2014 Nonwovens Sales: $1.25 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); Shenzhen, China (Tyvek and Sontara converting facility)
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 change at Wilmington, DE-based DuPont is the sale of the company’s Sontara spunlaced business to Jacob Holm in September 2014. The sale not only includes the company spunlace assets serving the medical garment and critical wipes businesses but also manufacturing assets in Old Hickory, TN and Asturias, Spain. Sontara’s annual sales prior to the divestment were approximately $190 million.
“This transaction represents another step in the execution of our growth strategy in DuPont Protection Technologies and further enhances our focus on delivering innovative advanced materials that drive profitable growth both today and over the long term,” said Marc Doyle, president, DuPont Protection Technologies. “We wish those in the Sontara business every success under Jacob Holm.”
Sontara sales comprised only about 5% of DuPont’s Protection Technologies, significantly less than DuPont’s Tyvek flashspun nonwovens business, which continues to enjoy a leadership position in areas like construction, protective apparel and medical packaging while focusing on new market areas.
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 area 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 quickly become an integral part of thousands of sustainable buildings around the world offering the convenience of a fast, pressure-rolled or sprayed application 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 Transition Project.
These efforts have not only modernized the technology for Tyvek used in medical packaging, they have also allowed 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 to 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.
Throughout this process, which began in 2011, DuPont has kept its customers constantly informed. In March 2014, DuPont issued a formal change notification letter for two grades of Tyvek giving customers 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.
More recently, in August, DuPont’s medical packaging management team published an open letter to the industry, notifying them that DuPont completed the submissions for all regulatory reports for the project and is in the process of conducting face-to-face meetings with these regulatory bodies to review all results to date and respond to their questions. The letter also indicated that the company expects to begin commercial sales of the new grades in October after receiving FDA affirmation this month.
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. To date, 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.