Within the textile industry, the production of technical textiles—and in particular of nonwovens—has been showing the highest growth rates during the past few years. This market trend has been driven by the ongoing development of production technologies and the continuous research for new materials with different characteristics and new properties. The result of this relentless evolution is that technical textiles are increasingly replacing traditional textiles and creating new applications.
However, the main driver of this development is the need to answer to the demands—now increasingly urgent and common at world level—for cutting production costs, increasing energy efficiency, using environmentally friendlier materials and boosting the operating flexibility of machinery and equipment, while at the same time maximizing the quality and functional performance of the end product.
It is in light of these considerations that Cormatex has channelled its efforts into R&D activities, leading to the development and realization of a revolutionary airlaying system, patented under the name of Lap FormAir. It is a new technology for the production of airlaid nonwovens, extremely flexible and productive, ensuring quality levels definitely superior to other airlaying technologies currently available on the market.
A Single Machine for Many Applications
Lap FormAir combines a number of features. First of all, the low investment and running costs are the result of the process’ simplicity, based on a purely aerodynamic principle. In addition, the machine ensures lower production costs thanks to its high output rates (over 2000 kg/h), as well as its high production flexibility allowed by the absence of carding units or other mechanical components, which often limits the possibility of processing every type of material, whether fibrous or not, new or recycled. The high quality of the end product–even in the case of lightweight articles–is guaranteed by a state-of-the-art pressure control system that allows the formation of laps with a weight inferior to 200 gpsm, with a perfect control of lap density uniformity. Finally, the straightforward management and monitoring of the process parameters are ensured by a centralized system for control and operation analysis. These particular features reflect into real advantages for the users of Lap FormAir, which has been designed above all for three types of industrial use:
• manufacturing of airlaid nonwovens, as the performance of the new overcomes the limits of conventional airlaying technologies in terms of quality and production flexibility;
• manufacturing of traditional nonwovens (with card and cross lapper equipment), as Lap FormAir can replace conventional equipment in a number of applications (for example, thermal and sound insulation, automotive industry, packaging, building industry) or it can be added to traditional production lines thanks to the possibility of processing waste into new airlaid products for the applications mentioned above;
• manufacturing of textiles in segments other than nonwovens.
A Simple and Innovative Principle
Lap FormAir is based on an aerodynamic principle for the lap formation that delivers end products of perfectly uniform density both cross and lengthwise on the whole operating width of the machine. The material is accurately prepared and blended using standard openers and blenders traditionally employed in nonwovens production lines. After this stage, the material is conveyed pneumatically to the Lap FormAir system where it is subject to a further intensive opening stage and then conveyed—by means of a special patented pneumatic system—into a condensation chamber where a lap is formed of the desired weight and thickness. The sophisticated pressure control system inside the condensation chamber determines the quantity of material for every square centimeter of the product, as a result ensuring a perfectly uniform density for the end product according to the parameters entered by the operator. The lap delivered by the Lap FormAir system can also undergo traditional mechanical bonding treatments (needlepunching) or thermal bonding (oven or calender) depending on the functional features of the end product and its final application. The performance levels ensured by Lap FormAir make it possible above all to process all types of raw stock, whether fibrous or not. The secret of this versatility lies right the machine’s operating principle, i.e. the use of air for the transport and condensation of the material, in the use of a particular method for controlling the air pressure inside the condensation chamber, and finally in the absence of carding units or other mechanical components unlike other airlaying technologies available on the market. These specific features have allowed the achievement of one of the main targets set for the machine that is to say the use of materials of inferior quality and waste from other textile processes. In fact, Lap FormAir was tested with highly heterogeneous blends, where the fibers traditionally employed in the manufacturing of nonwovens (polyester, polypropylene, viscose, polyamide) were replaced completely or partially with low-quality natural fibers (sugarcane fibres, coconut fibers, recycled cotton, recycled jute and linen, raw hemp, paper and cardboard) or even with waste from other industrial processes (carding waste, carpet production cuttings, waste from certain finishing processes), which cannot be normally used in textile production.
The real revolutionary aspect of Lap FormAir is its ability to combine extreme operating versatility with the high quality of end products. The aerodynamic principle developed and patented by Cormatex ensures a perfect control of the density of the output product, limiting the weight variations within 3%. These results are guaranteed for products of any weight, even the extra light ones, where eventual density faults would be particularly visible. Lab tests on products made with Lap FormAir have confirmed that the minimum quality standards required by the market in the various application segments have been exceeded by far.
A complete airlaying pilot line has been installed in Cormatex’s premises in Prato, Italy which is always available for customes’ trials and further product developments.