He is not wrong.
As I worked on this year’s top companies report, one of the trends I noticed was how many companies are trying to remove the word “nonwoven” from their business. Ahlstrom, as it begins its journey with new partner Munksjö, reports that it no longer considers itself a nonwovens company and instead is focusing on fiber-based technology. Freudenberg chose to replace nonwovens with Performance Materials in its latest transformation and says it’s focusing on nonwoven and nonwoven-adjacent technologies to grow its business.
The limitations of the term nonwovens is not new to this industry. From the beginning, the industry has faced the conundrum of defining itself by something it is not (nonwoven = not a woven) instead of what it is. Over the years, we have seen terms like engineered materials, fiber solutions, performance materials and even technical textiles emerge, but none of them have been able to strike the word nonwoven from the industry.
Realizing that the term nonwovens has its limitations, INDA and EDANA are underway with efforts to establish a new definition and classification system for nonwovens.
The associations want to change the current definition for nonwovens, which define the materials as what they are not (woven) rather than what they are, and are defining materials now as “an engineered fibrous assembly which has been given a designed level of structural integrity by physical and/or chemical means with the exclusion of paper, woven or knitted materials.” This new definition now serves as a technical reference and a guideline for use in trade and customs purposes.
The ever changing role that nonwovens play in our daily lives warrants a new definition. Since the industry first rose to prominence in the 1960s as a supplier to a new industry—disposable diapers—a lot has changed and nonwovens continue to penetrate more markets and reach more aspects of our daily lives.