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New Products and Structures Propel Growth of Nonwovens

As a working woman, I love convenience as much as anyone. I've discovered dusting cloths complete with furniture polish, floor mops saturated with cleansers, and skin wipes that leave a nice, powdery residue. They're fast, they're fun, and I think they're fantastic.

Apparently, I'm not alone. According to The Freedonia Group, Cleveland, OH, US demand for nonwoven roll goods will increase 4.5% per year to $4.6 billion in 2005, propelled by the disposable consumer and filtration markets. In its “Nonwovens” research study, the company reports the c segment will enjoy a strong 6% growth rate due to new product introductions and innovative uses for nonwovens.

The recently completed Index 02 reflects the growth of nonwovens; the show drew 470-plus exhibitors and more than 11,000 attendees to Geneva, Switzerland. Sponsored by EDANA, Europe's nonwovens trade association based in Brussels, Belgium, the 20,000 sq m of show floor space set a record for this every-three-year event.

Recently, Procter & Gamble's Swiffer Wet floor cleaning product, which features a pad that cleans and then adsorbs the wash solution, was selected to receive the 2002 Visionary Award from INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry. According to Ted Wirtz, INDA president, “Procter & Gamble's Swiffer Wet...certainly exhibited the vision to take our industry forward.”

If you have a toddler, you'll be interested in an innovation to Huggies Pull-Ups disposable training pants announced by Kimberly-Clark Corp., Dallas, TX. Through advanced technology, the training pants have been made nearly 30% thinner for an improved overall fit that looks and feels more like real underwear, the company reports. The disposable training pants category is nearing retail sales of $1 billion annually in the US and is growing at a double-digit rate, says Kimberly-Clark.

Carol Webster, director of strategic planning & market services, BBA Nonwovens Industrial Div., Nashville, TN, says, “There are a number of ways to combine nonwovens and other materials into composite structures, some of which are done by nonwovens manufacturers and some of which are done by converters through off-line steps such as adhesive, thermal, or extrusion lamination and ultrasonic bonding. We see composites becoming more important to us, as well as the industry as a whole. Combining different products and technologies allows us to better custom-design products to meet customer needs, particularly in markets such as filtration, consumer care, and construction.”

“New products will continue to surge into the market,” adds Mike Boylan, director — global sales & marketing, nonwovens, Paper Converting Machine Co., Green Bay, WI. “We will see a greater variety of coated, printed, and embossed substrates.”

Major consumer products companies are focusing on nonwovens, which is a significant change, Boylan says. “Georgia Pacific, for example, set up a nonwovens division. Other companies followed suit. PCMC recently formed its nonwovens division, which will focus on the manufacture and development of wipes machines, printers, coaters, and embossers.”

Manufacturers offer a range of products from low speed entry-level machines to high speed machines that can produce 450 80-count wipes per minute, Boylan says. “Make sure you're buying the most flexible machine available. [Ask yourself:] Will the machine handle various substrates? Is there flexibility in cutoff and folded width? Is it modular? Can it grow with your business?”

Because when it comes to nonwovens, growth is the trend.

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