New Applications for Nonwovens

April 7, 2011

Technical markets show how nonwovens aren’t just for disposables anymore.

New Applications for Nonwovens

Technical markets show how nonwovens aren’t just for disposables anymore.

Nonwovens are often associated with disposables like diapers, wipes or feminine hygiene items and these products do represent a large percentage of nonwovens sales globally. However, there are literally hundreds of applications outside of hygiene, many are opening up new doors for nonwovens in never-before-penetrated markets.

In fact, growth of durables nonwovens is outpacing that of disposables. According to INDA, in North America durable nonwovens sales are growing about 4.5% while disposables are pretty flat. This growth is being driven by geotextiles, which are being used in a lot of government-sponsored infrastructure improvement projects, as well as in the rebounding automotive market and to some extent the construction market—although this segment has been hard hit by a low rate of housing starts.

Meanwhile, new markets for nonwovens ranging from battery separators to flame retardant bedding to insulation in home appliances are making waves, expanding the scope of nonwovens globally and leading to new investments across the globe.

DuPont Energain, Battery Separator
DuPont’s Energain battery separators are based on nanofiber polymeric technology, a product DuPont is so bullish about it is building a new facility in Chesterfield County, VA to make them. The technology can increase power 15-30%, increase battery life by up to 20% and improve battery separator safety by providing stability at high temperatures. With more battery power, drivers can travel further on a single charge and accelerate more quickly and safely. DuPont expects these materials to be used initially in hybrid and electric vehicle batteries but the technology will eventually be targeted toward batteries, renewable energy, grid applications and specialty consumer applications including laptops, cell phones and power tools.

Ahlstrom Disruptor, Water Filtration Medium
A new category of nonwoven media that filters water with the efficiency of a membrane but at a higher flow rate and significantly less pressure drop is being sold under the Disruptor brand name by Ahlstrom. This commercially available product line of electroadsorptive filter media improve water quality through a natural positive charge that is effective in both fresh and brackish water at removing submicron contaminants.

In July, Ahlstrom partnered with Eureka Forbes to launch a clean water product, sold under the AquaSure brand name. AquaSure removes all three types of contaminants from water—physical, chemical and microbiological—without the use of any chemicals and hence, gives not just microbiologically pure but safe drinking water.

Fiberweb Typar Geocells, Water Confinement System
Typar Geocells is a cellular confinement system for Earth and water manufactured by roll goods maker Fiberweb. This heavy duty and geotextile fabric cell is made from a three-dimensional honeycomb design, which allows for custom sizes, configuration and adaptability to a variety of terrains. When filled with a ballast material such as sand, stones, all soil types, mulch or other material, Typar Geocells is lightweight, durable and easy to install.

Typar Geocells were recently tested by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center (ERDC) at their Coastal and Hydraulic Lab (CHL) in Vicksburg, MS. This test, which evaluates a system’s ability to withstand a variety of flood-related conditions, shows that Typar Geocells outperforms traditional sandbags in all tests performed – including time to install, seepage, time to remove, and overall endurance. Typar Geocells also have significant advantages over other flood control products in some key areas as well. This impressive performance illustrates that Typar Geocells are a highly effective choice for flood control. “The recent testing performed by ERDC reinforces the positioning of Typar Geocells as one of the most effective systems in the market to fight floods,” said Brian Whitaker P.E., CPESC, technical sales manager for
Fiberweb, Inc.

Composed of a durable, nonwoven fabric in a honeycomb configuration, Typar Geocells is three-dimensional and can be filled onsite to produce a stable, self-supported flood fighting structure. Typar Geocells is lightweight and easy to construct but also strong, rugged and able to withstand differing heights of flood water.All the components needed to construct the confinement system can be transported to the site in a sports utility vehicle and deployed without the use of heavy mechanical handling equipment.

Johns Manville, Stabilstrand, Laminate Flooring Panel
Roofing and construction specialist Johns Manville is targeting the laminate flooring panel market with Stabilstrand, a glass fiber nonwoven impregnated with a semi-cured resin system.
Stabilstrand EW 160 when used as an underlay reinforced laminate flooring panels increase the impact strength and the edge stability of HDF panels. Stabilstrand enables users to meet new performance requirements in the flooring market.
Meanwhile, Stabilstrand EW 160 C protects the particle boards against mechanical damages and stabilizes the edges. These are excellent product attributes as the furniture and coating industries require materials with high mechanical loads for the production of office worktops, kitchen countertops and laboratory worktops.

Hollingsworth & Vose, ViaMat Aramid Paper
H&V’s take on this is ViaMat, a nonwoven aramid paper used as a core substrate in printed circuit boards and flip chip carriers. Applications include avionics, medical devices and high capacity servers. Advantages include dimensional stability, an ultrasmooth surface, enhanced drillability, high interconnect density and process capabilities. In short, ViaMat can allow manufacturers to produce printed circuit boards with high inteconnect densities.

H&V executives said that the ViaMat technology better meet market needs than glass substrate materials because they don’t have limitations with regard to formation and dimensional stability.

Kimberly-Clark, Cnonwovens
Kimberly-Clark is also testing out the role nonwovens would play in the electronics market with its technology known internally as Cnonwovens. This technology, which incorporates carbon fibers in paper making has been under development for five years. While the project for which it was originally intended is no longer under review, the company is looking at licensing opportunities for it in among other markets—heated wipes scent release vehicles or even RFID materials and heated floor wipes.

Typar Geocells are being tested by the U.S. Army for flood control applications.

Propex Holdings—Opus Roof Blanket
Opus Roof Blanket—developed by needlepunch manufacturer Propex Holdings—was in development for more than six years with constant feedback from roofing contractors, according to the company. Unlike felt paper and plastic sheeting, Opus offers superior slip resistance, which is a top concern for roofers. Other benefits include its light weight and ease to work with.
Texel, ThermoFit Acoustic Material

Texel began targeting the automotives market in the mid-2000’s with its ThermoFit technology, a proprietary substrate blend of thermoplastic and non-thermoplastic fibers for making thermoformed parts having enhanced acoustical properties. The material, which can be color-matched per customer specification, has been expanding into other parts of the car. Recent generations are targeted atreplacing the glass/polypropylene composites within the underbodies of cars.In addition, another area of interest being developed is a foam replacement in seating.

Vita Nonwovens, EnGuard
In November, Vita Nonwovens, a leading manufacturer of thermal bonded polyester technologies launched EnGuard Blanket Insulation. EnGuard is an environmentally friendly material providing long-lasting superior thermal and acoustic insulating properties.
EnGuard's low impact manufacturing process implements recycled plastic, PET bottle flake, providing a sustainable alternative to traditional insulations. Unlike other comparable materials, the process eliminates the need to add harmful chemicals resulting in a product that is free of formaldehydes, Borates, VOCs and glass fiber irritants.

According to the company, EnGuard was developed after years of experience in the U.S. building materials market. EnGuard offers a sustainable energy efficient option to consumers seeking a safer more comfortable home.”

Fist Line Technology, Fibertect
First Line Technology, Fibertect, Cotton Carbon Decontamination wipe, Fibertect is a three layer, inert, flexible, drapable, nonwoven composite substrate for absorbing and adsorbing chemical warfare agents (CWA), toxic industrial chemicals (TICs), and pesticides. Developed at Texas Tech University by Sheshadri Ramkumar, Fibertect is self-contained and packaged for easy use, storage, and transport. Materials used in the outside layers may vary to provide both absorption and adsorption properties and multiple functional uses.

First Line Technology, a Chantilly, Va.-based manufacturer of disaster preparedness equipment and supplies for first responders and the military, is now marketing the product in several forms including preshaped mitts for personal wipe downs if someone is exposed to toxins or chemicals, individual wipe cloths and pads, and in rolls perforated to produces 12-inch by 12-inch sheets, like paper towels in a kitchen.
It also comes in a biodegradable raw cotton outer layer over its activated carbon layer for cleaning up oil spills and trapping the vapors that often make cleanup crews ill.

More recently, uses are being considered for Fibertect to help with some aspects of the cleanup in Japan following the recent earthquake, typhoon and radiation leaks at a nuclear power plant there and the product played a key role in the Gulf cleanup last year.