Innovation on a roll…
For the past two decades at successive INDEX™ exhibitions, EDANA, the international association serving the nonwovens and related industries, has been recognising new product developments from the nonwovens manufacturing supply chain that are likely to contribute to advances in the industry.
“With World Creativity and Innovation day taking place on April 21st this year, it’s worth looking back and examining the winning products and services recognised by the INDEX™ Innovation Awards over the past twenty years,” says EDANA’s General Manager Pierre Wiertz. “It is products such as these which are helping to drive our industry forward, and create a stronger industry, with solutions in so many different product categories and sectors.”
In nonwoven roll goods alone, the advances these products have made have sometimes been in surprising ways.
Twenty years ago, for example, at INDEX™99 in Geneva, McAirlaid’s, which was then a new company and quickly became an established player with extensive production facilities in both Germany and the USA, received one of the first INDEX™ Innovation Awards for its development of a pre-manufactured airlaid absorbent core.
This product incorporated superabsorbent powders into the airlaid nonwoven without the use of either binders or adhesives and in use just had to be unwound and cut. As such, it was viewed back in 1999 as an important and environmentally-friendly tool for use in the creation of thinner hygienic disposables – a field in which the nonwovens industry has made tremendous strides.
However, the product turned out to be a must-have in another often overlooked area for the application of nonwoven technologies –that of food protection.
As nonwoven pads, the McAirlaid’s product proved perfect for supplying the controlled liquid absorption which helps meat stay fresh and attractive for longer, as well as absorbing excess moisture and juice to ensure the enhanced preservation of fruit and vegetables.
Absorbent nonwoven pads have subsequently made a significant impact on the food industry, resulting in products that are less likely to be discarded, either by the retailer or the consumer, and as a consequence greatly reducing waste.
McAirlaid’s continues to operate in the parallel markets of food protection and hygienic disposables, among others, in 2014 receiving an INDEX™ Innovation Award for FruitPads – nonwovens specifically engineered to protect sensitive berries and soft fruits through the logistics chain while minimising the risk of bacteria and mould – and a year later an Innovation Award at INDA’s Hygienix conference in the USA for its development of the X-Top Pouch for Men, an advanced product for discrete adult incontinence.
Another INDEX™ Innovation Award winner twenty years ago was Germany’s Sandler for its Sawascreen pleatable filter media based on meltblown synthetic fibres.
The significance of pleated synthetic nonwovens in filtration – in effectively providing the largest possible filtration surface in the smallest space while being able to replace products based on glass fibres – has subsequently become apparent.
Sandler’s Sawascreen now consists of two fine fibre meltblown nonwoven layers that are combined without the need for chemical binders and in which the fibres are highly aligned lengthwise. It provides the contour precision and pleat stability required to ensure long-term performance and can easily withstand the high mechanical pressure applied in the pleating process. This guarantees accurately shaped and extremely stable pleats providing the widest surface area possible throughout the filter’s lifetime.
Sandler claimed another INDEX™ Innovation Award in 2014 for its Fibercomfort, which is expanding the market for nonwovens in the construction sector by effectively replacing wood with a single solution for roof insulation based only on nonwovens – a product which is lighter than alternatives and potentially recyclable.
On the subject of recycling, Freudenberg’s Lutraflor – a 100% recycled polyester for use in automotive upholstery – received notable recognition in 2011.
Lutraflor can be completely recycled at end-of-life and is characterised by very high abrasion resistance as a result of the combination of its layers of staple fibre, which allow an excellent surface to be achieved, and spunlaid webs, which provide the mechanical stability.
At its Italian locations in Novedrate and Pisticci Scalo, as well as in Colmar, France, Freudenberg is now recycling literally billions of PET bottles for nonwovens and is the largest user of recycled PET flakes in the European construction industry.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö has twice claimed the INDEX™ Nonwoven Roll Goods Innovation Award.
Its Disruptor is a wetlaid filter technology used in pleated, spiral wound, disc or flat sheet media formats. The key to its effectiveness is the grafting of alumina nanofibres onto microglass fibres and it has been proven to remove a wide range of contaminants from water, including bacteria, virus, lead, tin, copper, chrome 3 and aluminium as well as colloidal minerals such as carbon dust and silica. Its characteristics make it an alternative to membranes for many applications. Disruptor’s development sprang from the three-layer activated carbon nonwoven for which Ahlstrom-Munksjö claimed the award in 2005.
The most recent winner of the INDEX™ Innovation Award in the Nonwoven Roll Goods category was Berry Global for its Nuvisoft – a new material developed in response to consumer demand for softness, comfort and discretion, which also provides improved cost-in-use and barrier performance for hygienic disposables. Nuvisoft is based on Berry’s proprietary spunmelt technology and combines a unique filament profile geometry with a soft bond pattern. It allows for enhanced coverage at lighter weights, lower air permeability, denser winding and also improved printing.
There is not the space here to mention the many new developments that have been noted in the categories of finished products, raw materials, machinery, marketing and sustainability, but suffice to say, there will be many more innovations to be discovered at INDEX™20 in Geneva.