2017 Nonwovens Sales: $215 million
Akihiro Tachibana, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division
Yokkaichi and Nagoya
Spunbond, meltblown, needlepunch, thermal bonded
Tafnel, Syntex, Nano, Airyfa
Coverstock, geotextiles, oil absorbing materials, air filters, wipes, agriculture materials, household materials
Mitsui Chemicals can make 70,000 tons of polypropylene spunbond nonwovens per year in Japan as well as 30,000 tons of the material in Thailand and 15,000 tons in China, making global production 115,000 tons. In addition, Mitsui can make 1000 tons of meltblown nonwovens per year and sales of this material increased greatly in 2017.
Diaper market growth in Japan is driving demand for nonwovens sales not only in Japan but also in Thailand. In recent months, Mitsui has made two capacity investments, adding a 15,000-ton-per-year line in Nagoya and 6000 tons in Yokkaichi. The Nagoya plant was complete in November 2017 and the Yokkaichi investment was finished in June 2018. The company is reportedly considering making its next investment in India where many of its customers in the disposable diaper market are looking to penetrate.
Both new lines make high performance nonwovens featuring stretchable nonwovens with polyurethane fibers and polyolefin fibers at random. Nonwoven fabrics with crimped fibers like coils of the spring have also been produced at the new facility in Nagoya. This nonwoven fabric is superior in both flexibility and bulkiness.
Mitsui Chemicals has developed some high performance nonwoven fabrics for the premium diaper products and began full-scale production of this technology. Above all, the volumes of polypropylene spunbond nonwoven fabrics with hollow fibers, sold under the brand name Airyfa, have been increasing. Because its fibers are hollow, the material is light-weight but strong. It is mainly used for the gathering part of the diaper. It can be produced by changing the nozzles of existing facilities so the facilities can be changed relatively easily. Airfya is made using existing facilities in Yokkaichi, Japan, and production capacity is thought to be around 10,000 tons. In addition, one of the lines in Thailand was converted to be able to make Airyfa and started making it this summer. Full-scale production is also going to begin in China.
All of these nonwovens technologies are based on spunbonding technology, developed by Mitsui. They are all high value materials and adhere to Mitsui’s strategy of growing its nonwovens business through innovation.