This month, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, will hold its fourth annual Vision Consumer Products Conference in New Orleans. Like in past editions of the conference, a highlight of the event will be the annual Visionary Awards competition, which continues to attract a diverse pool of entries.
The requirements for the competition are simple. To qualify, a product must be available in consumer markets, must comprise a nonwoven material and have been launched since the last Vision conference. As the Vision conference has gained in popularity, so has the awards competition, and this year, more than 30 products were entered. Of these products, six, which were deemed the most impressive and innovative uses of nonwovens, were narrowed down as finalists by INDA’s technical advisory board (TAB). Attendees of Vision will hear presentations on these six finalists, including a filter, a feminine hygiene product, a diaper, a tooth cleaner, a disposable wash cloth and print media, and will then be asked to vote on the winner, which will be announced the last day of Vision. Past winners have included Procter & Gamble for its Swiffer product, FMJ ChemBio’s Civilian Quick Escape Mask and Brillo Scrub ‘n Toss disposable cleaning pads, marketed by Church & Dwight.
This year’s finalists are:
Resolution Print Media, developed by BBA Fiberweb, represents an entry into a market where nonwovens have not yet ventured—the consumer at-home printing industry—according to company executives. Able to outperform photo paper in terms of water resistance, tensile strength, uniformity and drying time, Resolution Print Media is engineered from continuous polyester filaments permanently bonded by heat and pressure. Its super white appearance gives excellent color vibrancy for photo quality output. It is available with a standard surface or with BBA’s coating enhancement for rapid drying, higher resolution and color saturation.
Introduced in April 2004, Resolution Print Media comes at a time when sales of digital cameras are at an all-time high as are sales of inkjet printers and photographic paper. Its applications include photographic prints, where it provides excellent resolution for artwork reproductions, for flexible packaging and wraps, when high print quality and color depth is needed, banners, trade show graphics, backdrops and signs, where its polyester composition works well for outdoor use and its highly printable surface allows signs and banners to stand out. Other applications include tags and labels because of its strength and durability, even when wet.
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Introduced in June 2004, Oral-B Brush-Ups comprise a proprietary combination of nonwoven materials to create a new way to keep breath fresh and a smile bright on the go. The disposable, textured dental wipes provide discreet “brush-ups” that can clean teeth without water or paste. According to Peter Gladstone, oral care business management for The Gillette Company, the cleaning side—made from alternating layers of fiber and polyethylene—has been formed to create the textured ‘bristles’ that collect and remove plaque from the tooth’s surface while also protecting the finger from moisture. The elastic backing provides a comfortable fit to almost any size finger.
“Brush-Ups were designed to be an effective and convenient method for cleaning teeth and freshening breath while on-the-go,” Mr. Gladstone explained. “The textured surface cleans teeth and the burst of mint flavor freshens breath. The single-use finger wipes are individually sealed for convenient portability.”
The use of nonwoven material was critical to making Brush-Ups a reality because it made them disposable, one-size-fits-all and sanitary by creating a moisture barrier. “The material is disposable, the elastic backing accommodates a variety of finger sizes and the nonwoven front creates a moisture barrier so germs are not passed from the finger to the mouth,” Mr. Gladstone continued.
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Introduced in September 2003, this new oil filter is described as “the world’s first fully synthetic oil filter element for automotive applications.” The filter material uses a polyester fleece, which is up to 15 times more resistant to aging than cellulose. The two-layered filter medium consists of a support and drainage layer as well as an active filter layer.
The first fully synthetic oil filter media, the Automotive Oil Filter was developed by Mann + Hummel of Germany. Unlike typical automotive filters, which are cellulose based, this filter is not attacked by the lube oil while the car is running. This allows these polyester-based filters to last three to five times longer than paper products, depending on the vehicle, according to Markus Kolczyk, head of filter development.
Launched at the Frankfurt motor show in 2003, these filters comprise a support and drainage layer as well as an active filter layer with an optimized layer set-up. This set-up and the individual layers are specifically matched to one another to guarantee maximum filtration performance with regard to filter fineness, dirt-holding capacity and pressure loss. The completely synthetic filter element technology and the filter media can be used for all engine applications and designs of filter elements and can also be used retro-compatibly for existing applications. Additionally, this filter’s disposal is more environmentally pleasing than cellulose materials.
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Tyco Healthcare Retail Group’s Soft-Fit Training Pants are made using a filament core instead of a fibrous core that is typical in baby diapers and absorbent products. Calling it “the first true step out of differentiated core technology,” vice president of research and development Don Sheldon said, “this new technology was created by marrying technologies developed by companies acquired by Tyco in recent years.” Originally applied to a pull-on style training pant, the technology could be used in virtually any absorbent product.
Among the benefits of this product, which is being described as the next step in the evolution of diaper technology, is simpler processing for manufacturers and better fit and improved comfort for the consumer. The absence of fluff pulp in the diaper also eliminates the need for various diaper line components and creates a more environmentally friendly, lighter weight product.
In development for one year prior to its October 2003 launch, Soft-Fit Training Pants are already performing at 20% above marketing projections. To protect its investment, Tyco has applied for more than 30 U.S. patents covering the technology and has already received eight.
A private label supplier, Tyco tested the product with one of its major retail partners, Wal-Mart, and expects the product to be extremely popular with store brands. As for taking it on the branded front, Mr. Sheldon said that Tyco will probably leave marketing efforts to its customers. “I don’t see us going through the expense of forming a marketing and advertising department,” he said. “We would rather focus on innovation and product performance and development. The absorbent products diaper market is a commodity market and the performance of a product should overshadow marketing efforts.”
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Love ‘N sanitary napkin and panty liners were introduced in Italy in 2004. Featuring a mix of eco-friendly raw materials, the product hopes to reverse the trend of limiting innovation in disposable markets. “Innovation in disposable markets has been limited,” said Marco Benedetti, general manager. “Really, most decisions are made on cost.”
The products use eco-friendly PLA fibers, which are developed from natural resources by Far Eastern Textiles, a natural superabsorbent, Lysac, developed by Lysac Technologies and Mater-Bi biodegradable film from Novamont. Packaging also incorporates the Mater-bi biodegradable film.
According to Mr. Benedetti, there is no marked difference between these biodegradable products and conventional products. “Communicating this to the customers is our biggest problem,” he said. “We really don’t want to mention the biodegradable thing prominently. We just call it ‘eco-friendly.’”
The decision to market an environmentally friendly product was born as much out of environmental consciousness as it was from a goal of diversity. The products create a new niche in the disposable market, providing nice growth opportunities for WIP. “Why should we do something that everyone can do?” asked Mr. Benedetti. “We have no chance when competing head to head against a giant corporation unless we do something different.”
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Huggies Wash Cloths, part of Kimberly-Clark’s expansion into baby toiletries, are made from a proprietary, multi-layered, composite material manufactured to provide optimal strength, flexibility, thickness, softness and texture as well as gentle cleaning with cloth-like durability. To further enhance product performance, a secondary process impregnates lathering baby wash solution capable of lasting throughout the bathing experience.
Available in an unscented version, without soap, or in lavender and chamomile or extra gentle scented, soaped varieties, Huggies baby wash cloths, are preferred by parents who overwhelmingly agree that they make bathtime much easier, according to K-C. The product, which was launched in early 2004, makes Huggies the only brand with a presence in all four major non-food baby categories-diapers, training pants, wipes and toiletries. In December, K-C company expanded its presence in this category with the introduction of a full line of bath and body products including a liquid powder, a shampoo, baby lotion and disposable wash mitts.
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