The ease-of-use, durability and stretchability of nonwovens are just some of the reasons why they continue to be an important part of the industry. They can be engineered to provide specific functions such as absorbency, flame retardancy, cushioning, liquid repellence and more, and key players in the market are developing new solutions to make living spaces more pleasant and comfortable.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s expertise in the home furnishings market lies within the wallcoverings sector. The company offers a range of nonwovens in the premium segment, and last year added Ahlstrom-Munksjö WallStar, a variety of high quality nonwovens with unique surface aspects, features, functionalities, for all printing processes, and Ahlstrom-Munksjö WallWise, the widest range of value for money nonwovens, designed to bring the paste-the-wall advantages of a real nonwoven at an affordable price.
The Finnish company recently enhanced these two ranges with new functional products including WallStar, Facing FiberArt including wallcovering grades with a unique fibrous surface effect; WallStar, Facing ColorPlus which features premium coated nonwovens for sharp colors and a glossy finish; and the WallWise range now includes new coated nonwoven grades with improved thickness and weight qualities, to cover wall imperfections and ensure excellent results on the wall.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö has also evolved its range of digital wall coverings. Debuting this year, WallStar Digital Peel & Up is a range of self-adhesive nonwovens with a removable and repositionable adhesive. A new range of high-quality nonwoven Wall liners has also been developed, which are used for over-painting, for both the professional and do-it-yourself markets.
According to Anna Mikheeva Brikh, junior product manager – Wallcover, Filtration & Performance, Ahlstrom-Munksjö, the most important factor helping nonwovens grow in the wallcoverings market is the accelerating switch from paper to nonwoven. “Nonwovens had revolutionized the wallcover market by removing barriers to use and making installation easy,” she says. “Compared to paper, nonwoven does not shrink, is strong and stable, easy to install and remove, which provides opportunities for more frequent use.”
Nonwovens represent more than 60% of the wallcover market in Europe, more than 80% in China and Japan, and this share is still growing with the shortage in paper supply, Mikheeva Brikh says.
The market’s request for sustainable products is also boosting growth—with both consumers and professionals paying attention to their ecological footprints. “Although the biggest share of the market is still PVC-coated wallcover, more and more consumers are looking for more eco-friendly and natural wallcoverings,” she explains. “In this aspect, nonwovens printed directly have an important advantage. Being free of PVC and other harmful substances, they represent a new eco-friendly alternative to the PVC products.”
Brazilian nonwovens producer Scavone Nonwovens produces needlepunched and thermobonded carding technology, as well as airlaid “fiberblock” technology.
The company was founded in 1893, in the city of Itatiba, in the countryside of São Paulo. It began working in the textile segment in 1912 with spinning and dyeing of wool yarns. Over the years, in order to meet the new demands of the Brazilian market, the company made changes in the type of products it manufactured. In 1993, Fabril Scavone began the production of technical fabrics, with the launch of its first line producing needlepunched nonwovens.
With needlepunched nonwovens, Scavone supplies products for substrates of synthetic PVC laminates, widely used in Brazil for coating upholstered furniture in general. With the nonwoven airlaid type “fiberblock,” Scavone has applications in mattresses and mainly for upholstered furniture. “The use [of nonwovens] in upholstered furniture and mattresses is recent in Brazil, which uses a lot of foam,” says Laerte Maroni, commercial director – Scavone.
The fundamental factor for the rising consumption of nonwovens for the home furnishings market is performance, especially in upholstered furniture, Maroni says.
ABINT (Associação Brasileira das Indústrias de Nãotecidos e Tecidos Técnicos), the association for nonwovens and technical textiles in Brazil, believes the home furnishings market is a relevant one for durable nonwovens. “With the new government in Brazil, we believe that this market can grow by an estimated 8.7% (three times the estimated GDP of 2.9%),” says Carlos Eduardo Benatto, president of ABINT. “These nonwovens provide comfort, modernity, security and beauty in all of these market segments,” he says.
Today, Scavone operates throughout Brazil and abroad with the production of nonwovens for automotive, filtration, synthetic laminates, footwear, acoustic, furniture, geotextiles and various industrial applications. The company recently announced plans to invest in the construction of a new industrial plant featuring European machinery with state-of-the-art technology that will make needlepunched nonwovens for the automotive, filtration, synthetic laminates and footwear industries as well as the geotextile, acoustics and furniture sector.
With the capacity to produce 500 tons per month, the investment will be made in the town of Itatiba in São Paulo. According to Maroni, the investment is being carried out in order to maintain its position among the leaders in the Brazilian market, better attend the demands of clients and expand business abroad. “We are optimistic about the arrival of the new government and we believe that the needed reforms to resume economic growth will be approved soon,” he says.
Scheduled to start operating in 2020, Scavone’s new industrial plant will begin construction this year. The project will have an area of 20,000 square meters on a 100,000-square-meter plot along the Dom Pedro I Highway. In addition to its strategic location, the project will have ample room for future investment. After the start of operations, the new factory will generate more than 50 direct jobs as well as hundreds of indirect jobs.
The new production line will use the most advanced technologies available in the market to produce carded needlepunched and thermo calendered nonwovens. With the new production, Fabril Scavone will have a total production capacity of 1250 tons per month.
Freudenberg Performance Materials
One of Freudenberg Perfomance Materials’ (FPM) latest developments for the home is Evolon New Generation, a high-tech textile made from super-microfilaments that are half the thickness and twice the density of those used in the original Evolon substrates. The substrate features a good balance of breathability, permeability to water vapor and thermal insulation, allowing it to provide the best combination of thermo-physiological properties for unparalleled comfort.
According to Freudenberg Performance Materials’ chief technology officer John McNabb, Evolon New Generation is proving successful in premium anti-mite encasings and bed linen. “In these applications, Evolon New Generation provides superior filtration performance against allergens thanks to super-microfilaments that are up to 200 times thinner than a human hair,” he says.
For bed linen, Evolon New Generation provides an ideal microclimate during sleep, with ideal moisture management, thermal insulation and protection for mite allergy sufferers. It can also be printed and dyed with the most intricate patterns and designs.
Last year, Evolon New Generation was awarded the European seal of quality for anti-mite bedding items. The fabric meets the stringent testing criteria in terms of filtration performance and sleeping comfort. The seal of the independent European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) aims to help allergic patients select the appropriate goods and services, by certifying the quality of products as well as services according to strict standards.
Whereas the original Evolon was already a good solution for the manufacture of anti-mite encasings that help allergy sufferers, Evolon New Generation now provides a specific solution to make feather-filled pillows and quilts, filtering even tinier allergens and dust particles. With its premium appearance and luxury feel, Evolon New Generation creates also a new product for anti-allergy top-quality bed linen.
Evolon New Generation has also been granted the Oeko-Tex mark (standard 100, product class 1, attachment 6), which certifies it is free of harmful substances and suitable for contact with baby skin.
In the application of tufted carpet backings, FPM continues to work on sustainability. “We are constantly improving the environmental footprint without compromising performance: decreasing energy consumption, increasing the share of certified recycled content and avoiding the use of chemical binders,” McNabb says. “At the same time, we are improving our customers’ handprint by providing 100% recyclable mono-component tuft backing.”
One factor helping nonwovens grow in the home furnishings market is the customization trend. According to McNabb, the customization trend is stimulating the development of digital printing at carpet manufacturers. Freudenberg tufted carpet backings made from spunlaid polyester nonwovens provide the necessary dimensional stability required by carpet printing machines.
Evolon also enables customization through digital printing, especially with transfer sublimation textile inks and latex inks—Evolon holds the “certified for HP latex inks” label.
Humboldt, TN-based Jones Nonwovens offers a range of products used to construct mattresses including products engineered to meet performance requirements for FR barriers; comfort layers; structural insulators and foundation components. While it primarily focuses on the mattress industry, it is also seeing traction in thermal and acoustical insulation products. “These products provide sustainable solutions, which meet LEED objectives,” says Andrew Dailey, senior vice president, Strategic Accounts & Business Development.
In its over 80 years of business, environmental sustainability has been a guiding philosophy for the company, and part of its sustainable approach is made possible with the help of natural fibers. These are high-quality, low maintenance fibers that don’t require chemicals or pesticides and put nutrients back into the earth.
“Expanding raw material inputs to include a range of fibers from cotton to hemp, animal fibers and other bast fibers addresses more of an added value than a cost objective,” Dailey says. “It is more that just a marketing angle; these fibers combine to achieve aesthetic and critical performance once thought to only be achievable using synthetic fibers.”
According to Dailey, design and fashion is a critical factor when it comes to the growth of nonwovens in the home furnishings market. Jones is finding that designers, engineers and architects’ knowledge of the flexibility and diversity of raw materials used to produce nonwovens is growing. “This opens the door for creativity to drive innovation,” he says.
Jones is continuously diversifying its product line and market scope. The company, which has had carding, needling and thermal bonding capabilities in operation at its North Las Vegas, Humboldt and Morristown, TN, facilities, recently added a new airlaid production line at its North Las Vegas site. The decision to double capacity at this site last year was to fulfill the rapidly growing demand for natural fiber and other sustainable fiber products for manufacturing and packaging.
Low & Bonar
Last year, Low & Bonar launched its first range of fully recyclable cushioning materials. Designed to facilitate the production of eco-friendly mattresses, wheelchair cushions, furniture and similar products, the material serves as a performance-enhancing textile alternative to foam.
The new product range is based on Low & Bonar’s proprietary polymer 3D-spinning technology. It will be marketed under the brand name Enkair. In addition to recyclability, the material will deliver enhanced comfort, pressure relief and breathability for a wide range of cushioning applications.
“This material is an improved alternative to foam. Its open structure lets air flow freely and enables a healthy micro-climate. Enkair can be washed in water. And it weighs only half as much as foam,” says Leo Smit, Low & Bonar’s venture leader Advanced Cushioning. “Enkair’s unique soft pyramid-shaped filament structure conforms nicely to the body and provides excellent comfort.”
Enkair can be fully recycled at the end of its lifespan to produce new cushioning material with the same high performance. Philip de Klerk, group chief executive officer, adds: “Low & Bonar is committed to delivering unique value-added materials that enable our customers to continually enhance their product offering. We strive to do that in an environmentally sustainable manner, contributing to the health of both the people and our planet. It is with this core principle in mind that we developed the Enkair range. We are very pleased to bring this new product to the market and are convinced that it can help the industry move one step closer to a true circular economy.”
The product range comprises single continuous-filament mats as well as multilayer composites consisting of two or more mats depending on the intended end-use. High resiliency three-dimensional nonwovens to provide additional comfort will also be available.