The Spunlace Situation: Not Too Shabby

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | March 16, 2011

The spunmelt market has been in the headlines a lot as of late with major capacity installations going in around the world, reportedly to meet the need for a lighter weight, more sophisticated product in the hygiene market. While this unprecedented growth will undoubtedly mean good times for equipment and raw material suppliers in spunmelt, those doing business in spunlace have plenty of reasons to smile too.

There is no question that growth in the wipes market, at least here in North America or in Europe, is not what it used to be. The days of regular wide-scale product launches seem to have slowed, at least for the time being, and pricing is reportedly difficult. However, usage of spunlaced nonwovens continues to rise and so does investment in the technology.

Part of this has to do with the wipes market, still spunlace's largest customer. While growth is not as explosive as it once was, wipes continue to be an important part of many consumer products companies' businesses and to protect these businesses they have enlisted the help of their spunlace providers to make products that are less expensive or use alternative raw materials that are more economically or environmentally friendly. Additionally, wipes markets in developed areas like Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe are still quite immature, leaving plenty of room for new products and new players, alike.

It is because of these factors that spunlace investment continues on a global basis with new lines going in around the world. These lines are more modern than previous generations, offering manufacturers the ability to use different fibers, achieve different basis weights and create substrates with diverse technical properties. Of course, this will be beneficial in the wipes markets as manufacturers look to diversify their product lines and differentiate themselves from the competition, but it will also help spunlace move into new markets. Some of these include filtration or automotives where the spunlace properties including a cloth-like feel and thinner pore size are appealing, but manufacturers are hinting at potential for spunlace in markets never before penetrated by the nonwovens industry.

Speaking of new market potential for nonwovens, associate editor Sandra Levy dissects the many home-related markets for nonwovens in two separate features in this issue. In Homeward Bound, beginning on page 52, Sandra talks to manufacturers in the growing nonwovens-based wallcoverings markets as well as suppliers to other home furnishing markets. And, check out Coming Home (page 62) for an update on CPSC regulations concerning flammability rules and what pending legislative measures could mean for the nonwovens industry moving forward.

Also, this month we begin our multi-issue coverage of INDEX, this year's largest nonwovens-related trade show, with a look at what some exhibitors plan to exhibit at the show beginning on page 90. Check back next month for more exhibitor previews and a full listing of the show's exhibitors and we'll see you next month in Geneva!

Karen McIntyre

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