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Application of Nonwovens in

Medical Field

By: O.L.Shanmugasundaram
Application of Nonwovens in Medical Field
By: O. L. Shanmugasundaram

Lecturer-Department of Textile Technology,

KSR College of Technology,
Tiruchengode- 637 209.
Email: mailols@yahoo.com


The Medical Textiles includes vast range of applications viz. adhesive tapes, bandages,
beddings, blankets, castings, diapers, dressings, eye pads, gauzes, protective clothing’s, sutures,
surgical covers, surgical clothing’s, swabs, supports, sanitary products, hospital gowns etc. It also
finds application in extra-corporeal devices like artificial kidney, liver, heart & mechanical lung,
ligaments, vascular grafts, heart valves, blood vessels, artificial skins etc. Range of natural fibers
and biodegradable polymers with non-biodegradable synthetic polymers is being utilized for
developing new products in medical textiles. Since the medical textile applications are directly
related to the life of human being, those are required to undergo stringent testing and hygienic
criteria, which led to innovative use of variety of fibers and lot of developments, took place in this

Use of nanotechnology, tissue engineering, biomaterials along with basic textile structures viz.
fibers, yarns, woven, knitted, nonwoven & braided fabrics & composite structures made it
possible to widen the horizon of medical textiles. Especially, innovations in nonwovens have
brought a great change in the field of Medicals.

Nonwoven textile scaffolds are used to replace or repair different organs, bones, vascular system
& in partial replacement of skin. The present paper will discuss in detail the recent advances in
Medical Textiles field, which will continue to help to improve the life of human being considerably
with the aid of non-woven textiles. The rapidly growing field of Bio-Medical Textiles and Health
Care Products is truly multi-disciplinary in nature. From ancient times the textile materials were
used for medical applications in India and Egypt like surgical sponge, linen and silk sutures and
strips, catgut etc.


Based on applications the medical textile can be broadly categorized as follows,

9 Personal health care/hygienic products: Bedding, clothing, surgical gowns, Cloths, wipes
surgical curves, surgical hosiery, diapers, etc.
9 Non-implantable material or medical dressings & auxiliaries: wound dressing, bandage,
plasters, gauge, lint wadding etc.
9 Implantable materials: sutures, vascular grafts, artificial ligaments, and artificial joints.
9 Extra corporal devices: Artificial kidneys, liver & lungs etc.

The nonwovens are used for the given applications in different forms.

Non woven application in Medical

The properties of non-woven fabrics are determined by those of the constituent polymer or fiber
and by the bonding process. For instance, expanded PTFE products can be formed to meet
varying porosity requirements. Because of the expanded nature of their microstructure, these
materials compress easily and then expand—a suture, for example, can expand to fill the needle
hole made in a tissue—allowing for tissue in growth in applications such as arterial and patch
grafts. Polyurethane-based nonwovens produce a product that resembles collagen us material in
both structure and mechanical properties, particularly compliance (extension per unit pressure or
stress). The porosity of both PTFE- and polyurethane-derived nonwovens can be effectively
manipulated through control of the manufacturing processes. Hence by controlling the various
parameter of non-woven they can utilize effectively in different applications of medical.

Nonwovens --- huge scope in Medical Field?

Nonwoven possesses following properties due to which they became famous in medical field.

Various parameters can be controlled easily like

¾ Porosity
¾ Weight of fabric
¾ Thickness
Nonwovens are easy to sterilize.

Various manufacturing technique options according to applications

Economical manufacturing process etc.

What is Nonwoven?

Nonwovens are webs made up of fibers. These webs have to be bonded. Bonding methods can
be chemical, thermal or mechanical. The development taken place in Nonwovens sector includes
use of different materials for Nonwoven includes lyocell Nonwovens, cellulosic nonwovens,
biodegradable Nonwoven.

The development also taken place in the process of manufacturing a Nonwoven such as spun
bonding and spun lacing, air laying, cross lapped nonwovens, forming a random Nonwoven webs
with the static method, needle loom for Nonwoven. Due to the continuous research a newer
Nonwoven products started developing such as development of Ecofriendly Nonwoven product
by solubalisation of viscose, production of nonwovens fiber board panel and latex foam sheet
using coir and polypropylene blend, needle punched nonwovens blankets, the vertical and
horizontal type of nonwoven products also starts utilizing for medical textiles.

Fibers used in manufacturing of Nonwovens for medical applications

Cotton Polyester Polypropylene Viscose Glass Fiber Wood fluff

Polyamide Chitin Layocell


Advanced cellulosic nonwovens

Prior to 1960, regenerated cellulosic fibers enjoyed 50 years of rapid expansion. Since then,
synthetics have grown to dominate the market. Cotton, for centuries the most important of all
fibers is taking second place to the combined weight of synthetics and viscose rayon. Rayon now
appears relegated to little more than a niche in a global fiber market driven by the ready
availability of cheap fossil fuels and the demand for commodity textiles and nonwovens.
Nonwoven production was founded on the ready availability of low-cost viscose rayon fibers and
these continued to dominate the industry until the mid seventies. Since then the reducing cost of
synthetics coupled with their easy conversion into binder-free spun-laid and melt-blown fabrics
caused a steady decline in rayon’s nonwoven market share.

During the late 60’s when disposable diapers came in two pieces (reusable plastic pant with
rectangular absorbent pad), latex bonded rayon was the cover of choice. At this time, ‘flush
ability’ was becoming a key development issue. The rectangular inserts with their heat-sealed
latex-bonded rayon covers were too stable to be disposed of in the toilet even after tearing in half.
New wet-laid nonwovens made from the specially developed self-bonding collapsed-tube rayon
fibers had no wet-strength at all and dispersed easily in flowing water. However when treated with
the standard wet-strength agents used in the paper industry it became strong enough in use and
remained disintegratable in toilet turbulence. Rayon producers in Europe, Japan and the USA
developed such fibers and a small market developed in the USA. The introduction of the more
convenient one-piece diaper pushed mothers concerns about flush ability into the background.

Lyocell nonwovens

Lyocell makes excellent nonwovens, especially in those processes that allow its superior
aesthetics shine through, like needle punching and HE. Its high strength is of little intrinsic value
in disposables, but enables the nonwoven producer to reduce basis weight while meeting targets.
Its freedom from shrinkage and high wet stability allows higher area yields in HE processes and
its high modulus prevents it from collapsing in the wet to the same extent as viscose rayon.
Fibrillation, the development of surface micro fiber on wet abrasion or in high-pressure
entanglement, adds an additional dimension for the nonwoven development. Unfortunately, while
it has established itself in several profitable niches, its premium positioning has so far prevented
its use in mainstream disposables.

Spun-laid lyocell

Most fiber-forming polymer solutions can also be converted into continuous yarns, film sponges
or indeed nonwoven fabrics. Lyocell dope is no exception and many of the characteristics of the
lyocell process make it a better basis for spun-laid nonwovens than the viscose process ever
was. Technically speaking the challenges is not great.

In nonwoven industry the leading product are nearly always with those the lowest cost and
justification of spun laid cellulosic on added value alone has failed several times already. The
ultimate in economy is arises from inherently low cost raw material converted on state of the art
machinery at the largest possible scale. The nonwoven industry enjoys the economies of (say)
polypropylene because PP is a byproduct of the world’s largest industry, energy. Viscose rayon, a
premium product of the timber industry, requires the most costly grades of wood pulp. Lyocell is
currently similar, but its simple production process has the so far unexplored potential to use
cheaper pulps. It also have potential to achieve very high level of scale in textile, and hence the
economies of scale that may ultimately interest the major nonwoven converters.

New development in biodegradable nonwovens

Over the last 30 years the nonwovens industry fiber usage has not only grown by a factor of ten.
The fibers used have change from almost exclusively biodegradable to most exclusively non-
biodegradable despite concern for the environment among consumer becoming progressively
stronger. In fact in the largest and most potentially environmentally sensitive market, cover stock
for disposal diapers, biodegradable products are non-existent. An expressed consumer
preference for “environmentally friendly” products, in the disposables area at least, appears to
meet an unmet need.

How the nonwovens are manufactured???

Various techniques are used for manufacturing of nonwovens but some of the techniques that are
used specially for the Medical applications point of view are as follows:

Needle punched nonwoven blankets

Traditionally woven blankets where used in the Far East and Middle East countries. These
methods are not economical for that purpose a special technique developed known as needle
punching. This process consists of three min stages-

• Predatory process

• Web formation

• Needling the fibers web

The various particulars areas follow

Variables particulars

Fabric weight (g/sq. meter) 350

Needling density (p/sq. meter) 250
Depth of penetration (mm) 9

It is observed the thermal insulation value increase with increase in the nonwoven bulk density
and needling density. Air permeability value reduces as the vas increase in the nonwoven bulk

Application development foam substitution

The objective for research is to develop a suitable nonwoven for the medical applications.


Forming a random nonwoven webs with the static method

This development is taken place for random fiber

arrangements of the roller card in nonwoven processed Electrode
by different voltages and electro panel shapes. In this
development it has been found that by changing shape
of electrode panel can provide better random effects when
the same voltage is used. The research indicate that
the best panel shape is the circular holes and is
positioned between the cylinder and doffer the optimum
random effect is obtained when original panel is electrified to 2kv between
cylinder and doffer, or the panel with the circular holes is electrified with 20kv and placed over
conveyor belts.This process becomes very useful

• To maintain the uniformity of web

• In manufacturing hybrid and composite product, which are used for implantation, purpose

Wet-laid nonwovens

¾ “Borrowed” technology from the

paper industry

¾ Fibers : 0.3 mm – 25 mm & 6.0 dtex


¾ fibers are dispersed and suspended

in water at 0.05 % concentration

Cross-lapped nonwovens

Cross-lapped nonwoven differs in many ways from other production process for nonwovens the
biggest advantage of this development is the flexibility regarding product with and weight. Here
the delivery belt is doubled i.e. batt of several layers are being formed the card web enters the
lappers with constant speed the layering carriage has to perform an oscillating movement, as the
layering carriage reduces its speed during reversal and is slowed down to zero so it lead to
accumulation of fibres in that area.

Needle loom for nonwoven

In recent years there is a development is taken place for manufacturing a h1 type of needle loom
of nonwoven is having following advantages-

9 The linger needle path results into the

better fiber orientation and fiber
entanglement than the conventional
needle machine

9 Superior web properties can be

obtained with the fewer needle

9 It greatly enhances the construction of

composites and hybrid products which
are very useful for medical

Some applications of nonwovens in medical textiles.

¾ Simple bandages
¾ Light support bandages
¾ Compression bandages
¾ Orthopedic bandages
Disposable surgical Clothing
¾ Gowns
¾ Caps
¾ Masks
Disposable surgical Coverings
¾ Drapes
¾ Bed sheets (under trail)
¾ Blankets (under trail)
¾ Floor coverings of hospitals (anti-bacterial)
¾ Protective clothing
Incontinence diaper/sheet
¾ Cover stock
¾ Absorbent layer
¾ Other layers Cloths/ wipes
Cloths/ wipes


Textiles are very important in all aspects of medicine and surgery and the range and
extent of applications to which these materials are used is a reflection of their enormous
versatility. Products used for medical or surgery applications may at first sight seem either
very simple or complex items. In reality, however in-depth research is required to engineer a
textile for even a simplest cleaning wipe in order to meet stringent professional specifications.
Advances in nonwovens have resulted in a new breed of
medical textiles. Advanced composite materials containing combination of fibers and fabrics
have been developed for applications where biocompatibility and strength are required. It is
predicted that the nonwoven materials will continue to have greater impact in this sector
owing to the large member of characteristics and performance criteria required from these


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About the author:

Mr.O.L.Shanmugasundaram, did his M.Tech (Textile Technology ) at
A.C.College of Technology, Anna University, Chennai and B.Tech from
Bannari Amman Institute of Technology, Sathy. He got gold medal in
Diploma Textile Processing. His areas of interest are Medical Textiles,
Fiber Science and Technology, Textile Testing and Textile Chemical
Processing. He has presented Research Papers in various International
and National Conferences and published papers in reputed National and
International Journals. Currently working as Lecturer in the Department of
Textile Technology, at KSR College of Technology, Tiruchengode

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