2019 Nonwovens Sales: $218 million
Akihiro Tachibana, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division
Yokkaichi and Nagoya, Japan; Tianjin, China; Rayong, Thailand
Spunbond, meltblown, needlepunch, thermal bonded nonwovens
Tafnel, Syntex, Syntex Nano, Airyfa
Coverstock, geotextiles, oil absorbing materials
In March 2020, Mitsui Chemicals announced it had expanded its production facilities for meltblown nonwovens at wholly owned subsidiary Sunrex Industry Co., Ltd., starting operations at the new facilities in January. The move comes as an effort to respond to growing demand for industrial-use meltblown nonwovens, and will increase the Mitsui Chemicals Group’s overall production capacity for these materials by 50%.
Mitsui Chemicals continues to position its nonwovens business as a growth sector, making efforts here to supply high-quality nonwovens as industrial materials for a variety of applications. This includes use in car seats (product name: Tafnel), masks (product name: Syntex) and agricultural sheets (product name: Syntex). With particular respect to Syntex MB nano, marketing efforts are going toward use in filters and other such applications that will take advantage of the meltblown nonwovens line’s superfine fibers, which are no more than several hundred nanometers in diameter.
Through this latest facility expansion, Mitsui Chemicals plans to further bolster and grow its business for nonwovens going forward.
Mitsui has pivoted its production output in response to the coronavirus. In April, the company started to supply nonwovens as raw materials for isolation gowns in an effort to support health care providers on the front lines in cutting-edge medical facilities. This effort comes as the increasing spread of the virus has made isolation gowns – for which Japan has been largely reliant on foreign imports – difficult to obtain amid the global pandemic.
To establish this supply, Mitsui Chemicals is making use of wholly owned subsidiary Sunrex Industry Co. Ltd., which serves as a major plant for nonwovens production. Mitsui Chemicals is taking production facilities here that normally produce nonwoven sanitary materials and repurposing these to begin production of nonwovens for isolation gowns.
In other efforts aimed at stopping the novel coronavirus, Mitsui Chemicals is already contributing significantly to domestic mask production by supplying meltblown nonwovens and nose clamps. But to help resolve the current mask shortage, Mitsui Chemicals is also pursuing plans for further production increase.
In March, Mitsui began working on the development of a new, reusable 3D-printed mask with Professor HORI Katsutoshi of the Graduate School of Engineering at Nagoya University and Friend Microbe Inc., a spinoff venture from Nagoya University.
The key feature of the mask design is that is can filter out viral particles but can also be reused. It consists of a reusable body and a disposable filter. Mitsui Chemicals will provide the nonwoven disposable filter, which removes viral particles. Professor HORI has produced the mask body using a 3D printer and is investigating enzyme preparations and various other antiviral agents that could be applied. Plans are to produce a mask with consideration of design and comfort while also ensuring that it provides outstanding protection against viruses.