2013 Nonwovens Sales: $200 million
Hiroshi Takasahi, president Asahi Kasei Fibers; Katsuhiko Hinamoto, general manager, nonwoven fabircs division; Hiroshi Maruo, general manager, spunbond fabric sales; Yasumasa Shii, general manager Bemliese sales
Shiga, Miyazaki, Japan; Siracha, Thailand
Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Smash, Precise
Recent news from Asahi Kasei includes the start of construction on a new line in Siracha, Thailand. Announced in May 2014, the new line will double the company’s Thai capacity to 40,000 tons when it comes onstream in late 2015. Asahi Kasei established the Thai operation in 2012 as a base for local production in Thailand to meet growing demand for spunbond in diaper applications in Asia where demand is not only growing in terms of volume but also in terms of sophistication. The new line will feature state-of-the-art technology to meet demands for performance and quality even as price competition intensifies.
Asahi Kasei has been making spunbond nonwovens since 1973, marketing them under the Eltas brand name. In Japan, the company makes an additional 26,000 tons of polypropylene spunbond nonwovens at two production sites in Shiga and Miyazaki. While these lines are all reportedly running at full capacity, Asahi Kasei has made no plans to expand the site but will instead supply Japanese demand from Thailand. Already, about 20% of the first Thai line’s output is being exported to Japan.
According to executives, the expansion of spunbond production in Thailand has contributed nicely to earnings increases in Asahi Kasei’s fibers division, which contains the nonwovens business.
In addition to Eltas, Asahi Kasei offers a wide range of other highly functional nonwoven products made with advanced and innovative production technologies. Precisé is a multifunctional nonwoven fabric with higher barrier efficiency used in electronic applications; Bemliese is the world’s only 100% cellulose continuous-filament nonwovens; and Lamous artificial suede is used for upholstery and automotive interiors.
Asahi Kasei has more recently been targeting the oil-water separation market with its Eutec nanofiber meltblown nonwovens. These nonwovens, made from 300nm diameter fibers are being applied to liquid cartridge filter products. According to executives, the technology has allowed it to establish niche market leadership in oil-water separation and expand into applications with microfiltration.