Innovations, trends and highlights in nonwoven mechanical engineering
Staple fiber nonwovens shape the image of ITMAAccording to the latest Edana statistics, dry laid nonwovens account for 44 % of European nonwovens production. This leading position is also reflected in the number of exhibitors at this year's ITMA. The DiloGroup, Eberbach/Germany, combined the innovations of the entire group in a complete plant in operation every half hour. DiloTemafa offers numerous innovations with the Baltromix Pro BTDW, such as IR-based level monitoring, improved overview of the production process through viewing windows or a sophisticated status display for critical areas. IR light grids monitor flow conditions in pipelines and regulate the demand for transport air and optimize energy expenditure in combination with decentralized filter systems. The card feeder Unifeed FRS-P with integrated fine opener, elevator lattice and vibrating chute feeder with suction-absorbed discharge belt realizes a very homogeneous flake template for the following Vector-Quadro Card. The subsequent HyperLayer NT allows belt speed of up to 190 m/min due to the web guide between 2 continuous bands and is therefore also recommended for installation in spunlace lines. However, the aggregation of the exhibition facility is completed with a needle-punching machine type Hyperpunch Alpha. Alpha stands for simplified kinematics, in which the needle bar performs panning and tilting movements.
The highlight of the DiloGroup stand was the 3D lofter, which applies targeted accumulations with the same or other fiber on a submitted web with freely controllable topo graphy. In combination with the subsequent needle-punching, partially reinforced areas in an otherwise homogeneous needle-punched nonwovens are feasible. Conversely, fibers can be applied specifically in previously detected inhomogeneous areas to improve the uniformity of nonwovens. This development is related to the German optiformTex research project of the Technical University of Chemnitz, the STFI e.V., Chemnitz, and other companies such as Volks wagen, Wolfsburg, and SachsenLeinen, Markkleeberg.
The Italian company Bettarini & Serafini Srl, Prato, combined its fiber preparation line and the Bematic BI 19 100-150 carding line with a nonwovens forming and solidification line from Texnology Srl, Fontaniva/Italy, to one complete operational system. This line consists of layer with profiling system, drafting section consisting of five roller triplets and the needle-punching machine Ellittica with elliptical needle bar movement. Tectex Srl, Pistoia/Italy, had already set the original trend towards simplified elliptical needle bar movement at the ITMA 2015 and has established itself on the market since then with the needle loom Gamma.
© Foto: Bematic
Fig.2: Fiber preparation and card BI 19 100-150 at the Bematic stand
The various methods of random web forming took up a great deal of space. The focus of increasing numbers of exhibitors is on processing of renewable fibers and recycled fibers. Due to its technology, these processes are predestined for high basis weights. Autefa Solutions Austria GmbH, Linz/Austria, further developed the well-known V12 pre-web nonwovens system, which has been proven in a large number of installed systems, with the Futura V12/R as an independent airlay nonwovens forming unit in modular design. Basis weights of 400-7,000 g/m2 can be produced.
The CAFT2500 tool from Advance Non woven A/S, Roende/Denmark, which was shown for the first time at an ITMA, processes fiber lengths between 1 mm and 100 mm, and represents an interesting, if not entirely new, combination of airlaid and airlay pro cesses. Achievable basis weights are 150-15,000 g/m2.
Laroche SA, Cours-la-Ville/France, exhibited the further developed Airlay Flexiloft 2600, and improved nonwovens uniformity by adjustments in process air flow. Basis weights of 200 g/m2 and higher can now be achieved.
Cormatex Srl, Montemurlo/Italy, still offers the Lap Formair system, which can provide nonwovens structures with vertical and horizontal fiber layers as a combination of 2 different airlay processes.
© Foto: Autefa Solutions Germany
Fig.3: Spunlace aggregate
At the stand of Technoplants Srl, Pistoia/Italy, an airlay system consisting of the components chute feeder, aerodynamic prefabrication and carding with aerodynamic fiber storage was shown in combination with Multiline air-through oven. Depending on raw material and product performance, nonwovens forming components can be operated either individually, pairwise or in entire network.
Masias Maquinaria SL, San Juan les Fonts/ Spain, demonstrated nonwovens formation directly from the chute feeder using a mixture of reclaimed fibers and foam flakes. One machine for the treatment of foam flakes made of foam waste and an aggregate for production of fiber balls made of a wide variety of fibers were other interesting exhibits.
Pinkert-Machines UG & Co. KG, Hohenstein-Ernstthal/Germany, exhibited the stitch-bonding machine Maliwatt with 2 guide bars and weft layer system. 2 novelties shaped this exhibit. The workplace was rotated by 90°. The associated horizontal web feeding is an advantage for correct and safe storage of weft threads. In addition, the compound needle puncture is now carried out from bottom to top through the web. Involved forces act against ground and not against machine frame as in previous designs. Another novelty is the replacement of usual sinker lead by fixing individual needles in therefore specially designed bars. Defective needles can be replaced individually and thus cost-effectively. Due to possible individual needle assembling, special, partially executed patterns are also conceivable.
Oerlikon Nonwoven combines its airlaid process, which has been introduced on the market, with the potential of homogeneous entry of powdered materials. If activated carbon is used for this purpose, sorption filter nonwovens can be produced.
HydroentanglementAccording to Edana statistics, most staple fiber nonwovens are solidified by means of waterjets (spunlacing). This fact was clearly reflected in the presentations of various companies at the fair.
For the first time, Autefa Solutions Germany GmbH, Friedberg/Germany, showed in a very impressive way its own V-Jet Futura water jet system with 3 solidification drums and available working widths up to 3.6 m. The nozzle beams are equipped with V-Strips, which were already presented in 2015 and were developed in cooperation with Enka Tecnica GmbH, Kabelsketal/Germany. They are designed for process pressures up to approx. 340 bar. The patented solution for locking V-Strips allows a quick and extremely easy change of nozzle strips.
Trützschler Nonwovens & Man-Made Fibers GmbH, Egelsbach/Germany, presented its "AquaJet" technology as a system model. In cooperation with Voith Paper GmbH, Heidenheim/Germany, nonwovens samples were presented which can be flushed down toilets and were produced according to technology combination wetlaid – spunlace (WLS) in the so-called wet-on-wet process. Texnology advertised its water jet system "Acqualoom", which offers patented system for changing nozzle strips.
A special feature of the spunlace unit from Sicam Srl, Corregio/Italy, is a very efficient used de-watering system that works with downstream pair of crushing rollers. The presented machine consists of 2 under-suctioned drums where 3 nozzle beams can be placed.
With the technology group Andritz Perfojet SAS, Montbonnot/France, another potent supplier of this technology is in the market. The process combination wetlaid – spunlace, for which Andritz has secured its designation "Wetlace", takes into account the need for sustainably environmentally friendly nonwovens products. Wetlaid technology has been further developed by technical optimizations in the area of distributor diffusers and web formation.
In addition to the well-known companies Nippon Nozzle (Japan), Ceccato (Italy) and Groz-Beckert (Germany), Enka Tecnica is now also known for the production of jet strips. Further development in the spunlace area will be followed with great interest. It remains to be seen whether entering of further "players" in this market will be another engine for technical innovation.
Thermal bondingIn addition to needle punching and hydroentanglement, thermal bonding is another important web bonding technology. Calanders, air-trough ovens and laminating systems are therefore also experiencing further corresponding development, not least against background of increased efficiency and energy saving. Andritz Küsters GmbH, Krefeld/ Germany, presented as novelty textile calender teXcal Raconip TT. The calender was developed for treatment of technical textiles and is characterized by new product in-feeding system. This can change wrap-around angle of material according to special requirements. Line pressure can be adjusted variably by segmented hydraulic pressure control. The novel roller coating Racoflex plus for elastic calander roller is also interesting and as homogeneous composite material it has higher elasticity and thermal resistance. With reference to nonwovens, the stand was dominated by velour needle-punching machine that can produce velours for the automotive industry.
The company has succeeded in further development of high-speed calenders (Twin Pro) for spunbond nonwovens. For Reifenhäuser spunbond technology type Reicofil 5, belt speed of approx. 1,500 m/min can now be achieved.
Machinery for finishing treatmentBrückner Trockentechnik GmbH & Co. KG, Leonberg/Germany, showed its innovations in the nonwovens sector under the motto: "Intelligent Finishing". They presented a high-performance foulard with appropriate dryer. The range of Supra-Flow dryer and oven series was demonstrated in 5 detailed plant models. Both lightweight and voluminous nonwovens can be processed according to chemical equipment in the sense of thermal bonding or drying. Energy efficiency and precisely defined temperature regime are crucial to high-quality end products.
At the stand of Schott & Meissner Maschinen- und Anlagenbau GmbH, Blaufelden/Germany, an electrically heated double-belt press Thermofix-TFE, presented in a modern design, was the "eye-catcher". In addition to various dryers, ovens and flatbed laminating systems, the company's range of products includes wet equipment systems and dry coating aggregates.
© Foto: Schott & Meissner
Fig.4: Thermofix TFE in the new design
Groz-Beckert KG, Albstadt/Germany, the leading company of manufacturing felting needles, slide needles and nozzle strips for spunlacing (HyTec P series) for the nonwovens industry, has taken over 100 % of the company Bekaert. This leads to its own development and production of card clothing. A new series of worker or doffer clothing was presented under the name EvoStep. The already well-known clothing SiroLock has been further optimized in its geometry. Development goals for all work elements remain the extension of service life and its higher inner stability.
Machinery for spunmelt nonwovensMeltspun nonwovens are the second largest market in the nonwovens sector based on produced tonnage. Under the motto: "Clean Technology, Smart Factory", Oerlikon presented its new products. Increasing importance of the nonwovens sector in this Group was demonstrated by establishment of its own brand Oerlikon Nonwoven (since 2017) alongside Oerlikon Neumag and Oerlikon Barmag. In the area of spunbond and meltblown nonwovens, the processing of TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) was successfully realized.
Presentation of the patented VacuFIL system, which was developed in cooperation with Oerlikon subsidiary BB Engineering GmbH, Remscheid/Germany, shows the significance of textile recycling for PET in the future. The process is based on gentle melt filtration under vacuum and simultaneous degassing, whereby an increase in intrinsic viscosity (IV) of the polymer is achieved. Generated rPET can be used for the production of filaments, staple fibers and nonwovens. In the meltblown sector, Oerlikon offers not only single row but also multi-row technology.
Sicam exhibited parts of spunbond nonwovens system, which produce filaments in mono or bico configuration using compressed air according to injector principle. Filament laydown is based on nozzle output that can be changed in its position, which directs filaments to fixed impact plate. Changing roller pairs positioned directly above the transport belt contribute to balancing basis weight.
Farè SpA, Fagnano/Italy, presented itself on posters as a complete supplier of spunbond and meltblown systems. This applies to all common system configurations (e.g. SSS or SMS). Particular emphasis was placed on competence in the area of bicomponent technology and processability of rPET.
Enka Tecnica showed its latest generation of melt-blown technology under the term MB Smart. Focus of further development is on improved nozzle stability with high hpi (holes per inch) values, longer nozzle service life and lower downtimes for nozzle changes.
Gneuß Kunststofftechnik GmbH, Bad Oeynhausen/Germany, presented a plant concept for reprocessing PET bottle flakes or high-volume fiber or film waste for rPET melts. Melts can be adapted in their viscosity (IV) directly to further production process.
DigitalizationThe modern instruments of digitalization have also reached nonwovens machine manufacturers and their customers. This is reflected in an increasing degree of automation, along with acquisition and control of as many process-relevant parameters as possible. In particular, system providers open up a wide range of opportunities to display data of complete lines for monitoring operating status, ongoing production, product quality and maintenance with high transparency. This data is typically stored in cloud-based systems as following examples will show.
Andritz makes its so-called "Metris" system available to interested customers for all challenges of digitalization and Industry 4.0. "Bale-Timer" and "Smart Start" for fully automatic system start-up or "Di-Lowatt" for energy savings are solutions of the DiloGroup, which can be selected via apps and data cloud "MindSphere".
As single machine and complete line supplier for nonwovens plants, Nomaco GmbH & Co. KG, Rehau/Germany, also offers installation of data acquisition and evaluation systems and extends this range with upgrading existing plants.
Oerlikon also showed how automation and digitalization can work together and lead to more sustainable production. Simplified handling of complex systems should not be under estimated in times of increasing shortage of skilled workers.
Conclusion"Innovating the world of textiles" was the motto of the ITMA 2019. With regard to nonwovens, mechanical engineering has probably reached such a high level of development that innovations are rather rare and – as described – mainly in details and niche solutions. Although the nonwovens industry is growing steadily, the number of machine builders does not reflect this development. Specialization in individual technology areas is increasingly becoming lost, and mechanical engineering is striving to offer most extensive company-owned technology port folios. It remains to be seen how customers loyalty associated with digitalization will have perspective impact on the diversity of plant concepts and influence the expansion of entire nonwovens machine construction.
Thermofix, HyTec P, EvoStep, SiroLock = registered trademarks