Industrial Nonwovens Report

By Tim Wright, editor | October 9, 2013

EPA’s “wiper rule” offers opportunity for nonwoven industrial wipes.

After 30 years the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reduced a regulatory burden for industrial facilities using solvent wipes in a move the agency says could save industry between $21.7 million and $27.8 million per year.

When the EPA finally published its long-awaited “wiper rule” it helped level the regulatory playing field between non-laundered wipes and rags and laundered shop towels.

The final rule modifies the hazardous waste management regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to conditionally exclude solvent-contaminated wipes from hazardous waste regulations provided that businesses clean or dispose of them properly. It’s based on the EPA’s final risk analysis that concluded wipes contaminated with certain hazardous solvents do not pose significant risk to human health and the environment when managed properly.

Wipes are used in conjunction with solvents for cleaning and other purposes by tens of thousands of facilities in numerous industrial sectors, such as printers, automobile repair shops and manufacturers of automobiles, electronics, furniture and chemicals.

To be excluded, solvent-contaminated wipes must be managed in closed, labeled containers and cannot contain free liquids when sent for cleaning or disposal, the EPA says. Additionally, facilities that generate solvent-contaminated wipes must comply with certain record keeping requirements and may not accumulate wipes for longer than 180 days.

The EPA estimates that the final rule will result in a net savings of $18 million per year in avoided regulatory costs and between $3.7 million and $9.9 million per year in other expected benefits, including pollution prevention, waste minimization and fire prevention.

The rulemaking effort began in the 1980s, when the EPA received rulemaking petitions from industry that requested the exclusion of disposable and reusable wipes from hazardous waste regulation because these regulations were too stringent for solvent-contaminated wipes based on the risks they pose. The final rule is based on the EPA’s final risk analysis, peer reviewed in 2008 and published for public comment in 2009, which demonstrates that wipes contaminated with certain hazardous solvents do not pose significant risks to human health and the environment when managed under reduced requirements.

New industrial grade wipes

To address the needs of the aviation industry and help workers perform more productively and efficiently, Kimberly-Clark Professional introduced a line of aviation-certified wiping solutions that meet the requirements of Aerospace Material Specification (AMS) 3819C (Aerospace industry requirement) and Boeing Material Specification (BMS) 15-5F (Boeing).

Kimtech Wipes for aviation are specifically engineered to perform in all areas of original equipment manufacturing (OEM) and maintenance repair operations (MRO), including paint surface prep, engine maintenance and general-purpose cleaning. These application-driven solutions are designed to deliver superior cleaning, improve operational efficiencies, reduce turn-around time, and maximize productivity while meeting the precision standards and requirements of the aviation industry.

"Aviation industry workers must have the best wiping tools available to make sure every job is done right the first time," says Marianne Santangelo, go-to-market leader, manufacturing, Kimberly-Clark Professional. "Our goal is to provide them with a comprehensive range of customized tools that reduce waste and costs and increase efficiency. This supports our vision of creating exceptional workplaces that help keep workers healthier, safer and more productive."

Kimtech Wipes for aviation are available in four categories: abrasive wipes, surface preparation wipes, cleaning wipes and a wet wipe system. The products also feature an intuitive, alpha numeric, performance-tier identification system with visual cues that make it easier for technicians to identify the right product for the task.

Kimtech A2 Aviation Abrasive Surface Preparation Wipes are designed for abrasive aviation surfaces and are ideal for use on riveted metal surfaces. They reduce the risk of contamination even when used on rough surfaces and can be used for pre-cleaning, degreasing, solvent wiping and excess sealant removal. Kimtech P2 and P3 Aviation Surface Preparation Wipes deliver precision performance via an advanced material that enables optimum linting and extractable control. Kimtech C2, C3 and C4 Aviation Cleaning Wipes are an easy-to-use, lean manufacturing cleaning solution for general wiping needs. They are aimed at reducing waste, costs and contamination while enhancing productivity. A lower-cost alternative to reusable rags, these wipes can be used for overall general cleaning, post-paint stripping and wiping, water-rinse drying, solvent wiping, excess sealant removal, oil and grease cleaning, and tool wiping. Kimtech W Aviation Wet Wipe System is an airtight, sealed system that reduces waste and improves performance by offering more controlled dispensing of disposable, pre-saturated wipes. The technology offers benefits over bucket or decanter systems, including reductions in solvent loss from evaporation, reduced waste from wipes drying out, and reduced worker exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The product comes with a guarantee of 20% reduction in solvent usage.

High-Tech Conversions is another wipe manufacturer and has introduced Wicked Awesome Wipes, a completely new industrial grade wipe. These double re-crepe cellulose wipers offer exceptional strength, durability, and are extremely absorbent.

The company says Wicked Awesome Wipes are durable enough to handle most surfaces yet soft enough to be used on face and hands. They have a soft outer layer with a highly absorbent inner layer making them suitable for grease and grime as well as solvents and other liquids. They are ideal for use in a variety of applications and industries including, manufacturing, automotive, food, maintenance, laboratories, aerospace, printing, marine, and more.

Wicked Awesome Wipes are packaged in a convenient center pull dispenser with handles. The blue box features a quote that states, “If you’re not from New England, you wouldn’t understand.”

The Acme Group has launched its newest offerings to help North America’s largest manufacturers reach their “Zero Landfill” initiatives. The company has introduced its recyclable industrial absorbents program called "NeuSorb”.

NeuSorb Recyclable Absorbents are a line of industrial absorbents and wipes most commonly used in manufacturing facilities and industrial processes. Instead of landfilling or incinerating spent absorbents, Acme reclaims the material and recycles it using a patented process that turns these troublesome waste streams into usable plastic resin. The resin is highly marketable and is often used by the originating waste generator the company says.

"NeuSorb Recyclable Absorbents are a growing product line," says Matt Utley, director of sales for the Acme Group. "Right now the line comprises of pads, pillows, socks and wipes, but in time it will grow to cover specialty applications for manufacturers everywhere."

The Acme Group is currently partnering with North America’s largest manufacturers to assist them in reaching their environmental initiatives. The company provides custom programs for filtration, absorbents and waste paint overspray. These programs are keeping millions of tons of industrial waste from going to landfill. As industry continuously looks to streamline their process and improve their environmental impact, The Acme Group has redesigned their business model to positioning themselves as an innovative leader in the field of industrial waste stream recycling.

"We reformulated many of our rolled goods and filtration media making them entirely recyclable," says Utley. "The key was to maintain our high standards of performance, making sure our recyclable material performs the same or better as existing products. If it says NeuBond or NeuSorb on the label, it’s recyclable. Our addition of the NeuSorb product line addresses a major waste stream. It takes us one step closer to helping our customers reach their zero landfill goals, while improving their bottom line."

Carpet market investment heats up

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia recently announced that Shaw Industries Group, Inc. is set to build a new facility to manufacture modular carpet tiles. The company is expected to make an $85 million investment in Georgia and create 500 new jobs.

“The steady comeback of the floor covering industry in North Georgia continues to reflect the resurgence of the global economy,” says Deal. “Companies such as Shaw Industries are moving aggressively to meet demand.”

“Through the combination of product innovation, design and sustainability, we have grown to become the largest producer of carpet tile in North America,” says Shaw chairman and CEO Vance Bell. “We have expanded our existing Cartersville carpet tile facility to its maximum so the Adairsville plant will allow for continued long-term growth in this important product segment. We will also soon open a new carpet tile plant in China to service the Asia market.”

Shaw plans to build and equip 600,000 to 700,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space. The plant will be built on 117.6 acres and construction will begin in 2014.

The world’s largest carpet manufacturer and a leading floorcovering provider, Shaw Industries Group, Inc. is a vertically integrated manufacturer that supplies carpet, rugs, hardwood, laminate, resilient, ceramic/stone flooring products and synthetic turf to residential and commercial markets worldwide. A wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. with more than $4 billion in annual sales and 23,000 associates, Shaw is headquartered in Dalton, GA, with salespeople and/or offices located throughout the U.S., as well as Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Singapore and the UK.

In its third announced expansion in the past month, Shaw said it also plans to add 535,000 square feet of warehouse space and add up to 175 jobs in and around its corporate headquarters in Dalton, Ga.

The carpet manufacturer, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, is consolidating shipping points for both carpet and hard surface flooring in distribution centers in northwest Georgia. When completed, hard surface distribution will be consolidated into one central location with an additional 70% capacity. Construction will begin this fall.

The announcement of the new distribution facilities in Dalton follows recent announcements that Shaw will build an $85 million carpet tile factory in Adairsville, Ga., and another carpet tile facility in Nantong, China.

"As our end-use markets recover, we are accelerating our investments in our business," says Shaw chairman and CEO Vance Bell. "This will benefit not only our customers, but our associates and the communities where we operate."

The new Nantong facility is a 210,000-square-foot carpet tile plant. The port city is 65 miles north of Shanghai. This facility offers customers in Asia quicker access to a wider range of completely recyclable, cradle-to-cradle-certified products, which are PVC-free and bitumen-free.

“Nantong’s woven textile heritage mirrors the communities in which we’ve manufactured flooring in the southeastern U.S. for more than half a century,” says Shaw Industries vice president for Asia Pacific Jeff Galloway. “The feeling of being at home in China is due in even larger part to the reception and cooperation we’ve enjoyed from the Nantong government, the officials in the Nantong Suzhou Science and Industrial Park, and all those with whom we’ve done business in China, including our newest Shaw associates.”

Expected to employ approximately 250 at full capacity, over 100 Shaw associates are onboard at this time. The 24”x24” and 18”x36” products are being designed in Cartersville, GA, for global markets, utilizing the successful Eco Solution Q fiber, EcoWorx backing systems, and Ecologix carpet cushioning systems. Products manufactured in China will be sold for installation in the growing Asia market and there are no plans to export them back to the U.S.

“Two-thirds of the world’s carpet tile is sold outside of North America, the majority in Asia,” says Bell. “Sales in China, in particular, have grown 20% annually, making it the world’s third largest carpet-tile-purchasing country. Our new plant expands our opportunity to serve this growing market.”

For the carpet industry, nonwovens manufacturer Bonar has introduced the latest Colback innovation—Colback ProFloor. It uses bicomponent fiber technology for producing a primary backing material with improved stitch holding for tufted commercial carpets. The same fiber technology, combined with its bonding process, delivers improved stability in commercial tile processes. The resulting tiles show lower up curl results and improved dimensional stability.

Bonar says Colback ProFloor delivers even greater benefits during carpet manufacture and service life. Its stable filament network is based on a new polymer composition that delivers softer tufting, improved stitch holding and optimum dimensional stability of the finished carpet.

Colback ProFloor makes it easier to create complex tuft constructions and helps to deliver a smoother carpet face. ProFloor also stops stresses being built-in to carpet tiles during manufacture; as a result, carpet tiles stay flatter and dimensionally more stable during service life.

Previously available from Bonar’s European production facilities, Colback ProFloor will be available commercially from Bonar’s USA manufacturing site in Enka, NC in fourth quarter 2013.

Nonwovens for wind energy

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Pike Research, the North American wind energy sector's current installed capacity is more than 53 megawatts and accounts for more than 22% of the world's total. The U.S., with a current installed capacity of 48,611 megawatts, is the second largest wind market in the world. With a forecast of a total installed wind capacity of more than 125 gigawatts in North America and with offshore installations accounting for less than 3% of that total, it is clearly a market of the future. Wind energy installation costs in the U.S. will exceed $125 billion by 2017, capturing 15% of the global market during that period, while Canada will reach 15 gigawatts of total wind capacity by 2017, with installation costs totaling $19.3 billion by 2017.

This considerable growth requires advancements in component design, materials and testing methods to ensure optimum wind turbine performance, even in the harshest of environments.

The Freudenberg Group has developed a broad range of technically challenging product solutions and services for the fast-growing wind-energy market in North America.

Products from Freudenberg Nonwovens are used for composites (FRP), which are suited for surface protection and as core material in production of rotor blades for wind power stations in addition to products such as pipes, tanks, container boards, facade panels, skis, surfboards and boats. Surfacing nonwovens improve the resistance to both corrosion and abrasion defects. Core materials are used to reduce the weight and to increase mechanical strength, which helps in cost cutting.

Battery separator partnership

Dreamweaver and Glatfelter are partnering to make a new generation of high performance affordable separators targeted for energy storage devices such as lithium-ion batteries and ultra capacitors.

This partnership will allow DreamWeaver to leverage Glatfelter’s inclined wire capabilities and expertise in making advanced fiber-based engineered materials. Glatfelter continues to optimize the use of its eight inclined-wire machines to produce a diverse range of products including, nonwoven energy storage materials for the capacitor and lead-acid battery markets. These new fiber-based materials possess superior porosity and excellent web uniformity in low basis weight and thickness.

DreamWeaver battery separators combine microfibers and nanofibers in a porous substrate, which is ideal for battery separation application. DreamWeaver Silver is a general purpose product with excellent power capability and DreamWeaver Gold has very high temperature stability (up to 300 degrees Celsius) without significant thermal shrinkage. The partnership will focus on developing and manufacturing the current generation of DreamWeaver products and jointly developing future generations.

“DreamWeaver’s technology is a natural fit, allowing us to extend our presence in the growing energy storage market with innovative and proprietary technology,” says Martin Rapp, vice president and general manager of Glatfelter’s composite fiber business unit.