The nonwoven industry has grown to present a broad array of engineered fiber- and polymer-based products driven by innovative, fully automated processes.
By Dr. Behnam Pourdeyhimi, Technical Editor
When compared to previous ITMA events, the nonwovens machinery industry embraced ITMA 2015 more.
Sustainability was the major theme at ITMA that dominated some of the sessions, discussions and awards. Almost entirely, the nonwovens exhibitors had some degree of focus on sustainability.
Notably, some established leaders in the nonwovens segment did not participate in ITMA 2015. This is partly because the nonwovens industry continues to be organized differently and separately from the textile industry. What differentiates the nonwovens and the textile industries is primarily the product sector. Nonwovens are not used in fashion and apparel. Furthermore, to compete in a global economy and offer low cost products — disposable, but not always — requires that the labor component of the total cost be very low. Therefore, high speed, large volume and full automation is required. This in turn, means that short runs and flexibility in offerings becomes limited. The nonwoven industry has grown to represent a broad array of engineered fiber- and polymer-based products that are driven by high-speed, low-cost, innovative, value-added, fully automated processes. This has led to a separation from the more traditional textile machinery industry, which has primarily focused on apparel end products and customization.
Companies exhibiting at ITMA in the nonwovens realm primarily focused on the conversion of staple fibers into nonwovens through carding/crosslapping, pseudo airlay, and associated bonding technologies. Often, nonwoven exhibiting companies have also offerings for the broader textile industry, and see an opportunity through participation in a show like ITMA. Innovations focused on higher speeds, lower energy consumption, and the ability to recycle textile products into other useful products, among other innovations. EDANA — the international association for the nonwovens and related industries — was at ITMA and hosted a program focused on the use of nonwovens most likely as a way to make the broader textile community aware of opportunities in nonwovens.
Major nonwoven companies that participated in ITMA include Austria-based Andritz AG — representing Perfojet, Asselin-Thibeau and Küsters — Germany-based Autefa Solutions Germany GmbH, Italy-based Bematic® (Bettarini & Serafini S.r.l.), Italy-based Cormatex S.r.l., Germany-based Dilo Group, Switzerland-based Groz-Beckert KG, France-based Laroche S.A. and Germany-based Trützschler GmbH & Co. KG.
DiloGroup has been a major innovator in the area of process technologies for staple products and continues to be a major innovator in the field of machinery for forming staple-fiber products from hygiene to industrial applications. The company showcased the fastest-ever crosslapper at the show. A high-speed nonwoven card was demonstrated feeding the crosslapper at a speed of more than 200 meters per minute (m/min).
As a company in the field of complete staple-fiber nonwoven production lines, DiloGroup traditionally exhibits complete lines to show the latest developments in all components. At ITMA 2015, its line included fiber preparation — opening and blending — from DiloTemafa; cards and card feeding from DiloSpinnbau; and crosslappers and needlelooms from DiloMachines.
DiloGroup showed two complete lines to illustrate the broad scope of its machinery portfolio including a staple-fiber needling line for technical textiles production in a working width of 7 meters especially suited to the production of automotive and geotextile products.
Fiber preparation equipment on display from DiloTemafa included the latest generation BTDL bale opener, which is suitable for processing longer fibers. New design elements allow longer cleaning intervals with reduced cleaning time. The dosing opener fed the fibers via its fine opening stage to the new UniFeed card feeder type VRS-P, which combines the principle of volumetric charged feeding with the characteristics of a vibration chute feeder and eliminates a conventional large trunk on the top. A lower required ceiling height likely will lead to costs savings in building construction, and the new feeding system is reported to result in a better and more homogeneous distribution of the fiber flocks.
Dilo also highlighted the new VectorQuadroCard known as the VQC. This card incorporates a new modular transfer group between the breast and main section. The flexible and quick change of this transfer group makes possible three different card types:
type VQ-Q with a Quattro group to improve web evenness and fiber blending, arranged as a double transfer between pre-opener and main cylinder with two doffers and two transfer rollers to the main cylinder;
type VQ-V with a top doffer together with a transfer roller and a lower transfer roller to increase the throughput by using the doubling effect between pre-opener and main cylinder; and
type VQ-T with only one transfer roller between pre-opener and main cylinder.
The model series VQC uses four worker/stripper pairs of rollers on the pre-opener and five worker/stripper pairs on the main cylinder.
The Dilo VQC exhibited at ITMA had a working width of 3.2 meters and was feeding the new crosslapper Super-DLSC 200, which offers electromechanical speeds of up to 200 m/min for web infeed speeds, depending on the fibers used. Crosslappers historically have been the bottleneck in the high-speed production of heavy lapped webs.
This very high web infeed speed has been made possible by a further increase of the drive power within the three-apron-layering technology. All drives for the aprons and the layering carriages are direct water-cooled torque motors that improve the acceleration with reduced gear wear.
Dilo also displayed a second line, known as the DCL Dilo-Compact Line with working width of 2.2 meters. The compact line is designed for the production of high quality felts used in the medical sector and for specialty felts made from fibers such as carbon. The working width of the compact carding machine was 1.1 meters, while the lapper working width is 2.2 meters. The crosslapper was followed by the X22 Dilo needle module technology designed especially for use with the Hyperpunch and Cyclopunch. Lastly, the line included a new needling technology referred to as VPX 2020. The new Variopunch technology is designed to erase bad spots in the felt by using a variable needle arrangement in order to achieve better evenness of the stitching pattern. This is critical for better surface quality in automotive applications for example.
Andritz also offers complete lines produced in three key regions in Europe. France-based Andritz Asselin-Thibeau and Andritz Perfojet, as well as Germany-based Andritz Küsters form the nonwoven platform within the Andritz Group. Andritz Nonwoven provides turnkey solutions for spunlace, needlepunch, wetlaid/wetlace, and finishing of nonwovens and textiles.
Similar to DiloGroup, Andritz also offers a dynamic crosslapper that reaches speeds of more than 200 m/min. Only a few years ago, crosslappers speeds so high were a dream, and 100 m/min was typical.
Andritz Nonwoven exhibited neXecodry, an energy-efficient drying solution for the spunlace industry. This new Andritz technology offers nonwovens producers a significant reduction in energy consumption. The company indicated that it is receiving positive feedback from customers.
Andritz also offers the high-performance wetlace process for flushable, dispersible, and biodegradable wipes. According to the company, flushable wipes produced using the Andritz wetlace process exceed the EDANA/Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry flushability standards. The original wetlace process combines wetlaid and hydroentanglement technologies, proven for producing flushable wipes from 100-percent natural and/or renewable raw materials without chemical binders. Another feature of this technology is its ability to apply detailed artwork to flushable wipes. The unique patterning and aperture process allows wipes producers to differentiate their products clearly with an almost unlimited number of possible patterns.
By optimizing needlepunch production with a new high-speed crosslapper and Scada automation system, Andritz focuses on system solutions in needlepunching by steering the complete production process. The new high-speed dynamic crosslapper D.630 from Andritz Asselin-Thibeau enables an increase of needlepunch production line capacity. In combination with the ProDyn system, the D.630 is capable of reaching an infeed speed of up to 200 m/min. The IsoProDyn system helps to further improve the product quality for light fabrics.
The Andritz Scada system allows recipes to be reproduced quickly and operators receive the relevant production information in real time. It also provides a means of monitoring the production costs of every product reference.
Another major innovation by Andritz related to its utmost flexibility in calendering, especially for technical textiles. The calender experts from Andritz Küsters develop customized solutions for nonwovens and textiles. The teXcal trike 3-roll textile calender has been developed especially for the demands of modern technical textiles production. It is equipped with a heated steel roll and two individually adjustable system rolls in a triangular roll arrangement, thus allowing the fabric to be fed through the front nip, the rear nip, or both.
Compared to the traditional three-roll calender design with vertical roll configuration, the fabric loss at the seam passage is reduced to a minimum. On an annual production scale, this yields a substantial economic advantage. The optional teXmaster control system offers a broad spectrum of facilities for recording data, managing recipes, issuing alarm signals, conducting data analysis, and displaying trends. It also provides closed-loop operation for inline quality measurements on the product.
Autefa Solutions also participated in ITMA and displayed a number of new innovations.
The Futura Card is designed to improve maintenance. Autefa has completely reworked its Easy Opening System. The old system was based on carriages running on wheels, which in fact provided an easy opening of the card. However the settings of the card — distance of the rollers — had to be readjusted after closing the machine. The new system is placed on high precision linear bearings, and therefore, after closing, all rollers are exactly in the same position as before. The carriages are connected to each other by one screw on each side forming a train. The train can be moved from one side, so depending on where the carriages are disconnected, the card can be opened at each point desired. Additionally, the carriages can be moved in a way that the bottom delivery doffer is accessible for rewiring our removal without removing any other part of the card.
The second improvement is the use of Autefa Zeroflex system. This is a prebending of the rollers to reduce their deflection by a factor of around 5. This is extremely useful for cards with high working width, but also will improve quality at standard working widths around 2.5 meters. For this system, Autefa also had to reinforce the side frame.
On the second main cylinder, a fifth worker/stripper pair was added. The last or the two last workers on the second main cylinder have a separate drive, so their speed can be controlled independently from the other workers.
The company also added improvements such as the integration of fans/dust suction and cable ducts into the card housing, a new reinforced overhead feeding plate in the feeding section, a rework of the card covers to increase the opening angles for better accessibility, or the standardization of roller diameters to reduce the number of different spare parts needed.
Most notable is the Autefa introduction of a hydroentangling system including a new Square Drum Dryer. This means that Autefa can now sell turnkey spunlace lines. These lines can include components like the Injection cards, the new Futura card or the Topliner crosslappers.
The key differentiation for Autefa’s hydroentangling lies in its V-Jet. This is a patented jet-strip design that reduces the distance from nozzle to material by approximately 20 to 25 millimeters. Autefa reports the new jet strip can reduce the pressure by 15 to 25 percent while keeping the tensile strength constant when compared to a standard jet strip. Lower pressure means lower water consumption, which can translate to additional energy savings. Autefa estimates that the energy savings can be as much as 25 to 40 percent. The use of V-Jet requires redesigning the injector as well.
The Square Drum Dryer SQ-V combines high evaporation capacity with high energy efficiency, and — as the name implies — it is indeed a square. Most ovens use approximately 1 kilowatt hour per kilogram (kWh/kg) of material at 70 percent residual humidity. Autefa claims the new dryer can do the same at 0.75 kWh/kg of material. The company reports a lab line for semi-commercial use already has been sold, and soon, it will have commercial systems in place.
Groz-Beckert exhibited numerous product innovations and new developments at the show all presented in a completely new booth concept with a new corporate design. The company estimates it welcomed more than 10,000 visitors to its booth during ITMA to view its “transparent” insights. Groz-Beckert chose realistic seeming textile machinery made of clear acrylic for knitting, weaving, felting, tufting, carding and sewing product presentation. This made the area of application quite visible and highlighted the interaction of the various components.
One novelty was the presentation of the new carding product range, which complements the existing service program around card clothing with a corresponding product portfolio including card wires and clothings for the short-staple and long-staple spinning industry as well as for the nonwovens industry.
With some 70,000 different product types, Groz-Beckert serves the fields of knitting and warp knitting, weaving, tufting, carding, sewing, and nonwoven manufacturing. The company develops, produces and sells machine needles, precision parts and fine tools as well as systems for the production and joining of textile surfaces.
In the fields of felting and nonwovens, Groz-Beckert offers more than 1,500 needles for flat needling or structuring, as well as jet strips for hydroentanglement. Typical fields of application include technical textiles for geological applications such as nonwoven drainage fabrics, air filters for filtration uses and car production such as luggage compartment linings.
Vertical Lapping: V-Lap
An interesting surprise seen at ITMA was the rebirth of vertical lapping. Australia-based V-Lap Pty. Ltd. presented its new vertical lapping system. The company participated at ITMA 2011, but as a start-up, did not make get much notice.
Vertical lapping is not new. Known to many as struto, vertical lapping is well known within the industry. Struto describes a nonwoven structure where all the fibers are orientated in the vertical position. This gives the highest possible resilience and recovery after repeated compression at varying levels of thicknesses, and differentiates the product it from lapped webs or highloft airlaid products.
V-Lap offers turnkey systems and exhibited a number of interesting products for the various sectors such as automotive, bedding, seating, and also clothing and acoustical materials.
Vertical lapping is an interesting technology and will undoubtedly find many niche applications where the unique properties of the structure will warrant its use.
Germany-based Trützschler GmbH & Co. KG has become a dominant player in the area of nonwovens through organic growth, and also through acquisitions including Erko and Fleissner. The company’s development of needlepunching, aircard systems, staple-fiber production and crosslapping, hydroentangling equipment, and carding technologies capable of dealing with recycled materials allows them to offer complete turnkey systems. Trützschler Nonwovens focuses on a variety of manufacturing processes, especially those dealing with web bonding. The company now offers a full array of process technologies for staple-fiber nonwovens including, but not limited to, staple-fiber production, carding, needlepunching, hydroentangling and thermal bonding, and coating.
The company had many developments for nonwovens. Trützschler now offers a modular version of the Fleissner AquaJet for custom fit and easy conversions. Three compaction and four dewatering systems now are available as standard modules for the AquaJet. If the process requirements change, the systems can easily be exchanged. This degree of flexibility provides opportunities for various product lines without significant changes in equipment.
A patent-pending, replaceable structuring shell allows the production of fluffy webs with permanent 3-D structures using a thermal bonding process in Trützschler’s Omega oven. This process allows for some interesting structures.
According to Trützschler, bonding processes via binding agents can be significantly accelerated using the new high-speed liquid foulard, which offers a speed advantage of up to 50 percent. The significant speed advantage is based on special geometries and roll surfaces. The result is an increased economic efficiency in the production of lightweight, chemically bonded nonwovens.
A new patent-pending bearing concept from Trützschler for the crankshaft allows higher production speeds. The bearing is completely sealed, which results in significantly longer maintenance intervals, according to the company.
Flushable wipes can be produced by coupling the wet-laid web with hydroentangling. Voith Paper has been collaborating with Trützschler for some time to create a new process for flushable wipes. The Voith HydroFormer together with the AquaJet from Trützschler Nonwovens is a powerful combination with far-reaching applications beyond the production of flushable wipes. The first Voith-Trützschler installation has been successfully commissioned, according to the companies. There will undoubtedly be other developments that combine wet-lay with hydroentangling in the future.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Behnam Pourdeyhimi associate dean for Industry Research and Extension, and the William A. Klopman Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles. He also serves as the executive director of The Nonwovens Institute, Raleigh, N.C.