The concept stems from Suominen’s research and development projects that previously led to the launch of High Definition Design Series, a revolutionary pattern selection for nonwovens. The Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens concept adds a unique technical capability into the mix and combines artificial intelligence with extremely high definition patterning. With Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens, all kinds of digital features can be embedded into the substrate without deteriorating other functionalities or aesthetic appearance of nonwovens.
Household and Personal Care Wipes sat down with Suominen to discuss how its Intelligence Nonwovens concept could widely influence the wipes industry by giving customers a way to trace the origin of their raw material, help manufacturers trace flaws and defects and allow major brands to offer a new way to market their products.
HPCW: Please discuss the reason for the development of Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens. Did you notice a gap for this in the market?
Suominen: Yes, the idea of Suominen Intelligent Nonwoven was originally based on traceability and counterfeit problems that we were observing in the marketplace and wanted to solve.
In today’s world in a case of a customer conplaint, we as consumers do not call a customer service number or something similar. Instead we take a picture of the product and distribute the complaint via social media to the whole world. In these cases the damage to the brand can be huge and we as a nonwoven supplier have limited tools to help our customers to solve the problem. Quite often the consumers do not have for example the package available in order to help us trace back the value chain. Tracing back can be very time consuming and time is money in theses claim cases.
With Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens, we can be sure where and how the actual nonwoven has been produced, even if we would just have access to one individual wipe.
HPCW: How many design options are available in Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens?
Suominen: Suominen has intellectual properties rights protected on 21 different patterns ready for our customers to be used. We are more than happy to design customer or brand specific patterns with the Suominen Intelligent Nonwoven capability included.
HPCW: How did the development of the Suominen designer series lead to the ultimate creation of Intelligent Nonwovens?
Suominen: Customization has been very centric in Suominen’s technology strategy for the past years. Three to four years ago we started to work in detail on the patterning of our wipes. Especially, we wanted to understand the connection of customer perception to our patterns and the connection to real data from our laboratories. We looked at perceived softness and cleanability of different patterns and compared that to real cleaning data from our laboratories. With this iterative process, we were able to design the most soft and best cleaning patterns in the wipes industry.
Through this work we were able to improve our technical patterning capabilities and the patterns of today are a magnitude better than the ones five years back. The contrast became so stark that we noticed that the pattern is easily recognizable with a normal smart phone camera. We also used artificial intelligence (AI) to teach the camera what it should be looking for in the pattern. The beauty is that the system learns and becomes better every time you scan a pattern.
HPCW: How do both of these innovations tie into Suominen’s changemaker strategy?
Suominen: Based on the Suominen changemaker strategy we want to make nonwovens “that others cannot.” We chose customization as one focus area of our work which is a challenging task in a commodity business like ours. Patterning has a very visual and functional aspect in the wipe which had been underutilized as a tool to deliver value to our customers.
Typically your hands are tied when it comes to changing the product for every consumer, it is just not possible.
If you are able to connect the physical wipe to a digital content however, you have endless options for customization. The wipe is visually fantastic looking, performs better than competing products and delivers customized digital content to a chosen consumer.
HPCW: Do you see opportunities for this technology beyond wipes and spunlaced nonwovens?
Suominen: Yes, this technology can be used widely in other industries as well. Using artificial intelligence and picture recognition will be part of our everyday very soon.
Today the most advanced smart phones use the same technology for unlocking the phone for the approved user, it is called face recognition.
HPCW: Do you have any intention of plans to license this technology to other nonwovens or wovens producers? Explain.
Suominen: We understand that many of our customers want to have security in their supply and they insist on dual sourcing. Suominen is ready to discuss different models of licensing if needed.
HPCW: What benefits will Intelligent Nonwovens offer to the manufacturers and ultimately to the end users?
Suominen: For the manufactures the benefit that come to one’s mind are around supply chain security, traceability and fighting counterfeit. In possible claims the time needed to trace back the supply chain is radically shorter.
For the consumer this gives endless possibilities to get value adding digital features. You can teach the consumer to use the wipe in a professional manner, you can build in timers on when to change to a new wipe, you can create digital wiping diaries, you can participate in lotteries, you can use the pattern as a reorder button, etc.
The possibilities are endless.
HPCW: How will this technology help your customers achieve benchmarks relating to market demands line flushability, biodegradability, plastics reduction, sustainability, etc.
Suominen: Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens is a very useful tool to tell about biodegradability, flushability or non-plastic to the consumer.
The digital tools allow you to make the story very compelling and easy to understand. You can use pictures and videos which would never fit into any instruction.