's quite a challenge for the established suppliers. Wolpers mentioned that "the group formation in our industry seems to be finalized with the acquisition of NSC by Andritz and the Oerlikon Carding Unit [Autefa Solutions] by the China Hi-Tech Group. This will help us to position ourselves even more strongly as a family-owned company that is a technology leader."

Market Situation
None of the companies mentioned sees any real difficulties with the actual market situation. Most of the order books are full, and the only problem is delivery time. For the future, there is no trouble, either. Comments were unanimous that nonwovens and technical textiles are cornerstones of the future for the Western textile and textile machinery industries.

One thing is certain: The markets for these products and the man-made fibers markets — particularly, filaments — will further grow. In contrast to the traditional textile industry, the nonwovens and technical textiles sectors comprise strictly innovative businesses and solution providers. And there is no sign that fewer solutions will be needed in the future.

And yes, in spite of all rumors in the markets and the ongoing discussions about the frequency of the ITMAs, everybody will attend ITMA Asia 2012 in Shanghai as well as ITMA 2015 in Milan.

January/February 2012