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Does the Secret to a Cleaner Planet Lie in an Ancient Invention?

Components that are making a big impact on everything from clean air and water to efficient and clean manufacturing processes?


Aside from the annoyance of finding there are no more coffee filters in the cabinet when it’s time to brew a pot, filters don’t typically command much attention. However, many don’t realize that filters, its usage of which can be traced back to the earliest civilizations, represent a $63.35 billion market globally, and play a critical role in consumer and industrial/manufacturing sector.[i]

As populations worldwide become more concerned about access to clean water and air as well as protection against pandemic diseases and conserving energy, filters provide solutions.

Many Filters, Many Solutions

Filters are typically designed, in part, based on the physical state of the material undergoing filtration—typically air/gases or liquids. To remove large or particle solids from liquids, a variety of filter types may be used:

  • Bag filters, which typically remove large solids from a liquid by having it flow through a bag-shaped filter.
  • Strainers have wider mesh to let through liquids and are typically used in manufacturing when the particles or components that need to be removed are too large for other filter media.
  • Cartridge filters, usually cylindrical, act as a barrier and sifter to remove sediment and harmful solids.
  • Hydraulic filters are industrial filters used to remove impurities from petroleum products (e.g., oil, gasoline, etc.) in a hydraulic system, protecting machinery from these elements.

Air and gas filtration is also an important sector. Filters commonly used for these applications include:

  • Panel filters allow air to pass through and capture dust, particles and other matter.
  • Air filters are important in manufacturing and consist of a mesh component that catches particles when air is forced through.
  • Gas filters help remove contaminants or particulates—which may be solid or liquid, depending on the application—from a dry or liquid gas stream.

One of the important innovations in the filter sector has been the growth of nonwoven filter materials, or “nonwovens.” Simply explained, nonwovens are typically manufactured by putting small fibers or continuous filaments together in the form of a sheet or web, and then binding them. Depending on the type of nonwovens needed, there are a wide range of manufacturing technologies to produce different nonwovens e.g. carding, spunbond, meltblown or airlaid. Nonwovens, such as those manufactured with Oerlikon Neumag’s machines, have been steadily replacing traditional filter media such as paper and textiles because of its efficiency, longevity and strength. For example, meltblown nonwoven filters can be precisely manufactured with a range of uniform pore sizes based on the filtration need. It can also be treated to catch even nanoparticles.

Currently, almost 500,000 tons of nonwovens are used annually in the production of filters, which corresponds to approximately 10% of today’s worldwide industrial nonwovens manufactured. In 2015, over 170,000 tons of nonwovens were manufactured for gas/air filters, while the volume for liquid filters, at around 295,000 tons, was twice the size of air filters.

Sustainability Spurs Sales

Where do these types of filters go into action? Motor vehicle applications were the dominant force, accounting for half of total global revenue in 2015. Increased demand for passenger cars and commercial vehicles in countries like India, China and Brazil are being met with more stringent regulation and more consumer awareness about emissions, creating demand for better filters to manage them. As these markets become more industrialized, urbanized and affluent, governments and consumers are placing new demands on manufacturers to improve product quality and reduce harmful emissions.

Factors such as more effective construction and demand for sustainable filtration solutions across industries are also playing increasingly important roles in driving filter market growth. Consumers are also becoming more concerned about air and water quality, spurring interest in domestic air and water filtration. Essentially, consumers want filtration solutions to ensure that the air they breathe and the water they consume are clean.

Whether it is for ensuring stringent purity standards in the air or for removing harmful bacteria and other matter from the water supply or for maintaining cleanroom environments free of particles and gases for pharmaceutical or electronics manufacturing to a myriad of other applications, the world relies on filters to get the job done.

By Gwen Moran

Oerlikon Neumag is a leading global brand providing flexible and high-performance stand-alone machines and turnkey production lines for almost every type of nonwoven product. For more technical information on our filter solutions, see

[i] Grand View Research Report, “Filters Market Analysis by Product Type (Fluid, IC Engine, Air), by Application (Motor Vehicles, Consumer Applications, Utilities, Industrial & Manufacturing) and Segment Forecasts To 2024.” June 2016.


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