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Flexing with Innovation In Nonwoven Fibers

In nonwovens, there seems to be two things on everyone’s minds—costs and environmental impact of the final product—and fiber suppliers are addressing both of these issues with a range of new products.When it comes to costs, fiber suppliers are generally guided by the economic principles of supply and demand. This dependence rocked the cotton market last year when lower supply could not keep up with demand, driving pricing higher than ever and forcing many nonwovens users to change direction. Higher prices have also been the case with petroleum-based fibers and resins like polyester and polypropylene, which have felt the impact of higher crude oil prices. In these areas, fiber makers are trying to develop innovative products to add value or to allow their customers to achieve more with less.

“The fact is we cannot influence the rising raw material costs and, of course, we must pass these on to our customers,” says Hartmann Huth, chairman business unit staple fibers, Trevira. “Since we are working in a context of global competition, however, the market environment defines the extent to which this is possible. Therefore, we have to manufacture, on the one hand, as effectively and resource-conserving as possible—on the other hand, it is vital that we offer our customers an added value along with our products, which makes us and the customers somewhat independent from raw material price increases at short notice.”

Innovations are coming in many forms in the fiber market. Whether they want something that has had another life as a plastic bottle, an oil-based synthetic substrate that promises uniformity and predictability or something based on natural resources like cotton or rayon, nonwovens producers are using fibers to take them to places they’ve never been before.