The development of non-woven materials is one of the greatest innovations in the textile industry. Who would have thought that such materials could meet the needs of millions of consumers during a pandemic, let alone daily life! We’re talking personal care, hygiene, medical, wipes, surgical fabrics, liquid and gas filtration, protective clothing, floor-covers, food packaging, automotive manufacturing, building and roofing, structural engineering, and geo-synthetics. Current life would be impossible without them.
So, what’s left? A dazzling array of innovation, actually. Let’s take a look at a few of these trends.
Non-woven in the age of COVID-19
Clearly medical non-woven disposables have become essential products in the age of COVID-19. However, pandemic aside, medical-grade non-woven disposables are a huge trend, becoming increasingly important in preventing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), surgical site infections (SSIs), and cross-contamination challenges.
A number of preoperative and postoperative infection prevention guidelines by the World Health Organization (WHO) have mandated the efficacy of medical nonwoven disposables in reducing the rate of cross-contamination and preventing patients from picking up infections on the operating table. This has bolstered the adoption of medical non-woven disposables across hospitals worldwide.
Nonwovens can be imbued with certain treatments to make them antimicrobial, which is ideal for medical applications. Options vary and are typically based on how the end-product will be used, whether it is a medical garment or a wound dressing. Plus, nonwoven fabrics can be made strong and lightweight, with characteristics appropriate for wound care such as absorbency, fabric resilience, softness, and the ability to stretch. Combined with other materials such as adhesives — something we’re watching closely — nonwovens can be used to create a barrier product that is easily applied and removed.
Watch for new and prominent manufacturers to engineer and innovate disposable non-woven fabrics that are sterile, liquid-repellent, antimicrobial, and have significant anti-bacterial and flame retardant functionalities. Plus, 3D biological tissue engineering and implantable fabrics that can reinforce natural tissues aren’t too far off!
Absorbent Hygiene Products & Wipes
Personal care and hygiene are of the utmost importance when increasing the quality of life for women, men, and children everywhere. Especially in the developing world.
Feminine care products have undergone a revolution from thick and uncomfortable reusable products to become easy-to-use disposable ultra-thin and non-visible, while panty-liners have become a daily-use alternative for women everywhere. Watch for the development of absorbent panties, using non-woven fibers to absorb bodily fluids without the use of pads or tampons.
Baby diapers, the biggest category in hygiene products, is evolving. Although fluff pulp combined with super absorbent polymers are used in most diapers, more recent developments feature an absorbent core with no fluff pulp. The thinner products reduce shelf space, bring down transportation costs, and add to efforts on sustainability and environmental friendliness. Watch for innovative manufacturers to develop bio-degradable, disposable, or even reusable, diapers.
Another major category? Adult incontinence products. Although a fairly new segment, growth is rapid due to the rise of our aging population. People today live longer and stay active many more years than their grand-parents. But, with higher age, many other problems occur. Watch for the development of seamless, disposable, microbial, absorbent undergarments, using non-woven fibers to absorb bodily fluids as well as odor.
Another huge segment, and still rapidly, growing is wipes. Wet wipes help improve personal hygiene when water is scarce or when traveling. They make it easy to wash the little ones when changing diapers or just in all situations to clean hands, face, body, or even pets. Other uses can be found in cleaning surfaces at home, cars, and many technical areas. Some of the new wipes can also provide disinfection from various types of bacteria and viruses. Such wipes will become increasingly valuable in the future. That is if manufacturers can solve the bio-degradable issue. You may have heard of wet wipes forming “fatbergs” in sewers and wet wipe reefs on the River Thames. Watch for innovations in green non-woven wipes and hygiene products, ones that will rapidly break down or dissolve before entering the world’s waterways.
Splicing Solutions for NonWoven Materials
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Active and Intelligent packaging
Active packaging involving non-wovens is primarily in the food packaging market. Food pads made from non-wovens including super-absorbents are the major current application. This type of active packaging usually interacts with the environment within the pack via chemical or biological action to extend shelf life or freshness, ensuring perishable foods reach consumers in a safe condition and are still appetizing to eat. Think: fresh meat pads in grocery stores. Drugs and hazardous chemicals will also use non-wovens in their active and intelligent packaging.
The advantages of using nonwovens in food and beverage:
- Easy to recycle and compost
- Easy to convert into pads and shapes
- High tear resistance
- Prolong shelf-life
Watch for sophisticated packaging solutions that will eliminate bio-activity, and monitor for known problems like e-coli or salmonella and communicate immediately to controllers.
Building, Construction & Automotive Manufacturing
With increasing oil prices, climate change, and building codes on energy efficiency and fire resistance, nonwovens can provide cost-effective and efficient solutions to building and construction challenges. Specifically, in the areas of insulation, house wrap, roofing underlayment and composites, air and vapor barrier solutions, drainage, and ground stabilization. Watch for innovative solutions in housewrap offerings, such as non-perforated, polymeric house wrap material and translucency, and breathable, yet impervious roofing underlays.
Nonwoven fabrics are widely used in automotive manufacturing, even if the driver or passenger doesn’t know it. While there may not actually be 101 uses for non-woven in a vehicle, there are around 40 different applications. As a matter of fact, on average there are around 38 yards of nonwoven fabrics inside every vehicle.
According to EDANA, cars using non-wovens in every possible component have 30% less of an impact on the environment from less CO2 production. Environmental concerns continue to grow from governmental groups and leaders to individuals. Children are being raised to “think green.” Watch for future vehicles to utilize an even greater percentage of nonwovens in components due to environmental concerns, restrictions, and safety conditions.
Lastly, it all comes down to performance. With non-wovens, there is no need to just guess or hope that a fabric will perform according to your specifications. Synthetic nonwoven fabrics can be engineered with your characteristic requirements like specific softness, thickness, fire-retardant, elasticity, filtration, lightweight, tear-resistant. It’s pretty amazing what today’s technology can offer us in nonwoven production.
As a supplier to this evolving and critical industry, we are watching trends and working closely with our non-woven customers to develop solutions to speed the introduction of new products to the market. Every time a new nonwoven fabric is introduced, tape often has to be tested and reevaluated to ensure stickiness. Indeed, the chemical nature of the non-woven fabrics must be considered when choosing the right tape to splice, tab, and core start a roll. With technical innovations happening regularly, solving this problem is a collaborative effort.
If you are searching for a new tape for your non-woven application, or are having challenges with your specific splicing, tabbing, or core starting project, please reach out. We love to solve tape challenges! No matter what industry you are in, it’s an excellent time to consider or reconsider non-woven materials. Like never before, innovation and investment are critical as the market continues to expand.