Nonwoven materials typically have a low profile, but their impact on making lives better can’t be overstated. Let us explore these versatile, remarkable materials and the many ways they make life better.
By Gwen Moran
Perhaps no type of textile touches lives in more varied ways than nonwoven fabrics. Manufactured in engineered sheets or webs of intermingled fibers, the fabric is treated mechanically, thermally or chemically to instill various properties like absorption, flexibility or strength. The result is a wide range of materials that have become critical improvements to many important industries.
Safer medicine: Virtually the entire medical industry relies on nonwoven fabrics to make medical treatment and procedures safer and more sterile. From masks, gloves and surgical scrub suits to isolation gowns and porous medical packaging that allows gas sterilization, nonwovens are essential in maintaining sanitary medical environments and practices.
Better personal hygiene: Convenient, easy to use, and disposable, nonwovens help consumers address a variety of personal needs. Baby and adult wipes, makeup removal towelettes, feminine hygiene products, and diapers are all made from nonwoven materials. These fabrics are also used to make household wipes, which help keep surfaces clean and disinfected.
Sustainable, durable infrastructure: The International Geosynthetics Society says that up to half of current carbon dioxide emissions in the world today are related to infrastructure development, according to a Nonwoven Industry report.
Nonwovens are reducing the sector’s carbon footprint while playing a key role in reducing pollution, erosion, and other development impact. These textiles are being used for roadway underlayment to build more durable roads, landfill liners to help prevent toxins from leaching into soil and water, erosion control barriers to prevent soil erosion, and many other applications.
Home improvements: Their comfort, light weight, versatility and durability make nonwoven materials a staple in the home. Nonwovens are used to make weather-resistant home wraps and insulation that make home heating and cooling more energy-saving. They are also used in pillows, mattress cores, cushions, and acoustic insulation for appliances and wall paneling, making homes more quiet and comfortable.
Leisurely indulgences: Whether you like to spend your time off pursuing outdoor activities, doing a little shopping, or savoring a hot cup of coffee, nonwovens touch your life. Marine sails, tent materials, shopping bags, and even coffee filters and tea bags are all made from nonwoven textiles.
Better Lives through Better Products
“As consumers become more demanding and products must improve to remain competitive, the manufacturing technology behind these materials needs to change, as well,” says Ingo Mählmann, vice president, Oerlikon Nonwoven. The nonwoven technology team at Oerlikon focuses on developing innovative manufacturing processes that improve textile durability and functionality while maintaining sustainable production standards. Some of these include:
- Nonwoven meltblown technology provides extremely high industrial wipe production capacity without sacrificing quality.
- The joint venture with Teknoweb Materials (TKWM) / Italy offers hybrid technology lines to manufacture high quality wipe nonwovens for a wide variety of end-uses. The technology dispenses with hydro entanglement and subsequent drying resulting in energy and cost savings for customers. The newly-created, combined technology offers considerable synergy potential and the ideal pre-requisites for launching innovative products.
- A new multi-functional forming table for meltblown nonwoven production allows customers to produce various types of meltblown nonwoven textiles with just one production line, enabling customers to develop their own innovative products and differentiate themselves within their markets.
- For the efficient production of needlepunched spunbond nonwovens for geotextile purposes, Oerlikon developed an efficient and disruptive new process. The company will be the first to offer this technology to the marketplace.
“The near future is dedicated to simplify the Oerlikon Nonwoven processes by automation,” Mählmann says. “This is why Oerlikon’s nonwoven business is focusing on intelligent automation and industry 4.0 developments implementing sensors and actor.” As smart machines and innovative new manufacturing approaches continue to evolve, so will the applications and possibilities for nonwovens in even more areas of life.