The new nonwovens report identifies the key trends for the airlaid nonwovens segment across the next five years to be:
- Global demand will expand at a healthy 5% year-on-year
- Production will switch to new machinery as older lines are shut down
- Multibonded and hydrogen bonded airlaid capacity will increase market share
- Strategic planning will be necessary to maintain material supply and demand, and profits.
"The global population is aging, and living longer; but this aged population is no longer poor and consigned to assisted living and other healthcare institutions. Instead, they are affluent and active, and desire comfortable and discreet incontinence products useful in an active lifestyle – airlaid products are key to delivering this performance. Airlaid nonwovens deliver maximum absorbency in the thinnest, softest, lowest cost structure. This is important for products from hygiene, to medical, to puppy pads, to food pads. Airlaid nonwovens are unique in their ability to provide this," says the report's author Phillip Mango.
In 2017, globally there are 56 producers with 566,600 tons of nameplate capacity. These will account for estimated sales of 506,600 tons this year – a global utilization rate of almost 90%. While there are some supply issues in certain regions and for certain airlaid products, the global supply/demand situation is currently balanced. But airlaid demand is growing at about 5% per year, so airlaid supply will be quite tight. The airlaid producers will have to carefully manage supply and demand in order to keep profitability attractive while not discouraging new products or new markets due to supply issues. Their success in doing this will determine the future health of the airlaid industry.
Fluff pulp is the major raw material used in airlaid nonwovens, accounting for 76.9% of all raw materials in 2017. Fluff pulp provides absorbency in an airlaid nonwoven product. Two of the next three most used raw materials in airlaid nonwovens are binding agents: bicomponent fiber and standard latex binder. The other major raw material in airlaid nonwovens is superabsorbent polymer (SAP). This material is used for both absorbing and retaining liquids. These four raw materials, two absorbents and two binders, account for 98.3% of all raw materials used in airlaid nonwovens in 2017.
Multibonded airlaid is the most flexible of the airlaid processes, and can produce not only multibonded airlaid but also thermal bonded, latex bonded and in some cases hydrogen bonded airlaids. It is capable of addressing all airlaid markets as well as providing a testbed for new markets and end uses. It is also the most technically complex process and has the highest capital costs. Despite this, it is projected that airlaid expansion across 2017-2022 will favor multibonded airlaid at the expense of latex and thermal bonded airlaid, especially expansion by experienced airlaid producers.