According to the institute, the lines’ web path can be customized to enable specific requirements so the web proceeds from spunbond layotodwn to a compation roll and then to a series of options including two-in-one line unwinders to combine with other webs, to a pre hydroentanglement unit, a thermal calendar for three bond patterns and smooth rolls to a second hydroentanglement line to the kiss roll unit and the through air dryer.
The line is able to make both lightweight and heavyweight nonwovens for a range of applications. The technology offers significant advances in flexibility, which will enable the NWI to work with partner companies to develop new types of nonwovens and also acts as a technology incubator, developing products in its own interest, that will ultimately be commercialized.
NWI, whose membership includes all of the top names in nonwovens like Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Johnson & Johnson and nearly every major nonwovens producer in the world, negotiated attractive prices with many suppliers. Still, NWI director Behnam Pourdeyhimi reports that his centers’ investment in the line at $10 million and counting.
According to its website, the Nonwovens Institute at NC State is an academic program for the interdisciplinary field of engineered fabrics. Described as an innovative global partnership between industry, government and academia, NWI receives several million dollars per year in memberships, private research and product development services. At any given time, the program supports about 70 graduate students and graduates about 10 per year. It is currently the only US.-based university program dedicated exclusively to nonwovens.
Currently, several nonwovens-related companies including Mann + Hummel and Eastman Chemical Company lease space at the institute and Pourdeyhimi is hopeful new companies will follow suit.
Prior to the new investment, the intstitute, which was founded in 1991, already operated Reicofil meltblown technology as well as drying, spinning and other nonwovens equipment.
NC State chancellor Randy Woodson spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony, praising the institute for its ability to not only graduate career ready professionals for nonwovens, an industry that has been central to the state’s economic development in recent decades, but also for its ability to merge education and professional development.