Expert's Opinion

What to Wear: Part Two

By Bob Bayer, Contributor | March 4, 2010

Bob Bayer continues to reminisce about nonwovens' journey in apparel.

With the exposure, publicity and acceptance of our Mars Mfg. Company “paper dresses” in the mid-late 1960’s, the introduction of disposable work clothing became our priority. Thus, we immediately introduced a full line of industrial and medical apparel. Included were nonwoven coveralls, lab coats, shirts, pants, caps, shoecovers, aprons, sterile O.O. gowns, scrub suits, etc.

Our earliest versions of industrial apparel were made from Kaycel; our next generation of clothing was made from Tyvek.For medical apparel, we initially utilized Kaycel. This was followed by the introduction of disposable sterile operating room gowns (and sterile surgical packs) which we manufactured from Dexter’s new nonwoven fabric. In later years we would utilize spunbonded polypropylene and meltblown/spunbonded laminates as they came onto the market.We were able to design and produce the various garments to meet specific end-use applications.

Initially the paper dresses and the industrial/medical apparel were produced using traditional cut & sew methods. In the 1970’s we also utilized cold adhesives. Later this evolved into hot melt adhesives, hot wire sealing, and ultrasonic bonding.

In-house at American Threshold Industries, in the1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s we designed and built several sophisticated automated machines. These innovative machines were used to manufacture isolation gowns, shoecovers, surgical and dental masks, etc., and significantly reduced our manufacturing costs.For example, we would introduce rolls of yellow spunbonded polypropylene into one end of the machine and a finished, folded isolation gown would come out the other end. Our two gown machines replaced a factory full of cut & sew employees working on traditional sewing machines.

In addition to the retail dresses and industrial/medical products, we also produced other diverse apparel items such as disposable baby bibs and baby changing pads, highway safety vests, nuclear plant coveralls, cleanroom clothing, face masks, etc.

What about the future of nonwoven apparel? Over the past 45 years we have witnessed the evolution of nonwoven fabrics with ever-improving hand, drape, surface treatments, and with specialized properties. Many have been designed to meet specific end-use applications. Printing and coloring techniques have also evolved and manufacturing techniques continue to improve. (For example, our gown machine automatically applied elastic cuffs, neck tape closures, and waist belts.)

I am somewhat surprised that there has not been a reintroduction of fashion apparel designed for a limited number of wearings. With dramatic improvements in the aesthetic qualities of nonwoven fabrics and the strides made in more efficient manufacturing techniques, Istill foresee this as a potential technique which I theorized and investigated (but did not have time to pursue) some 40 years ago. . . that of blowing fibers and adhesive onto an anatomical form, curing the structure and stripping off a finished molded garment.


Bob Bayer pioneered the introduction of disposable retail apparel at Mars Manufacturing in the 1960s and 1970s and went on to found and head American Threshold Industries, a manufacturer of disposable industrial, medical and cleanroom products. He sold the company to a private equity firm in 1998.

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