Parlez-Vous Francais?

August 17, 2005

on a recent visit to France, associate editor C.E. Pelc discovers just how well nonwovens speak French

After a whirlwind tour of various textile facilities in Paris, Lille and Lyon, we are happy to report that nonwovens are establishing a “haute couture” all their own. While they might attract fewer tourists than Notre Dame (pictured at right), a good number of fabric manufacturers are beginning to step out of the bounds of woven textiles and apply their expertise to the area of nonwovens.

Nonwovens With A French Touch
Home to a number of innovative technical textile producers, France has a great deal to contribute to the textile industry. Nonwovens currently accounts for 6.9% of French technical textile activities. Within the nonwovens category in France, spunlaid and dry laid make up 45% each, while wet laid carries a 10% share.

One of the first companies we visited was roll goods producer Duflot Industrie in Beauvois-en-Cambrésis. The company produces needlepunch, thermal bonded, calendered, composite, malivlies and maliwatt nonwovens for personal protection, public transportation, industrial, environmental and automotive applications. Duflot’s newest products include a lightweight fire barrier material specifically designed for aircraft seats, a thermal insulation product for aircraft bodies and an anti-vandal material designed for public transport seating.

Along with nonwovens producers, France is also home to a good number of converters as well. One such company is Subrenat Expansion of Mouvaux—a converter of both woven and nonwoven textiles, such as needled felt, wet laid and spunbond. Subrenat’s current portfolio includes more than 2500 different products for a variety of different applications, including disposable, protective, medical and automotive. One of the newest products from the company is a nonwoven for the transport of spare plastic or painted auto parts to help prevent scratching and chipping. In addition, Subrenat has developed the “Eole” process for pillowcase, upholstery and quilt applications.

Another converter working with both nonwovens and wovens is Dubar-Warneton in Wattrelos. Due to the company’s knowledge and capabilities as a specialist weaver of technical fabrics, it is able to coat heavy fabrics to high specifications. Dubar-Warneton offers coating of nonwovens from 80 to 950 gpsm and a variety of additives. Some of the company’s newest products are a 100% stainless steel woven fabric for antistatic nonwoven applications and a copper nonwoven fabric for protection from cellular phone radiation.

Cortex S.A. of Marcy L’Etoile is another weaving and finishing specialist that has broadened its offerings to include nonwovens. The company’s “Loomprinter” patented process allows color or a print to be applied to a material either during the weaving process or on an existing fabric. One such nonwoven application is a fabric for apparel applications that is a combination of a needled velvet and thermal sensitive nonwoven, which, when calendered, gives a rich, metallic look to the fabric. Cortex is also currently working on applications for three-dimensional nonwovens with its equipment.

Mastering The Art Of Machinery
Speaking of machinery and equipment, one key nonwovens supplier is Thibeau, located in Tourcoing. The company—which manufactures cards for nonwovens, semi-worsted and wool—is part of the NSC Schlumberger Group, which also includes machinery supplier Asselin in Elbeuf, France. The newest product that has been developed through the combined efforts of Thibeau and Asselin is the “ProDyn” system, which combines Thibeau’s “Dynamic” card with Asselin’s “Dynamic” crosslapper. The system produces “Prodyned” nonwoven fabric that has a flat weight profile within the finished bonded material.

Also on our travel itinerary was a visit to ICBT Perfojet in Montbonnot, France. ICBT Perfojet offers four different types of spunlace machinery as well as finishing and filtration equipment. The company’s latest innovation is the “JETlace 2000,” which was introduced two years ago in an attempt to help nonwoven manufacturers save energy but still achieve high speeds of up to 350 meters per minute. In addition, ICBT has also developed the “AIRlace 2000” high speed line that combines spunlace and air laid to produce 30-80 gpsm low-cost, uniform nonwovens for wipes, wet wipes and medical applications.

Another nonwoven machinery producer bringing new products to the industry is Laroche S.A., located in Cours La Ville. Laroche’s expertise includes textile waste recycling, fiber opening and blending from 20-200 kg per hour, 300-3000 gpsm nonwoven mat forming, base fiber processing, special machines for disposable products and fiber dosing and blowing equipment. In addition, the company also makes air laid equipment for thermal bonded, resin bonded or needlepunched nonwovens. Laroche’s newest innovation for the nonwovens industry is the patented “3D Web Linker” for the manufacture of three-dimensional nonwoven structures made of two or more fibrous webs for composite products.

Suppliers Share Their Secrets
France is also home to many well known raw material suppliers. One such company is R.Stat, located in Vaulx-en-Velin. R.Stat is a producer of antistatic and antibacterial fibers for textile applications. The secret ingredient of both these fibers is metal—certain pure metals are intrinsically both antistatic and antibacterial. The company’s “Rhodiastat” conductive fibers help to combat problems associated with static electricity; the result is a reddish brown fiber that has good electrical conductivity, permanent retention of this conductivity and good textile characteristics, ensuring compatibility with normal fibers for industrial nonwoven, gas filtration, protective clothing, floorcovering and aircraft blanket applications. In the antibacterial area, R.Stat’s fibers inhibit the growth of bacteria, but do not eliminate it completely since some bacteria is needed by humans to combat infection. Textiles utilizing the antibacterial fibers could find applications in the bedding, mattress, footwear, apparel, filtration, medical and hospitality markets.

Another raw material supplier branching into the nonwovens industry is Paul Bonte of Wattrelos. A producer of niche technical yarns, the company works with conventional high tech fibers such as “Kevlar,” “Kermel” and carbon to produce flexible and processable fibers from endless filaments. Within the area of nonwovens, the company’s yarns can be needlepunched for work in filtration, such as a product needled with stainless steel yarn for antistatic applications.

Although best known for its woven PVC textiles for tents, big tops and structural applications, Ferrari Textiles Techniques of La Tour-du-Pin has also begun to include nonwovens in its “Vinyloop” PVC composite recycling process. The patented process generates ready-to-use polyester fiber and flexible PVC, solving the problems of public dumping ground disposal and incineration. While the PVC is able to be used in a variety of applications, the recycled polyester fiber is distributed mainly to the nonwovens industry for use in geotextiles, filters, reinforcements, insulation, upholstery and cushion fillers.