Nonwovens Industry
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Kuraray


Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $70 million

Description: Key Personnel
Seiichi Takigawa, general manager, Kuraflex department 1; Yasuo Niita, general manager, Kuraflex department 2

Plants
Okayama, Saijo

Processes
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, melt blown

Brand Names
Kuraflex, Microflex

Major Markets
Coverstock, wipes, thermal bonded, spunlaced, melt blown

Through its subsidiary Kuraflex, Japanese roll goods producer Kuraray, Osaka, Japan, produces thermal bonded, resin bonded and spunbonded materials with a total capacity of 10,500 tons per year. This capacity added to Kuraray’s own production of 1800 tons of melt blown nonwovens, makes the company a leader in the Japanese nonwovens industry.
 
Kuraray has continued to be successful in the medical, sanitary and household markets, however, earnings in these areas have fallen off due, to some degree, to pricing pressures. This has led Kuraray to target additional areas such as construction and industrial applications, that have not been as severely affected by price erosions and competition.
 
In addition to focusing on new areas, Kuraray has realigned its production capabilities. The company reduced its thermal bond capacity in 2001 and added spunbond production in its place. The additional spunbond capacity, which brings Kuraray’s total capacity in this area to 5000 tons, targets the disposable wipes market.
 
Kuraray’s wipes business has also received a boost through a joint venture agreement with Japanese wipes producer Pigeon Group. Named Kuraray Ibaragi, the joint venture produces 15,200 tons of nonwoven materials per year. Of this capacity, spunlaced represents the largest percentage with 7900 tons per year.
 
This material is used in baby wipes sold by Pigeon. Company executives expect to see further cooperation between Kuraray and Pigeon, which rivals Uni-Charm as one of Japan’s leading soft goods companies.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $64 million

Description: Key Personnel
Seiichi Takigawa, general manager

Plants
Okayama, Saijo

Processes
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, meltblown

Brand Names
Kuraflex, Microflex

Major Markets
Coverstock, wipes, medical and household materials


Total nonwovens production for Kuraray, Osaka, Japan, is 18,5000. The largest portion of this output, or 8500 tons, represents of spunlaced nonwovens. Of this, 5000 tons per year are produced in the Kuraflex Factory and 3500 are made in the company’s factory. the Kuraflex Factory’s total capacity is 10,500 tons and includes thermal bonded, resin bonded and meltblown nonwovens in addition to spunlaced.  
 
The overwhelming end use market for Kuraray’s nonwovens are wipes and coversotcks for diapers and sanitary napkins, which represent about 70% of total sales. These fields, however, are not profitable for Kuraray due to intense price competition. To counter this, Kuraray has been promoting the development of new markets for spunlaced nonwovens.
 
Kuraray is developing nonwovens using specialty fibers to target these new markets, which have not yet been revealed.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $66 MILLION

Description: Key Personnel
Seiich Takigawa, general manager, Kuraflex department 1; Mamoru Fujiwara, general manager, Kuraflex department 2

Plants
Okayama and Saijo

Processes
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced and meltblown

Brand names
Kuraflex, Microflex

Major markets
Coverstock, wipes, medical and household materials

Nonwovens capacity at Kuraray is 10,500 tons per year in its Kuraflex division, which includes thermal bonded, spunlaced and resin bonded nonwovens and 1800 tons of Microflex meltblown nonwovens. Kuraflex Ibaragi produces another 3500 tons per year of spunlaced nonwovens.
 
Kuraflex mainly targets the wet wipe and diaper coverstock markets, which account for more than 70% of the division’s total sales. These markets recently been characterized by severe price competition keeping their value ratios low. This is especially the case with Kuraflex’s thermal bonded nonwovens for the coverstock market, which has seen stiff competition from spunbonded nonwovens. Kuraflex has been working on developing new uses for this material.
 
Another focus of Kuraray’s research and development has been fibers. The company has produced the fiber brand Vectran from a liquid crystal polymer. Vectran is a highly efficient fiber that is heat resistant up to 400°C and has a tensile strength of 22cN/dtex. The cloth made from these fibers was used in air bags on Mars probes to help them land.
 
Kuraray has already commercialized the nonwovens made from Vectran and is also producing meltblown nonwovens using the same liquid crystal polymer technology. In fact, the company has installed a line dedicated to this type of technology at its Saijo site. This line can produce 150 tons of the material per year. Capacity is going toward electronic applications such as reinforcing materials for printed wiring boards and electrical insulating paper.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $71 million

Description: Key Personnel
Nobuaki Sumita, president, Kuraray Kuraflex

Plants
Okayama, Saijo and Ibaragi

Processes
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced and meltblown

Brand names
Kuraflex, Microflex

Major markets
Coverstock, wipes, medical and household materials

Kuraray consists of three nonwovens companies—Kuraray Kuraflex, Kuraray Saijo and Kuraray Ibaragi. Recently, the company transferred its nonwovens sales operations to Kuraflex, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kuraray, and, in April 2005, established Kuraray Kuraflex, which handles both production and sales functions for The Kuraray Group.
 
With a 10,500-ton-per-year capacity, Kuraray Kuraflex produces thermal bonded, resin bonded and spunlaced nonwovens. Additionally, Kuraray Ibaragi produces 3500 tons per year of spunlaced nonwovens, while Kuraray Saijo manufactures 1800 tons of meltblown nonwovens annually. The total production for the Kuraray Group stands at the 15,800-ton-per-year mark, with spunlaced nonwovens accounting for 8500 tons of this amount annually.
 
Kuraflex nonwovens mainly target the wet wipe and diaper coverstock markets, which account for more than 70% of total sales. In response to severe price competition, the division’s sales and production operations were merged to improve efficiency. Of Kuraray’s total nonwovens output, 35% is used domestically, 27% is used in the consumer sector, 20% goes to industrial markets, 12% targets medical applications and 6% is used in food end uses. The company plans to strengthen its activities in the industrial, medical and food sectors so that these three will total 50% rather than the current 38%. Kuraray also intends to reduce costs by increasing the quantity of nonwovens it produces and gaining a competitive edge.
 
Currently, the sales ratio of roll goods to converted goods is approximately 50%, although the company plans to augment its finished products business through the addition of higher value offerings. Kuraray continues to consider a low cost production base outside of Japan and is looking forward to continued recovery from economic setbacks and increased sales volumes in 2005.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $72 million

Description: Key Personnel
Nobuaki Sumita, president, Kuraray Kuraflex

Plants
Okayama, Saijo and Ibaragi

Processes
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, meltblown steam jet

Brand names
Kuraflex, Microflex

Major markets
Coverstock, wipes, medical and household materials

Kuraray consists of three nonwovens companies—Kuraray Kuraflex, Kuraray Saijo and Kuraray Ibaragi. With an annual capacity of 10,500 tons, Kuraray Kuraflex is the core of the group and produces thermal bonded, spunlaced and resin bonded nonwovens. Meanwhile, Kuraray Saijo manufactures 1800 tons of meltblown nonwovens per year and Kuraray Ibaragi makes 3500 tons of spunlaced materials annually.
 
A recent technology development for the company is the steam jet method, a process it will use to create new products that are being unveiled in the market next month. New steam jet equipment with a 1000 ton-per-year capacity has been added. Originally developed by Mitsubishi Rayon Engineering, the system bonds fibers through the use of high-pressure nozzles.
 
According to Kuraray, it is the first company in the world to industrialize this method. Kuraray expects to reach a ¥1 billion sales target with the new materials, which will be priced at ¥200-¥2000 per square meter. The new nonwovens will be promoted as value-added, next generation substrates.
 
Kuraray faces challenging conditions in its existing markets, where it continues to focus on producing nonwovens for diaper coverstock and wipes applications. In the wipes area, Kuraray competes against low cost products from China while competition in the coverstock segment reportedly has also been growing. In response, Kuraray Kuraflex is attempting to procure raw materials from sources outside of Japan and also plans to increase the productivity of its nonwovens facilities. The company will also expand the end use possibilities for certain specialized materials to include industrial applications such as commercial filters or automotive materials. Overall, Kuraray is looking to shift its focus to product areas with high added value.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $73 million

Description: Key Personnel
Mikihiro Hama, president, Kuraray Kuraflex

Plants
Okayama, Saijo and Ibaragi

Processes
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, meltblown steam jet

Brand Names
Kuraflex, Microflex

Major Markets
Coverstock, wipes, medical and household materials


Kuraray Kuraflex, Kuraray Saijio and Kuraflex Ibaragi are among the companies manufacturing nonwovens within Kuraray. Kuraray Kuraflex produces thermal bonded, spunlaced and resin bonded nonwovens with a total capacity of 10,400 tons per year. Kuraray Saijio produces meltblown nonwovens with a capacity of 1800 tons per year and Kuraflex Ibaragi makes 3500 tons of spunlaced nonwovens per year. Additionally, a facility that makes steam jet nonwovens with 1000 tons per year in Kuraray Kuraflex Okayama plant has been operating since October 2006.
 
Spunlaced nonwovens made by Kuraflex Ibaragi have been supplied by Pigeon Co., which manufactures and sells goods for babies, particularly baby wipes. Among the two major manufactures of baby wipes, Unicharm and Pigeon, Unicharm uses its own nonwovens and Pigeon uses nonwovens made by Kuraflex Ibaragi.
 
Steam jet nonwovens are a new type of nonwovens developed by Kuraray in cooperation with Mitsubishi Rayon Engineering. Since it began production in October 2006, this technology has been applied in a number of application areas including bandages, cushioning and materials for walls. To help expand this business, Kuraray will add another line featuring this technology next year. The first line will make thin and soft nonwovens using the technology while the second line will use thicker, finer nonwovens using the technology for wall materials.
 
Looking ahead, Kuraray has been focusing on adding higher valued-added products, such as steam jet nonwovens, to its repertoire to lessen its reliance on diapers, san pro items and baby wipes, which are markets characterized by  severe competition.
Location: OSAKA, JAPAN


Sales: $85 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Takashi Nakajima, president, Kuraray Kuraflex

Plants
Okayama, Saijo and Ibaragi

Processes
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, meltblown, steam jet

Brand Names
Kuraflex, Microflex, Flextar

Major markets
Coverstock, wipes, medical, household materials

Kuraray Kuraflex, Kuraray Saijio and Kuraflex Ibaragi are the threeindustrial concerns related to nonwovens at Kuraray.

Kuraray Kuraflex makes thermal bonded, spunlaced and resinbonded nonwovens, as well as jet nonwovens (brand name: Flextar),which were introduced with a capacity of 1000 tons per yearin October 2006. Meanwhile, Kauraray Saijio can make 1800 tonsof meltblown material per year and Kuraflex Ibaragi makes 3500tons of spunlaced nonwovens per year.

As for the nonwovens project of Kuraray, the disposable products,such as baby wet tissues, windshield wipers for business useand sanitary products represent 70-80% of sales of whole manufactureredgoods.

In comparison to other applications, the demand is fairly stablein these markets. Still, future expansion of this operation is difficultwith only existing nonwovens, so adding value to existingproducts is needed to achieve future growth. This has encouragedKuraray to start making new nonwovens such as Flextar, its steamjet nonwovens brand. Other efforts include medical dressings withstretch properties, which were commercialized last year and atatami mat using Dow Kakoh and Flextar. Kuraray intends to promotethe development of new applications as interior finishingproducts, making use of their acoustical benefits as well as shockabsorption and breathability.

Kuraray is pushing forward on a new project to perform in parallel,the exploitation of a new product and opening up the intendeduse to create new leading use applications as an importantpillar of the future nonwovens undertaking. At the core of theseefforts is an attempt to develop new products, making full use ofall nonwovens that Kuraray produces in three areas, medical, cosmeticsand industrial use filters, to promote the exploitation ofthese products to carry the future businesses.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $104 million

Description: Key Personnel
Takashi Nakajima, president

Plants
Okayama, Saijo and Ibragi, Japan

Processes
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, meltblown, steam jet

Brand Names
Kuraflex, Microflex, Flextar

Major Markets
Cover stock, wipes, medical, household materials

Kuraray is comprised of three companies—Kuraray Kuraflex, Kuraray Saijio and Kuraflex Ibragi. Kuraray Kuraflex produces thermal bonded, spunlaced and resin bonded with an annual capacity of 10,400 tons. This company has also operated an industrial steam jet nonwovens line, sold under the Flextar brand, with an annual capacity of 1000 tons since October 2006. Kuraray Saijio makes 1800 tons of meltblown nonwovens while Kuraflex Ibaragi makes 3500 tons of spunlaced nonwovens.
Kuraray’s sales in total increased in 2009 thanks to increased production of face masks caused by the swine flu outbreak but demand has dropped off considerably this year. Now Kuraray is focusing on the development of new types of nonwovens like its steam jet nonwovens which are finding a number of new applications. Additionally, Kuraray has developed a new steam jet technology using the spunlace method which is making windshield wipers. This nonwoven has high lint-free characteristics thanks to a rigid combination of fiber.
Kuraray is also working on a technique to develop nonwovens using meltblown technology for a new generation of face masks.
Geographically, Kuraray has expanded its role in China with the exportation of windshield wipers and medical dressing and these exports now represent about 6%. Other areas of interest include the food service industry which is growing in China.

Osaka, Japan
www.kuraray.co.jp
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $112 million

Key personnel: Takashi Nakajima, president, Kuraray Kuraflex

Plants: Okayama and Saijo, Japan

Processes: Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, meltblown, steam jet

Brands: Kuraflex, Microflex, Flextar

Major Markets: Coverstock, wipes, medical and household materials

Kuraray Kuraflex and Kuraray Saijio are the two companies included in Kuraray’s nonwovens businesses. Kuraray Kuraflex makes thermal bonded, spunlaced and resin bonded nonwovens with a total capacity of 10,400 tons per year.

Steam jet nonwovens (Flextar) capacity is 1,000 tons per year and Kuraray Saijio makes 1,800 tons of meltblown nonwovens per year. As for Kuraflex Ibaragi, which made spunlaced nonwovens, was dissolved in November 2010. Kuraflex Ibaragi, a joint corporation with Pigeon, made 3,500 tons of baby wipes per year but executives decided to stop this operation because of pricing issues caused by lower priced imported products.

Within the Kuraray business, product development has been ongoing in spunlace, steam jet and meltblown areas. Spunlaced nonwovens is the largest percentage of technologies but to date the company has not yet considered overseas expansion.

Currently, the company is only operating its meltblown operation at 50% and is looking into new market areas like face masks or filters to increase output. Within steam jet, inroads have been made into the medical market as well as in construction materials, but the company is not yet satisfied with sales levels in these segments.