Sales: $145 million
Description: Key Personnel
Kazumasa Kayama, general manager, spunbond division of Toyobo; Yukio Kawasaki, president of Kureha
Tsuruga, Iwakuni and Shiga
Spunbond, needlepunch, resin bonded, spunlaced, stitchbonded
Volans, Ecule, Bonden, Kurelock, Kurehalock, Dynac
Geotextiles, roofing sheets, carpet backings, automotive interiors, automotive filters, needlepunched carpets, hot melt bonding sheets, plaster bases
Among the nonwovens producers in the Toyobo Group are Kureha and Yuho. Kureha produces resin bonded, needlepunched and spunbonded nonwovens, while Yuho produces needlepunched, spunlaced and stitchbonded nonwovens. Toyobo itself produces polyester spunbonded nonwovens. In terms of production capacities, Toyobo is in the lead with 14,000 tons of polyester spunbond nonwovens while Kureha manufactures 7000 tons annually and Yuho’s capacity is 3000 tons per year.
A 6000-ton-per-year polyester spunbond line added by Toyobo in 2002 is approximately 50% full at this time. Spunbonded nonwovens based on new polymers are being developed on this line as well as existing spunbonded products that are shifting to the use of new types of materials. New polymers for spunbonded fabrics include PBT and polyester elastomer. PBT-based spunbonded materials feature softness and flexibility, according to Toyobo, and are beginning to find application as automotive ceiling materials. Polyester elastomer-based spunbonded nonwovens reportedly offer high elasticity and are being explored for use in diaper applications.
Kureha’s activity in automotive interiors and engine filtration reportedly is faring well in Japan and internationally. Overseas output of Kureha’s automotive materials has outpaced domestic production as the company has continued to make efforts to globalize its supply system. Meanwhile, within Japan, a good sign for Toyobo is the initial introduction of these nonwovens by domestic automotive makers as part of cost reduction programs.
Because many of its products contain added-value properties, sales of Toyobo are considerably higher than similar-sized nonwovens producers. Despite these added benefits, Toyobo was not able to maintain its higher price points in 2003, and sales were unable to move upward. Polyester spunbonded nonwovens proved immune to these struggles, however. Production capacity is 24,000 tons per year.
Markets showing considerable promise include the automotive interior and engine filtration markets, which are largely targeted by Kureha. Kureha produces nonwovens for air cleaners in Japan, the U.S. and Thailand. Nonwovens usage in this market is believed to be 7.2 million square meters a year in Japan, 4.3 million square meters in the U.S. and 3 million square meters in Thailand.
The demand for Kureha-made materials in automotive filtration systems has been strong in Japan. This product has outpaced the growth of the automotives market in the U.S. and Southeast Asia. As for the interior materials of the car, needlepunched nonwovens have been supplied for the carpet in the cabin and trunk areas.
Meanwhile, at Toyobo’s Yuho division, key products include spunlaced nonwovens, which are mainly custom-made to customer demands, and needlepunched nonwovens made from glass, carbon and other synthetic fibers. This falls in sync with Toyobo’s core growth strategy—producing unique products not offered by other companies.