2013 Nonwovens Sales: $1.4 billion
Marc Doyle, president, DuPont Protection Technologies; Kevin Corby, global technology director, DuPont Protection Technologies; Diego Boeri, global Tyvek and Sontara business director, DuPont Protection Technologies
Richmond, VA (Tyvek, Hybrid Membrane Technology, HMT); Old Hickory, TN (Sontara); Luxembourg (Tyvek, Typar); Asturias, Spain (Sontara); Shenzhen, China (Tyvek and Sontara converting facility); Brazil joint venture (Sontara)
All plants are ISO 9002 certified; Luxembourg facility is also ISO9001 certified
Flashspun (Tyvek), spunbond (Typar), spunlace (Sontara, HMT)
DuPont Tyvek, Tychem, Energain, Sontara, Typar.
Construction, healthcare, protective apparel, industrial filtration, absorbents, home furnishings, envelopes, geotextiles, graphics, packaging, footwear, automotive
The big news from DuPont, the world’s second largest nonwovens producer, was the sale of its Sontara brand of spunlace fabrics to Jacob Holm, a Swiss nonwovens producer with plants in North Carolina, France and Germany. Sontara, a global nonwovens business that makes spunlace fabrics for use in variety of medical and wipes business, is made by DuPont at sites in Old Hickory, TN and Asturias, Spain, which will be transferred to Jacob Holm when the sale becomes final later this year. DuPont developed the technology about 40 years ago.
“We are grateful to the current and past employees of Sontara for their contribution to DuPont during the last 40 years and we are pleased to see the business well-positioned for success in the future as part of Jacob Holm, a world-class organization dedicated to the nonwovens industry,” says Marc Doyle, president, DuPont Protection Technologies.
According to DuPont’s annual report, Sontara represented about 5% of the company’s $3.8 billion Protection Technologies business. Following the sale, DuPont’s nonwovens business will include the significantly larger Tyvek business, which comprises its flashspun technology, and Hybrid Membrane Technology, a technology purchased about five years ago from a Korean firm that is targeted toward energy storage and filtration applications.
Representing about 11% of overall corporate sales, DuPont Protection Technologies was formed five years ago by combining the company’s nonwovens businesses with its sister units on the aramid fiber side. The business unit essentially contains most of DuPont’s technologies that combine the company’s technologies that protect people, the environment and critical processes worldwide.
According to the company, the division has followed through on its strategy of growing in developing markets, differentiating itself powerful brands and unique value propositions through market facing models, driving unique technologies and new application development and improving its competitive position by reducing costs.
Representing the bulk of its nonwovens sales, DuPont’s Tyvek flashspun technology continues to go into new end-use areas while growing in existing markets including construction, personal protection and medical packaging.
The most successful new market segment is air cargo, where DuPont’s Tyvek air cargo covers help transport companies meet global mandates for controlled temperatures, between 15-25°C, when shipping pharmaceutical and food products. These large hoods, available in regular Tyvek or metallized Tyvek varieties are placed over pallets of pharmaceutical or food products when they are most vulnerable, such as during temporary air transit control chain breaks, when pallets spend time sitting on tarmacs, exposing them to solar radiation or temperature extremes.
These covers feature a unique combination of properties including reflectivity to shield the product from solar radiation, low thermal conductivity to decrease the effects of temperature extremes and breathable barrier which prevents gases from being trapped and damaging products, according to DuPont
Consumer bags have also emerged as a new market are for Tyvek, where DuPont has been test marketing the totes in North America under the brand name Verdiva. Verdiva bags are strong, foldable and machine washable and available in a number of designs. According to experts, the market for reusable shopping bags is expected to grow as more major cities are banning the use of free disposable shopping bags.
Another new application area for Tyvek is in display and lighting applications where its reflective qualities lessen energy costs.
Meanwhile in construction, one of Tyvek’s largest markets, Tyvek Fluid Applied weather barrier systems provide water and fluid applied air barrier protection designed for the unique demands of heavy commercial construction projects. This system has fast become an integral part of thousands of sustainable buildings around the world offering the convenience of a fast, pressure-rolled or sprayed applications and providing seamless protection for the building envelope and meeting stringent codes and standard requirements for energy efficiency.
Other products in Tyvek’s construction business include Tyvek Silver, ThermaWrap and Firecure, which all offer membrane solutions for construction applications dealing with radiant heat loss, reducing active flame spread and air and water management.
Meanwhile, in medical packaging, another important business, DuPont is proving its commitment to the market through a $30 million investment known as the company’s Medical Packaging Tansition Project. These efforts will not only modernize the technology for Tyvek used in medical packaging, it will also allow the company to create a strong foundation for growth within the medical packaging market.
The project involves new line investments for its two main grades of Tyvek used in medical packaging. This will ensure greater continuity and flexibility of future products and the latest advancements in flash spinning technology.
As part of the project, DuPont has developed a systematic method for generating data to prove that the Tyvek produced on the new line is functionally equivalent to previous versions of Tyvek. This will help mitigate regulatory requalification and minimize costs to individual companies serving this market.
In March, DuPont issued a formal change notification letter for two grades of Tyvek for customers, giving them at least one year before beginning the full commercialization of the new Tyvek grades.
Prior to issuing the formal Change Notification, a significant amount of material testing had been completed and all results to date indicate that the Transition Protocol materials are functionally equivalent to current Tyvek, and extensive package testing is now in progress.
“All cells for the U.S. FDA Transition Protocol and the Phantom Protocol have been received at Nelson Laboratories and package testing is well under way,” says Bruce Yost, technical director, DuPont Medical and Pharmaceutical Protection.
DuPont shared more information with its industry partners through a webinar in early May.
DuPont’s other main nonwovens technology, Hybrid Membrane Technology, a version of which was purchased from a Korean partner about five years ago, goes beyond the limits of today’s semi-porous or nonwoven membranes. Made by a proprietary new spinning process, DuPont HMT is a “membrane-like” sheet product composed of continuous sub-micron fibers with resultant sub-micron to low-micron pores and high surface area.
According to the company, HMT provides a long-awaited option to fill the performance gaps between microporous membranes and traditional nonwovens.
HMT is not an electrostatically treated material and depends completely on the mechanical structure of the media, thus concerns over filtration performance over the life of the filter are alleviated.
DuPont continues to make HMT nonwovens, also known as Energain, in the energy storage market, on a pilot line in Chesterfield, VA, and so far the technology has mainly targeted the energy storage battery separator and biopharma filtration markets. However, another potential market is in apparel, where HMT is a dyeable, water resistant membrane with better breathability and textile properties than films, providing greater comfort for sports enthusiasts. As an allergen barrier, DuPont HMT provides the comfort of finely woven fabrics with the barrier performance of non-breathable films.