What are Nonwovens? (Part-2)

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In my last article on Nonwovens , we discussed the non-woven fabrics, their manufacturing process, and how they are different than woven fabrics in depth. In this part, we are going to cover the applications and advantages of using non-wovens over its other counterparts.

Applications of Non-wovens

The properties of nonwovens depend highly on the fiber characteristics, its processing conditions, and the bonding and finishing process and materials used. [1] Due to their unique fabric structures, nonwovens find numerous applications in varied fields. Nonwovens are also treated as alternatives for technical textiles and geotextiles in many industries, especially in the healthcare and automotive industries.

Nonwovens fabrics can be specially engineered to suit different applications. Some of the most common applications of nonwoven fabrics are in [2]:

  • Medical Filed 

    Medical field sees multiple uses of various nonwovens. It is used in manufacturing isolation and surgical gowns, drapes and covers, masks, scrub suits, caps, gloves, shoe covers, wipes, etc. nonwovens are also used in medical packaging as their porosity can permit gas sterilization. It is used in making wound dressings, plasters, and also in drug delivery. Nonwoven fabrics are highly used in the modern, disposable, absorbent hygiene products, which has substantially improved the quality of life for millions, globally. In medical use, nonwoven fabrics find their use in surgical (both implantable and non-implantable), extracorporeal and healthcare and hygiene products. Nonwoven fabrics are also used in making artificial skin, wound contact layer, scaffold plasters, wadding, elastic, non-elastic and compression bandages and gauze dressings. [3]

  • Filtration

    Nonwoven fabrics are suited for use in gasoline, oil and air filtration. They are used as filters for water, as tea bags and coffee filters, in the pharmaceutical industry, in mineral processing, as liquid cartridge and bag filters, as vacuum bags, etc.

  • Geotextiles

    In geotextiles, nonwoven fabrics are often used as sandbags for soil and foundation stabilization, road underlayment, in drainage systems, for erosion control, etc. Compared to woven fabrics, nonwoven fabrics are more robust, and hence, are used more in erosion prevention projects.

  • Others

    Apart from the specific medical and geotextiles uses, nonwoven fabrics are used often in diapers, feminine hygiene projects, in packaging, insulation, upholstery padding, sleeping bags, surfboards, etc.

Nonwoven fabrics hence find their application in fields of hygiene, agriculture, building, civil engineering, upholstery, filtration, medical, floor covering, interlinings, and footwear, technical textiles, garments and coating substrates. [3]

Advantages of Non-wovens

The biggest advantage that nonwoven fabrics offer is the vast versatility that engineering changes can bring in to their properties. Nonwoven fabrics are dynamic and cheap at the same time, making them ideal for use in many functions, especially in the fields which require single-use disposables like medical applications.

The various advantages that nonwoven fabric offers over its woven and knitted counterparts are [4]:

Better strength per weight basis

  • Better uniformity
  • Higher tensile and tear strengths
  • Form holding capabilities in the Z direction
  • Dimensional stability
  • Application specific engineering
  • Consistent performance even at high temperatures
  • Customized product development capabilities
  • Cost-effectiveness both at high and low volume production runs
  • Ability to form composites required for higher performance
The Future of Nonwovens

Nonwoven fabrics have reported one of the highest growth rates in the textile fields in recent times. Over the past decade, the use of textile fibers in nonwoven fabrics has highly surpassed the fiber used in other forms of textile products (woven, knitted, etc.).

Technological advancements, recent product developments, and growing consumer awareness are adding to the popularity of nonwovens globally. Medical and hygiene industries are also growing their adoption of nonwoven products.

The Asia-Pacific region is expected to provide a major role for the nonwovens market primarily due to emerging economies in China and India, accompanied by the growing awareness among customers.
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The global nonwoven market value in 2015 was at US$ 37 billion and is expected to grow up to US$50 billion in 2020. [5]

Asia has already emerged as the biggest consumer for nonwoven fabrics, overtaking Europe and American in the past decade. Amongst all the nonwoven varieties, spun-laid nonwovens remain the most demanded nonwovens, owing to their massive use in medical textile fields. By 2020, the spun-laid nonwoven fabric consumption is predicted to reach up to 6.3 million tones globally. [5]

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In the coming future, disposable nonwovens are expected to experience higher growth than durable nonwovens.

Because the raw materials used for the production of nonwovens mostly include synthetic polymers and fibres. They represent more than 90 percent of overall output. Currently, polypropylene (PP) is the major raw material used for global nonwovens.

Polypropylene is the largest used raw material in nonwoven production. There is hence a tremendous growth opportunity in this segment.

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