The role of nonwovens in technical applications is increasing, creating new markets and improving profits for many of our industry's key manufacturers. This month, in preparation for the bi-annual Techtextil North America trade show, scheduled for April 1-3 in Atlanta, GA, we examine the ever-increasing market for technical nonwovens. According to industry expert Dong Zhang (see page 98), nonwovens represent about 40% of all technical textiles by tonnage, which is significant when you consider that the technical textiles market is valued at $115 billion and expected to grow to $127 billion by 2010.
As more traditional markets for nonwovens—like baby diapers and other disposable products—face maturity, many companies are focusing on creating value-added materials that combine the strength and flexibility of nonwovens with the sophistication of technical textiles to target new application areas, oftentimes in the durable realm.
The world's leading nonwovens producer, Freudenberg, is leading this charge with key advances in a number of areas such as automotives. In fact, Freudenberg executive Bill Preininger is so keen on nonwovens' growing role in automotives that he spoke about the subject in a recent Nonwovens Industry webinar. With more than 40 individual car parts made from nonwovens, these materials can provide value-added functions such as decoration, solvent repellency, resilience, stretch, absorption, softness, tensile strength, abrasion, flame retardancy, cleanability, cushioning, reinforcement, recyclability, temperature sensitivity, polishing, filtering, bacterial barrier, antimicrobial and sterility in automotive applications, according to Mr. Preininger. Of course, automotives is just one of many industries embracing nonwovens for their many benefits. (If you didn't catch this webinar, which also featured a presentation from Dong Zhang, please visit www.nonwovens-industry.com/webinars to view it in our archives.)
For an added glimpse of the technical textiles market, turn to page 78, to find out what some TTNA exhibitors plan to showcase at this year's show. And, for our first look at what's in store for April's ever-important INDEX08 show—the year's largest nonwovens-related event—please turn to page 64. We'll have much more on INDEX, which will be held April 15-19 in Geneva, in our April issue.