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Sonobond and the BP oil spill cleanup

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | October 28, 2011

Forty percent of the booms used by BP after the spill were made with Sonobond equipment.

No one will forget anytime soon the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the intense cleanup effort in the environmental disaster's aftermath. Proudly, Melissa Alleman, vice president of Sonobond Ultrasonics, announced that Sonobond's ultrasonic bonding technology was essential to the production of many of the oil-absorbing booms successfully used to clean up the 2010 Gulf oil spill. She said, "For several years now, we've worked closely with Supply Pro, Inc. of Houston, TX, and their ProBoom brand of absorbent booms. They are a leading provider of products for safely removing hazardous materials and for protecting workers during cleanups. Supply Pro, Inc. relies on our equipment for fast, dependable ultrasonic bonding of the materials in their ProSorbents line of oil-absorbing pads, booms, and pillows. In fact, Supply Pro provided 40% of the booms used by BP during the spill. So we are pleased to say that Sonobond's ultrasonic machinery had a significant part in assembling the products so essential to cleaning up this disaster, as well as other hazardous incidents."

Boats towing the oil containment boom.
Helping to keep the environment safe and clean
Supply Pro, founded in 1996, is an internationally-known provider of absorbent products for hazard spill cleanup and the world's largest manufacturer of absorbent booms. It is capable of producing custom meltblown products of medical, technical, sorbent and filtration grades with specifications ranging from 1/3 to 20 ounces per square yard. Their new, nonwoven line adds cotton and polyester capabilities beyond those of competitors. It was only natural that the company supplied many of the materials needed for cleaning up BP's Gulf oil spill using their ProSorbents pads, booms, and pompoms.

Supply Pro uses Sonobond's SM86 SeamMaster High Profile Ultrasonic Bonders to make the inner polypropylene sock for its booms, such as those so instrumental in absorbing and containing much of the oil spilled during the 2010 Gulf disaster. During Supply Pro's production process, flat sheets of spunbond polypropylene material are folded over and run through the Sonobond bonders for sealing. They are then stuffed with highly absorbent polypropylene fill. The seals created by the ultrasonic bonders are as strong as the parent material. This is important because, by the time the product is disposed of, it may weigh eight or ten times more than its original weight as a result of the materials absorbed. Once the socks are sealed and filled, they are placed into tough, pliable, polyester outer netting that is resistant to snags and debris. The booms created through this process can absorb and retain oils and oil-based liquids, such as lubricants, fuels, and cleaning agents. Supply Pro uses this same ultrasonic bonding technology to produce its absorbent pillows.

Phillip Barron, Supply Pro director of operations, says, "Integrating the SM86 SeamMaster equipment into our production process was accomplished easily. We use these standalone machines on different assembly lines. They give us a strong, reliable bond without a brittle edge. This is superior to what we can get through standard sewing, heat sealing, or induction heating. Sonobond machines are fast, reliable, and cost-effective."

SeamMaster: Multiple operations combined into one, quick step
The SM86 SeamMaster High Profile Ultrasonic Bonder is similar in appearance to a traditional sewing machine. However, it operates four times faster than conventional sewing machines and ten times faster than adhesive methods. This equipment has a high clearance between the wheel and the horn that is ideal for hand-guided operations with tight tolerances, as well as for working around curves.

The SM86 Sonobond SeamMaster
The SeamMaster combines several labor-intensive operations into one pass that saves time, labor, and money. It provides quick, reliable sealing, sewing, and trimming without thread, glue, or other consumables. Manufacturers no longer need to concern themselves about needle and thread breakage, thread color changeover, or thread unraveling. Seams bonded by this machine are so perfectly fused and sealed that they can be used to help comply with OSHA's regulations for barrier seams.

Sonobond's SeamMaster has numerous specialized uses in the textile, apparel, and engineered-fabrics industries. A variety of interchangeable pattern rollers are available for seaming, hemming, and embossing. A special fixture is available for producing pleated filters. Like other Sonobond machines, this equipment can be operated easily with only minimal training.

Three-Layer Sorbents
Supply Pro uses other Sonobond machinery, the V20 Machine Builder's Modules, to assemble its SMS 3-Layer Sorbents. SMS (Spunbond/Meltblown/Spunbond) pads, rolls, and drum toppers are designed to have the strength and sorption capabilities to handle the most demanding industrial applications. SMS pads and rolls must be of lint-free construction for use around sensitive equipment and in clean rooms. Although the exact methodology used by Supply Pro is proprietary, Sonobond's V20 Machine Builder's Modules ultrasonically bond meltblown polypropylene between two layers of high tensile strength, non-linting, spunbond polypropylene. This takes just seconds and the resulting bond is strong and reliable. The same technology is used to make the company's diamond-patterned, dimpled products.
Prior to incorporating the Machine Builder's Modules into their assembly process, Supply Pro used induction-heated rollers. According to Barron, the Sonobond system is much better. He says, "Sonobond V20 units give us tighter controls on heat displacement and on consistency. They assure greater reliability of product and production."

Flexible bonding capability
Sonobond's Machine Builder's Modules fulfill the same function as actuators and provide increased flexibility for automation applications where space is at a premium, as in filtration assembly. Available for 20 kHz or 35 kHz generators, they can also be equipped with distance measuring capabilities. The 20 kHz modules have power outputs to 3000 watts and a built-in leveling feature that permits precision alignment of perpendicularity. The 35 kHz modules have outputs of 900 watts. Both machines feature a rigid design for high pressure welding when needed. They also provide easy changeover for the converter/booster/horn. Additional features include full 360-degree rotation of the acoustic stack, a crossed roller slide for reliability, and adjustable flow controls to regulate travel speed.

Supply Pro pillows
According Barron, Supply Pro is very pleased with the results they've been getting from using the SeamMaster machines and the Machine Builder's Modules. In fact, he is open to finding other applications where Sonobond technology can be of help to Supply Pro. He says, "There are several significant reasons that Sonobond ultrasonic bonding technology is such a big asset to us. For one thing, it is very cost-effective, especially in the way it makes the production process faster and easier. The longer the equipment keeps running, the less costly it is for our company. You wouldn't believe the difficulties we had when we were still using heaters. Those problems were more than a person would imagine. Now downtime is virtually not an issue. In addition, the quality of the bond is excellent, and we have strong technical support from Sonobond whenever we need it. The whole experience of incorporating their ultrasonic bonding machines into our manufacturing process has been very positive in every respect. They have allowed us to take better control of our line of booms, socks, pads, and pillows and to have more control over our own destiny."

Free bonding viability test
Even companies in similar fields have manufacturing or assembly requirements that are unique. So Sonobond offers a no-cost, no-obligation Ultrasonic Bonding Viability Test. Potential customers are invited to submit their nonwoven or synthetic fabrics to have sample bonds made. In this way, they can be certain which Sonobond ultrasonic bonding machine is right for a specific application.

For more information about Supply Pro and its ProSorbents line of products, visit

To learn more about Sonobond's ultrasonic bonding technology and their free, no-obligation Ultrasonic Bonding Viability Test, visit

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