Filtration Market Update

By Tim Wright, editor | November 6, 2013

From fibers to nonwovens to final product, the filtration market supply chain is innovating new technologies to meet the sustainability demands of today’s world.

Today’s filtration market is driven by the need for products that deliver higher purity, greater efficiency and lower energy consumption. Nonwovens innovation plays a crucial role in delivering these requirements. Sales of filter elements used to separate particles from air, gases, water, oil and other liquids will exceed $34 billion in 2013, according to McIlvaine’s Air, Gas, Water, Fluid Treatment and Control report.

The largest single segment of filtration is the residential and commercial space, which includes furnace, refrigerator and other air and water filters used in residences, office buildings and other governmental and commercial enterprises. Carbon block, membranes and nonwoven filter media are used.

The industrial sector is the next largest. Filter elements used in stack gas 
purification comprises the bulk of the air applications. Membrane and nonwoven filter elements used in pharmaceutical applications account for nearly 40% of the liquid portion of the industrial sector.

The mobile sector includes on-road as well as off-road vehicles, ships, rail locomotives and airplanes. Applications include filtration of fuel, coolant and intake air; cabin air and components requiring lubrication and fluid power including both pneumatic and hydraulic filters.

The oil and gas sector uses extensive numbers of coalescing filter elements to remove entrained droplets from gases. Liquid filter elements are used on a variety of applications.

Clarcor and Donaldson are two companies whose products are available in most of the sectors. Affinia concentrates just on the fluid power and mobile aftermarket. Cummins is primarily in the mobile sector. Parker Hannifin offers products for many sectors. A number of nonwoven media companies such as Ahlstrom, Lydall and Hollingsworth & Vose have products in all of these sectors and are continuously developing new technology to keep up with the demands of the market.

Ahlstrom addresses megatrends

Ahlstrom has defined a growth strategy extending to the year 2020 that says its current and future product offering is driven by global megatrends, such as resource scarcity, environmental awareness, demographics and urbanization. The company aims to grow with a high performance product offering for a clean and healthy environment and its strategy is built on three strategic enablers: environmentally sound technologies and manufacturing platforms, the ability to co-create unique products together with customers and partners, and global reach in operations.

“Global megatrends including environmental awareness and resource scarcity offer many new opportunities to the filtration market,” says Noora Blasi, marketing manager, transportation filtration, Ahlstrom. “Our products are ‘products with purpose’ which drive for cleaner air quality in vehicles, indoor, outdoor/emissions) and water.”

Higher efficiency is one of the key requirements for the filter media market and further improving the efficiency is a continuous development, according to Blasi. “The performance of the filter media is critical, therefore manufacturers are working on developing even more efficient solutions while not compromising other filtration requirements,” she says. “New raw materials, small fibers and advances in nonwovens technology offer many new opportunities. Many manufacturers are working with nanotechnology and small fibers to find yet more innovative solutions.”  

Ahlstrom’s latest developments are in the fields of transportation and air filtration. Within advanced filtration, the company just launched ReliaFlow, a new pre-treated conjugate release pad for reliable performance of the lateral flow diagnostics.

Ahlstrom also launched during FILTECH 2013 a product called Flow2save, which is a new media for high efficiency air (HEA) filtration applications. The innovative, patent-pending filtration media is based on a gradient structure combining different advanced technologies.

For transportation filtration, Ahlstrom introduced Ahlstrom Captimax, which is suited for fuel filters in passenger and commercial heavy-duty vehicles and off-road machinery. Ahlstrom Captimax is also being evaluated for use in other applications such as hydraulic and fuel water separation.

In addition, Ahlstrom announced in 2013 the establishment of a new R&D center in China, complementing its already existing research centers in North America and Europe.

Fiberweb expands into air filtration

Fiberweb is a leader in liquid filtration with its Reemay, Typar and Meltex brands and says there is an accelerating demand for improved filtration performance across the board of air and liquid filtration applications, particularly in pharma and life sciences. “This is an area we are excited about as it requires high-spec materials and the end-use applications are diverse,” says Christian Saville, filtration product manager, Fiberweb. “That was a major reason for our investment in the Old Hickory, TN innovation center, and our continued heavy investment in research and development across our global sites.”

In addition, Saville says Fiberweb sees a general trend in the industrial and automotive markets to move away from older glass- and paper-based technologies towards synthetic as way of increasing performance.

Fiberweb has recently expanded its range of media to include more air filtration applications.

“Our Synergex range of meltblown-based composites, which we launched earlier this year, is already selling extremely well into the HVAC market,” says Saville.

One of the key reasons for Synergex’s success, according to Saville, is that Fiberweb responded to the market’s need to have an EN779:2012-compliant synthetic media. The HVAC bag media were launched at the start of the year, and this has been followed up with a pleatable version of Synergex, which also meets the same standard.

“As well as HVAC, the team at our Biesheim filtration center of excellence, who developed the Synergex range of products, are already starting to see demand growing for use in other air filtration applications,” says Saville. “We’ve also increased the number of customer visits we run at our Innovation Center in Old Hickory, TN. This enables customers and their technical experts to see our Horizon line in action. We find having our experts and the people we supply together in one place, watching the media coming off the line, has massive benefits in tailoring solutions to each of our clients.”

Quality of air concerns are global, as is the need for clean water. “As the world economy picks up, we’re expecting growth in liquid cartridge and pleat support, both areas where we’ve always been strong, and industrial HVAC,” says Saville.

Regulators and customers are both demanding better performance from filtration media, and their expectations will only get higher in the years ahead.

“We’re pleased at the speed we have shown in reacting to regulations and performance indicators—for example our Synergex synthetic media exceeds EN779: 2012 regulations and is ahead of the market in its quality and early release,” says Saville. “We know water filtration standards are also rising, and we have plans in place to increase our leadership in this area.”

Fiberweb will bbe exhibiting at the INDA Filtration International Conference and Exhibition in Chicago November 12-14 at Booth 702.

Freudenberg’s micronAir protects vehicle cabins

Concern for clean air is a growing trend. We all want to breath clean air whether it’s at work, at home or inside our vehicles. Americans spend hundreds of hours behind the wheel every year and studies show that contaminants inside a car can be up to ten times more concentrated than outside.

New government regulations, both in the U.S. and internationally, create new and increased demand for products that limit emissions as well as an increased demand for products that protect people from the effect of emissions. 

“Freudenberg Filtration Technologies participates in the development of these specifications and ultimately accepts the challenge to develop new solutions for mass production to meet them,” says Darren King, sales manager, automotive filtration.

Freudenberg’s micronAir cabin air filters are designed to ensure that the vehicle cabin air is free of pollutants, irritants and odors. micronAir filters trap a broad range of microscopic particles, harmful gases and unpleasant odors to help make the driving experience healthier and more pleasant. These filters also protect the vehicle air-conditioning system, extending its life and reducing the need for service.  They also have a significant safety effect—they prevent windshield fogging.

“By the end of 2013, the installation rate for cabin air filters will approach 85%, nearly doubling the rate in 2009,” says King. “That speaks volumes for the acceptance of this technology by consumers.”

As part of a global entity comprising 35 locations and 16 production sites, Freudenberg Filtration Technologies in North America is a leader in Cabin Air Filtration under the brand of micronAir. micronAir cabin air filters are made of high-quality micro-fibers that protect drivers and passengers from pollen, dust, soot and other harmful particles, odors and gases. They also provide relief to allergy sufferers by filtering out contaminants, which can trigger hay fever and other allergy problems.  In many or most vehicles, installation of a cabin air filter takes just a few minutes and requires no tools.

In other news, Freudenberg Filtration Technologies is opening the first of two new logistics centers for cabin air filters in Potvorice, Slovakia. Already at the end of August the Group held a topping out ceremony in Kaiserslautern where, in December, the second logistics center will become operational.

The European market for cabin air filters is growing steadily which is why Freudenberg has increased production by 30 percent since 2008.

With the construction of two modern multi-purpose halls, the Freudenberg Group is taking a significant next step in meeting this increase in demand. Freudenberg is investing around 3.5 million Euros in the production and logistics center in Potvorice, creating 15 additional new jobs. The center in Kaiserslautern is being built jointly with Skipiol Immobilien GmbH & Co. KG, who is making an investment of ten million Euros.

Freudenberg Filtration Technologies equips more than two thirds of all new cars with cabin air filters. The factories in Potvorice and Kaiserslautern, Germany, serve the European market. Although new car registrations are currently in decline, the demand for cabin air filters continues to grow.

With its new logistics centers, the Freudenberg Group is optimizing its internal work processes to meet the increase in production volumes. The integration of all logistic work processes at the site will shorten lead times and allow the company to react more quickly to changes in the market.

In Potvorice, all work processes will in the future be handled in the 4,500 square meter multi-purpose hall opened. The car cabin air filters will either be packaged, labeled and distributed, or stored in one of the 2,500 storage areas, to cover the short-term needs of the customers. Freudenberg is investing 3.5 million Euros in the new building and creating 15 new jobs.

In total the site employs 240 associates. “It’s extremely important to locate logistics and production next to each other. The permanent availability of products plays an important role in staying ahead of the competition,” says Dr. Jörg Sievert, Member of the Board of Freudenberg Filtration Technologies. The more efficient workflow makes it possible to load and unload around 15 trucks per day.

Six height adjustable docking stations in the modern halls in Kaiserslautern load and unload 45 trucks each day. The new building has its own access to avoid the number of trucks becoming a problem on the factory premises. Freudenberg has even carefully thought about the number of truck drivers: A separate rest room with WC and shower has been installed for them.

The 12,000-square meter hall has offices as well as a canopied space for returned goods. Freudenberg Filtration Technologies employs around 270 associates at the site in Kaiserslautern. The new logistics center is being built in cooperation with Skipiol Immobilien GmbH & Co. KG.

Nonwovens companies expand capabilities

Hollingsworth & Vose will add NanoWave filtration media production capability in its plant in Hatzfeld, Germany to support the rapid growth in demand for high performance filter media. NanoWave, which won the IDEA13 Achievement Award for rolled goods, achieves higher levels of filtration efficiency at reduced pressure drops. The Hatzfeld production line is expected to start operation by mid 2015 and will serve European customers. H&V currently manufactures NanoWave media in the U.S. in Floyd, VA.

“In addition to the European capacity expansion, further performance improvements and next generation product developments will result in increased service levels for our European Customers”, comments Jochem Hofstetter, vice president and managing director EMEA.

Johns Manville has completed an expansion of its micro glass fiber nonwoven production for air filtration media at its plant in Wertheim, Germany.

The micro glass fiber nonwovens are used by Johns Manville as top-performance media in HVAC filtration applications and also as aircraft insulation. The Berkshire Hathaway company also recently announced a €32 million investment in a state-of-the-art PET spunbond line for filtration products at its production site in Berlin.

“The new capacity in Wertheim and the investment we are making in our Berlin facility are excellent examples of our commitment to the filtration industry,” says Enno Henze, senior vice president and general manager of Johns Manville’s Engineered Products Europe/Asia business. “These investments are part of a strategic plan to support the growing demand for high-end filtration nonwovens.”

As of March 1, 2013, Tyne Tees Filtration Ltd. and Heath Filtration Ltd. have merged to form a new company called Andrew Webron Filtration Ltd.

Andrew Webron Filtration brings together two market leading brands within the UK filter bag market. Both companies are known for their excellent product and service offers, supported by a comprehensive technical support function

The new business will combine the knowledge, skills, expertise and experience gained during the last combined 100 years to continue to serve its customers ever growing requirements.

Filter makers grow operations globally

Donaldson Co. Inc., Bloomington, MN, is building a new filter manufacturing plant in Skarbimierz, Poland to serve the European and Russian markets. The new 108,000 square foot plant, which is expected to open in 2015, will produce heavy-duty air filters for both the on-road and off-road equipment markets.

The new Polish plant is Donaldson’s third manufacturing facility in Central and Eastern Europe. Donaldson already has two plants in the Czech Republic—the Klasterec facility was opened in 2003 and the Kadan plant was added in 2006.

“We are very pleased to add this new, state-of-the-art facility to our extensive manufacturing and distribution base in Europe and have appreciated the ongoing support of the Polish government and local Skarbimierz officials,” says Wim Vermeersch, vice president, Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa. “Based on our company’s strategic growth plan, this new plant will allow us to further increase our filter manufacturing capacity to meet our projected OEM and aftermarket customer demand throughout Europe and Russia.”

In other news, Donaldson has invested in a $10 million expansion of its testing laboratories at its Bloomington, MN, corporate headquarters that is expected to be fully operational in 2014.

Pall Corporation, a global filtration, separation and purification company, has inaugurated the Pall Life Sciences Center of Excellence at its new Zhangjiang site in Shanghai, China.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of Pall’s expansion into China. The opening of the Shanghai Life Sciences Center of Excellence is another milestone in Pall’s development in China,” says Larry Kingsley, chairman and CEO of Pall Corporation.

The new center is fully equipped with advanced capabilities for process demonstration, testing and validation. Integrated with the center at the Shanghai facility is a branch office that serves both the company’s life sciences and industrial customers. More than 200 employees work at the 8600 square meter Shanghai facility, which provides filtration, separation and purification solutions for a range of industries.

“China is an important market for Pall and long-term, favorable economic trends give us the confidence to continue development in the potentially high-growth region,” says Hang Gek Low, vice president of Pall China.

Drinking water appliances specialist Billi Pty. Ltd. has entered into an alliance with Pentair (Everpure) to launch a new range of high performance water filters. The partnership aims to ensure Australian workers have access to the purest drinking water. Pentair is a worldwide leader in water filtration systems.

The new filtration systems incorporate a five-stage filtration process—sediment, mechanical, chemical, mineral and bacterial—and are specifically designed to cater to areas with poorer water quality throughout Australia, and provide high quality and healthy drinking water.

The new alliance with Pentair to introduce the fully certified high performance water filters complements Billi’s range of boiling and chilled water systems. Billi’s new range of water filters produce a higher flow rate, lower pressure drop and longer life says the company. The filters feature a specific chloramine removal filter that eliminates this potentially dangerous chemical from the water source.

Fiber innovation for filtration

In April 2013, Eastman Chemical Company launched the innovative Cyphrex microfibers platform, which offers tunable fiber properties of size, shape and material for wet-laid nonwoven producers.

Cyphrex microfibers are less than five microns in diameter, deliver a high surface-area-to-mass ratio and offer a narrow diameter distribution. They provide optionality of fiber cross-sections in shapes such as round, flat and wedge. The fiber material can consist of different polymer types, such as PET, PP and nylon, and has consistent properties that enable new formulations and design flexibility.

According to Fred Dulin, director, microfibers platform, Eastman is attracted to the filtration space for a number of reasons. “It is a diverse, growing and attractive market and needs are persistent across segments,” he says. “There will be a continual drive for higher levels of filtration performance, whether they are higher levels of purity for product performance or regulatory requirements. In addition, there are trade-offs to overcome, such as size vs. capacity, and pressure drop vs. filtration efficiency. These needs cry for innovation, and we think we have a new tool kit to enable that innovation.”

In conversations with nonwovens producers during the last few years, Dulin says Eastman consistently heard about the ceiling they reached with the fibers they have worked with historically. “It seems that much of the innovation in filtration has focused on taking steps to work around the limitations of the fibers,” he says. “With the introduction of Cyphrex microfibers, we are offering a new set of tools that give nonwovens producers innovative possibilities through fibers.

The initial Cyphrex microfiber has received a great deal of attention across a breadth of filtration applications. “Our view is that we were hitting a combination of size, uniformity and processability that could fill a meaningful gap in filtration media,” says Dulin. “Expect to see more from us very soon, including a sister fiber to the original that, through blending, will allow media formulators to dial in desired filtration properties.”

In addition, Eastman sees the possibility for collaboration throughout the value chain to improve the innovation cycle. Eastman has made significant investment in a wet lab for applications development as well as a nonwovens testing lab where it has hired some very seasoned scientists from the nonwovens industry.

“Our job isn’t to create new fibers and throw them over the fence to our customers and hope that something works,” says Dulin. “We won’t be very successful, and we don’t think we’ll bring much value to the market that way. Our purpose is to understand, well enough, the dynamics of nonwovens systems and how our fibers, commercial and developmental, can impact those systems. Our people and technology investments allow us to have better-informed conversations with our nonwovens customers and target materials for development that have a more meaningful impact.”