Spunlace Nonwovens Market Overview
While global investments in equipment are trying to keep up with the growth in the consumption of disposable napkins, new applications of hydro-mixed nonwovens still promise promising results.
Since the demand for disposable napkins is still determined by the measures introduced to combat the pandemic, as well as the general spread of new products in this category, manufacturers of nonwovens "spanlace" have responded to this with a constant flow of investments in the corresponding production lines in both developed and emerging markets. These new lines not only increase the overall global performance of the "spanlace" technology, but also expand the choice of raw materials for manufacturers who are looking for more "sustainable"; solutions for their customers.
According to a report recently published by Smithers, the global nonwovens market "spanlace" reached $7.8 billion in 2021, as new napkin production lines were added in response to the surge in demand caused by Covid-19.
Since increased concern about infection control will help the production of "spanlace" to withstand any recession, it is expected that the cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of this technology will be 9.1% for 2021-2026. This will raise the total market value to more than $12 billion in 2026, as manufacturers will also benefit from the increased use of the material in industry (substrates, geotextiles) and in hygiene.
The Smithers dataset shows that over the same period, the total tonnage of nonwovens "spanlace" will grow from 1.65 million tons (2021) to 2.38 million tons (2026). While the volume of production of nonwovens spanlace will grow from 39.57 billion square meters (2021) to 62.49 billion square meters (2026), which is equivalent to an average annual growth rate of 9.6%, as manufacturers introduce lighter nonwovens.
According to Marco Fano, marketing director of equipment supplier Autefa Solutions, the demand for sustainable nonwovens is obvious and is the leading topic in most discussions with customers in all areas of nonwovens produced by the spunlace method, from napkins to geotextiles and clothing.
"The fact that spunlace products can be produced with an energy consumption of 30% less compared to existing traditional spunlace technologies opens up new markets, even for high fashion products such as artificial leather based on natural leather waste and other environmentally friendly products",– he said.
Suominen, the world leader in the market of nonwovens produced by the spunlace method and other napkin materials, is becoming a leader when it comes to sustainable development. "Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to our customers and other stakeholders," says Senior Vice President Linda Kelly. "We help our customers achieve their own environmental goals by offering them products made, for example, from renewable, recycled, compostable and plastic-free raw materials." These new products included Biolace Pure, a 100% plant-based product with excellent cleansing ability, and Biolace Bamboo, a bamboo-based substrate. Both of these products provide clear advantages in terms of reduced CO2 emissions and less environmental impact.
Price Hanna Consultants
According to David Price, head of Price Hanna Consultants, the pace of investment in nonwovens "spanlace" continues to grow as coronavirus and its variants continue to threaten populations around the world. Although at the beginning of the pandemic, excess technological capacity existed in almost all regions of the world, these capacities were immediately used in the fight against Covid-19, and additional capacities were ordered.
"We don't think that the level of annual investment in nonwovens"spunlace"differs significantly from the level in the pre-pandemic period," he says. "We really think that the slightly increased capacity growth will continue for a longer period time compared to previous periods.
Smithers data show that napkins (children's, home, industrial, personal hygiene products) account for about 64.7% of all spunlace material produced in 2021. By 2026, the highest growth rates of the production of napkins for personal hygiene, as well as napkins for adults and children, wet toilet wipes are predicted. The demand for reusable products will be reduced; although there will be new market opportunities in the field of consumer hygiene, since spunlace is a sustainable alternative to polyester or polypropylene-based nonwovens for applications such as ultra-thin top-sheets for sanitary pads.
As the imminent threat of Covid recedes, the leading trend for transformation in the first half of the 2020s will be the development of more environmentally friendly nonwovens. As a rule, this is beneficial to manufacturers of "spanlace" materials, since they are working on creating napkins that completely do not contain plastic. This driver will continue to receive an incentive from the EU Directive on limiting the use of disposable plastic products, but brand owners will also show great interest in polymer-free napkins that can be sold as premium eco-friendly products. The main way to achieve this is the wider use of viscose, lyocell, cellulose, cotton and other biodegradable fibers with a corresponding relative reduction in the use of polypropylene spunbond.
In November, Welspun announced that it would add a complete line of "spunlace" neXline from Andritz, capable of processing various fibers for the production of nonwoven rolls and napkins for its new plant in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. The line has a capacity of up to three tons per hour.
This line will allow Welspun to process various types of synthetic or natural fibers, such as polyester, viscose and cotton. The final product will have a fabric density from 25 to 120 g/m ², which will allow it to be used in many areas.
"Spanlace manufacturers have been experimenting with 100% eco-friendly products partially or completely in their portfolio for a long time. However, the SUP directive in Europe has accelerated this process, and now there is an increased demand from consumers for environmentally friendly products that meet all the requirements," says Tirthankar Mukherjee of Welspun. "In terms of technology, technology suppliers also offer various innovations with individual machines or upgrade an existing machine to create products that can use 100% organic plant-based products or in various blend combinations. However, the adoption of these products largely depends on the requirements of the end-use segments.
Elsewhere in India, industry newcomer Tufropes, a global leader in rope and net manufacturing, is adding a spunlace line in Gujarat, India. It is expected that the line will be put into operation in the first quarter of 2022. Own improvements, developed jointly with partners Truetzschler and Voith, will allow Tufropes to produce any hydro-mixed nonwovens, including biodegradable, made of natural fibers, environmentally friendly, high-strength. Meanwhile, China leads the world in investments from both domestic and international equipment suppliers. As the napkin market grows and develops, new spunlace production lines are required.
Zhejiang Saintyear Textile Co., Ltd.
In 2021, Chinese spanlace manufacturer Zhejiang Saintyear Textile Co., Ltd. announced that it will add another line for the production of high-quality rolled nonwovens just nine months after the initial investment in the first line. The launch of the line is scheduled for the third quarter of 2022.
Andritz will supply a complete line with the most modern equipment — from the formation of the canvas to drying. The scope of delivery includes precision equipment for loosening and mixing staple fibers from Laroche, recently acquired by Andritz, two built-in TT carding machines, a proven JetlaceEssentiel installation for hydro-entanglement and an efficient neXdry through-air dryer.
Li Yi Ming, CEO, says: "Spunlace nonwovens are definitely needed now because of their versatility, and we want to offer our customers the highest quality nonwovens. Consequently, we had to go to a reference company for the production of premium rolled products. That's why we decided to rely on the Andritz nonwovens production system, which provides the best performance and operational reliability. Recently, we have already purchased one spunlace production line from Andritz, which will be put into operation in mid-2022. The implementation of the project is still going so smoothly that we did not hesitate to order a second line.
Meanwhile, investments are continuing in developed markets such as Europe and North America, in response to the growing demand for napkins, as well as for more environmentally friendly versions of the "spanlace" material. In 2021, Fibertex Nonwovens announced investments in "spanlace" technology at its plants in Europe and the USA. In Europe, the company is investing $50 million in new facilities at its plants in the Czech Republic and Turkey.
"The demand for our nonwovens has grown significantly in recent years. This applies, in particular, to more specialized applications and high-performance materials for the healthcare sector, industrial products, special acoustic products for the automotive industry, nanofiltration for industrial purposes, etc.— explains Jorgen Beh Madsen, CEO of Fibertex Nonwovens.
He adds that the coronavirus pandemic has led to an explosive demand for hygiene products such as disinfectant wipes. Fibertex's ability to produce specialized products with unique properties at relatively low costs is increasingly recognized in the market.
The bulk of this investment will be spent on a new production line "spanlace" at the plant in Svitavy in the east of the Czech Republic.
"We have an economical and high-tech production facility with a clear focus on innovation, and the new production line is designed to meet the huge demand for disinfectant wipes in the healthcare sector. This demand was growing even before the coronavirus pandemic, but we expect it to increase even more in the coming years. With this new investment, we will be able to offer new and sustainable product properties that will help meet the demands of the future in this area. At the same time, we are releasing capacity at several of our other European plants, which allows us to explore new opportunities in the production of acoustic products for the automotive industry and filtration products," continues Beck Madsen.
In 2015, Fibertex Nonwovens acquired the Turkish company for the production of "spanlace" from Ribatek. As part of these investments, the company will expand the capacity of existing lines at the site and add additional lines with finishing and coating capabilities, which will allow it to produce specialized products from nonwovens.
Meanwhile, in the US, Fibertex Nonwovens is adding a new spanlace line on its site near Greenville, South Carolina, where it has also acquired an adjacent plot of land suitable for future expansion on this site. Fibertex acquired this company from the Turkish manufacturer of nonwovens Mogul in early 2019. At that time, there was one spunlace line at this facility. In 2020, the company added a production line based on needle punching technology to the site.
Another company actively investing in spanlace, — Berry Global. The company is expanding the production of spinlace in Europe, as well as mastering its technology based on the use of primary webs from continuous filaments of Spinlace in order to better serve the global napkin market in North America. Together, these two lines represent an investment of more than $110 million that will help the company better serve the market of disinfecting wipes for hard surfaces. According to executives, the investment is a direct result of the increased demand for cleaning and disinfecting wipes for the home, which increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We strategically cooperate with many of the world's leading brands of napkin materials, ensuring that our investments meet the demand today and in the future. The reliability of our facilities and scale are of paramount importance to our customer support and the trusting relationships we strive to maintain," says Kurt Begl, president of Berry Health, Hygiene and Specialties.
Meanwhile, in the USA Berry is adding a fourth line with its own Spinlace technology for napkins. The target date for commercialization of investments is March 2023.
Berry's Spinlace technology is a critical component of its growth in wiping materials, as it enables the company to produce and deliver innovative nonwovens to customers in various market segments, including household goods, personal care products, commercial activities, transportation and healthcare. The new line will be flexible in its production capabilities, with the ability to supply materials for wipes, filtration, personal hygiene products for urinary incontinence and medical use.
Although investments in larger markets such as India and China in Asia or North America and Europe continue to be strong, opportunities for "spanlace" are opening up in smaller markets such as Romania, Belarus and Uzbekistan, thanks not only to increased demand, but also the problems of trade and delivery, which made local production necessary.
«Manufacturers, who usually sent their rolls to the export market, had to face an unprecedented increase in rates for sea transportation. In order to remain competitive, these companies decided to build factories in Europe to be closer to the market and meet local demand," says Andre Michalon, Sales Director of Andritz Perfojet France.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, demand rose sharply, especially for disinfectants, as there were not enough of them," adds Arnaud Laroche, head of sales at Andritz Perfojet France. "Most manufacturers were then forced to increase their existing capacity and decided to make new investments to meet demand. Meanwhile, however, refiners began to experience difficulties as the supply of spanlace on the market was running out. As a result, they also decided to invest in spanlace lines to secure their sources.
In 2022, lines in Ukraine and Uzbekistan were announced, both from new companies in the production of nonwovens.
In Ukraine, the company "Biosphere", a leading manufacturer of household and hygiene products, invested in the line "spanlace" supplied by Andritz, which will allow the company to produce canvases with a density of 30 to 70 g/m with an hourly capacity of up to 3000 kg after the second the commissioning stage. The launch is planned in two stages, the first in the first quarter of 2022 and the second in early 2023, when the line will reach full production capacity.
The high-performance spunlace line will double the company's current production capacity. It is designed for processing various types of fibers, such as mixtures of polyester and viscose and natural fibers. The company is engaged in the production of household, medical and hygienic fabrics, such as cosmetic, disinfectant and baby wipes.
The company "Biosphere" was founded in 1997 and is the market leader in the production and distribution of household and hygiene products in Ukraine and the CIS, as well as a key processing player in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Texygen Textile LLC
Meanwhile, in Uzbekistan, Texygen Textile LLC, specializing in cotton spinning, invested in the neXline spunlace nonwoven fabric production line, which is the first known spunlace line in the country. The launch is scheduled for the first quarter of 2023.
This line will process high-quality cotton fiber in a fully integrated production line, from bleaching to winding. With this new line, Texygen Textile LLC will be able to produce first-class napkins made of 100% cotton, which opens up new market opportunities for both the company and the country.
"We are very proud to be pioneers in the spanlace industry in our country," says the owner of the company Rasulov Ikrom. "We have commissioned Andritz to supply our first line for the production of this non-woven material, and their know-how regarding the carding machine, among other things, will allow us to produce non-woven cotton rolled goods of the highest quality."
As new investments in "spanlace" technology increase worldwide, the question will be whether the napkin market or other segments of "spanlace" application will be able to support these investments. The motivation for acquiring additional capacity was based on the expectation that a higher level of demand would remain in the post-pandemic world, and that investments in advanced technologies capable of producing materials from eco-friendly fibers would be justified. The demand for disinfecting and cleaning wipes will remain at a high level, and the use of wipes will be more acceptable and convenient for consumers in the future. Taking all this into account, additional capacities will enter the market, which will be used in accordance with trends in the field of health and sustainable development.