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What's Going on in Nonwovens?

Author: Dave Rousse, President, INDA 

Posted: February 2, 2017

Dave Rousse, INDA

As it’s the beginning of the New Year, I’d like to share what is going on in nonwovens... basically growth and innovation. In this article, I will discuss the growth, and next month, what’s at the forefront of nonwovens innovation.

  

Nonwovens are growing in North America through continued investments, investments in capacity and through mergers and acquisitions. INDA has noticed an acceleration of capacity investments. Capacity investments slowed between 2012 through 2014, as the decision to make those investments occurred during the Great Recession.

Nonwovens normally outpace real GDP; in the twenty-five-year period from 1990 through 2015, nonwoven capacity in North America expanded 5.4% annually, compared to U.S. real GDP of 2.4% a year. During 2012 through 2014, however, capacity growth slowed to 1.3% annually. In 2015 the post-recession growth began to rebound, increasing 2.7%. Last year, though, it expanded 5.1%, a growth of 153,000 tonnes. This year, INDA is aware of at least another 112,000 tonnes coming online, a growth of 3.6%. This number will undoubtedly rise as we go through the year.

  

The growth is interesting: there are companies that currently have production assets in North America adding more; then we have companies that currently do have a footprint in North America investing in production assets, from companies in countries such as Germany, Turkey and China; and then we have companies that were not in nonwovens investing in nonwoven production, such as Carver Nonwoven Technologies and U.S. Cotton. The growth is also occurring across a range of production processes and towards a variety of end-use categories; it is not all one process going to one end use. There is a wide range of processes being added to meet growth in a wide range of end-uses. The majority of these production facilities are in the U.S. Southeast (Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina), with 10 of the 17 new lines from 2016 and 2017 located there.

 

Three Specific Markets for Nonwoven Growth Opportunities

  

You may wonder what is driving all this growth. Nonwoven growth has been occurring through existing end-use market growth taking share from other materials, and in entirely new uses. Three specific end-uses of notable growth I would like to address are wipes, absorbent hygiene, and transportation.

 

Wipes, so many wipes, it seems every day I see a new wipe introduction in North America. There currently is no end in sight for wipes growth, as anything that is a product that is a liquid, cream, or gel can be applied by a wipe. Both household wipes – as there now is a wipe for every corner of the household, including the sink – and personal care wipes are experiencing significant growth through increased usage in existing categories to the growth in new categories within those segments.

 

The largest nonwoven end use is the absorbent hygiene category. The main drivers are demographics, an aging population with increased life expectancy, and in the U.S. the forecasted Echo Boom, that is the Boomers’ children having children. A few years ago, one had very few choices in incontinence products, especially for light incontinence, which impacts 4 out of 10 women ages 18 through 64 in the United States. Now when one walks down the personal hygiene aisle, there are numerous products available to fit the consumer’s needs, including gender-specific items.

 

In transportation, primarily light vehicles, nonwovens have proven themselves extremely versatile, saving resources and making vehicles quieter and more comfortable. Automakers are under pressure to lower weights and take out heavy metal parts, replacing them with lighter-weight products such as composite material in door paneling, wheel wells, engine compartments, and underbody shields. Not only is this end-use growing through nonwovens taking share away from other materials in vehicles, but more vehicles are being sold in North America – 7 years of expanding sales.

 

A greater percentage of those vehicles are being produced in North America at an ever-increasing size. In the United States the 2016 sales ratio of light trucks (including cross-overs, minivans, and SUV’s) to automobiles was 60:40; as recently as 2013 it was 50:50.

 

Acquisitions

 

All of this growth and attractiveness in the nonwovens sector is generating a significant amount of M&A activity, mostly acquisitions. There are adjacent companies acquiring nonwoven companies, such as Berry Plastics acquisition of Avintiv, which raised the awareness of the sector in the investment banker community. Adjacent companies are also acquiring nonwoven related companies, such as Parker Hannifin purchase of Clarcor. CPG companies have also shown an interest in nonwoven relation companies with Unilever’s acquisition of Seventh Generation and S.C. Johnson’s purchase of Babyganics.

 

There are also paper companies investing in and acquiring nonwoven companies, such as Schweitzer-Mauduit International’s acquisitions of DelStar and Domtar’s acquisitions of EAM Corporation, Associated Hygienic Products (AHP), Attends Healthcare Limited (Attends Europe), Laboratorios Indas, SAU (Indas), Butterfly Health, and Home Delivery Incontinent Supplies. Then there are nonwoven companies acquiring other nonwoven companies, such as Lydall acquiring Texel.

 

The North American nonwovens are a successful, growing, continuously evolving, dynamic and diverse industry. The outlook for the North American nonwovens industry is very encouraging, not only with the positives of improving economic outlook and demographic trends that are positive for nonwoven usage, but also growth by the inherent nature of nonwoven being an engineered fabric. 

 

As nonwovens can be engineered to meet specific performance attributes for a specific end use, the gaining of share from other materials in existing end uses and the ability to enter entirely new end uses will continue to be catalysts for nonwovens’ growth. Further, as nonwoven material tends to stay where it is produced, and as the demand for nonwovens increases, further capacity investments will be needed in North America.

 

Dave Rousse became INDA's President in late 2012 following over 15 years' experience in nonwoven producing companies and an entire career in engineered materials since graduating from Dartmouth and its associated Engineering and Business schools. Rousse was President, Hygiene/Medical Americas at Fiberweb in Simpsonville, SC before being promoted in 2007 to President of all of Fiberweb Americas and basing in Nashville. Recently, he served as CEO of HydroLogex LLC, a young Nashville-based designer/supplier of proprietary decentralized wastewater treatment systems in the CleanTech sector. Prior to Fiberweb, Rousse was a Vice President at Monadnock Paper Mills, a manufacturer of nonwovens and specialty papers. He was also a Vice President & General Manager at FiberMark Inc., another specialty paper/nonwovens producer. Prior to that he held a series of marketing/sales leadership positions at International Paper.

 

For more information or to contact Mr. Rousse, please contact him at drousse@inda.org.

Steady Growth Prospects for Expanding Specialty Geosynthetics Segment

 

Report Author: Stephen Metzger

Research Company: Smithers Apex

Date Published: October 31, 2016

Obtaining Full Report: http://www.smithersapex.com/market-reports/the-future-of-specialty-geosynthetics-to-2021

 

 

Specialty geosynthetics are forming a cornerstone of the evolving trend for more environmentally sustainable infrastructure and construction.

 

Exclusive data in the new Smithers Apex report – The Future of Specialty Geosynthetics to 2021 – tracks how this market will grow steadily across the next five years driven by greater acceptance of such terrain stabilizing materials, especially in key developing markets like China and India.

 

Global consumption of these plastic products – geotextile, geomembranes, geogrids, geosynthetic clay liners, geowalls and geocomposites – exceeded 8 million tons in 2016 for the first time. This figure will climb above 9 million tons in 2021. A market Smithers values at $16 billion in 2013, is now worth well over $18 billion. This expansion will continue at a year-on-year rate of 2.7% across the next five years to touch $21 billion in 2021; a 15% real terms increase.

 

The advance of specialty geosynthetics can be seen to rest on dual foundations:

     * Expansion of infrastructure building projects

     * Technical advancement, offering the prospect of new better performing                             geosynthetics.

 

The advantage of geosynthetics

 

Expanding demand for geosynthetics is posited on their superior performance compared to accepted, naturally occurring soil stabilizing materials, like cotton, straw or coconut fiber (coir). Using bespoke solutions made from plastics – such as polyurethane (PUR), polypropylene (PP) and various grades of polyethylene – give more durable solutions. This translates into reduced maintenance cycles for site operators and greater safety, by for example better retaining toxic materials, like heavy metals from coal ash deposits.

Smithers comprehensive analysis tracks how a growing body of regulatory requirements directed toward sustainable infrastructure investment, is supporting wider use of these specialist materials.

 

The cost of any specialty manufactured geosynthetic is directly linked to that of its hydrocarbon feedstocks, which are its basic raw material. As these are forecasted to remain fairly constant, or even see slight decline through to the end of decade. Thus, from a supply side perspective the market is favorable with fewer bottlenecks expected.

 

Product types

 

Demand for geosynthetic materials is linked to the applications in which they are used. In 2016, geotextiles represent 47% of world consumption 3.8 billion meters, and 37% of global value. Nearly 87% of these are used in road building or similar transportation applications.

 

Geomembranes account for over 24% of the 2016 world market by value, but slightly less by volume. It principal use (58%) is in roofing for buildings.

 

Waterways, like canals, meanwhile account for the majority of consumption of geocomposites (65%) and geosynthetic clay liner (72%).

 

Geomembranes for all applications will slightly increase market share across 2016-2021, with geotextiles and geowalls declining slightly. Geogrid, geocomposites, and clay liners will maintain their relative market shares against a backdrop of steady expansion for the wider market.

 

This is because market segments for specialty geosynthetics all now have a significant base upon which to build, even as superior products, new regulations and wider use push total demand.

End-use applications

 

Smithers divides the end-uses for specialty geosynthetics into four key applications:

 

    * Transportation – roads and highways, tunnels, and bridges

    * Industrial – Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills and construction debris and                  demolition (CCD)

    * Liquid retention – Coal ash containment ponds and waterways

    * Construction – Principally roofing and building substructures.

 

A brief survey of these shows that specialty geosynthetics use is closely linked to regional and national markets for construction and, in particular, infrastructure projects.

This is, of course, dependent on wider GDP expansion. Any further slowing of the Chinese economy would negatively affect demand, while if the incoming Trump administration’s election pledge of $1 trillion [http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/17/ politics/donald-trump-infrastructure-plan-congress/ ] for infrastructure development is realized it would boost US consumption.

 

Geographic demand

 

Use of specialty geosynthetics today is most common in Western Europe and North America. These represent 32% and 17% respectively of the 8 billion square metres used worldwide in 2016. Asia Pacific is the second largest regional market with a 30% market share in 2016. Asia’s transition economies the fastest growth prospects for 2016-2021 – giving a 3.4% CAGR region wide across this period.

 

China is the key national market in Asia and already accounts for over 60% of specialty geosynthetics consumption. Demand is forecast to remain high, due to initiatives like the 13th Five-Year Plan, which promises to build:

 

     * 10,000km of inter-city rail connections

     *   3,000km of urban rail lines

     * 30,000km of expressways

     * 20,000km of rural roads

     * 50 more civilian airports

 

India is also investing in upgrading its infrastructure – mainly its road network – which will see annual increases of nearly 7% across the Smithers study period. It will remain a market dwarfed by China however, eight times smaller in 2021, despite strong growth.

 

Both India and China will both see a rapid increase in use for liquid containment in MSWs – addressing a long neglected environmental hazard. Their relative growth rates in this application for the five years to 2021 are 12% and 8% respectively.

 

Technical developments

Technical R&D and product evolution in the next five years are likely to focus on five key areas:

 

Metallocene PP

The use of metallocene catalysts used in the production of PP non-wovens is advancing and producing a new generation lighter weight geotextiles. This allows new geosynthetic grades – like Total’s Lumicene MR2001 and MR2002 launched in 2015 – that can deliver the same performance as heavier conventional PP products. Furthermore, they are inert once buried and will not alter the chemical balance of the soil into which they are placed.

 

For manufacturers, there are advantages too in processing metallocene catalyzed PP geosynthetics. These include:

 

     * Increased production throughput,

     * The elimination of the need for peroxides to obtain narrow molecular weight                      distribution and high melt flow indices

     * Less extractables and fumes generated in the factory.

 

Smithers forecasts that innovation on metallocene chemistry will advance across 2016-2021. This will expand the current limited range of lighter weight materials available for a range of geosynthetic applications.

 

Graphene

 

Graphene has been hailed as a pivot for a future materials revolution in a wider range of industries – though scaling production of a material first produced with adhesive tape and pencil graphite has been a major barrier.

 

In April 2016, a small, research-oriented company based in Australia, Imagine Intelligent Materials (IIM), announced the commercial application of graphene coating on geotextiles. It is working with Geofabrics Australasia – Australia's largest geotextile company – to develop a ‘game-changing’ graphene-coated geotextile with advanced leak-detection capabilities. IIM also notes that the improved structural properties of graphene would add considerable strength, with little additional weight, which will help future geosynthetic products meet more robust strength requirements in regulations.

 

The geosynthetics segment is thus likely to devote more money to evolving graphene technology, though the principal hurdle remains achieving volume production at a reasonable price.

 

Nanofibers

 

A more immediate and allied trend for the geosynthetics industry is the evolution of nanofiber non-wovens. Due of their inherently low density and large surface area to mass, nanofiber structure can deliver a nonwoven fabric that is extremely light, adding little weight to applications involving geocomposite structures. These simultaneously promise superior filtration properties – to both liquid and gases.

 

As with graphene the challenge is to transition laboratory grade nanofiber manufacturing to commercial scale. Current platforms rely on conventional, coaxial, melt or emulsion electrospinning technology; though one new approach needleless electrospinning – first described in an academic paper in 2012 – holds more promise for volume manufacturing.

 

Thus, there is every reason to expect commercial-scale nanofiber production during the next 5-10 years, with geosynthetics one of the non-woven segments where this will lead to new more valuable products.

 

Leak detection

 

Two other nanomaterials – nanoparticulate carbon black and carbon nanotubes – are being developed for geosynthetic applications. This proposition relies on their electrical conductivity to enable enhanced geosynthetics that could detect leakages in landfills and coal ash containment structures – a significant environmental issue.

 

Current flowing through – for example, a PP nanotube enhanced sheet – would alter in areas of a geosynthetic subject to additional mechanical stress. This would give an early warning of those areas that are prone to breaking and leakage in liquid containment structures. This in situ real-time monitoring would allow remedial action to be taken more quickly and effectively.

 

As graphene is also highly conductive, it, too, could carry out this function once supply issues are resolved.

 

Production improvements

 

Current processes for producing geosynthetic rely on needlepunch manufacturing processes. Though familiar these have the drawback that they place stress on the fibers as they are manufactured, which diminishes tensile strength (tenacity) during use. New technologies that enable better tenacity via a higher draw ratio, would decrease elongation are under investigation.

 

A similar focus is taking place in geomembranes, with R&D at the likes of US-based Raven Industries aiming to make larger multi-layer blown films. These would offer faster production, stronger films, and hence greater and flexibility in application.

 

The Future of Specialty Geosynthetics to 2021 presents volume and value forecasts by end-use sector and geographic region for this dynamic segment. Following several stages of primary and secondary research, it examines key drivers and trends, which include economic, social and demographic, trends within decorative and the different industrial coatings segments and key new technologies for future innovative high-performance coatings.

 

For more information on the study or to order: 

http://www.smithersapex.com/market-reports/the-future-of-specialty-geosynthetics-to-2021

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Coming Events

  • September 13-15: 56th Dornbirn Man-Made Fibers Congress, Dornbirn, Austria

  • September 13-15: Techtextil India 2017, Mumbai, India

  • September 14-16: International Textile Manufacturer Federation Annual Conference 2017, Bali, Indonesia

  • September 18-21: Sustainable Textile School 2017, Chemnitz, Germany

  • September 26-27: Elementary Nonwovens Training Course, Cary, N.C., USA

  • September 26-28: IFAI Expo 2017, New Orleans, La., USA

  • September 27-29: Outlook 2017, Cascais, Portugal

Click here to view the complete technical textiles events calendar that includes show information links.

Is Saving the US Navy's Peacoat a Matter of National Security?

Since last August, the US Navy has been planning to phase out its iconic traditional wool peacoat in favor of a less expensive, synthetic cold weather parka which is lighter in weight and more versatile in types of inclement weather. It actually replaces two types of coats and the seabag the wool coat is stored.

 

The wool coat, however, has some powerful friends in the US Congress. Companies such as Northwest Woolen Mills in Woonsocket, R.I. and Sterlingware in Boston, Mass. Altogether, the supply chain involved in the manufacture of these woolen peacoats -- including sheep farmers -- is estimated to account for 400 jobs in the Northeast. Add to the drama that the new parka, made by the long-time military supplier Propper, is expected to be manufactured in Puerto Rico, a perceived feeling the new coat will be made by non-American workers. Read more...

 

Steve Warner

Publisher

June 29. 2017

President Trump's Reveals 2017 Trade Policy Agenda

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has released President Trump's 2017 Trade Policy Agenda. The document, officially called 2017 Trade Policy Agenda and 2016 Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreements Program, outlines the new Administration’s four trade priorities:

  • Defending the US National Sovereignty over Trade Policy
  • Strictly Enforcing US Trade Laws
  • Using Leverage to Open Foreign Markets
  • Negotiating New and Better Trade Deals

​BeaverLake6 Report has created a special page within this website and placed the first chapter of the 336-page document which summarizes the policy. Click here to read it. Posted March 2, 2017

What's the NCTO Game Plan for the Post-TPP Era?

Back on March 24, 2016, I was one of the first to predict the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was a dead deal. In fact, I said that I wouldn’t be surprised that, if Donald Trump became President, the agreement is shredded on day one of his new administration. Well, I was off by three days. Yesterday, President Trump signed an Executive Order, officially withdrawing the United States from the TPP agreement. Now the question is can the National Council of Textile Organizations put together a comprehensive plan for the domestic textile industry in a post-TPP era? Click here to read the rest. Posted January 25, 2017

Steady Growth Prospects for Expanding Specialty Geosynthetics

There are literally dozens of market reports for the many market sections and subsections within the technical textiles industry. In 2017, BeaverLake6 Report will be introducing a few of these reports to our viewers. The first report being features is The Future of Spcialty Geosynthetics to 2021. It was developed by Smithers Apex, a market research firm based in the United Kingdom. 

 

In exchange for the promotion, Smithers Apex agreed to write an exclusive expanded executive summary of the market report for our readers. Click here to view the market summary. Posted January 9, 2017

2016 China Textile Innovation Conference Explores the Roads to a Textile Power

Sun Ruizhe

2016 China Textile Innovation Conference, as an annual summit of industry innovation, was held in Beijing on December 12th, 2016. The conference, themed on “New Opportunity, New Advantages, New Vitality” – Stepping Towards a Textile Power, comprehensively summarized the industry innovation achievements and explored the new advantages in development in order to grasp the strategic opportunity of the new round of industrial changes. BeaverLake6 Report is pleased to present a report on the conference via our partnership with China Textile magazine. Please click here. Posted December 21, 2016

In My Opinion

Re-Shoring: Good for the Goose is Not Good for the Gander?

Domestic PFD Manufacturer's Application for FTZ Additional Production Authority Riles Textile Industry Trade Associations. There is a nasty fight taking place these past few months behind the closed doors of Room 48019 at the Herbert C. Hoover Building in Washington, D.C. The room is the office of the Foreign-Trade Zones Board. The fight pits domestic technical textile industry suppliers and a coalition of textile-trade associations against a fairly large domestic end-product cut-and-sew manufacturer. Click here to read the story.

 

Steve Warner

Publisher

Media Partners

In My Opinion

In 2015, I posted more than 425 items of interest for our industry on the BeaverLake6 Report website. In reviewing it all last week, it got me to thinking about putting together a list of influential events, news and trends that I observed during the past year. I have focused primarily on the US marketplace but each of “the things that mattered” to me has global implications.

 

So, here go my thoughts in no particular order of importance. Let me know if you agree or if I have missed some. Click here to read the list.

 

Steve Warner

Publisher

Posted January 17, 2016

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