Kelheim Receives Techtextil Innovation Award


Thermal bonding process used in reusable diaper honored in New Concept category

Kelheim Fibres GmbH and the Saxon Textile Research Institute (STFI) in Chemnitz have received the Techtextil Innovation Award in the "New Concept" category for the development of novel, thermally bonded nonwovens based on cellulose for the production of reusable products with high absorbency.
This technology has been used in a durable fitted cloth baby diaper made from a waterproof cover containing a sewn pocket and washable absorbent pads. The fully biodegradable and reusable diaper system, known as Sumo, is scheduled for launch in May.It was developed by a German design team.

“We have spent nearly three years developing the Sumo because we are so dedicated to the vision of achieving the highest, long-lasting performance with natural fibre,” co-founder Luisa Kahlfeldt says. “Every textile and component is custom developed from the fibre up.”

The Sumo diaper system—and the Ufo removable superabsorbent inlay—rely on plant-based fibers which the founders say outperform polyester and cotton—the main material in most reusable diaper systems. The absorbent pad shows about a 40% reduction in rewet value and a reduction in acquisition time by about 45% compared to polyester and 40% compared to cotton. At the same time, the product is thinner, weighs less and is air permeable.

Sumo partnered with Kelheim Fibres, a German provider of viscose fibers, to develop the core. Kelheim’s Galaxy trilobal viscose fiber forms capillary channels to enable efficient liquid distribution in the acquisition distribution layer. In the absorbent core, Kelheim's segmented hollow fiber Bramante stores liquid not only between but also within the fibers. Bramante can absorb up to 260% of its own weight. The core also contains polylactic acid (PLA).

The core was constructed using a combination of needlepunch and thermal bonded processes. The needlepunch gives both fibers types more space to absorb liquid and higher storage volumes. Thermal bonding offers bulkiness and increases strength, allowing the nonwoven to be fully washable. The founders say the product should last through potty training and could even be passed down to younger siblings.
Dr. Marina Crnoja-Cosic, Director New Business Development at Kelheim Fibres, says, "It is a great honor and pleasure for us to receive the Techtextil Innovation Award together with our partners. We see the award not only as a distinction for the project presented, but also as recognition of our innovation strategy. After all, in dialogue with partners we can react more quickly to current trends, develop in a more targeted manner and accelerate the commercialization of innovative solutions."
Additionally, in the "New Technology" category, the company OrganoClick (Sweden) received the Techtextil Innovation Award for the development of a 100% bio-based binder for nonwovens applications that is made from waste components and is therefore said to be fully compostable. The innovation is designed to replace plastic-based binders. Because nonwovens are often made from non-degradable plastics, the Swedish company specializes in developing compostable material alternatives from wheat bran, fruit or crab shells, among others.
Additional award winners included the world’s first woven heart valve without postfabrication, a novel cellulose fiber made from hemp waste, Iroony, developed by RBX Creations France; an aluminum-coated basalt fiber from FibreCoat; a process that uses natural leather waste from the automotive industry to produce innovative textile coatings, developed by CITEVE, the Technology Center for Textile and Clothing in Portugal; a bio-based and compostable dispersion for textile coatings and printing inks from Centexbel; and a patented process designed to transform fruit waste into fashion materials.