The role of nonwovens in consumer products has never been stronger and as companies look to move beyond traditional areas such as disposable diapers and wipes, this role is only broadening. This trend is particularly evident through the wide range of products chosen as finalists for the 2009 Visionary Awards. This year’s finalists include a water filter, a disposable underpant, absorbent underwear for older girls and boys, a means to stop the spread of germs and disposable dog booties. These products will be voted upon by attendees of the 2009 Vision Conference, scheduled for January 26-29 in New Orleans, LA and sponsored by INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry.
Disruptor Nonwovens Technology
With the availability of pure water in short supply in many countries, Ahlstrom Filtration LLC has developed Disruptor nonwovens technology to help address many consumer needs for clean, safe water.
Disruptor PAC for Powdered Activated Carbon contains both the smallest particles of powdered activated carbon (PAC) available in a nonwoven filter media and the smallest commercially available nanofibers that also have a natural electrical charge potential.
The alumina nanofibers at the heart of the technology are 2nm x 250nm in size and are grafted onto microglass carrier fibers, which can then easily be made into a wetlaid nonwoven filter media. When exposed to water, the nanofibers radiate a charge field up to one micron from the nanofibers that is effective in removing viruses, bacteria, particulates and pathogens from water by adsorbing them on the nanofibers.
Typically, nonwovens contain granular activated carbon (GAC) that is usually greater than 30-50 microns in size and often uses starch, binder fibers or adhesives to help retain the particles in the nonwoven structure. In addition to helping retain the carbon granules, these binders can potentially occlude up to 15% of the surface area of the carbon, rendering that area virtually useless for the removal of contaminants. Disruptor PAC takes advantage of the natural electrical nature of the nanoalumina fibers to retain PAC with an average particle size of only about 8 microns. PAC at this small size has very high surface area to weight ratio, therefore a high dynamic absorption capacity for a wide range of chemical contaminants and heavy metals that can be present in water. Since no binders or adhesives are used to retain the PAC, there is no occlusion of the carbon pores, allowing full use of all carbon present in the sheet.
“Disruptor PAC will help to provide safe water for general home use such as drinking water, food preparation and bathing by reducing particulates and pathogens as effectively as polymeric membranes but at much higher flow rates and requiring much less energy. With the added capability of PAC, heavy metals and organic compounds can also be reduced with the same media. Therefore, Disruptor PAC has emerged as the defining technology for a new category of filter media that bridges the gap between membranes and nonwovens,” said Rodney Komlenic, vice president of business development for Ahlstrom Filtration LLC.
“By being able to be easily incorporated into a wide range of retail products such as filters for pitchers, coolers, refrigerators, tap, shower, counter top, under sink and prefilters to protect home reverse osmosis (RO) units from biofouling, Disruptor PAC will clearly demonstrate how nonwovens can improve water quality and help improve the quality of life for consumers around the world,” Mr. Komlenic concluded.
Two years ago when Margaret Black heard from her family pediatrician it was better for children to cough or sneeze into their elbows than their hands, she started having her children wear old socks on their arms to keep their clothing protected. These “snot” socks, if you will, were the early prototypes for Germy Wormy, one of this year’s finalist for the Visionary Awards.
Comprised of three materials—a nonwoven laminate containing multiple elastic filaments, a breathable film with four-color printing and a spunbond polypropylene, Germy Wormys are a disposable sleeve to protect clothing when children cough or sneeze in the arms, inhibiting the spread of germs and cutting down on laundry for thir mothers.
A key component of the product’s design is the Germy Wormy logo, which aids in teaching children to cough or sneeze into their elbows. A patent application has been filed on this “attentioning icon” concept.
This concept also includes a puppet show, which teaches children how germs can make them sick. By “giving” germs to Germy Wormy, they can avoid being sick.
What makes it unique is that you can tell kids to cough and sneeze into their arms but they don’t always listen,” Ms. Black explained. “This makes it fun for them—because they are jumping on the bandwagon themselves. It’s a unique way of using a disposable as a teaching tool as well as a tissue on their arm.”
According to Ms. Black, the product’s design required a nonwoven material to be durable enough for children to wear and disposable to be attractive to daycare centers. In the two years since she first had the idea for the product—which is being targeted to daycare centers, schools and families with small children—Ms. Black has had an impromptu education on nonwovens technology, which ultimately led her to a Chinese supplier by way of INDA.
“The sleeve needed to be durable and tissue doesn’t really provide that,” Ms. Black explained. “It also needed to be disposable for the childcare facilities to use them. The biggest challenge was developing a product that could be durable and disposable.”
Down the road the expansion into sleeves containing antimicrobials that can be laundered are certainly a possibility, Ms. Black explained. For now, promoting her invention is her top priority. “I just got my first production shipment in late August and I am still trying to get the word out.”
Wear Once Disposable Underwear
Created for the modern woman and introduced in late 2007, the Once single-use panty with its breathable, soft, stretchy and stylish fit, is perfect for travel, outdoor activities, during menstruation or between loads of laundries. Developed by films maker Tredegar, this product fits and feels like any other panty but with one big advantage—it can be tossed after one wearing–simply wear it once and toss.
The Once single-use panty is one of the first apparel-type products to feature an elastic laminate fabric for the body of a garment,” said company representative Monica Moretti. “The Once panty is visionary in its design from two perspectives. First, the panty incorporates an elastic laminate that features softness and breathability. The material is perceived as high quality because of its feel and appearance. Second, the panty was designed and constructed from an apparel mindset to create a comfortable and familiar fit for women. The panty is also novel in that it allows women the freedom to toss their “back of drawer” panties that they save for use during menstruation and replace them with a single-use alternative that may be used with the hygiene product of their choice.”
Made with a unique material that is breathable, soft and stretchy, with extra comfortable leg and waist bands, and a cotton gusset, the Once single-use panty fits and feels like a woman’s everyday panty—it is even seamless under clothing.
The Once single-use panty expands the role of nonwovens in consumer products by bringing a nonwoven into a garment worn by women everyday. It also has the ability to change perceptions about nonwovens—particularly in garments. The stretch, breathability and feel of the panty demonstrates to consumers that nonwovens are versatile.
The Once single-use panty is packaged in a transparent box that contains three individually wrapped hipster style panties, with a suggested retail price of $4.99. Two sizes are available: S/M (fits sizes 2-8) or L/XL (fits sizes 10 and up). Additional information regarding the Once single-use panty is available at www.wearonce.com. Once is available for purchase at select H-E-B and Meijer retail stores, as well as www.wearonce.com.
Crafted from a layer of spunmelt nonwovens affixed with nonskid polyethylene, Nooby’s Booties are disposable dog booties that are strong enough to protect dogs’ paws and keep them clean but thin enough to allow them to feel the ground as they walk. The product was launched in November 2007 and was named one of the best new pet products at the Global Pet Expo in February 2008. “We feel we have really reached the holy grail here,” said a company spokesman. “The main problem with dog boots out there is they have a thick sole but dogs like to feel the ground with their paws—when they don’t, they walk very funny. These are made from a thin but strong material, so the dogs adjust a lot more quickly.”
Even in tough economic times, the potential for pet-related products remains strong as pet owners humanize their animals. This $64 billion market is expected to keep growing despite downturns in many other consumer areas.
According to the company, Nooby’s Booties fill a need for disposable dog booties that are not only effective but are priced right. “People have been crying out for these,” he said.
A big challenge in developing the product was sourcing its material but fit was also key on the patent-pending design, which includes a top elastic and Velcro to aid in fit. Also, to reinforce its disposability benefit, the booties are packaged in a Kleenex-style box.
“The cost-per-use is very low; it’s a very economical solution,” the spokesman explained, adding that future plans for line extensions include a disposable raincoat and woundcare products for man’s best friend.
GoodNites Sleep Boxers and Sleep Shorts
Kimberly-Clark’s GoodNites sleep boxers and sleep shorts are the first absorbent underpants that look and feel like boxer-style underwear.
Launched in fall 2007, the absorbent underwear was created based on insight from moms and children.
“Bedwetting is a condition that many children ages 5 to 12 experience, but will eventually outgrow with patience and time. However, this sensitive issue can affect a child's self-esteem and ability to relax at bedtime,” said Bob Thibault, president of Kimberly-Clark’s North American Personal Care products. “The new GoodNites Sleep Boxers and Sleep Shorts offer trusted nighttime protection and look more like everyday underwear, helping children feel more comfortable as they deal with bedwetting.”
Since inventing the absorbent underpants category in 1994 with the GoodNites brand, K-C has continued to grow the category through innovations. In 2004, the company introduced the first and only gender-specific absorbent underpants that feature more underwear-like graphics and styles and custom protection for boys and girls. Within the first year of being introduced to market, these innovations helped produce double-digit gains in the category.
As part of translating key insights into global solutions, K-C introduced the absorbent boxer-style underwear for children under the DryNites brand in July 2007 in the U.K. and has since rolled it out throughout Europe.