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CHEMICAL BONDING

Updated: April, 2004 - M. G. Kamath, Atul Dahiya, Raghavendra R. Hegde


(Monika Kannadaguli & Ramaiah Kotra)
1. INTRODUCTION

For more than four decades, almost all nonwovens required a chemical binder in order to provide any
measure of structural integrity. In addition, the binder was called upon to contribute and convey numerous
properties that were necessary for the effective performance of the fabric.

During this extended period, binders were essentially the weak element in developing fully acceptable
nonwoven fabrics. The fibers that were available to the nonwoven industry were the same fibers that were
available to the textile and other fiber-based industries; hence, the fibers were fully acceptable. Generally, the
binder limited the performance of the nonwoven fabric.

The deficiencies cited against nonwovens generally were deficiencies attributable to an inadequate binder.
Common complaints are as follows:

The fabric doesn't have enough strength.

The fabric is too stiff.

The fabric has inadequate absorbency.

The fabric shows poor laundering ability.

The fabric has inadequate dry cleaning ability.

The fabric simply doesn't feel like a textile.

Consequently, a great deal of effort has been put into the development and continuous improvement of
chemical binders. The steady improvements in nonwovens performance that occurred over a period of many
years were, in no small measure, due to improvements in the performance and utility of the binder.

In the very early stages of nonwovens development, different types of natural resins and glues were used to
bond nonwovens. While they conveyed some integrity and strength to these webs, they also had many glaring
deficiencies. Consequently, synthetic binders were developed to meet the structural and performance
requirements of nonwoven fabrics.

Polyvinyl acetate was the first successful synthetic binder used in substantial volume. This material had
distinctly superior adhesive properties, strength, and performance compared to the early natural adhesives.
This binder is flexible and it can be applied to fiber webs by many ways including print bonding.

The industry was faced with the inevitable compromise in fabric properties of nonwovens bonded with
synthetic materials. In order to build strength in the fabric, increasing amounts of resin must be applied,
which results in more stiffness. If softness is necessary, it can be achieved, but primarily by sacrificing
strength.

A substantial improvement in this trade-off of strength and softness was achieved with the introduction of
acrylic-based latex binders in the 1950s and 1960s. By proper selection of co-monomers, it is possible to
build improved softness properties with adequate strength. Consequently, these binders became widely used
by most of the nonwovens industry, despite the somewhat higher cost.

As polymer technology for manufacturers of synthetic binder systems improved, a greater variety of chemical
building blocks became available with much greater flexibility in terms of binder strength, durability, and
other properties. The introduction of cross-linkable and self-crosslinking binder polymers turned out an
entirely new range of fabric properties. This was particularly noteworthy in durable nonwovens where such
durability features as washability and dry cleanability were important.

2. PROPERTIES DESIRED IN A BINDER

The construction of a nonwoven with suitable binders is to achieve improved characteristics such as strength,
softness, adhesion, firmness, durability, stiffness, fire retardence, hydrophilicity, hydrophobicity,
anti-microbial properties, organic compatibility, reduced surface tension, improved dimensional stability and
solvent, wash and acid resistance. The following list illustrates some general considerations required for an
ideal binder. The required properties can be varied depending on the end-uses.

· Strength: The strength of a nonwoven fabric is more closely related to the strength of the applied
binder.

Adhesion to Fibers: Even though the mechanism of adhesion is not completely understood, the
adhesion strength of the binder-to-fiber bond has to be considered.

Flexibility/handle: The some movements of fibers should be allowed, especially when a soft hand is
desired.

Elastic Recovery: To avoid the permanent deformation of fabric, good elastic recovery is required
under strain.

Resistance to washing/ Drying cleaning: Some nonwoven products need durability in cleaning
processes according to their end-uses.

Resistance to aging: The binder should be stable and not be degraded in the fabric during storage and
use.

Good color and color retention: Diverse ranges of colors are required, and the colorfastness and
yellowing problems should be considered.

Economical: Minimizing the cost is an ongoing requirement.

Other special requirements: Such as Flame resistance, resistance to chemicals, air, oxygen, light,
heat, etc.

3. HOW BINDERS WORK

The process involves three steps:

1. Binder application to nonwoven web.

2. Removal moisture or solvent.

3. Formation of strong bond between binder and nonwoven web.

In general binders contain polymer produced by the reaction of monomers in presence of initiators or
catalysts. Surfactants are used to stabilize these polymer particles in water during emulsification (Fig. 1)

Fig.1: Emulsion Polymerization – Schematic. [1]

After application of the binder to the nonwoven web, during moisture removal, film formation takes place.
This phenomenon is shown in Fig. 2.

Fig.2: Schematic of film formation [1]


Binder factors influencing nonwoven performance are:

1. Backbone Structure

2. Functional Group

3. Surfactant

4. Process

4. CLASSIFICATION OF BINDERS

Due to their diversity, binders may be classified into several categories based on polymer (binder) chemical
structure, functionality and the type of curing reactions.

4.1. CLASSIFICATION BASED ON CHEMICAL STRUCTURE

There are three main kinds of binders: butadiene copolymers, acrylates, and vinyl copolymers. The chemical
compositions influence Tg, hardness and softness, hydrophobicity and hydrophilicity, elasticity, aging, and
dry tensile strength of binders. The higher the Tg, the higher will be the dry tensile strength of binders.

Butadiene Copolymers

The structure of the main butadiene copolymer is shown as follows:

The butadiene polymers are cross-linked by polysulphides, and their properties are modified by different
copolymers. The butadiene monomers provide elasticity while styrene and acrylonitrile monomers give
tensile strength, and oil and solvent resistance, respectively. Their disadvantages are oxidation and
discoloration due to residual double bonds in their polymer chains.

Acrylic acid derivatives

Acrylic binders are the most widely used and versatile binders available with various modifications. The
properties of acrylic binders differ according to their derivatives and copolymers. The structures of the
common acrylic polymers are as follows:

Acrylic Acid Derivatives

They are frequently copolymerized with styrene, acrylonitrile, vinyl chloride or vinyl acetate, depending on
the desirable properties. Some of these properties are hardness from styrene, solvent resistance from
acrylonitrile, flame retardancy from vinyl chloride, and cost benefits from vinyl acetate.

Vinyl copolymers

There are two main binders for vinyl copolymers: vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate. Since the vinyl binders are
stiff, they are plasticized externally or internally. As internal plasticizers, ethylene and acrylate monomers are
used, and external plasticizers consist of vinyl chloride. Due to its low Tg, vinyl acetate is not that stiff, and
its advantage is low cost. The chlorides cause yellowing problems. The chemical structures are closely
related Tg and stiffness of binders.

Vinyl acetate
4.2. CLASSIFICATION BASED ON FUNCTIONALITY

The functionality of binders is in the functional groups attached to polymer chains, which influences wet and
solvent properties. To modify binder properties, copolymerization with a small amount of monomers with
special functionality is performed. The main functionalities in binders are carboxyl and amide side chains.

Carboxyl functionality

This functionality is related to binders containing acrylic acid or methacrylic acid by copolymerization. The
binders are crosslinkable since the functional group, carboxylic acid, provides sites for crosslinking reactions.

Amide functionality

This functionality is related to binders containing acrylamide by copolymerization. The amide functionality
provides crosslinking sites, and even the binders are self-crosslinkable.

N-metylol amide (NMA) functionality

This functionality is obtained after acrylamide is reacted with formaldehyde. The binders containing the
substituted acrylamide groups have self-crosslinking properties and the possible reaction as follows:

Acrylamide
4.3. CLASSIFICATION BASED ON TYPE OF CURING REACTIONS

The classification of reactivity refers to crosslinkability of binders, which is related to reaction with curing
resins, crosslinking agents. The most common curing resin is melamine formaldehyde condensate resin
involving reaction of n-methylol groups.

Non-crosslinkable polymers

The polymers do not contain any of the functional groups. They cannot crosslink, even with external curing
resins.

Crosslinkable polymers

The polymers contain acid or amide functional groups. They can react with added curing resins, but the
degree of crosslinking is limited.

Self-crosslinking polymers

The polymers contain n-methylol functional groups. They can react with themselves, and a high crosslink
density can be obtained by adding curing resins.

Recent trends in chemical bonding: Although nonwoven manufacturers are seeking alternative
technologies such as thermal bonding, chemical bonding still has its advantages and a promising market.
Chemical bonding allows more room for fabric designs and fiber selections. Both disposable and durable
products are supplied to roll goods producers and fiber manufacturers. On the environmental front,
increasingly strict regulations and guidelines are driving a trend towards alternative products and
technologies. Manufacturers and end-product suppliers alike are seeking ultra-low or formaldehyde-free
binders. The growing consideration of the environmental impact of chemical binder and additives has
become a focus of debate on the national and international level.

Latex binder chemical types

A latex polymer consists of an aqueous medium with extremely fine liquid or solid polymer particles
dispersed therein. The latex polymer generally is produced via free radical emulsion polymerization in water,
whereby a vinyl monomer is combined with a small amount of other monomer (co-monomer) to create a high
molecular weight polymer. The latex dispersion also will carry surfactants, stabilizers, and other additives to
convey realistic properties to the latex itself.

When used as a binder, the latex typically is combined with other components to provide the formulated
binder ready for application to the fiber web. The formulated binder conveys many characteristics that are not
possessed by the straight binder. Consequently, there is a substantial chemistry involved in combining the
latex with the other components in order to prepare the formulated binder.

Binders are quite dependent upon the glass transition temperature (Tg) of the monomer unit selected to form
the polymer. Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) is used to determine Tg as shown below (fig. 3):
Fig. 3: Typical DSC graph

The lower the (Tg) of the monomer units, the softer is the resulting polymer. A sampling of the most common
monomers used in the manufacture of latex polymer for nonwoven binders include the following materials:

Monomer Tg(0C)

Ethylene -125

Butadiene -78

Butyl Acrylate -52

Ethyl Acrylate -22

Vinyl Acetate +30

Vinyl Chloride +80

Methyl Methacrylate +105

Styrene +105

Acrylonitrile +130

The monomers selected for forming the polymeric latex also have considerable influence on the hydrophilic
or hydrophobic nature of the binder. This can affect the wet strength of the nonwoven fabric as well as a host
of absorbency characteristics.

With the current capabilities of polymerization chemistry, there is considerable versatility for each chemical
type. Despite this range of properties, the commonly employed nonwovens binders generally are
characterized by a fairly well defined set of properties. These properties can be modified to some degree by
incorporation of other agents, but they provide a useful guide in classifying the kind of performance to be
expected from each type of binder.

5. TYPES OF BINDERS

The following comparison of latex binder chemical types provides an indication of the relative performance,
as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each type of binder. As indicated, the binder properties can be
modified considerably by the presence of co-monomers.

i) Acrylic: These binders offer the greatest durability, color stability, and dry/wet performance. Acrylic
binders have the widest range of fabric hand properties. They can be formulated to vary from very soft (Tg =
- 40°C) to extremely hard (Tg = 105°C). These binders can be used in virtually all nonwovens applications,
although they tend to be more costly. These polymers can be made to cross-link, with substantial
improvement in durability.

ii) Styrenated Acrylics: These are tough, hydrophobic binders. The resulting textile hand ranges from
soft-to-firm (Tg varies from –20°C to +105°C ).These binders can be used in applications where there is a
need for some wet strength without crosslinking. The use of this type of latex binder does involve some
sacrifice in UV and solvent resistance.

iii) Vinyl Acetate (VAC): The vinyl acetate binders are firm (Tg = +30°C to +40°C); however, they are
relatively low cost and find extensive use. They offer good dry strength and toughness, but are somewhat
hydrophilic and have a tendency to yellow when subjected to heat.

iv) Vinyl Acrylics: These binders are more hydrophobic than the straight VAC binders. They provide
excellent toughness, flexibility, and better color stability. They are the compromise between VAC and
acrylic, and can compete on a cost/performance basis. The hand range is limited to intermediate softness (Tg
= -10°C) to a firm hand (Tg = +30°C).

v) Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA): These latex binders have a (Tg range of –20°C to +115°C, which is
equivalent to soft ranging to an intermediate textile hand. They exhibit high wet strength, coupled with
excellent absorbency. In general, they are less costly than acrylics. They do have a tendency to have more of
an odor compared to other binders. They are used primarily in wipes, air-laid pulp fabrics and similar
applications.

vi) Styrene-Butadiene (S/B, SB, or styrene butadiene rubber): These binders have an excellent
combination of flexibility and toughness. They range in hardness from very soft (Tg = -30°C) to very firm
(Tg = +80°C). However, the (Tg of an SB binder is not strictly comparable to other classes of nonwoven
binders. The styrene-to-butadiene ratio (S/B ratio) is the most common method for describing the relative
hand resulting from the use of these binders. When cross-linked, this class of binder is very hydrophobic and
durable. They are affected somewhat by heat and light because of their tendency to oxidize.

vii) Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): The homopolymer of polyvinyl chloride is a very hard, rigid polymer (Tg =
+80°C). This polymer must be plasticized to provide flexibility and film-forming properties. Normally, the
(PVC) binders used in nonwovens are softened internally by co-polymerizing the vinyl chloride or with
softer acrylic monomers. The hand range of most of these polymers is still relatively firm (Tg is greater than
the +30°C). Because this type of polymer is a thermoplastic, it performs well in heat and dielectric sealing
applications. This can be an advantage in some uses. The chlorine content of the polymer promotes flame
retardency. This feature is one of the primary benefits of utilizing this type of binder. However, the chlorine
also conveys the tendency to yellow upon heat aging, due to elimination of hydrogen chloride from the
polymer.

viii) Ethylene/Vinyl Chloride: Binders in this class have a slightly broader hand range (T g = 0°C to +30°C)
without the external plasticization required of (PVC) binders. The presence of the chlorine again conveys
some flame retardancy. These binders exhibit good acid resistance, fair water resistance, and excellent
adhesion to synthetic fibers. There is some tendency to yellow upon aging. In essence, this is an internally
plasticized (PVC) binder, considering the ethylene monomer to be the softener.

6. FORMULATION
i) Ingredients

The formulation of binding solution is an art since many ingredients are involved and many different
possibilities exist for different end-uses. Some of the characteristics, and the types of formulation agents
utilized to obtain them include the following.

· Surfactants : offer improvement in binder adhesion, stability, and ability to be converted into a foam

External cross-linkers: provide cross-links with binder polymer to provide improved performance

Defoamers: utilized to minimize foam in processing

Repellent agents : convey water or oil repellency

Salts: added to impart low flame response properties and to convey antistatic properties

Thickeners: added to control the rheology of the binder liquid

Catalysts: added to facilitate curing and to promote cross-linking

Acids and bases: added to control pH of the latex

Dyes and pigments: provide color to the binder and fabric

Fillers: added to reduce binder tack and to lower cost

Optical brighteners: added to increase whiteness

Sewing aids: added to provide lubrication during fabrication

The purposes of wetting agents, mainly nonionic or anionic surfactants, are to enhance binder penetration
through webs, improve the affinity between binder and fibers. The crosslinker, which has multi-functional
groups, is generally added to increase crosslink density and to improve durability and resistance to
deformation.

ii) Order of Formulation

In terms of adding ingredients into a binding bath, the compatibility of ingredients should be confirmed
because the orders are extremely important. The milky white color of most binders impedes a check on the
white-color indication of non-compatible ingredients, so most ingredients are first added to the dilution
water. After the compatibility is assured, binders are added and then thickeners added to adjust viscosity. For
the stability of the binding solution, catalysts are added just before application. Some water may be added to
reach a desirable solid level. The summarized order is as follows:
· Most ingredients

· Latex binder

· Thickener

· Catalyst

· Some water, and the others, such as dyes and pigments, fillers, clays, optical brighteners, sewing aids,
etc.

7. BONDING TECHNOLOGY

Web consolidation or nonwoven bonding processes interlock preferentially arranged fiber or film assemblies
by mechanical, chemical, solvent, and/or thermal means. The degree of bonding is a primary factor in
determining fabric integrity (strength), porosity flexibility, softness, and density (loft, thickness).

Bonding may be carried out as a separate and distinct operation, but generally is carried out as a sequential
operation in tandem with web formation. In some fabric constructions, more than one bonding process may
be used to enhance physical or chemical properties.

Mechanical consolidation methods include needlefelting, stitchbonding, and hydroentangling. Chemical


consolidation methods involve applying adhesive binders to webs by saturating, spraying, printing, or
foaming techniques. Solvent bonding involves softening or partially dissolving fibers with a solvent to
provide self-bonding surfaces. Thermal bonding involves the use of heat and often pressure to fuse or weld
fibers together at points of intersection or in patterned bond sites.

Important issues to consider when choosing the web consolidation methods are economy; versatility; and
product properties, primarily absorbency, strength, softness, loft, and purity. A recurring issue involves
environmental requirements of both the process and the product. Many techniques are done for specific
properties of unique fabrics; therefore, it is difficult to measure differences in cost. In some instances, two or
more bonding techniques compete. The system that is most energy-efficient; environmentally sound or
provides the preferred fabric properties generally dominates.

7.1 CHEMICAL BONDING PROCESSES

Chemical or resin bonding is a generic term for interlocking fibers by the application of a chemical binder.
The chemical binder most frequently used to consolidate fiber webs today is a water-borne latex. Most latex
binders are made from vinyl materials, such as polyvinylacetate, polyvinylchloride, styrene/butadiene resin,
butadiene, and polyacrylic, or their combinations.

Latexes are extensively used as nonwoven binders, because they are economical, versatile, easily applied,
and effective adhesives. The versatility of a chemical binder system can be indicated by enumerating a few
factors that are considered when such a system is formulated.

The chemical composition of the monomer or backbone material determines stiffness/softness properties,
strength, water affinity (hydrophilic/hydrophobic balance), elasticity, durability, and aging. The type and
nature of functional side groups determines solvent resistance, adhesive characteristics, and cross-linking
nature. The type and quantity of surfactant used influences the polymerization process, polymer stability, and
the application method.

Chemical binders are applied to webs in amounts ranging from about 5% to as much as 60% by weight. In
some instances, when clays or other weighty additives are included, add-on levels can approach or even
exceed the weight of the web. Waterborne binders are applied by spray, saturation, print, and foam methods.
A general objective of each method is to apply the binder material in a manner sufficient to interlock the
fibers and provide fabric properties required of the intended fabric usage.

The common methods of bonding include saturation, foam, spray, print and powder bonding. They are briefly
introduced in the following paragraphs:

i) Saturation

Saturation bonding is used in conjunction with processes which require rapid binder addition, such as
card-bond systems, and for fabric applications which require strength, stiffness, and maximum fiber
encapsulation, such as carrier fabrics. Fiber encapsulation is achieved by totally immersing the web in a
binder bath or by flooding the web as it enters the nip point of a set of pressure rolls. Excess binder is
removed by vacuum or roll pressure.

Three variations of saturation bonding exist: screen, dip/squeeze, and size-press. Screen saturation is used for
medium-weight nonwovens, such as interlinings. Dip/squeeze saturation is used for web structures with
strength sufficient to withstand immersion without support, such as spunbonds. Size-press saturation is used
in high speed processes, such as wet-laid nonwovens. Drying and curing may be carried out on steam-heated
drying cans or in thru-air ovens or perforated-drum dryers. Binder addition levels range from 20% to 60%.
Two techniques, single screen saturator and applicator roll technique, are illustrated in fig. 4 & 5.
Advantages of this method are simplicity, controllable tensile strength and softness by choice and amount of
binders. The disadvantages are the great influence of binders on softness, and the limitation in loftiness.

Fig. 4: Saturation bonding


Fig. 5: Applicator roll method

ii) Foam bonding

Foam bonding is a means to apply binder at low water and high binder-solids concentration levels. The basic
concept employed involves using air as well as water as the binder diluent and carrier medium. Foam-bonded
nonwovens require less energy in drying, since less water is used. The foam is generated by introducing air
into the formulated latex while mechanically agitating the binder solution.

Air/latex dilutions or blow ratios in the order of 5:25 are practiced for various products. With the addition of
a stabilizing agent to the binder solution, the foam can resist collapsing during application and curing, and the
bonded fabric will exhibit enhanced loft, hand, and resilience. Non-stabilized foams are referred to as froths;
froth-bonded fabrics are similar in properties to some saturation-bonded nonwovens. One example of this
bonding is illustrated in fig. 6. The advantages include less energy required to dry the web, less binder
migration and controllable softness by choices and amount of binders. The disadvantages are difficulties in
controlling process and adequate foaming.

Fig 6: Foam bonding process


iii) Spray bonding

In spray bonding, binders are sprayed onto moving webs. Spray bonding is used for fabric applications that
which require the maintenance of highloft or bulk, such as fiberfill and air-laid pulp wipes. The binder is
atomized by air pressure, hydraulic pressure, or centrifugal force and is applied to the upper surfaces of the
web in fine droplet form through a system of nozzles.

Lower-web-surface binder addition is accomplished by reversing web direction on a second conveyor and
passing the web under a second spray station. After each spraying, the web is passed through a heating zone
to remove water, and the binder is cured (set/cross-linked) in a third heating zone. For uniform binder
distribution, spray nozzles are carefully engineered. Typical spray bonding is illustrated in fig. 7 & 8

Fig. 7: Schematic of spray bonding process

Fig. 8: Industrial spray bonding process


iv) Print bonding

Print bonding applies binder only in predetermined areas. It is used for fabric applications that require a part
of the area of the fabric to be binder-free, such as wipes and coverstocks. Many lightweight nonwovens are
print bonded. Printing patterns are designed to enhance strength, fluid transport, softness, hand, absorbency,
and drape. Print bonding is most often carded out with gravure rolls. Binder addition levels are dependent on
engraved area and depth as well as binder-solids level. Increased pattern versatility can be achieved with the
use of rotary screen rolls. Drying and curing are carried out on heated drums or steam-heated cans.

In print bonding, high viscose binders are applied to limited, patterned areas. A prewet/prebond step is
required for enough strength of webs, and typical steps in this bonding are in fig. 9.
Fig. 9: Latex printing process

There are two types of printers: rotary screen and rotogravure printers. Binders are applied through a hollow
applicator roll in rotary screen printer, while in rotogravure printer they are applied by an engraved applicator
roll as shown in fig. 10 a & b. The main advantage is that outstanding softness of nonwoven fabrics with
adequate strength can be achieved.

Fig. 10a: Print bonding

Fig. 10b: Printing equipment

v) Powder bonding

In powder bonding, the adhesive powder of thermoplastic polymers is applied onto webs by heat and
pressure. Polyesters and polyolefins with low Tg's and molecular weight can be used as powder binders. A
typical bonding line is illustrated in fig. 11 a, b & c. The advantages are the bulky structure of dense
nonwovens and the applicability of polyester or polypropylene webs. The disadvantage lies in difficulties of
suitable particle sizes and ranges, and their distribution.
Fig. 11a: Powder bonding line

Fig. 11b: Powder adhesive sprinkling


Fig. 11c: Powder bonding with electrostatic assistance
8. APPLICATIONS

Nonwoven products in which binders are utilized:

Wipes and towels

Medical nonwovens

Roofing products

Apparel interlinings

Filter media

Coating substrates

Automotive trim

Carrier fabrics

Bedding products (high loft)

Furniture applications (high loft)

Apparel

Pillows (high loft)

9. SUMMARY

In the latter part of the 1970s and 1980s, thermal bonding technology grew rapidly, providing the industry
with a realistic method to produce strong and soft nonwoven fabrics without the use of a chemical binder.
This development provided substantial advances in performance and properties of many types of nonwovens.
One quality of this new bonding technique was that these nonwovens contained no formaldehyde and no
chemical additives to cause consumer concern. Naturally, this has depressed the interest of chemical binders
within the industry and has resulted in a decline in binder usage.

Despite this setback, significant improvements and advances have continued to be made by the synthetic
polymer industry, to the benefit of the range of nonwoven products that continue to utilize chemical bonding
methods. These improvements have involved such developments as formaldehyde-free binders, low-cure
temperature binders, complex copolymers with unique characteristics, moldable binders, and others. In the
future, new types of binders may be combined with the present choices, for example, by co polymerization.
In addition, new ideas such as reactive binders which can be covalently bonded with fibers will be
continually investigated.

REFERENCES
1. Michele Mlynar, Rohm & Haas Co, “Chemical Binders”, INTC 2003, Sept 15-18.
2. W.E. Devry, "Latex bonding Chemistry and Processes."
3. Derelich, "Nonwoven Textile Fabrics", Kirk-Othmer: Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, Vol.
16, 3rd Ed, p104-124, 1981.
4. B.M. Lichstein, The Nonwovens Handbook, INDA Association of the Nonwoven Fabric Industry,
New York, 1988.
5. J. Lunenschloss and W. Albrecht, Non-woven Bonded Fabrics, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York,
1985.
6. A.E. Meazey, " Binders used in Bonded Fiber Fabric Production", Nonwovens '71, The textile Trade
Press, England, 1971.
7. M.F. Meyer and W. A.; Haili, " Nonwovens and Laminates Made with Polyester Adhesive Powders,
"Eastman Kodak Company.
8. J.M. Oelkers and E.J. Sweeney," Latex Binders and Bonding Techniques of Disposables", 1988.
9. Ellen Lees Wuagneux, " And how would you like your nonwovens?" Nonwoven Industry Oct. 64-72
(1997).
10. INDA, Book of Paper, 1997
11. www.nonwovens.com/facts/technology/binders/binders.htm

Back to Table of Contents


DRY-LAID NONWOVENS
Updated: April, 2004 - Atul Dahiya, M. G. Kamath, Raghavendra R. Hegde
(Xiao Gao and Hsu-Yeh Huang)
1. INTRODUCTION

All nonwoven fabrics are based on a fibrous web. The characteristics of the web determine the physical
properties of the final product. These characteristics depend largely on the web geometry, which is
determined by the mode of web formation. Web geometry includes the predominant fiber direction, whether
oriented or random, fiber shape (straight, hooked or curled), the extent of inter-fiber engagement or
entanglement, crimp and z-direction compaction. Web characteristics are also influenced by the fiber
diameter, fiber length, web weight, chemical and mechanical properties of the polymer.

The choice of methods for forming webs is determined by fiber length. Initially, the methods for the forming
of webs from staple-length fibers were based on the textile carding process, whereas web formation from
short fibers was based on papermaking technologies. Though these technologies are still in use, newer
methods have been developed. For example, webs are formed from long, virtually endless filament directly
from bulk polymers; both web and fibers are produced simultaneously.

2. DRY-LAID NONWOVENS FROM STAPLE FIBERS


Staple Fibers:

These fibers are long enough to be handled by conventional spinning equipment. The fibers are 1.2 to 20cm
or longer, but not continuous.

3. FOUR PHASES OF THE DRY-LAID MANUFACTURING SYSTEM


3.1 FIBER SELECTION

Some of the factors to be considered in the selection of fibers for dry-laid nonwovens are:

Absorbency

Abrasion resistance

Bursting strength

Permeability

Softness and tear resistance in the fabric

3.2 FIBER PREPARATION

Staple fibers are shipped to the manufacturer in the form of bales and fiber preparation consists of mechanical
and pneumatic processes of handling from the bale to the point where the fiber is introduced into the
web-forming machine. The following processes are included in a typical fiber preparation line:

Bale opening

The bales are unstrapped and placed side-by-side in line with the milling head of a bale opener. The
fibers are picked up from the top of the bales by two opening rolls in conjunction with a partial air
vacuum. The opening head traverses back and forth across the bale lay down, starting and stopping on
demand from the blending hopper. This ensures maximum efficiency and blending. The objective of
an opening line is to reduce the size of fiber tufts from the bale to the chute feed, which supplies the
web forming machine.

Fig. 1: Optomix® head

Blending

The blending feeders gently open the tufts of fibers by the interaction of an inclined needle lattice
apron and an evener roller equipped with needles. Blending of the tufts from different bales also takes
place in the opening and mixing achieved by the inclined apron and the evener roller. The opened
tufts are deposited into a weigh pan controlled by load cells which dump the fibers onto a feed
conveyor.
Fig.2: Blend hopper

Coarse opening

The blending conveyor feeds fiber into an opening roll, which has a three-lag pin beater (Kirschner
beater type) where coarse opening of the fiber tufts takes place.

Fine opening

The fiber opened by the opening roll is transported by air to the feed box of the fine opener. The fine
opener consists of two opening rolls, one evener roll and a cylinder roll all of which are wound with
metallic clothing. The opener reduces the tuft size by using the principle of carding points between
rolls A and B and between rolls B and C. The reduced tufts are transferred to the cylinder roll D
which delivers the opened fiber into an air stream to the web-former.

Web-former feeding

The feed system to the web-forming machine is selected based on the type of fiber and the type of
web-former. Chute feeding is normally used to feed fibers up to 60 millimeters in length. For longer
fibers, a hopper feed with a shaker-type chute is used.
Fig. 3: Kirshner beater

Fig. 4: Microtuft opener, FS/52, KD condenser

3.3 WEB FORMATION AND LAYERING


The dry-web process for making a nonwoven consists of basically three methods:
3.3.1 WEB FORMATION
3.3.1.1 MECHANICAL WEB FORMATION (Carding or Garnetting)
Carding

The main objective of carding is to separate small tufts into individual fibers, to begin the process of
parallelization and to deliver the fibers in the form of a web. The principle of carding is the
mechanical action in which the fibers are held by one surface while the other surface combs the fibers
causing individual fiber separation. At its center is a large rotating metallic cylinder covered with card
clothing. The card clothing is comprised of needles, wires, or fine metallic teeth embedded in a heavy
cloth or in a metallic foundation. The cylinder is partly surrounded by an endless belt of a large
number of narrow, cast iron flats positioned along the top of the cylinder. The top of the cylinder may
be covered by alternating rollers and stripper rolls in a roller-top card.

Fig. 5: Basic construction of a card and its parts

The fibers are fed by a chute or hopper and condensed into the form of a lap or batting. This is
initially opened into small tufts by a licker-in, which feeds the fibers to the cylinder. The needles of
the two opposing surfaces of the cylinder and flats or the rollers are inclined in opposite directions
and move at different speeds. The main cylinder moves faster than the flats and, due to the opposing
needles and difference in speeds, the fiber clumps are pulled and teased apart (fig 6 a & b). In the
roller-top card the separation occurs between the worker roller and the cylinder. The stripping roller
strips the larger tufts and deposits them back on the cylinder. The fibers are aligned in the machine
direction and form a coherent web below the surface of the needles of the main cylinder.
Fig. 6 (a): Carding action [3]

Fig. 6 (b): Carding action

The web is doffed from the surface of cylinder by a doffer roller and deposited on a moving belt. The
orientation ratio of the web at the doffer of a conventional card is approximately 5:1.

Productivity of older roller cards is about 30-50 kg/hour at the width of 1.5~2m. Nowadays, the roller
cards of performance up to 1000kg/hour in width 2~3.5m are delivered. Flat carding machines are
usually 1m wide and process about 5~50kg/hour [3].

Spinning preparation and carding of staple fibers have been and still are the subjects of studies and
publications concerning various aspects. There is even research on the carding of micro-fibers [4].

· Garnett

Garnetts are similar to roller-top cards. R.L. Street has described the garnett as "a group of rolls
placed in an order that allows a given wire configuration, along with certain speed relationships, to
level, transport, comb and interlock fibers to a degree that a web is formed."[2] Garnetts are mostly
used to process waddings and for making pads for automobile and bedding industries. It delivers a
more random web than a card. Most webs from garnetts are layered by crosslapping to build up the
desired finished nonwoven weight.

3.3.1.2 AERODYNAMIC WEB FORMATION (Air-lay)

The orientation created by carding is effectively improved by capturing fibers on a screen from an air-stream.
This is done on a Rando-Webber component. Starting with a lap or plied card webs fed by a feed roller, the
fibers are separated by a licker-in or spiked roller and introduced into an air-stream.

The total randomization excludes any preferred orientation when the fibers are collected on the condenser
screen. The web is delivered to a conveyor for transporting to the bonding area. Feeding of the
Rando-Webber by the cards increases the uniformity of the web. The length of fibers used in air-laying varies
from 2 to 6 cm. The shorter lengths allow higher production speeds. Longer fibers require higher air volume,
i.e., a lower fiber density to avoid tangling. Problems associated with air-laying are speed, web uniformity
and weight limitations. Due to uniformity problems, it has not been practical to make isotropic webs lighter
than 30g/m2. Air-laying is slower than carding and, hence, more expensive.

Fig. 7: Aerodynamic web production

The aerodynamic web forming process has some typical advantages and disadvantages [3]:

Among the advantages are:

· Isotropic structure of the web

· Voluminous webs can be produced

· Wide variety of processable fibers such as natural, synthetic, glass, steel, carbon, etc.

The main disadvantages are as follows:

Low level of opening fiber material by licker-in

Variable structures of web in width of layer due to irregular air flow close to walls of duct

· Possible entanglement of fibers in air stream

i) Centrifugal dynamic web formation (random card)

The centrifugal dynamic random card forms a web by throwing off fibers from the cylinder onto a doffer
with fiber inertia, which is subject to centrifugal force, in proportion to the square of the rotary speed.
Orientation in the web is three-dimensional and is random or isotropic. The random card produces a 12 to
50 g/ m2 web with fine fibers of 1.5 den and a web up to 100 g/m2 with coarse fibers. The production of the
random card is generally about 30 to 50% higher than conventional cards. The machine direction versus the
cross-direction strength is better than those produced in the conventional card, but not as good as that of the
air-laid webs. The number of machines required in the nonwovens line for the production of multi-layered
webs can be reduced by the use of the random card. The broad scope of adaptability of the random card for
producing a wide range of nonwovens has led to innovations in this method.

3.3.2 LAYERING

Web formations can be made into the desired web structure by the layering of the webs from either the card
or garnett. Layering can be accomplished in several ways to reach the desired weight and web structure.

· Longitudinal Layering: More than once cards are involved in here. Carded webs from all the cards
(placed in a sequence one after the other) are laid above one another on a conveyor belt and later
bonded. Properties of the bonded webs are anisotropic in nature because of the unidirectional
arrangements of fibers. This technique can only be used for making light textiles.

Cross layering: It can be done by using two different devices (cross lappers); vertical and horizontal
cross lapper. Vertical lapper consists of a pendulum conveyor after the doffer roll on a card (as shown
in fig. 8). Pendulum conveyor reciprocates and lays the carded web in to folds on another conveyor
belt.

Fig. 8: Vertical cross lapper [3]

Perpendicular layering: This technique has an advantage over longitudinal and cross layering because
of the perpendicular and oriented fibers in the fabric. The bonded webs have high resistance to
compression and show better recovery after repeated loading.

3.4 BONDING AND STABILIZATION OF WEBS


The type of bonding and finishing must also be considered when determining the chemical changes in the
fiber properties that may develop, which might affect the end product. Equally important is the performance
of the fiber in fiber preparation (opening and blending) and web formation.

3.4.1 MECHANICAL BONDING


Needlepunching

Needlepunching is a process of bonding nonwoven web structures by mechanically interlocking the


fibers through the web. Barbed needles, mounted on a board, punch fibers into the web and then are
withdrawn leaving the fibers entangled. The needles are spaced in a non-aligned arrangement and are
designed to release the fiber as the needle board is withdrawn. Details

Stitch Bonding

Stitch bonding is a method of consolidating fiber webs with knitting elements with or without yarn to
interlock the fibers. There are a number of different yarns that can be used. Kevlar® is used for
strength in the fabric for protective vests. Lycra® is used for stretch in the fabric. Home furnishings
are a big market for these fabrics. Other uses are vacuum bags, geotextiles, filtration and interlinings.
In many applications stitch-bonded fabrics are taking the place of woven goods because they are
faster to produce and, hence, the cost of production is considerably less.

3.4.2 THERMAL BONDING

Thermal bonding is the process of using heat to bond or stabilize a web structure that consists of a
thermoplastic fiber. All part of the fibers act as thermal binders, thus eliminating the use of latex or resin
binders. Thermal bonding is the leading method used by the cover stock industry for baby diapers.
Polypropylene has been the most suitable fiber with a low melting point of approximately 165°C. It is also
soft to touch. The fiber web is passed between heated calender rollers, where the web is bonded. In most
cases point bonding by the use of embossed rolls is the most desired method, adding softness and flexibility
to the fabric. Use of smooth rolls bonds the entire surface of the fabric increasing the strength, but reduces
drape and softness. Details

3.4.3 CHEMICAL BONDING

Bonding a web by means of a chemical is one of the most common methods of bonding. The chemical binder
is applied to the web and is cured. The most commonly used binder is latex, because it is economical, easy to
apply and very effective. Several methods are used to apply the binder and include saturation bonding, spray
bonding, print bonding and foam bonding. Details

3.4.4 HYDROENTANGLEMENT

Hydroentanglement is a process of using fluid forces to lock the fibers together. This is achieved by fine
water jets directed through the web, which is supported by a conveyor belt. Entanglement occurs when the
water strikes the web and the fibers are deflected. The vigorous agitation within the web causes the fibers to
become entangled. Details
Fig. 9: Schematic of hydroentanglement process

REFERENCES

1. Turbak, A. F., Nonwovens: Theory, Process, Performance and Testing.

2. Street, R.L., "Mechanical Web Formations," 1981 Fiber Fill Conference Proceedings, INDA,
Charlotte, NC, p.1, 1981.

3. Jirsak, O., and Wadsworth, L. C., Nonwoven Textiles, Carolina Academic Press, 1999.

4. Leifeld, F., Carding Micro-Fibers, Textile Technology, Melliand English, 2/1993 E43.

Back to Table of Contents


FINISHING OF NONWOVEN BONDED FABRICS
Updated: April, 2004 - M. G. Kamath, Atul Dahiya, Raghavendra R. Hegde
(Haoming Rong & Ramaiah Kotra)

1. INTRODUCTION

The production of nonwoven fabrics is carried out either as a continuous process, with fiber or resin as the
input material and a roll of fabric as output, or as a series of batch processes. Correspondingly, fabric
finishing is carried out either in tandem with web formation and consolidation or off-line as a separate
operation. Nonwoven bonded fabrics are, by definition, textiles and they can be finished in exactly the same
way as other textiles such as woven or knitted fabrics. There are many examples of particular methods and
types of finishing equipment being used for both kinds of fabrics. Nonwovens may be given one or more of a
variety of finishing processes as a means of enhancing fabric performance or aesthetic properties.
Performance properties include functional characteristics such as moisture regain and transport, absorbency,
or repellency; flame retardancy; electrical response; resistance; and frictional behavior. Aesthetic properties
include various attributes such as appearance, surface texture, color, and odor.

Finishing of nonwoven bonded fabrics can be classified from different ways. Some people believe that
nonwoven finishing processes can be categorized as chemical, mechanical, or thermal-mechanical. Chemical
finishing involves the application of chemical agents as coatings to fabric surfaces or the impregnation of
fabrics with chemical additives or fillers. Mechanical finishing involves altering the texture of fabric surfaces
by physically reorienting or shaping fibers on or near the fabric surface. Thermal-mechanical finishing
involves altering fabric dimensions or physical properties using of heat and pressure [1]. Generally, finishing
of nonwoven bonded fabrics is classified as Dry finishing or Wet finishing.

2. DRY FINISHING

2.1 SHRINKAGE

The compaction that accompanies shrinkage is useful in obtaining greater basis weight or GSM (grams per
square meter) and density, more bulk, higher strength and improved cleavage properties. Shrinkage occurs
when the fibers are wet or dry depending on the type. Shrinkage by exposure to heat is suitable for a
nonwoven fabric made predominantly of synthetic fibers and is especially effective if fibers are prone to
shrinkage. The web is fed through the heating zone on screen driers. They are usually perforated cylinder
driers with a rotating over feed, whereby the web is fed faster onto the roll than it is drawn off.

A second shrinkage is carried out if the web contains significant amounts of natural fibers. The web is
immersed in a tank of hot water to promote shrinkage and is dried without tension. Some special synthetic
fibers shrink both when they are wet and when heated. A variation of wet shrinkage, which aids in saving
energy, is shrinkage in steam. Needling together two types of webs where one shrinks and the other is
shrink-proof results in the formation of decorative raised patterns when shrunk. This technique is used in the
production of sculptured wall and floor coverings.

2.2 WRENCHING

The Clupak process, invented by Sanford Cluett, is similar to the sanforising process first used in the paper
industry in 1957. It was later adopted to wet-laid nonwoven bonded fabrics.
The machinery (fig. 1) consists of a continuous rubber belt, about 25 mm thick, with an intermediate woven
layer lying on a heated, chromium-plated and polished drying cylinder. The web is pressed against the
cylinder at the first point of contact by a non-rotating clamping bar. The rubber cloth is compacted
lengthwise, which affects the web between it and the cylinder in the same way thus causing compacting and
crimping of the fibers in the web longitudinally. The web is fed moist, through the gap between the belt and
the cylinder. The compacting is fixed by drying.

The outcome of the Clupak method depends on a number of factors. Hydrophilic fibers are more suitable
than hydrophobic ones. Polyolefin fibers are not suitable due to their lower moisture absorption and
sensitivity to heat. Webs in which the fibers are oriented lengthwise give a more pronounced effect than
cross-laid or random-laid webs. The degree of wrenching is increased if the moisture content is high - about
20% - but if the bonding agent is more than 50% such increases are unattainable. Thermoplastic bonding
agents assist wrenching but the web tends to adhere to the cylinder. Elastomer bonding agents due to their
elastic nature almost cancel the wrenching effect.

2.3 CREEPING: THE MICREX-MICROCREEPE PROCESS

In the Micrex process, compaction of the web is so strong that the creeping effect is visible and the increase
in extension and basis weight can easily be measured. The surface per unit area is larger and the flexibility is
improved even further than by the Clupak method.
The apparatus for the Micrex process (fig. 2) consists of a rotating conveyor roller, the surface of which has
screw- shaped grooves in it, and two guide plates - one fixed and one elastic -forming a knee lying against
the cylinder. Between these is fed the web and nearby is a scrapper-like compressing device inclined at an
acute angle to the surface of the roller.

The web is compacted in the first gap, then raises itself from the cylinder in the relaxation zone to be
compacted by the scrapper again. The process can be adjusted to produce a fine or coarse crepe without
significant impairment of the mechanical properties despite production speeds of 150-200 m/min since the
web is handled dry and at much lower temperatures as compared to the Clupak method. This method is
suitable to creeping longitudinally oriented carded webs, wet or dry-laid random structured webs,
spun-bonded and spunlaced products.

2.4 CRABBING, CALENDERING AND PRESSING

These methods are used to improve the surface characteristics of the fabrics, the most important features
being smoothing and patterning. The processes used are continuous and usually involve one or several pairs
of rollers operating under pressure.

Glazing or Rolling calender: This method is not particularly important for nonwoven fabrics, with occasional
exceptions. The smooth surface can be obtained usually by selecting an appropriate form of bonding and,
especially, for drying a wet-bonded web. Calendering has not met with much success since it is often
accompanied by undesirable compression. The only time a rolling calender is used is when two steel rollers
are paired to break the so-called 'blotches' in spun-bonded fabrics.

Moire or goffering calender: The calenders are common in nonwoven finishing and are used in the
compacting of the webs made of natural and synthetic fibers. This type of calendering can be considered to
be both a bonding and finishing process. Webs composed of longitudinally oriented cotton or viscose fibers
with a GSM of about 10-30 g/m2 can be stiffened and compacted sufficiently by passing them through a
goffering calender when slightly damp. Hot embossing of synthetic fiber webs, even when the fibers are
longitudinally oriented, produces a product remarkably strong due to the fibers melting at the embossed
areas. The patterns can be of grid, webbed or point type. The temperature of the heated rollers is generally
20-30°C above the melting point of the fibers and the nip roll pressure 20-50dN/cm, depending on the
volume of the web and the proportion of synthetic fibers it contains. If the web is cross-laid, point embossing
results in maximum strength. If the fibers are arranged lengthwise, webbed embossing is employed.

The embossing effect is used to obtain special effects such as leather graining, simulated weave, plaster,
brush strokes, cord and mock tiling. Another area in which heated calenders are used is in the manufacture of
laminates. Here thermoplastic fibers, layers of thread or film are placed between two layers of non-plastic
web and are fused together by heat and pressure. Such laminates are used as tablecloths, seat and cushion
covers. Calenders are also used in the transfer printing of the bonded webs.

Roller presses: The oldest form of improving the surface of nonwoven bonded fabrics is the pressing of wool
felts, especially felts for collar linings. This gives a smoother surface finish and also improves strength and
luster.

2.5. PERFORATING AND SLITTING


The nonwoven bonded fabrics produced are too stiff and are, therefore, unsuitable for clothing. This is
because the individual fibers are not free to move in relation to one another, as are threads in woven or
knitted fabrics. Perforating and slitting are two methods practiced to improve the fall or drape of nonwoven
bonded fabrics.

Perforating: The Artos method is a method of perforating in which the web, which has been bonded by
using chemicals, is perforated with hot needles. This process not only punches holes but also reinforces as a
result of cross-linking and condensation of the bonding agent. The Hungarian firm Temaforg uses a similar
method to perforate webs made of synthetic fibers to produce nonwoven bonded fabrics which are strong and
yet supple enough for use as building and insulation materials.

Slitting: Slitting, originally developed to improve the softness and drape of films was used by the Breveteam
company for interlinings, in particular for adhesive fixable interlinings. The optimum cut length and distance
between the slits to get maximum softness and fall without serious reduction of strength can be calculated.
The effect of slitting allows greatest flexibility at right angles to the direction of the slit.

The slitting is accomplished by a roller with small blades mounted on it, for example, in an off-set
arrangement 1.7 mm apart, making slits of a maximum length of 6.5mm. Rotary knives with spreaders can be
fitted to the roller, thus making an interrupted cutting edge. Polyethylene or polyamide film shaped by
splitting or embossing and stretching by the Xironet and Smith-Nephew methods make good air permeable
bonding layers for laminating nonwoven bonded fabrics.

2.6. SPLITTING, GRINDING, VELOURING AND SINGEING

Splitting: When nonwovens are substituted for leather, the thick layer of needled fabric is split similar to the
splitting of leather to make thinner fabrics. The fabrics used are thick, high strength, firmly bonded, closely
needled and usually shrunk. The product is thin, supple and like leather is used for slip belts, shoe
interlinings, backing material for shoe uppers and leather bags.

Splitting is done by machines in which a continuous rotation hoop knife is guided with great precision in the
gap between two conveyor rollers, the distance between them depending on the thickness and type of fabric
required.

Grinding and Velouring: Splitting is followed by either ironing and friction calendering or moire
calendering and possibly also grinding and polishing to make the surface even, giving the fabric the
appearance of velour or suede. The process is known as velouring. First there are several machines or
consecutive passages to coarsely roughen the surface and then polish it increasingly fine. After grinding, the
dust is removed by brushing or beating the fabric or by suction. The distinctive features of such products are
their soft feel, elegant draping qualities and velvet-like surface.

Singeing: It belongs to the category of a dry finishing process. It is essentially the burning off of protruding
fibers from nonwoven fabrics, particularly needled fabrics. The process is exactly the same as traditional
singeing and is carried out on gassing frames where the fabric is passed over an open gas flame. The surface
is made smoother, which simplifies the dusting of filter fabrics.

3. WET FINISHING

3.1 WASHING

The purpose of washing is to remove unwanted substances from the fabric. In a wet process a suitable
washing machine, using water as the washing medium and occasionally a detergent, intensifies the effects
required.
Some anionic washing agents also have the effect of softening the fabric; nonionic agents have the advantage
of being universally compatible but are more efficient at specific temperatures. As in all wet and dry
processes the fabric should be subjected to as little tension as possible when being washed and, lengthwise,
stretching is undesirable.

3.2. DYEING

Nonwoven fabrics are colored either plain or patterned when they are to be used for decorative purposes.
Examples are in wallpapers or floor coverings, table or bed linen or as a furnishing fabric. The interlinings
for shirts or blouses are also colored to match the top fabric. Colors can be divided into dyes and pigments.
Dyes have substantivity for fibers, meaning they are attracted from their application media by the fibrous
substrate. Pigments are applied from a latex medium. Both dyes and pigments can be applied at various
stages of the nonwoven process, starting from the polymer or pulp of fibers prior to web formation [2].

Dyeing of polymer: In certain polymers such as polyester, dyes and pigments can be added as a concentrate
to the polymer immediately prior to extrusion. This process is referred to as producer coloration or melt
dyeing. The color concentrates are usually pellets or beads that contain a high concentration of dyes or
pigments. Acrylic polymer can be "gel dyed" with cationic dyes which react with the anionic sites in the
polymer while the polymer is in the final stages of being formed prior to drying. In rayon, pigments can be
introduced to the polymer solution prior to spinning. This is also the case in polypropylene, which has much
less affinity to dyes. The advantages of producer coloring are that the web does not have to withstand the
rigors of dyeing and the dye fastness is generally superior to dyed webs [3].

Staple and mass dyeing: Dyeing and printing are wet processes and are time, energy and cost-intensive.
Wherever possible, coloring of the web is combined with the wet processes necessary for the bonding, or the
fiber is dyed in staple form. Mass dyeing plays an important role in the case of synthetic fibers.

Dyeing and bonding: When the web has to be bonded chemically the dye is also added to the vat containing
the bonding agent. The bonding agent may coat the fibers of the web equally, which would make possible the
use of finely dispersed pigment dyes. The bonding agent would then adhere to the surface of the fibers and
also would exhibit the excellent non-fading properties pigments are noted for. This also improves the rubbing
fastness when wet or dry and dye fastness to perspiration and ironing. In the case of bonding agents not
applied evenly to all fibers, a dye with affinity to the fibers can be added to the medium containing the
bonding agent. Thus even dyeing can be expected despite the uneven distribution of the bonding agent.

If great lengths of web composed of a single type of fiber, bonding and dyeing can be carried out in a single
process without difficulty. For example cotton and viscose webs can be dyed with direct dyes, polyamide
webs with acidic dyes and polyester webs with disperse dyes resulting in coloration that is as deep and fast as
conventional dyeing. The only consideration is that the pH of the bonding agent be acceptable for the dye.

Subsequent dyeing: It is much more difficult to dye and bond simultaneously if the web is composed of a
mixture of different kinds of fibers. In this case and also in many cases when the fiber is homogeneous,
dyeing is carried out in a later stage. The nonwoven fabric is then treated as a woven of knitted fabric and is
dyed in the traditional ways.

Heavy and high bulk fabrics are dyed continuously since jiggers or dyeing beams, which work in batches,
can cope with only small quantities and is therefore not economically feasible. It is however possible to dye
light nonwoven fabrics perfectly on dyeing beams. Thermoplasticity, especially of the soft acrylate bonding
agents, play an important role in jig dyeing. Polyester nonwovens can be jig dyed at a high temperature, but it
has been found that at temperatures above 102°C the bonding agent begins to make the separate layers of the
web adhere to one another. Consequently the rolls do not unwind properly.
Cold pad batch dyeing: This process was patented by Farbwerke Hoechst for the dyeing of bonded webs
made from polyamide by the cold pad-batch method. Nonwoven fabrics meant for curtains and table linen
produced by the melt spinning or card/cross-laying method and bonded with acrylic acid esters are dyed with
acid or metal coupled dyes to which acids are added to provide hydrogen bonding together with cold wetting
agents to encourage migration. The fabric is then padded, batched and left for 24 hours covered with
polyethylene film to be roller burnished. Later it is given a warm rinse followed by soaping and, thereafter, a
further rinse.

Continuous dyeing: The dyeing of heavy nonwoven fabrics is continuous, usually by the conventional
pad-steam process followed by steaming to fix the dye. Steaming is usually followed by rinsing and washing.

3.3. PRINTING

Due to the increasingly popular use of nonwovens in the home furnishing sector there has been a great
expansion of the color range and printing methods. The most commonly employed methods are screen and
rotary screen-printing. The nonwoven fabric is placed on the printing backcloth similar to any other fabric
and printed with dyestuffs appropriate for the fabric concerned, partially dried, fixed by steaming and
washed.

Pigment printing is very important since the pigment binders bond the fabric even more. The effect is
particularly marked in spunbonded fabrics. A further consequence is that condensation replaces drying and
steaming. If the thickeners have little body, washing may not be necessary.

Printing of light non-woven bonded fabrics: Pigments are suitable for all kinds of light, non-woven bonded
fabrics. The concentration of dye is high in light fabric printing.

Printing heavy non-woven bonded fabrics: The printing paste for the rotary screen printing of heavy needled
fabrics have very different rheological properties from the paste suitable for light fabrics. The printing speed
is much lower than when printing light fabrics.

Transfer printing: In transfer printing, subliming dyestuffs are transferred from a release paper on to the
non-woven bonded fabric with the aid of heat and pressure. Polyester fiber is more suitable for this method.

3.4. CHEMICAL FINISHES

Nonwovens are finished with various chemicals in order to obtain the specific property depending on
end-use. Different chemical finishes are discussed below.

i) Antistats

Static electricity tends to build up in nonwovens made of synthetic fibers due to their lack of moisture regain
and conductivity. This can cause problems such as clinging and dragging during processing, apparel that
clings and crackles, dangerous discharge of static electricity in explosive atmospheres and tendency to attract
airborne dirt and soil in processing and use. The antistats work in three basic ways. They improve the
conductivity of the fibers, coat the fiber with a thin layer of material that will attract a thin layer of moisture,
and finish the fabric such that it holds a charge opposite to that normally accumulated on the fiber to
neutralize the static charge. Antistats can be either durable or non-durable. Examples of durable antistats
include vapor deposited metals, conductive carbon or metallic particles applied by binders, polyamines,
polyethoxylated amine and ammonium salts and carboxylic salts. Non-durable antistats usually consist of
inorganic or organic salts or hygroscopic organic materials. Examples are quaternary ammonium salts,
imidazoles and fatty amides which are cationic. Anionic antistats include phosphates, phosphate esters,
sulfonates, sulfates and phosphonates. Examples of nonionic antistats include glycols, ethoxylated fatty acids,
ethoxylated fatty alcohols and sorbitan fatty acid esters.

ii) Antimicrobials

These are used to control populations of bacteria, fungi, algae and viruses on the substrate. The treatment
usually prevents the biological degradation of the product or prevents the growth of undesirable organisms.
Broadly classed, the antimicrobials are either fixed or leachable. The fixed treatments are durable, but the
leachable treatments may transfer to the surrounding environment through migration, solubility or abrasion.
A generic list of the treatments include alcohols such as isopropanol or propylene glycol, halogens such as
chlorine, hypochlorite, iodine, N-chloramine and hexachlorophene, metals such as silver nitrate, mercuric
chloride and tin chloride, various peroxides, phenols quaternary ammonium compounds, pine oil derivatives,
aldehydes and phosphoric acid esters. Care should be taken in the application of these compounds to prevent
inactivation, loss of durability or masking of the active ingredient with other finishes.

iii) Water repellents

Water repellent finishes are a type of barrier, which function to lower the critical surface tension of the fiber
surface. To be most effective it is important that the fibers are treated evenly on all surfaces to give the
lowest critical surface tension possible. Water repellency can be achieved with a variety of chemical finishes
such as waxes, wax dispersions, melamine wax extenders, chrome complexes, silicones, and flourochemicals.
The finishes require curing to develop the best repellency and are also prone to destabilizing with shear, heat
or changes of pH or ionic strength.

iv) Lubricants

Lubricants or slip agents are generally applied as processing aids to help in stretching or to improve the
processability of nonwovens. They are also applied to aid in sewing, quilting, tufting or other processes
where needles penetrate the fabric. Lubricants impart the same properties as softeners but specifically reduce
fiber friction. Common chemicals include sulphonated oils, oil emulsions, silicones, esters, polyethylene
dispersions and fatty acid soaps. Many surfactants may also be used. Care should be taken to avoid excessive
strength loss.

v) UV absorbers and polymer stabilizers

Ultraviolet light can do great damage to the polymers causing photo-degradation, yellowing, loss in strength
and fading of the colors. The damage is generally due to the formation of destructive free radicals in the
polymer. The finish can protect the fabric by shielding the fiber or absorbing the light or by chemically
quenching the free radicals. The three main classes of products used are, substituted benzotriazoles,
benzophenones which are uv absorbers, and hindered amines which are free radical reactants. They are
applied from a bath or added to the polymer.

vi) Flame retardants

The finishing of fabrics with flame retardants can reduce the tendency to burn or reduce the tendency to
propagate the flame. The flame retardants may char the fuel, quench the reaction of combustion, absorb heat
or emit cooling gases or replace oxygen. Flame retardants are durable or nondurable. Durable retardants
include decabromodiphenyl oxide, antimony oxide, phosphates, brominated esters, PVC and other
chlorinated binders. Nondurables include borates, boric acids, zinc borate, sulfamic acid sulfamates,
ammonium phosphates, urea, etc. Hydrated alumina and zinc borate act as smoke supressants. Problems in
the application include odor, yellowing, loss of tensile strength, stiffening, skin irritation and color change or
loss.

vii) Softeners

Softeners are applied to improve the aesthetic and functional characteristics of a fabric. The hand, drape,
abrasion resistance, sewability and tear strength can be improved with the addition of a softener. It works by
reducing the coefficient of friction between the fibers. There are different types of softeners such as anionic
(sulfates or sulfonates), cationic (amines and quaternary amines) and nonionic (silicones, ethylene oxide
derivatives and hydrocarbon waxes.)

viii) Absorbency and rewetters

Chemicals used to impart hydrophilicity to a nonwoven are referred to as rewetters. These treatments
increase the critical surface tension of the fiber making it more wettable. This property is desirable in
end-uses such as wipes, hygiene, medical absorbent pads and garments. For hydrophobic fibers the treatment
facilitates the movement and penetration of the liquid in the capillary channels. Many anionic and nonionic
surfactants, antistats, flame retardants and softeners impart hydrophilicity.

ix) Thermoplastic binders, resins and emulsion polymers

Binders and resins are widely used in the finishing of nonwovens to add strength, control stiffness, add
moldability or pleatability, provide durable flame retardants, color, reduce linting and control shrinkage.
They soften when exposed to heat and return to their original state when cooled and, hence, can be set.
Emulsion polymers are also called latexes. The common binders, resins and polymers include acrylics, PVC,
polyacrylic acid, urethanes, starch, vinyl acetate etc.

x) Thermosetting resins and crosslinking agents

These are used to produce wrinkle resistant or permanent-press textiles. They are used to crosslink cellulose
for wrinkle resistance, crosslink binders for wash durability and solvent resistance. The technology is based
on the ability of formaldehyde to react with cellulose and nitrogen containing resins. The important resin
types are melamine-formaldehyde, urea formaldehyde and dimethyloethylene urea. The reaction is usually
catalyzed by acids, such as Lowry-Bronsted or Lewis acids. Problems encountered include formaldehyde
generation, tensile loss, discoloration and amine odor.

xi) Soil release

The soil release chemicals reduce the problem of soiling in two ways: repel the stains and soil using
repellants such as flourochemicals or create a surface that aids the removal of soils when cleaning or
laundering using chemicals based on polyacrylic acid.

xii) Optical brighteners

Optical brighteners or fluorescent whitening agents are organic chemicals that are used like dyes or pigments
to add brightness to fabrics. These chemicals are colorless but can absorb UV light and reemit it to the visible
range usually as a blue or blue-green. These products produce very white fabrics or brighten colored fabrics.
[8]

3.5 COATING

Coating is a basic and exceptionally important form of finishing for non-woven bonded fabrics. The way in
which the coating is carried out depends on the substrate, the machinery available, the substance that is to be
applied and, also on the effect desired.

Slop padding: It is one of the best known methods of direct coating. The coating is put on with a rotary roller,
the surface of which is covered in the substance to be applied. The slop padding roller is fed directly with the
laminating float by being dipped into it or using special feed rollers.

3.6 LAMINATING

Laminating is the permanent jointing of two or more prefabricated fabrics. Unless one or other of the fabrics
develops adhesive properties in certain conditions, an additional medium is necessary to secure bonding.

Wet laminating: Adhesives used in the wet process are dissolved or dispersed in a suitable solvent. The
simplest form of wet laminating consists of applying the adhesive to one of the lengths of material that is to
be joined, and to put the second length on it with the required amount of pressure. Then drying, hardening or
condensing the material that has been joined together is carried out. The solvents can be macromolecular
natural or synthetic substances and water.

Dry laminating: All Kinds of thermoplastics are used for dry laminating. These include powders, plastisols,
or melt adhesives, and are applied to the substrates that are to be joined together using suitable machinery.
Dry laminated non-woven fabrics have a soft feel.

3.7. FLOCKING

Flocking is a process of making a two-dimensional fabric have a third dimension. It is done by mechanically
or commonly electrostatically. Depending on how the adhesive is applied, the whole surface can be flocked
or patterns can be made. The adhesives are just like what are used in laminating and include
polyvinylchloride plastisols, polyurethane bicomponent adhesives and all kinds of aqueous dispersion
adhesives.

4. RESEARCH OF TEXTILE FINISHING: SOLID-ON-SOLID

Many textile manufacturing operations such as dyeing, printing, and finishing of fabrics use wet processing
techniques. These techniques involve using an aqueous solution or bath to apply chemicals to a textile
substrate, fixing the chemicals to the fiber, scouring or washing to remove loose chemicals, and drying to
produce a finished product. Heating and later evaporating water make these wet processes very energy
intensive. Industry experts estimate that wet processes use approximately 60% of the energy consumed in the
textile industry. In addition, shrinking water supplies in many parts of the world have prompted textile
manufacturers to develop methods that reduce water and energy consumption.

Working in this direction Georgia Tech’s School of Textile and Fiber Engineering has investigated three SOS
technologies. One of the techniques used electostatic powder spraygun deposition in the finishing of 100%
polypropylene nonwoven fabric. In this work, fluoropolymer in a fine powder was used in making fabric
having an excellent barrier to oil/solvent and isoproponal. The trials demonstrated for the first time that a
finishing process, which combines powder deposition and melt cutting can impart superior barrier properties
to polypropylene nonwoven substrate. So with the further developments in SOS processing, There can result
the elimination of the need for steam generation, the elimination of effluents, a decrease in dwell times in the
curing oven, the reduction of water consumption and the saving of energy. These changes can increase
productivity and reduce costs [5].

REFERENCES
1. www.nonwovens.com
2. J. R. Aspland and C. W. Jarvis, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, The Coloration and Finishing
of Nonwoven Fabrics
3. J. K. Vandermaas, Hoechst Celenese Corp and J. R. Aspland, Clemson University, Dyeing of
Nonwovens.
4. Frank Baldwin, Precision Fabrics Group Inc, Greensboro, NC, The Chemical Finishing of
Nonwovens.
5. http://es.epa.gov/techinfo/facts/solid-cs.html
6. Menachim Lewin and Stephen B. Sello, Chemical Processing of Fibers and Fabrics, Functional
Finishes, Part B, 1983
7. G H J Van der Walt and N J J Van Rensberg, Low-liquor Dyeing and Finishing, Textile Progress,
Vol. 14, No. 12, 1984.
8. Howard L. Needles, Textile Fibers, Dyes, finishes and Process, A Concise Guide, University of
California, Davis, CA, 1986.
9. J. Robert Wagner, TAPPI Journal, Vol. 66, No. 4, pp 41-43,1983
10. Herman B. Goldstein and Herbert W. Smith, aatcc, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp 49-54, 1980.

Back to Table of Contents


MELT BLOWN TECHNOLOGY
Updated, April, 2004- Atul Dahiya, M. G. Kamath, Raghavendra R. Hegde
(Ramaiah Kotra & Haoming Rong)

Melt blowing (MB) is a process for producing fibrous webs or articles directly from polymers or resins using
high-velocity air or another appropriate force to attenuate the filaments. The MB process is one of the newer
and least developed nonwoven processes. This process is unique because it is used almost exclusively to
produce microfibers rather than fibers the size of normal textile fibers. MB microfibers generally have
diameters in the range of 2 to 4 µm, although they may be as small as 0.1 µm and as large as 10 to 15 µm.
Differences between MB nonwoven fabrics and other nonwoven fabrics, such as degree of softness, cover or
opacity, and porosity can generally be traced to differences in filament size.

1. HISTORY

The basic technology to produce these microfibers was first developed under U.S. government sponsorship in
the early 1950s. The Naval Research Laboratory initiated this work to produce microfilters for the collection
of radioactive particles in the upper atmosphere. The significance of this work was recognized by an Exxon
affiliate and a development program was initiated in the middle 1960s. Five years later, a patented prototype
model successfully demonstrated the production of microfibers. At present, Exxon has developed most of the
licenses and/or options to produce microfiber nonwoven and MB equipment.

In the past 20 years there has been some activity outside of the Exxon technology and patents obtained by
companies such as 3M. The company, 3M, has developed processes for making microfibers and blends of
microfibers with textile denier fibers that were apparently beyond Exxon patents. Exxon has continued to
aggressively support MB R&D through the years. The major portion of the Exxon-supported effort is now
being conducted at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. North American major MB producers include
Hollingsworth and Vose, Kimberly-Clark, 3M, Fleetguard Filter, PGI Nonwovens, BBA Nonwovens, First
Quality Nonwovens and Johns Manville.

2. PROCESSING

The most commonly accepted and current definition for the MB process is: a one-step process in which
high-velocity air blows a molten thermoplastic resin from an extruder die tip onto a conveyor or takeup
screen to form a fine fiberous and self-bonding web.

The MB process is similar to the spunbond (SB) process which converts resins to nonwoven fabrics in a
single integrated process. The schematic of the process is shown MB in figure 1. A typical MB process
consists of the following elements: extruder, metering pumps, die assembly, web formation, and winding.
Fig. 1: Schematic of MB process

2.1 EXTRUDER

The extruder is one of the important elements in all polymer processing. It consists of a heated barrel with a
rotating screw inside as shown in figure 2. Its main function is to melt the polymer pellets or granules and
feed them to the next step/element. The forward movement of the pellets in the extruder is along the hot walls
of the barrel between the flights of the screw. The melting of the pellets in the extruder is due to the heat and
friction of the viscous flow and the mechanical action between the screw and the walls of the barrel. There
are four different heaters in the extruder, which are set in incremental order. The extruder is divided in to
three different zones [1]:

i) Feed Zone: In the feed zone the polymer pellets are preheated and pushed to the next zone.

ii) Transition Zone: The transition zone has a decreasing depth channel in order to compress and
homogenize the melted polymer.

iii) Metering Zone: This is the last zone in the extruder whose main purpose is to generate
maximum pressure in order to pump the molten polymer in the forward direction. At this point
the breaker plate controls the pressure generated with a screen pack placed near to the screw
discharge. The breaker plate also filters out any impurities such as dirt, foreign particle metal
particles and melted polymer lumps.

Fig. 2: Schematic of a screw extruder

2.2. METERING PUMP


The metering pump is a positive-displacement and constant-volume device for uniform melt delivery to the
die assembly. It ensures consistent flow of clean polymer mix under process variations in viscosity, pressure,
and temperature. The metering pump also provides polymer metering and the required process pressure. The
metering pump typically has two intermeshing and counter-rotating toothed gears. The positive displacement
is accomplished by filling each gear tooth with polymer on the suction side of the pump and carrying the
polymer around to the pump discharge, as shown in figure 3. The molten polymer from the gear pump goes to
the feed distribution system to provide uniform flow to the die nosepiece in the die assembly (or fiber
forming assembly).

Fig. 3: Schematic of a metering pump

2.3. DIE ASSEMBLY

The die assembly is the most important element of the melt blown process. It has three distinct components:
polymer-feed distribution, die nosepiece, and air manifolds.

i) Feed Distribution

The feed distribution in a melt-blown die is more critical than in a film or sheeting die for two
reasons. First, the melt-blown die usually has no mechanical adjustments to compensate for
variations in polymer flow across the die width. Second, the process is often operated in a
temperature range where thermal breakdown of polymers proceeds rapidly. The feed distribution is
usually designed in such a way that the polymer distribution is less dependent on the shear
properties of the polymer. This feature allows the melt blowing of widely different polymeric
materials with one distribution system. The feed distribution balances both the flow and the
residence time across the width of the die. There are basically two types of feed distribution that
have been employed in the melt-blown die: T-type (tapered and untapered) and coat hanger type.
Presently, the coathanger type feed distribution is widely used because it gives both even polymer
flow and even residence time across the full width of the die.

ii) Die Nosepiece

From the feed distribution channel the polymer melt goes directly to the die nosepiece. The web
uniformity hinges largely on the design and fabrication of the nosepiece. Therefore, the die
nosepiece in the melt blowing process requires very tight tolerances, which have made their
fabrication very costly. The die nosepiece is a wide, hollow, and tapered piece of metal having
several hundred orifices or holes across the width. The polymer melt is extruded from these holes to
form filament strands which are subsequently attenuated by hot air to form fine fibers. In a die's
nosepiece, smaller orifices are usually employed compared to those generally used in either fiber
spinning or spunbond processes. A typical die nosepiece has approximately 0.4-mm diameter
orifices spaced at 1 to 4 per millimeters (25 to 100 per inch).

There are two types of die nosepiece used: capillary type and drilled hole type. For the capillary
type, the individual orifices are actually slots that are milled into a flat surface and then matched
with identical slots milled into a mating surface. The two halves are then matched and carefully
aligned to form a row of openings or holes as shown in Figure 4. By using the capillary type, the
problems associated with precise drilling of very small holes are avoided. In addition, the capillary
tubes can be precisely aligned so that the holes follow a straight line accurately. The drilled-hole
type has very small holes drilled by mechanical drilling or electric discharge matching (EDM) in a
single block of metal, as shown in Figure 4.

Fig. 4: Schematic of a die nosepiece [1]

During processing, the whole die assembly is heated section-wise using external heaters to attain
desired processing temperatures. It is important to monitor the die temperatures closely in order to
produce uniform webs. Typical die temperatures range from 2l5°C to 340°C.

iii) Air Manifolds

The air manifolds supply the high velocity hot air (also called as primary air) through the slots on
the top and bottom sides of the die nosepiece, as shown in Figure 5. The high velocity air is
generated using an air compressor. The compressed air is passed through a heat exchange unit
such as an electrical or gas heated furnace, to heat the air to desired processing temperatures. The
exits from the top and bottom sides of the die through narrow air gaps are shown in Figure 5.
Typical air temperatures range from 230°C to 360°C at velocities of 0.5 to 0.8 the speed of sound.
Fig. 5: Schematic showing the air flow through the die assembly

2.4. WEB FORMATION

As soon as the molten polymer is extruded from the die holes, high velocity hot air streams (exiting from the
top and bottom sides of the die nosepiece) attenuate the polymer streams to form microfibers. As the hot air
stream containing the microfibers progresses toward the collector screen, it draws in a large amount of
surrounding air (also called secondary air) that cools and solidifies the fibers, as shown in figure 5. The
solidified fibers subsequently get laid randomly onto the collecting screen, forming a self-bonded nonwoven
web. The fibers are generally laid randomly (and also highly entangled) because of the turbulence in the air
stream, but there is a small bias in the machine direction due to some directionality imparted by the moving
collector. The collector speed and the collector distance from the die nosepiece can be varied to produce a
variety of melt-blown webs. Usually, a vacuum is applied to the inside of the collector screen to withdraw the
hot air and enhance the fiber laying process.

2.5. WINDING

The melt-blown web is usually wound onto a cardboard core and processed further according to the end-use
requirement. The combination of fiber entanglement and fiber-to-fiber bonding generally produce enough
web cohesion so that the web can be readily used without further bonding. However, additional bonding and
finishing processes may further be applied to these melt-blown webs.

2.6. BONDING

Additional bonding, over the fiber adhesion and fiber entanglement that occurs at lay down, is employed to
alter web characteristics. Thermal bonding is the most commonly used technique. The bonding can be either
overall (area bonding) or spot (pattern bonding). Bonding is usually used to increase web strength and
abrasion resistance. As the bonding level increases, the web becomes stiffer and less fabric-like.

2.7. FINISHING

Although most nonwovens are considered finished when they are rolled up at the end of the production line,
many receive additional chemical or physical treatment such as calendering, embossing, and flame
retardance. Some of these treatments can be applied during production, while others must be applied in
separate finishing operations.

3. PROCESS VARIABLES
Process variables can be divided into three groups: machine/operational variables, off-line variables and
material variables.
3.1 MACHINE VARIABLES

Machine variables, also called operational variables, are related to the machine and can be changed while the
equipment is being operated. These variables include air temperature, polymer/die temperature, die to
collector distance (DCD), collector speed, polymer throughput and air throughput. All of these affect the final
properties of the nonwoven web.

i) Polymer Throughput and Air Flow: both polymer throughput and air flow rate control the final
fiber diameter, fiber entanglement, basis weight and the attenuating zone.

ii) Polymer/Die and Air Temperature: These variables combined with air flow rate affect the
uniformity, shot formation (large globules of nonfibrous polymer larger in diameter than fibers in
webs), rope and fly formation, fabric appearance and feel (soft or stiff).

iii) Die to Collector Distance: This affects the openness of the fabric, thermal bonding among the fibers
and basis weight.

3.2 OFF-LINE VARIABLES

Off-line variables are fixed during a process run and can only be changed when the machine is not in
operation. These variables are air gap, air angle, die setback, and die hole size.

i) Die Hole Size: Die hole size along with die set back affects the fiber size.

ii) Air Gap: It affects the degree of fiber breakage by controlling the air exit pressure.

iii) Air Angle: It controls the nature of air flow, i.e. as the air angle approaches 90° it results in a high
degree of fiber separation or turbulence that leads to random fiber distribution. At an angle of 30°,
roped or parallel fibers deposited as loosely coiled bundles of fibers are generated. This structure is
undesirable. At angles greater than 30°, attenuation as well as breakage of fibers occurs.

3.3 MATERIAL VARIABLES

Material variables include polymer type, molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, melt viscosity,
polymer additives, and polymer pellet size (powdered or granular). The MB process is amenable to a wide
range of polymers in terms of viscosities and blends.

4. WEB CHARACTERISTICS AND PROPERTIES


i) Uniformity

The uniformity of the web is controlled by two important parameters: uniform distribution of fiber in the air
stream and proper adjustment of the vacuum level under the forming wire or belt. Non-uniform distribution
of fiber in the air stream can result from poor die design and from non-uniform ambient airflow into the air
stream. The vacuum under the forming media should be adjusted to pull the total air stream through the
media and lock the fibers in place. Generally, the closer the die is to the forming drum or belt, the better the
web uniformity.

ii) Product Characteristics

Melt-blown webs usually have a wide range of product characteristics. The main characteristics and
properties of melt-blown webs are as follows:

1. Random fiber orientation.

2. Lower to moderate web strength, deriving strength from mechanical entanglement and frictional
forces.

3. Generally high opacity (having a high cover factor).

4. Fiber diameter ranges from 0.5 to 30 m, but typically from 2-7 m.

5. Basis weight ranges from 8-350 g/m2, but typically 20-200 g/m2.

6. Microfibers provide a high surface area for good insulation and filtration characteristics.

7. Fibers have a smooth surface texture and are circular in cross-section.

8. Most melt-blown webs are layered or shingled in structure, the number of layers increases with basis
weight.

The fiber length in a melt-blown web is variable; it can be produced in the range from a few millimeters to
several hundred centimeters in length and usually exists over a broad range. The fiber cross-section is also
variable, ranging from circular to a flat configuration and other variations.

iii) Defects

Three of the major defects that occur in melt-blown production are roping, shot, and fly. Roping is caused by
uncontrolled turbulence in the air-stream and by movement of fibers during and after laydown. The defect is
observed as a narrow, elongated, thick streak in the web and resembles a slightly twisted "rope". Shot are
small, spherical particles of polymer formed during the blowing operation. Shot are generally caused by
excessively high temperatures or by too low a polymer molecular weight. Fly is a defect that does not go
directly into the web, but instead contaminates the surrounding environment. Fly is composed of very short
and very fine microfibers not trapped on the drum or belt during laydown. This can be caused by too violent
blowing conditions.

5. PROCESS STRUCTURE PROPERTY

The web structure in a melt-blown product is essentially isotropic. This is not surprising since web formation
is an air lay process. This means that the fibers have a random distribution in terms of the machine direction
(MD) and cross direction (CD). As a result, the physical properties will normally also be isotropic. If desired,
the fiber orientation in the web can be skewed by the use of selected processing conditions.

Polymer throughput of PP has been shown to have a noticeable effect on the physical properties of resultant
webs [2]. The mean fiber diameter, tensile strength, initials modulus, stiffness and web density increase with
increasing throughput. However, the decrease in both breaking strain and the energy required to break
indicates the brittle nature of the web produced at higher throughput. Increasing fiber diameter was attributed
to die swell and change in polymer-to-air ratio for a given airflow rate. Increase in airflow rate didn't result in
any significant change in average fiber diameter. The die orifice size had only minimal effects on the average
fiber diameter.

The average fiber diameter of the MB microfibers can be controlled by the specific resin employed and the
processing conditions selected. A typical microfiber can be as fine as 2 µm or less in diameter. The number
of fibers and resulting surface area are greatly increased as fiber diameter decreases.

6. POLYMER TYPE

The type of polymer or resin used will define the elasticity, softness, wetability, dyeability, chemical
resistance and other related properties of formed fibers. One of the advantages of melt-blown technology is to
handle many different polymers as well as mixture of polymers. Some polymers, which can be melt-blown,
are listed below. However, the list is not complete.

1. Polypropylene is easy to process and makes good web.

2. Polyethylene is more difficult to melt-blow into fine fibrous webs than is polypropylene.
Polyethylene is difficult to draw because of its melt elasticity.

3. PBT processes easily and produces very soft, fine-fibered webs.

4. Nylon 6 is easy to process and makes good webs.

5. Nylon 11 melt-blows well into webs that have very unusual leather like feel.

6. Polycarbonate produces very soft-fiber webs.

7. Poly (4-methyl pentene-1) blows well and produces very fluffy soft webs.

8. Polystyrene produces an extremely soft, fluffy material with essentially no shot defects.

The most widely used polymer that has a high MFR is polypropylene. Polypropylene with its low viscosity
has a low melting point and is easy to draw into fibers. It comprises 70-80% of the total North American
production [3].

The feasibility of MB original and recycled PET has also been studied [4]. PET webs have a strong tendency
to shrink, depending on the airflow rate used. PET webs produced at high airflow rate shrink more than those
produced at low airflow rate because of their higher level of molecular orientation. Heat-setting of
melt-blown PET webs or, alternatively, the use of PBT (poly-butylene terephalate) was suggested as a
possible means of producing thermally stable melt-blown PET nonwovens.

7. MAJOR PROCESS MODIFICATIONS

In the case of melt-blown web, additional process modifications can provide excellent flexibility in terms of
designing new and novel products. Composite formation has been used extensively to supplement the limited
physical strength of normal melt-blown webs and also to provide enhancement of other properties. This
feature has been very effectively exploited in SMS structures based on a three-ply system consisting of
Spunbond/Melt-blown/Spunbond plies to give an enhanced composite structure, supplementing the fiber and
web properties of the melt blown with the strength and toughness of the spunbond surface fabrics.
Lamination with a variety of other sheets and webs has also extended the range of properties achievable with
melt-blown systems.

During the MB process other fibers or materials such as activated carbon or super absorbents can be blown in
to the MB web to enhance, resiliency and absorbency. The most notable success of this is the Coform®
structures produced by Kimberly-Clark Corporation. These structures involve an intimate blend of melt
blown fibers and short wood pulp fibers. By varying the ratio of the two fiber feeds, a broad range of
products can be produced. Such Coform® structures are often combined with a Spunbond (SB) fabric on one
or both surfaces to provide additional product versatility. Blends with other fiber types have also been
produced, such as 3M's Thinsulate® blends of polypropylene (PP) or polyester staple with MB webs.

8. APPLICATIONS

The melt-blown system is unique because the process generates a fine fiber not available to the other
nonwoven processes. Micro-denier fiber (less than 0.1 denier per filament) is not really available as a
nonwoven fibrous raw material. Hence, the melt-blown process, which can produce such a fiber, opens new
vistas of products and applications. At the present time, the following market segments are successfully
served by melt-blown products:

i) Filtration media

This market segment continues to be the largest single application. The best known application is the surgical
face mask filter media. The applications include both liquid filtration and gaseous filtration. Some of them
are found in cartridge filters, clean room filters and others.

ii) Medical fabrics

The second largest MB market is in medical/surgical applications. The major segments are disposable gown
and drape market and sterilization wrap segment.
Surgical drapes and gown Sterilization wrap

ii) Sanitary products

MB products are used in three types of sanitary protection products - feminine sanitary napkin,
Spunbond-MB diaper top sheet, and disposable adult incontinence absorbent products.

iv) Oil adsorbents

MB materials in variety of physical forms are designed to pick up oily materials. The best known application
is the use of sorbents to pick up oil from the surface of water, such as encountered in an accidental oil spill
and for mats in machine shops and in industrial plants.

v) Apparel

The apparel applications of melt-blown products fall into three market segments: thermal insulation,
disposable industrial apparel and substrate for synthetic leather. The thermal insulation applications takes
advantage of microvoids in the structure filled with quiescent air, resulting in excellent thermal insulation.

vi) Hot-melt adhesives

The MB process has a special feature: it can handle almost any type of thermoplastic material. Thus, the task
of formulating a hot-melt adhesive to provide specific properties can be greatly simplified by using the melt
blown system to form the final uniform adhesive web.

vii) Electronic specialties

Two major applications exist in the electronics specialties market for melt blown webs. One is as the liner
fabric in computer floppy disks and the other as battery separators and as insulation in capacitors.

viii) Miscellaneous applications

Interesting applications in this segment are manufacture of tents and elastomeric nonwoven fabrics which
have the same appearance as continuous filament spunbonded products.

9. COMPLEXITY OF MELT BLOWN TECHNOLOGY

The melt-blown process is a complex one that involves turbulence, which is poorly understood by the
scientist even today. Isolation of experimental factors is difficult because of highly variable interaction. The
multi-filament environments and factors such as humidity of the processing room and quench air temperature
wildly change boundary conditions [5].

The processing window for successfully melt-blowing polymers is very limited. In order to produce webs
with acceptable quality, one has to be in the right range of process parameters and the range varies between
polymers. Unlike melt-spinning, there is almost virtually no control over the individual filaments in
melt-blowing. It is very difficult to predict structure/property of melt-blown filaments since the isolation of
variables is very difficult in a multi-filament environment.

Melt-blown products are difficult to compare to other nonwoven products because they are quite different in
nature and function. Most nonwoven fabrics are designed to function similarly to woven or knit fabrics and
generally can be replaced with such fabrics, although usually at a performance and /or financial penalty. With
limited exceptions such as some wipes, melt-blown products are not designed to function as fabrics. They are
generally manufactured in sheet form but lack the physical strength of conventional woven or nonwoven
fabrics.

On the other hand, despite extensive research and development in this area, there is a paucity of published
research studies, mainly due to the secretive and competitive nature of the work. However, there is
considerable patented literature available.

10. COMPARISON OF MELT BLOWN AND SPUNBOND

The Spunbond (SB) and MB processes are somewhat identical from an equipment and operator's point of
view. The two major differences between a typical MB process and a spunbond process that uses air
attenuation are: i) the temperature and volume of the air used to attenuate the filaments and ii) the location
where the filament draw or attenuation force is applied.

A MB process uses large amounts of high-temperature air to attenuate the filaments. The air temperature is
typically equal to or slightly greater than the melt temperature of the polymer. In contrast, the SB process
generally uses a smaller volume of air close to ambient temperature to first quench the fibers and then to
attenuate the fibers.

In the MB process, the draw or attenuation force is applied at the die tip while the polymer is still in the
molten state. Application of the force at this point is ideal for forming microfibers but does not allow for
polymer orientation to build good physical properties. In the spunbond process, this force is applied at some
distance from the die or spinneret, after the polymer has been cooled and solidified. Application of the force
at this point provides the conditions necessary for polymer orientation and the resultant improved physical
properties, but is not conductive to forming microfibers.

11. PROCESS EQUIPMENT

Although the MB process is conceptually simple, high-quality webs at commercial scale require precisely
designed and fabricated equipment. In a manner similar to spunbond technology, many melt-blown
web-manufacturing companies such as 3M and Freudenberg have developed proprietary technology. Most of
the MB processes in the market now are based on the Exxon process. The process equipment layout, which
can be vertical or horizontal, is simpler and more compact than that of SB. A vertical layout is preferred when
multiple dies are used, but horizontal layout is preferred when a single die is used. The vertical space
requirement, usually a minimal of 20 ft., depends on the die-to-collector distance. The horizontal space
requirements depend on the total width of the die and end product requirement. Usually three times the
vertical space is the minimal requirement for a horizontal space [3]. In summary, a schematic follows that
shows components of a complete melt blowing line.
Fig. 6: Schematic of complete MB line

12. ECONOMICS OF MELT BLOWN WEBS

The economics of MB process is influenced by many factors such as energy, capital investment, and
production speed conversion. With respect to energy, the MB process requires more energy per pound of web
than does the spunbond process. A typical MB process consumes about 7-8 kWh/kg of polymer process,
while a typical SB process consumes 2-3 kWh/kg. MB processing is more energy-intensive because of
compressed hot air is used for fiber attenuation. About 70% of total energy used for hot air. This result in a
high production cost. Typically, a 2.0-oz PP SB web cost US $0.12 to $0.24/yd2, while a MB equivalent is
$0.32-$0.37/ yd2 [3].

Initial capital investment of a melt-blown line is much lower than that of spunbond line. Typically, the later is
3-4 times higher than the former. However the production speed of SB is inherently faster than that of MB
because of a much larger number of spinneret holes can be incorporated in SB dies than in the typical MB
design.

13. THE POTENTIAL OF MELT BLOWING

The MB technique for making nonwoven products has been forecast in recent years as one of the
fastest-growing in the nonwovens industry. With the current expansion and interest, it cannot be questioned
that MB is well on its way to becoming one of the major nonwoven technologies. Technical developments
are also on the horizon that will increase the scope and utility of this technology. The application of speciality
polymer structures will no doubt offer new nonwoven materials unobtainable by other competitive
technologies. The considerable work to modify the blowing step to something more akin to spraying is also
going to have an impact on this technology and the products derived from it. So a strong and bright future is
forecasted for this technology.

REFERENCES

1. Wadsworth, L. C., Malkan, S. R., A Review of Melt Blowing Technology, INB Nonwovens, p. 2,
1991.

2. Malkan, S.R. and Wadsworth, L.C., IND JNR, No.2, pp21-23,1991.

3. Malkan, S., Tappi Journal, Vol.78, No.6, pp185-190, 1995.

4. Bhat, G.S., Zhang, Y., and Wadsworth, L.C., Processing of the Tappi Nonwoven Conference,
Macro Island, FL, May, pp61-68, 1992.

5. Vasanthakumar, N., Dissertation, Dimensional Stability of Melt-blown Nonwovens. The


University of Tennessee, May,1995

6. Malkan, S. R., PH.D Dissertation, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1990.

7. Vargas, E., Meltblown Technology Today, Miller Freeman Publications Inc., San Francisco, CA,
1989.

8. Bresee, R. R., Ko, W-C., Fiber Formation During Melt Blowing, INTC 2002 International
Nonwovens Technical Conference Proceedings, Atlanta.

Back to Table of Contents


NANOFIBER NONWOVENS
Updated: June 13, 2005

Raghavendra R Hegde, Atul Dahiya, M. G. Kamath

1. INTRODUCTION

The nonwoven industry generally considers nanofibers as having a diameter of less than one micron,
although the National Science Foundation (NSF) defines nanofibers as having at least one dimension of 100
nanometer (nm) or less. The name derives from the nanometer, a scientific measurement unit representing a
billionth of a meter, or three to four atoms wide.
Nanofibers are an exciting new class of material used for several value added applications such as medical,
filtration, barrier, wipes, personal care, composite, garments, insulation, and energy storage. Special
properties of nanofibers make them suitable for a wide range of applications from medical to consumer
products and industrial to high-tech applications for aerospace, capacitors, transistors, drug delivery systems,
battery separators, energy storage, fuel cells, and information technology [1,2].
Generally, polymeric nanofibers are produced by an electrospinning process (Figure 1). Electrospinning is a
process that spins fibers of diameters ranging from 10nm to several hundred nanometers. This method has
been known since 1934 when the first patent on electrospinning was filed. Fiber properties depend on field
uniformity, polymer viscosity, electric field strength and DCD (distance between nozzle and collector).
Advancements in microscopy such as scanning electron microscopy has enabled us to better understand the
structure and morphology of nanofibers. At present the production rate of this process is low and measured in
grams per hour.
Another technique for producing nanofibers is spinning bi-component fibers such as Islands-In-The-Sea
fibers in 1-3 denier filaments with from 240 to possibly as much as 1120 filaments surrounded by dissolvable
polymer. Dissolving the polymer leaves the matrix of nanofibers, which can be further separated by
stretching or mechanical agitation.
The most often used fibers in this technique are nylon, polystyrene, polyacrylonitrile, polycarbonate, PEO,
PET and water-soluble polymers. The polymer ratio is generally 80% islands and 20% sea. The resulting
nanofibers after dissolving the sea polymer component have a diameter of approximately 300 nm. Compared
to electrospinning, nanofibers produced with this technique will have a very narrow diameter range but are
coarser [3].

2. ELECTROSPINNING PROCESS.

A schematic diagram of electrospinning is as shown in Figure 1. The process makes use of electrostatic and
mechanical force to spin fibers from the tip of a fine orifice or spinneret. The spinneret is maintained at
positive or negative charge by a DC power supply. When the electrostatic repelling force overcomes the
surface tension force of the polymer solution, the liquid spills out of the spinneret and forms an extremely
fine continuous filament. It has the misleading appearance of forming multiple filaments from one spinneret
nozzle, but current theory is that the filaments do not split.
These filaments are collected onto a rotating or stationary collector with an electrode beneath of the opposite
charge to that of the spinneret where they accumulate and bond together to form nanofiber fabric.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of electrospinning process [4].

The distance between the spinneret nozzle and the collector generally varies from 15 –30 cm. The process
can be carried out at room temperature unless heat is required to keep the polymer in liquid state. The final
fiber properties depend on polymer type and operating conditions. Fiber fineness can be generally regulated
from ten to a thousand nanometers in diameter [1,4].

2.1 POLYMER-SOLVENTS USED IN ELECTROSPINNING.


The polymer is usually dissolved in suitable solvent and spun from solution. Nanofibers in the range of 10-to
2000 nm diameter can be achieved by choosing the appropriate polymer solvent system [5]. Table 1 gives list
of some of polymer solvent systems used in electrospinning.

POLYMER SOLVENTS
Nylon 6 and nylon 66 Formic Acid
Polyacrylonitrile Dimethyl formaldehyde
PET Trifluoroacetic acid/Dimethyl chloride
PVA Water
Polystyrene DMF/Toluene
Nylon-6-co-polyamide Formic acid
Polybenzimidazole Dimethyl acetamide
Polyramide Sulfuric acid
Polyimides Phenol

Table 1. Polymer solvent systems for electrospinning [6]


2.2 NANOFIBERS FROM SPLITTING BICOMPONENT FIBERS

Figure 2. Nanofibers from Bicomponent fibers [3].

As described above, nanofibers are also manufactured by splitting of bicomponent fibers; most often
bicomponent fibers used in this technique are islands-in-a-sea, and segmented pie structures. Bicomponent
fibers are split with the help of the high forces of air or water jets.
Figure 2 shows the bicomponent nanofiber before and after splitting. A pack of 198 filaments in single
islands is divided into individual filaments of 0.9 µm. In this example, Hills Inc has succeeded in producing
fibers with up to 1000 islands at normal spinning rates. Furthermore bi-component fibers of 600 islands have
been divided into individual fibers of 300 nm [1,3].

3. PROPERTIES OF NANOFIBERS

Nanofibers exhibit special properties mainly due to extremely high surface to weight ratio compared to
conventional nonwovens.
Low density, large surface area to mass, high pore volume, and tight pore size make the nanofiber nonwoven
appropriate for a wide range of filtration applications [9].
Figure 3 shows how much smaller nanofibers are compared to a human hair, which is 50-150 µm and Figure
4 shows the size of a pollen particle compared to nanofibers. The elastic modulus of polymeric nanofibers of
less than 350 nm is found to be 1.0±0.2 Gpa.
Figure 3. Comparison between human hair and nanofiber web [4].

Figure 4. Entrapped pollen spore on nanofiber web [4].

4. APPLICATIONS OF NANOFIBERS

4.1. FILTRATION

Nanofibers have significant applications in the area of filtration since their surface area is substantially
greater and have smaller micropores than melt blown (MB) webs. High porous structure with high surface
area makes them ideally suited for many filtration applications. Nanofibers are ideally suited for filtering
submicron particles from air or water.

Electrospun fibers have diameters three or more times smaller than that of MB fibers. This leads to a
corresponding increase in surface area and decrease in basis weight. Table 2 shows the fiber surface area per
mass of nanofiber material compared to MB and SB fibers [8].

Fiber surface area per mass of


Fiber Type Fiber size, in Micrometer fiber material m2/g

Nanofibers 0.05 80
Spunbond fiber 20 0.2

Melt blown fiber 2.0 2

Table 2. Fiber surface area per mass of fiber material for different fiber size [8].

Nanofiber combined with other nonwoven products have potential uses in a wide range of filtration
applications such as aerosol filters, facemasks, and protective clothing. At present, military fabrics under
development designed for chemical and biological protection have been enhanced by laminating a layer of
nanofiber between the body side layer and the carbon fibers [10].

e-Spin Technologies, Inc has produced a prototype of activated carbon nanofiber web. PAN- based
nanofibers were electrospun. Then these webs were stabilized, carbonized, and activated. These activated
PAN nanofibers gave excellent results for both aerosol and chemical filtration [11,12].

Electrospun nanofiber webs are used for very specialized filtration applications. Donaldson is making and
marketing filter media that incorporate electrospun nylon fibers for gas turbines, compressor and generators
[13].

4.2. MEDICAL APPLICATION

Nanofibers are also used in medical applications, which include, drug and gene delivery, artificial blood
vessels, artificial organs, and medical facemasks. For example, carbon fiber hollow nano tubes, smaller than
blood cells, have potential to carry drugs in to blood cells [14, 15].

Figure 5. Comparison of red blood cell with nanofibers web [4].

Nanofibers and webs are capable of delivering medicines directly to internal tissues. Anti-adhesion materials
made of cellulose are already available from companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Genzyme
Corporation [2]. Researchers have spun a fiber from a compound naturally present in blood. This nanofiber
can be used as varieties of medical applications such as bandages or sutures that ultimately dissolve in to
body. This nano fiber minimizes infection rate, blood lose and is also absorbed by the body [11].

To meet these varied requirements a layered composite structure is used. The bulk of the filter is generally
made of one or multiple MB layers designed from coarse to fine filaments. This is then combined with a
nanofiber web. The MB layer provides fluid resistance while the outer nanofiber layer improves smoothness
for health, wear and comfort.

Nanofibers greatly enhance filtration efficiency (FE). Scientists at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center
studied the effectiveness of nanofibers on filter substrates for aerosol filtration. They compared filtration and
filter media deformation with and without a nanofiber coating of elastic MB and found that the coating of
nanofiber on the substrate substantially increases FE [17].

With most of the nanofiber filter media, a substrate fabric such as SB or MB fabric is used to provide
mechanical strength, stabilization, pleating, while nanofiber web component is used to increase filtration
performance [2,18].

4.4 NANOFIBER COMPOSITE CONSTRUCTION:

Nanofibers were applied to 0.6 ounces per square yard (osy) nylon SB material and to 1.0 osy nylon SB as
shown in Figure 6 [8].

Figure 6. Nanofiber impregnation to spunbond layers [1,8]

Then two such layers were laminated together. Figure 7 shows three different types of nanofiber
composite fibers designed by altering the thickness and weight of base cloth.

Figure 7. Nanofiber composite fiber layer options [1,8]

The performance and the durability of the composite structure depends on the finished fabric architecture.
The final nanofiber fabric architecture is as shown in Figure 8. The two type of constructions are;

1. The nanofiber/SB layer between outer shell layer fabric and chemical filtration layer.

2. Nanofiber /SB layer is impregnated over the shell fabric and free floats against chemical filtration
layer.

Figure 8. Nanofiber composite fabric Designs [1,8]

Polymeric nanofiber composites can provide enhanced protection against chemical agent micro droplets,
biological aerosols, radioactive ducts, etc.

5. CHALLENGES IN NANOFIBERS

The process of making nanofibers is quite expensive compared to conventional fibers due to low production
rate and high cost of technology. In addition the vapors emitting from electrospinning solution while forming
the web need to be recovered or disposed of in an environmental friendly manner. This involves additional
equipment and cost. The fineness of fiber and evaporated vapor also raises much concern over possible health
hazard due to inhalation of fibers. Thus the challenges faced can be summarized as:

· Economics

· Health hazards

· Solvent vapor

· Packaging shipping handling

Because of its exceptional qualities there is an ongoing effort to strike a balance between the advantages and
the cost [19].

REFERENCES

1. Textile World “Nano Technology and Nonwoven”. P52, November 2003.


2. Gajanan Bhat and Youneung Lee, “Recent advancements in Electrospun nanofibers.” Proceedings of
the twelfth international symposium of Processing and Fabrication of Advanced materials, Ed TS
Srivatsan & RA Vain, TMS, 2003.
3. www.hillsinc.net
4. Electrostatic spinning of Nanofibers spin Technologies, Chattanooga, TN.
5. Timothy Grafe, Kristine Graham, “Polymeric nanofibers and nanofiber webs: A New class of
Nonwoven”Presented at INTC 2002:International Technical Conference Atlanta, Georgia, September
24-26,2002.
6. Www.nano21c.com, Nano Techniques Co., Ltd. “Mass production of Electrospun Nanofibers for
filtration”
7. www.ecmjournal.org
8. Kristine Graham, Heidi Schreuder-Gibson and Mark Gibson “Incorporation of Electrospun
nanofibers in to Functional Structures.” US Army Soldiers Systems Center, Natick, Massachusetts,
http://www.inda.org/subscrip/inj04_2/p21-27-graham.pdf.
9. Peter P Tsai, “Effect of Electro spinning Material and Conditions upon Residual Electrostatic Charge
of Polymer nanofibers”. Proceedings of the 11th Annual international TANDEC Nonwoven conference,
Nov.6-8, 2001, Knoxville, TN, USA.
10. Heidi Schreuder-Gibson, Phillip Gibson, “Use of Electrospun Nanofibers for aerosol Filtration in
textile structures”. US Army Soldier Systems Center AMSSB-RSS-MS (N) Natick, Massachusetts,
http://www.asc2004.com/23rdASC/oral_summaries/L/LO-05.PDF.
11. J.Doshi, MH Mainz and GS Bhat, Proceedings of the Tenth TANDEC Nonwoven Conference,
Knoxville, TN (2000).
12. www.nanospin.com
13. www.donaldson.com
14. www.ecmjournal.org
15. www.zapmeta.com
16. G.Wnek, M.Marcus, D.Simpson, and G.Bowlin, “NanoLeters”, 3(2), 213-216,2003.
17. H. Schreuder-Gibson and P Gibson, 23rd Army science conference, Florida, December 2002.
18. T.Grage, and Kgraham, Int.Non.J.51, 2003.

Back to table of contents


NEEDLE PUNCHED NONWOVENS
Updated: April, 2004 - M. G. Kamath, Atul Dahiya, Raghavendra R. Hegde
(Praveen Jana & Xinli Liu)

1. INTRODUCTION

Worldwide, the needlepunching industry enjoys one of the greatest successes of any textile related process
[1]. The needlepunching industry around the world is a very exciting and diverse trade involving either
natural or both natural and synthetic fibers.

2. PROCESS

The needlepunch process is illustrated in fig. 1. Needlepunched nonwovens are created by mechanically
orienting and interlocking the fibers of a spunbonded or carded web. This mechanical interlocking is
achieved with thousands of barbed felting needles repeatedly passing into and out of the web.

Fig. 1: Needle punching process

The major components of the needle loom and brief description of each are as follows:

2.1 THE NEEDLE LOOM (Fig-2 a & b)

The needle board : The needle board is the base unit into which the needles are inserted and held. The
needle board then fits into the needle beam that holds the needle board into place.
The feed roll and exit roll. These are typically driven rolls and they facilitate the web motion as it
passes through the needle loom.
The bed plate and stripper plate. The web passes through two plates, a bed plate on the bottom and a
stripper plate on the top. Corresponding holes are located in each plate and it is through these holes the
needles pass in and out. The bed plate is the surface the fabric passes over which the web passes
through the loom. The needles carry bundles of fiber through the bed plate holes. The stripper plate
does what the name implies, it strips the fibers from the needle so the material can advance through the
needle loom.
Fig. 2a: Needle loom

Fig. 2b: Needle penetration

2.2 THE FELTING NEEDLE

The correct felting needle can make or break the needle punched product. The proper selection of gauge,
barb, point type and blade shape (pinch blade, star blade, conical) can often give the needlepuncher the added
edge needed in this competitive industry (fig. 3).
Fig. 2: Types of needles

The gauge of the needles is defined as the number of needles that can be fitted in a square inch area. Thus
finer the needles, higher the gauge of the needles. Coarse fibers and crude products use the lower gauge
needles, and fine fibers and delicate fibers use the higher gauge needls. For example, a sisal fiber product
may use a 12 to 16 gauge needle and fine synthetics may use 25 to 40 gauge needle [3].

The major components of the basic felting needle are as follows :

The crank: The crank is the 90 degree bend on the top of the needle. It seats the needle when inserted
into the needle board.

The shank: The shank is the thickest part of the needle. The shank is that part of the needle that fits
directly in the needle board itself.

The intermediate blade: The intermediate blade is put on fine gauge needles to make them more
flexible and somewhat easier to put inside the needle board. This is typically put on 32 gauge needles
and finer.

The blade: The blade is the working part of the needle. The blade is what passes into the web and is
where the all important barbs are placed.

The barbs: The barbs are the most important part of the needle. It is the barb that carries and interlocks
the fibers The shape and sized of the barbs can dramatically affect the needled product

The point: The point is the very tip of the needle. It is important that the point is of correct proportion
and design to ensure minimal needle breakage and maximize surface appearance.

As the needleloom beam moves up and down the blades of the needles penetrate the fiber batting. Barbs on
the blade of the needle pick up fibers on the downward movement and carry these fibers the depth of the
penetration. The draw roll pulls the batt through the needle loom as the needles reorient the fibers from a
predominately horizontal to almost a vertical position. The more the needles penetrate the web the more
dense and strong the web becomes generally See fig. 4 a & b. Beyond some point, fiber damage results from
excessive penetration.
Fig. 4a: Needle Action - Schematic

Fig. 4b: Needle action

3. TYPES OF LOOMS

There are three basic types of needle looms in the needlepunching industry. They are:

1. The Felting Loom


2. The Structuring Loom
3. The Random Velour Loom

The felting looms are the type just described. These needle looms may have one to four needle boards and
needles from the top, bottom or top and bottom. The primary function of this type of loom is to do
interlocking of fibers resulting in a flat, one dimension fabric. The types of products made with this process
and needle loom are diverse and multifaceted. They exist in variety of industrial products, geotextileds,
automotives, interlinings, home furnishings, etc. [2].

Structuring looms use what are called fork needles. Instead of carrying fibers into bedplate hole, the fork
needles carry fiber tufts into lamella bars that extend from the entry to the exit of the needle loom (fig. 1).
These fork needles carry large tufts of fibers into parallel lamella bars. These bars carry the tuft of fiber from
the entry to the exit side of the loom. Depending on the orientation of the fork needle, a rib or velour surface
is introduced (fig. 5). The most popular products made with structuring looms include home and commercial
carpets and floor mats, automotive rib and velour products, wall covering and marine products.

Fig. 5: Structured needling

Random velour looms are the newest type of needle looms, having only been available since the mid 1980's.
The random velour looms are used to produce velour surfaces. Unlike the structuring looms, the velour
products produced by this loom are completely isotropic. It is almost impossible to distinguish the cross
direction from the machine direction.

Unique to this type of needle loom is the bristle-brush, bed-plate system. Special crown type needles or fork
needles are used in this loom design. The needles push fibers into a moving brush bed plate. The fibers are
carried in this brush from the entry to the exit of the loom with zero draft. This allows for the completely
non-linear look, perfect for molded products. Random velour type products have been very popular in the
European and Japanese automotive industry. While almost all U.S. automotive producers have the random
velour machine, this type of product has yet to become popular in this country. The most popular products
made with this type of needle loom are almost all centered around the automotive industry.

3.1 Machine variable:

The most important machine variable is the depth of penetration and puncture density. The fiber travel
through the web depends on the depth of penetration of the needle. The maximum penetration is fixed by the
needle of the machine and depends on the length of the three sided shank, the distance between the needle
plates, the height of stroke, and the angle of penetration. The greater the depth of penetration, greater is the
entanglement of fibers within the fabric because more barbs are employed.

The puncture density i.e. number of punches on the surface of the feed in the web is a complex factor and
depends on

· the density of needles in the needle board (Nd)


· the rate of material feed

· the frequency of punching

· the effective width of the needle board (Nb T)

· the number of runs

The puncture density per run Edpass = [n*F] / [V*W]

Where, n= number of needles within a needleboard

F = frequency of punching

V = rate of material feed

W = effective width of the needle board

The puncture density in the needled fabric Ed NV depends on the number of runs Npass; Ed NV = Edpass *
Npass

The thickness, basis weight, bulking density and air permeability - which provide information about
compactness of fabric are influenced by a number of factors. If the basis weight of the web and puncture
density and depth are increased, the web density increases and air permeability is reduced (when finer
needles and longer, finer and more tightly crimped fibers are used). Web density does not increase when finer
fibers are needled with coarser needles. There is neither an increase nor a decrease in air permeability if the
puncture density is increased.

As far as the strength of a needled nonwoven web, the situation is similar to that for compactness, namely
that finer needles, finer and longer fibers, greater web basis weight and greater puncture depth and density,
result in increased strength of the needled web. However, once a certain critical puncture depth or density has
been reached, the rise in strength may be reversed. If the depth of the barb is decreased or the distance
between the barbs is increased, the dimensional stability is improved during needling, and the web density
and maximum tensile strength in relation to basis weight can be raised.

4. APPLICATIONS

1. Tennis Court Surfaces

2. Space Shuttle Exterior Tiles

3. Marine Hulls, Headliners

4. Shoe Felts

5. Blankets

6. Automotive Carpeting

7. Automotive Insulation

8. Filters

9. Vinyl Substrate
10. 10.Insulator

11. Primary Carpet Backing

12. Fiberglass Insulation Felts

13. Fiberglass Mats

14. Wall coverings

15. Composites

16. Blood Filters

17. Tennis Ball Covers

18. Synthetic Leather

19. Carpet Underlay Pads

20. Auto Trunk Liners

21. Interlinings

22. Papermaker Felts

23. Felts

24. Padding

25. Shoulder Padding

26. Ceramic Insulation

27. Kevlar Bullet Proof Vests

5. MARKET & PROSPECTS

In the U.S. the needlepunching sector of the nonwovens industry has always been the black sheep of the
nonwovens industry. Needlepunching still has the connotation of being a slow, non-technical technology.
Internationally, however, it is interesting to note that these negative connotations relating to needlepunching
are not so prevalent. This is especially true in Asian markets. The simple fact of the matter is that many U.S.,
companies do not fully understand the needle punching process nor the emerging and developing markets.
Additionally, companies cannot see a profitable future in needlepunching.

Needled felts used for filtration forms only about 10% of the total consumption, which accounts to
approximately $400 million. The Pacific Rim countries like Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, India and other
Southeast Asian countries are currently investing heavily in pollution control that will naturally increase the
market for the needled felt products [3].

Needlepunched nonwovens industries are rapidly growing in Latin America too. Due to the extensive use of
needlepunched nonwovens in automobiles and due to the expansion of the automobile industry in these
countries, there is tremendous potential for growth [4].
REFERENCES

1. John Foster, Nonwovens industry, October '92, p 44.

2. Klauss G Maitre, Frontiers of Needle punching; Nonwovens an advanced tutorial, p38

3. J. Robert Wagner, Bonding Nonwovens, The Technical needs : Nonwovens for medical/surgical and
consumer uses, p76-77.

4. Nonwovens Industry, April '94, p 64.

5. Nonwovens Industry, Nov. '93, p 50.

Back to Table of Contents


SPUNBOND TECHNOLOGY
Updated, April, 2004- Atul Dahiya, M. G. Kamath, Raghavendra R. Hegde
(Hsu-Yeh Huang and Xiao Gao)
1. INTRODUCTION

Spunbond fabrics are produced by depositing extruded, spun filaments onto a collecting belt in a uniform
random manner followed by bonding the fibers. The fibers are separated during the web laying process by air
jets or electrostatic charges. The collecting surface is usually perforated to prevent the air stream from
deflecting and carrying the fibers in an uncontrolled manner. Bonding imparts strength and integrity to the
web by applying heated rolls or hot needles to partially melt the polymer and fuse the fibers together. Since
molecular orientation increases the melting point, fibers that are not highly drawn can be used as thermal
binding fibers. Polyethylene or random ethylene-propylene copolymers are used as low melting bonding
sites. Spunbond products are employed in carpet backing, geotextiles, and disposable medical/hygiene
products. Since the fabric production is combined with fiber production, the process is generally more
economical than when using staple fiber to make nonwoven fabrics [1].

2. SPUNBONDING PROCESS

Fig. 1: Flowchart of spunbonding process [3]

3. POLYMER

In general, high molecular weight and broad molecular weight distribution polymers such as PP, PET,
Polyamide, etc. can be processed by spunbonding to produce uniform webs. Medium melt-viscosity
polymers, commonly used for production of fibers by melt-spinning, are used.

i) Polypropylene

Isotactic polypropylene is the most widely used polymer for spunbond nonwovens production. It provides the
highest yield (fiber per kilogram) and covering power at the lowest cost because of its low density.
Considerable advances have been made in the manufacture of polypropylene resins and additives since the
first spunbond polypropylene fabrics were commercialized in the 1960s. Although unstabilized
polypropylene is rapidly degraded by UV light, improved stabilizers permit several years of outdoor exposure
before fiber properties deteriorate. To reduce cost, scrap or polypropylene fibers of inferior quality may be
repelletized and then blended in small amounts with fresh polymer to produce first grade spunbond fabrics.
This is very advantageous and important in a highly competitive industry.

ii) Polyester

Polyester is used in a number of commercial spunbond products and offers certain advantages over
polypropylene, although it is more expensive. Unlike polypropylene, polyester scrap is not readily recycled in
spunbond manufacturing. Tensile strength, modulus, and heat stability of polyester fabrics are superior to
those of polypropylene fabrics. Polyester fabrics are easily dyed and printed with conventional equipment.

iii) Nylon

Spunbond fabrics are made from both nylon-6, and nylon-6,6. Nylon is highly energy intensive and,
therefore, more expensive than polyester or polypropylene. Nylon-6,6 spunbond fabrics are produced with
weights as low as 10 g/m2 and with excellent cover and strength. Unlike olefins and polyester fabrics, those
made from nylon readily absorb water through hydrogen bonding between the amide group and water
molecules.

iv) Polyethylene

The properties of polyethylene fibers that are meltspun by traditional methods are inferior to those of
polypropylene fibers. Advances in polyethylene technology may lead to the commercialization of spunbond
structures with characteristics not yet attainable with polypropylene. A fiber grade polyethylene was
announced in late 1986.

v) Polyurethane

A new type of structure was announced in Japan with the commercialization of spunbond fabrics based on
thermoplastic urethanes. Although spunbond urethane fabrics have been previously described, this represents
the first commercial production of such fabrics. Unique properties are claimed for this product which appears
to be well suited for apparel and other applications requiring stretch and recovery.

vi) Rayons

Many types of rayons have been successfully processed into usable spunbond webs using wet spinning
methods. The main advantage of rayon is that it provides good drape properties and softness to web.

4. POLYMER COMBINATIONS

Some fabrics are composed of several polymers. A lower melting polymer can function as the binder which
may be a separate fiber interspersed with higher melting fibers, or two polymers may be combined into a
single fiber type. In the latter case the so-called bi-component fibers possess a lower melting component,
which acts as a sheath covering over a higher melting core. Bicomponent fibers are also spun by extrusion of
two adjacent polymers. Polyethylene, nylon-6 and polyesters modified by isophthalic acid are used as
bicomponent (lower melting) elements.

5. SPINNING AND WEB FORMATION

Spunbonding combines fiber spinning with web formation by placing the bonding device in line with
spinning. In some arrangements the web is bonded in a separate step which, at first glance, appears to be less
efficient. However, this arrangement is more flexible if more than one type of bonding is applied to the same
web.

Fig.2: Schematic of spunbonding process

The spinning process is similar to the production of continuous filament yarns and utilizes similar extruder
conditions for a given polymer. Fibers are formed as the molten polymer exits the spinnerets and is quenched
by cool air. The objective of the process is to produce a wide web and, therefore, many spinnerets are placed
side by side to generate sufficient fibers across the total width. The grouping of spinnerets is often called a
block or bank. In commercial production two or more blocks are used in tandem in order to increase the
coverage of fibers.

Before deposition on a moving belt or screen, the output of a spinneret usually consists of a hundred or more
individual filaments which must be attenuated to orient molecular chains within the fibers to increase fiber
strength and decrease extensibility. This is accomplished by rapidly stretching the plastic fibers immediately
after exiting the spinneret. In practice the fibers are accelerated either mechanically or pneumatically. In most
processes the fibers are pneumatically accelerated in multiple filament bundles; however, other arrangements
have been described where a linearly aligned row or rows of individual filaments is pneumatically
accelerated.

In traditional textile spinning some orientation of fibers is achieved by winding the filaments at a rate of
approximately 3,200 m/min to produce partially oriented yarns (POY). The POYs can be mechanically drawn
in a separate step for enhancing strength. In spunbond production filament bundles are partially oriented by
pneumatic acceleration speeds of 6,000 m/min or higher. Such high speeds result in partial orientation and
high rates of web formation, particularly for lightweight structures (17 g/m2). The formation of wide webs at
high speeds is a highly productive operation.

For many applications, partial orientation sufficiently increases strength and decreases extensibility to give a
functional fabric (examples: diaper coverstock). However, some applications, such as primary carpet backing,
require filaments with very high tensile strength and low degree of extension. For such application, the
filaments are drawn over heated rolls with a typical draw ratio of 3.5:1. The filaments are then pneumatically
accelerated onto a moving belt or screen. This process is slower, but gives stronger webs.

The web is formed by the pneumatic deposition of the filament bundles onto the moving belt. A pneumatic
gun uses high-pressure air to move the filaments through a constricted area of lower pressure, but higher
velocity as in a venturi tube. In order for the web to achieve maximum uniformity and cover, individual
filaments must be separated before reaching the belt. This is accomplished by inducing an electrostatic charge
onto the bundle while under tension and before deposition. The charge may be induced triboelectrically or by
applying a high voltage charge. The former is a result of rubbing the filaments against a grounded, conductive
surface. The electrostatic charge on the filaments must be at least 30,000 esu/ m2.

Fig. 4: Pneumatic jet for spunbonding

The belt is usually made of an electrically grounded conductive wire. Upon deposition, the belt discharges the
filaments. This method is simple and reliable. Webs produced by spinning linearly arranged filaments
through a so-called slot die eliminating the need for such bundle separating devices.

Filaments are also separated by mechanical or aerodynamic forces. The figure below illustrates a method that
utilizes a rotating deflector plane to separate the filaments by depositing them in overlapping loops; suction
holds the fiber mass in place.
Fig. 5: Deflector plane for separation of filaments

For some applications, the filaments are laid down randomly with respect to the direction of the lay down
belt. In order to achieve a particular characteristic in the final fabric, the directionality of the splayed filament
is controlled by traversing the filament bundles mechanically or aerodynamically as they move toward the
collecting belt. In the aerodynamic method, alternating pulses of air are supplied on either side of the
filaments as they emerge from the pneumatic jet.

By proper arrangement of the spinneret blocks and the jets, lay down can be achieved predominantly in the
desired direction. The production of a web with predominantly machine direction and cross-machine
direction filament lay down is shown in the figure below. Highly ordered cross-lapped patterns can be
generated by oscillating filament bundles, as shown.

Fig. 5: Web production with machine and cross machine direction

If the lay down belt is moving and filaments are being rapidly traversed across this direction of motion, the
filaments are being deposited in a zig-zag or sine-wave pattern on the surface of the moving belt. The effect
of the traverse motion on the coverage and uniformity of the web has been treated mathematically. The result
is that relationships between the collecting belt speed, period of traverse, and the width of filament curtain
being traversed determine the appearance of the formed web. The following illustration shows the lay-down
for a process where the collecting belt travels a distance equal to the width of the filament curtain x during
one complete period of traverse across a belt width y. If the belt speed is Vb and the traverse speed is Vt, the
number of layers deposited, z, is calculated by z = [x Vt/y Vb]. If the traverse speed is twice the belt speed
and if x and y are equal, a double coverage occurs over all areas of the belt.

Fig. 6: Web laydown pattern


6. BONDING

Many methods can be used to bond the fibers in the spun web. Although most procedures were developed for
nonwoven staple fibers, they have been successfully adapted for continuous filaments. These include
mechanical needling, thermal bonding, and chemical bonding. The last two may bond large regions (area
bonding) or small regions (point bonding) of the web by fusion or adhesion of fibers. Point bonding results in
the fusion of fibers at points, with fibers between the point bonds remaining relatively free. Other methods
used with staple fiber webs, but not routinely with continuous filament webs include stitch bonding,
ultrasonic fusing, and hydraulic entanglement. The last method has the potential to produce very different
continuous filament structures, but is more complex and expensive. The choice of a particular bonding
technique is dictated mainly by the ultimate fabric applications; occasionally a combination of two or more
techniques is employed to achieve bonding.

7. SPUNBOND PROCESS SYSTEM

A number of spunbond processes can be fitted into one of these three routes with appropriate modification.
The following are three successful spinning, drawing, and deposition systems merit a brief discussion.

7.1 “DOCAN SYSTEM”


This route was first developed by the Lurgi Kohle & Mineral-Oltechnik GmbH of Germany in 1970. Many
nonwoven companies have licensed this route from the Lurgi Corporation for commercial production.[3] This
route (chart 2 below) is based on the melt spinning technique. The melt is forced by spin pumps through
special spinnerets having a large number of holes. By suitable choice of extrusion and spinning conditions,
desired filament denier is attained. The blow ducts located below individual spinnerets continuously cool the
filaments with conditioned air. The force required for filament drawing and orientation is produced by a
special aerodynamic system. Each continuous filament bundle is picked up by a draw-off jet operated on high
pressure air and passed through a guide tube to a separator which effects separation and fanning of the
filaments [8]. Finally, the filament fan leaving the separators is deposited as a random web on a moving sieve
belt. The suction below the sieve belt enhances the random lay down of the filaments.
Fig. 7: Schematic of Docan spunbonding system

7.2 “REICOFIL” SYSTEM

This route has been developed by Reifenhauser of Germany. Many nonwovens companies have licensed this
route from the Reifenhauser GmbH for commercial production. This route (Chart 3 below), is based on the
melt spinning technique.[3] The melt is forced by spin pumps through special spinnerets having a large
number of holes. The primary blow ducts, located below the spinneret block, continuously cool the filaments
with conditioned air. The secondary blow ducts, located below the primary blow ducts, continuously supply
the auxiliary room temperature air. Over the line's entire working width, ventilator-generated underpressure
sucks filaments and mixed air down from the spinnerets and cooling chambers. The continuous filaments are
sucked through a venturi (high velocity, low pressure zone) to a distributing chamber, which affects fanning
and entanglement of the filaments. Finally, the entangled filaments are deposited as a random web on a
moving sieve belt. The randomness is imparted by the turbulence in the air stream, but there is a small bias in
the machine direction due to some directionality imparted by the moving belt. The suction below the sieve
belt enhances the random lay down of the filaments.
Fig. 8: Schematic of Reicofil spunbonding system

7.3 “LUTRAVIL SYSTEM”

This route was first developed by Carl Freudenberg Company of Germany in 1965. This process is
proprietary and is not available for commercial licensing. This route (Chart 4), is based on the melt spinning
technique. The melt is forced by spin pumps through special spinnerets having a large number of holes. The
primary blow ducts, located below the spinneret block, continuously cool the filaments with conditioned air.
The secondary blow ducts, located below the primary blow ducts, continuously supply controlled
room-temperature air. The filaments are passed through a special device, where high pressure tertiary air
draws and orients the filaments. Finally, the filaments are deposited as a random web on a moving sieve belt
[4].

Fig. 9: Schematic of Lutravil spunbonding system

8. CHARACTERISTICS AND PROPERTIES

The spunbonded webs represent a new class of man-made product, with a property combination falling
between paper and woven fabric. Spunbonded webs offer a wide range of product characteristics ranging
from very light and flexible structure to heavy and stiff structure. [4]

· Random fibrous structure

· Generally the web is white with high opacity per unit area

· Most spunbond webs are layered or shingled structure, the number of layers increases with
increasing basis weight

· Basis weights range between 5 and 800 g/m2, typically 10-200 g/ m2

· Fiber diameters range between 1 and 50 um, but the preferred range is between 15 and 35 um
· Web thicknesses range between 0. 1 and 4.0 mm, typically 0.2-1.5mm

· High strength-to-weight ratios compared to other nonwoven, woven, and knitted structures

· High tear strength (for area bonded webs only)

· Planar isotropic properties due to random lay-down of the fibers

· Good fray and crease resistance

· High liquid retention capacity due to high void content

· High in-plane shear resistance, and low drapeability.

Spunbond fabrics are characterized by tensile, tear, and burst strengths, elongation-to-break, weight,
thickness, porosity and stability to heat and chemicals. These properties reflect fabric composition and
structure. Comparison of generic stress-strain curves of thermally bonded and needlepunched fabrics shows
that the shape of the load-strain curves is a function of the freedom of the filaments to move when the fabric
is placed under stress.

Fig. 9: Typical stress-strain curves

Some applications require special tests for sunlight, oxidation, burning resistance, moisture vapor and liquid
transport, coefficient of friction, seam strength and aesthetic properties. Most properties can be determined
with standardized test procedures (INDA). Typical physical properties are given below:
Tables 1
Product Basis wt. Thickness Tensile St.a Tear St. Nb Mullen burst Bonding Method B
2 mm c
g/m Nb KPa
Accord 69 144MD 36MD 324 Point thermal
175CD 41CD
Bidim 150 495 279 1550 Needlepunch
Cerex 34 0.14 182MD 40MD 240 Chemically
116CD 32CD Induced area
Corovin 75 130 15 Point thermal
Lutradur 84 0.44 275MD 86MD 600 Copolymer
297CD 90CD Area thermal
Polyfelt 137 585 225 1450 Needlepunch
Reemay 68 0.29 225MD 45MD 331 Copolymer
180CD 50CD Area thermal
Terram 137 0.7 850 250 1100 Area thermal
[sheath/core]
Trevira 155 630MD 270MD 1520 Needlepunch
Typar 137 0.38 650MD 345MD 1210 Undrawn
740CD 355CD segments-area
thermal
Tyvek 54 0.15 4.6MD 4.5MD Area and
5.1CD 4.5CD point thermal

a
MD=machine direction; CD=Transverse direction.
b
To convert N to pound force, divide by 4.448.
c
To convert Kpa to psi, multiply by 0.145.

9. APPLICATIONS
i) Automotive

Today spunbonded webs are used throughout the automobile and in many different applications. One of the
major uses of spunbonded webs in automobile is as a backing for tufted automobile floor carpets. The
spunbonded webs are also used for trim parts, trunkliners, interior door panel, and seat covers.

ii) Civil Engineering

The civil engineering market segment remains the largest single market spunbond webs, constituting over
25% of the total. Spunbonded civil engineering webs cover a multiple of related uses, such as, erosion
control, revestment protection, railroad beds stabilization, canal and reservoir lining protection, highway and
airfield black top cracking prevention, roofing, etc.[6]. The particular properties of spunbonded webs - which
are responsible for this revolution - are chemical and physical stability, high strength/cost ratio, and their
unique and highly controllable structure which can be engineered to provide desired properties [6].

iii) Sanitary and medical

The use of spunbond web as a coverstock for diapers and incontinence devices has grown dramatically in the
past decade. This is mainly because of the unique structure of spunbond, which helps the skin of the user stay
dry and comfortable [7]. Additionally, spunbond webs are cost effective over other conventional nonwovens.
Spunbond web, as coverstock, is also widely used in sanitary napkins and to a limited extent in tampons.

In medical applications many traditional materials have been replaced by high performance spunbonded
webs. The particular properties of spunbonded webs, which are responsible for medical use, are:
breathability; resistance to fluid penetration; lint free structure; sterilizability; and, impermeability to bacteria.
Medical applications include: disposable operating room gowns, shoe covers and sterilizable packaging [7].

iv) Packaging

Spunbonded fabrics are widely used as packaging material where paper products and plastic films are not
satisfactory. The examples include: metal-core wrap, medical sterile packaging, floppy disk liners, high
performance envelopes and stationery products.

REFERENCES

1. Encyclopedia of Polymer Science and Engineering

2. Oldrich Jirsak and Larry C. Wadsworth: ‘Nonwoven Textiles’, Carolina Academic Press, ISBN:
0-89089-978-8, 1999

3. Sanjiv R. Malkan and Larry C. Wadsworth: ‘A review on spunbond technology, Part I’, INB,
Nonwovens vol.3, 4-14, 1992.

4. Sanjiv R. Malkan and Larry C. Wadsworth: ‘A review on spunbond technology, Part II’, INB,
Nonwovens vol.4, 24-33, 1992.

5. ‘Spunbonding ‘, Textile Month, March, 16, 1999.

6. Poter K.; ‘Encyclopedia of chemical technology’, 3rd edition, 16, 72-104

7. Smorada, R. L.; ‘Encyclopedia of polymer science and engineering’, New York, 227-253 NRI, 135,
9, 7-10, 1982.

8. Ian Butler; ‘Worldwide prospects for spunbond’, nonwovens world, September 59-63, 1999.

Back to Table of Contents


SPUNLACE (HYDROENTANGLEMENT)
Updated: April, 2004 - M. G. Kamath, Atul Dahiya, Raghavendra R. Hegde
(Hsu-Yeh Huang & Xiao Gao)
1. INTRODUCTION

The oldest technique for consolidating fibers in a web is mechanical bonding, which entangles the fibers to
give strength to the web [1]. Under mechanical bonding, the two most widely used methods are
needlepunching and spunlacing (hydroentanglement). Spunlacing uses high-speed jets of water to strike a
web so that the fibers knot about one another. As a result, nonwoven fabrics made by this method have
specific properties, as soft handle and drapability. Japan is the major producer of hydroentangled nonwovens
in the world. The output of spunlaced fabrics containing cotton was 3,700 metric tons and a significant
growth in production can still be seen [2]. The biggest producers of spunlaced fabrics in the U.S. are DuPont,
Chicopee and Kendall corporations.

This technology was officially introduced by DuPont in 1973 (Sontara®) and is a result of considerable work
done by DuPont and Chicopee (DuPont obtained five patents on spunlaced nonwovens within the period
1963-1970. Since the 1990's, the technology has been made more efficient and affordable for more
manufacturers. Majorities of hydroentangled fabrics have incorporated dry-laid webs (carded or air-laid webs
as precursors). This trend has changed very recently with an increase in wet-laid precursor webs. This is
because of Dexter making use of Unicharm's technology to make spunlaced fabrics using wet-laid fabrics as
precursors [3].

So far, there are many different specific terms for spunlaced nonwoven like jet entangled, water entangled,
and hydroentangled or hydraulically needled. The term, spunlace, is used more popularly in the nonwoven
industry. In fact, the spunlace process can be defined as: the spunlace process is a nonwovens manufacturing
system that employs jets of water to entangle fibers and thereby provide fabric integrity. Softness, drape,
conformability, and relatively high strength are the major characteristics that make spunlace nonwoven
unique among nonwovens.

2. PROCESS

Spunlacing is a process [3,5] of entangling a web of loose fibers on a porous belt or moving perforated or
patterned screen to form a sheet structure by subjecting the fibers to multiple rows of fine high-pressure jets
of water (Fig. 1). Various steps are of importance in the hydroentangling process.

Fig. 1: Spunlace process [23]


While some of them are typical in a nonwoven process, some of them are unique to the process of
spunlacing. The steps characteristic for producing hydroentangled nonwoven fabric include:

· Precursor web formation

· Web entanglement

· Water circulation

· Web drying

The formed web (usually air-laid or wet-laid, but sometimes spun bond or melt-blown, etc.) is first
compacted and prewetted to eliminate air pockets and then water-needled. The water pressure generally
increases from the first to the last injectors. Pressures as high as 2200 psi are used to direct the water jets onto
the web. This pressure is sufficient for most nonwoven fibers, although higher pressures are used in
specialized applications. It has been argued that 10 rows of injectors (five from each side of the fabric)
should achieve complete fabric bonding [12]. Injector hole diameters range from 100-120 m m and the holes
are arranged in rows with 3-5 mm spacing, with one row containing 30-80 holes per 25 mm [3]. The
impinging of the water jets on the web causes the entanglement of fibers. The jets exhaust most of the kinetic
energy primarily in rearranging fibers within the web and, secondly, in rebounding against the substrates,
dissipating energy to the fibers. A vacuum within the roll removes used water from the product, preventing
flooding of the product and reduction in the effectiveness of the jets to move the fibers and cause
entanglement (fig.2 a, b & c).

Fig. 2a: Spunlace support wire details


Fig. 2b: Spunlace support wire and the product

Fig. 2c: Spunlace support wire and the product enlarged

Usually, hydroentanglement is applied on both sides in a step-wise manner. As described in the literature [6],
the first entanglement roll acts on the first side a number of times in order to impart to the web the desired
amount of bonding and strength. The web then passes over a second entanglement roll in a reverse direction
in order to treat and, thereby, consolidate the other side of the fabric. The hydroentangled product is then
passed through a dewatering device where excess water is removed and the fabric is dried.
Hydroentanglement carried out at standard conditions (six manifolds of needles, 1500 psi, web weighing 68
g/m2) requires 800 pounds of water per pound of product [14]. For that reason it is necessary to develop a
new filtration system able to effectively supply clean water with this high throughput; otherwise, water jet
holes become clogged. This system consists of three stages: chemical mixing and flocculation, dissolved air
flotation and sand filtration [14]. Spunlaced fabrics have led to a lot of speculation regarding their
manufacture because most of the manufacturing process details are considered as proprietary [4].

3. MATERIALS USED IN SPUNLACED TECHNOLOGY

As previously mentioned, hydroentanglement could be carried out using dry-laid (carded or air-laid) or
wet-laid webs as a precursor. Most commonly, precursors are mixtures of cellulose and man-made fibers
(PET, nylon, acrylics, Kevlar (P84, (imide) etc). In addition, Asahi Chemical Industry [3] has used very fine
fibers produced from splittable composite fibers to produce hydroentangled substrates for synthetic suede
leather products.

In general, cellulosic fibers are preferred for their high strength, pliability, plastic deformation resistance and
water insolubility. Cellulosic fibers are hydrophilic, chemically stable and relatively colorless. Another
advantage is that cellulose has an inherent bonding ability caused by a high content of hydroxyl groups,
which attract water molecules. As the water evaporates from the fabric, the hydroxyl groups on fiber surface
link together by hydrogen bonds.

Influence of cotton micronaire on fabric properties has been studied [14]. Generally, low micronaire cotton is
not recommended for hydroentangled nonwovens because of higher number of neps and small bundles of
entangled fibers, resulting in unsightly appearing fabric. In spite of this, fabrics made with lower micronaire
fiber show higher strength, probably caused by a higher number of fine fibers and greater surface area.

In addition, greige cotton has been used in spunlacing technology. It has been shown that the absorbency rate
increases with increasing hydroentangling energy. This is the result of oil and wax removal from the fiber
surface. These nonwovens can be subsequently bleached, which should raise the strength of the fabric [14].

We can summarize all the processes that can be separated into following categories: [15-19]

3.1 THE CHOICE OF FIBERS

The fiber used in spunlaced nonwoven should think about following fiber characteristics.

· Modulus: Fibers with low bending modulus requires less entangling energy than those with high
bending modulus.

Fineness: For a given polymer type, larger diameter fibers are more difficult to entangle than smaller
diameter fibers because of their greater bending rigidity. For PET, 1.25 to 1.5 deniers appear to be
optimum.

Cross section: For a given polymer type and fiber denier, a triangular shaped fiber will have 1.4 times
the bending stiffness of a round fiber. An extremely flat, oval or elliptical shaped fiber could have only
0.1 times the bending stiffness of a round fiber.

Length: Shorter fibers are more mobile and produce more entanglement points than longer fibers.
Fabric strength, however, is proportional to fiber length; therefore, fiber length must be selected to give
the best balance between the number of entanglement points and fabric strength. For PET, the fiber
length from 1.8 to 2.4 seems to be best.

Crimp: Crimp is required in staple fiber processing systems and contributes to fabric bulk. Too much
crimp can result in lower fabric strength and entanglement.

Fiber wetability: Hydrophilic fibers entangle more easily than hydrophobic fibers because of the higher
drag forces.

3.2 PRECURSOR WEB FORMATION

Theoretically, any nonwoven web forming process can be used in the spunlace process. It depends on what
kind of products you desire. The general properties of web forming from other process are listed as
following:

Isotropic precursor webs can be produced by air laying system.

Carding webs can result in final products, which have higher MD strength than CD strength.

Melt blown webs can be produced with good ‘squareness’ of the web. Wet formed webs can especially
be produced with good machine direction / cross direction characteristics.

The combinations of various types of precursor webs provide numerous options for using in the
spunlace process to create various different composites.

3.3 WEB SUPPORT SYSTEM (CONVEYOR WIRE)

The web support system plays an important part in most nonwoven processes. Especially for the spunlace
process, it has a critical role in this process because the pattern of the final fabric is a direct function of the
conveyor wire. By special design for the wire, we can have following varied products:

Ribbed and terry cloth-like products

Aperture products

Lace patterns or company logo can be entangled into fabrics

Production of composites

3-D fabric formation

There are two general characteristic wires in spunlace system. The comparison of their properties is listed in
Table 1.

Table 1: Comparison of metal and plastic wires


Plastic wire Metal wire

Good flex resistance Poor flex resistance

Light weight Heavy weight

Easy to install Difficult to install

Corrosion resistant Prone to corrosion

Difficult seams Invisible seam

Prone to shower damage Shower damage resistance

Difficult to control knuckle height Easier to control knuckle height

Moderate temperature High temperature

In fact, the surface characteristics of the forming wire determine what the nonwoven products will look like.
A smooth top surface of forming wire is desired for little or no marking. As for the aperture product, there is
a high knuckle in the forming wire. A high knuckle in the wire will give a large hole in the fabric since the
high-pressure water jets are deflected by the high knuckle.

3.4 THE ENTANGLEMENT UNIT

Hydroentanglement is an energy transfer process where the system provides high energy to water jets and
then transfers the energy to the precursor. In other words, the energy is delivered to the web by the water
needles produced by the injector. Therefore, we can calculate the energy from the combination of the water
velocity (related to the water pressure) and the water flow rate (related to the diameter of the needles).

Flow rate = P½ x D2 x N x 2572 x 10-8 m3/hour/injector/meter

Energy = P3/2 x D2 x N x 7 x 10-10 KWH/injector/meter

P= water pressure (bar)

D=hole diameter ( m m )

N= number of holes (per injector per meter)

In general, the diameter of water needle ranges from 100 to 170 m m. The highest number of needles is 1666
needles per meter of injector, corresponding to the smaller diameter. The water pressure ranges from 30 bars
to 250 bars and it is increased stepwise from injector to injector.

3.5 WATER SYSTEM

As we know, water is most critical part in spunlace process. Therefore, there are some requirements for the
water as follows:

Large amount of water – about 606 m3/hr/m/injector for 40 bar and 120? m

Nearly neutral pH
Low in metallic ions such as Ca

No bacteria or other organic materials

3.6 FILTERATION SYSTEM

Due to the large amount of water consumed, the spunlace process requires that it be recycled. Therefore, a
high quality filtration system is necessary for the spunlace process. Some of special filters are listed as
following:

Bag filter

Cartridge filter

Sand filter

3.7 WEB DRYING

When the fabric leaves the entanglement zone the web, it is completely saturated with water. There are a few
steps to remove water from the fabric. The include:

Vacuum dewatering system

Drying system

4. PARAMETER AFFECTING THE PRODUCT PERFORMANCE PROPERTIES

Both the fiber and web properties have primary effects on the performance of the finished product. These
parameters comprise of the web material and area basis-weight, and the way in which the web was
manufactured. As mentioned in literature [12], spunlaced technology demands a high quality web, especially
in its uniformity and isotropic orientation.

The process variables are considered to have secondary effects on the performance of the finished product.
The supporting substrate transport is an important variable influencing the fabric. There are two systems of
entanglement substrate systems: flat and rotary. For the most part [6], there is no difference in the mechanism
used to achieve entanglement. The rotary concept uses a compact machine design with ease of sheet run that
provides entanglement of both sides of the web. Entanglement is nearly achieved with as little as four meters
(in the machine direction) of the material. Sometimes the fibers are driven through the substrate wire and, in
the flat concept, it is seen that the wire (along with the fibers) is dragged over the suction box causing
difficulty in the removal of the product. In the rotary concept, this problem is not encountered because the
fibers are not pulled along the machine direction.

The substrate texture seems to have important influence on the product. The size of perforations is usually
measured in "mesh", which is the count of wires per inch of the substrate. It has been shown [6] that
imposing the same energy into two webs with different substrate meshes, the finer substrate yielded a
stronger product resulting from finer support. The coarser wire support (20 mesh) gave a bulkier product with
more permeability, but with less strength. Water removal from the fabric was shown to be dependent on the
mesh of the support belt. The lower the mesh, the more energy that was necessary to remove the remaining
water. In addition to that, the surface of the fabric can be aperture (textured on the surface) with a specially
structured substrate [13].

The amount of energy delivered in the web is a crucial parameter influencing the fabric structure and
properties since it affects fiber entanglement completeness. "Completeness" is a term that is defined [6] as
"the portion of fibers that are tied together". DuPont patent literature has methods for entanglement
completeness testing. Water pressure is another parameter related to fabric energy intake. There are several
water pressure levels used (see Table-2)[12].

Now, higher water pressure machines are mostly used since using high pressure, energy can be delivered into
a web with less water needles and less water. This is economically more useful [12].

Another basic process parameter having influence on the fabric is the speed of the line. If a constant amount
of energy is being delivered to a fabric, the speed of the fabric determines how much energy is going to be
absorbed per fabric unit area. Logically, the higher the line speeds, the less the energy that is absorbed by the
fabric and the lower the fabric strength that is achieved.

5. PROPERTIES OF SPUNLACED FABRICS

Spunlaced fabrics show high drape, softness and comfortable handle because more fiber entanglement leads
to increased strength without an increase in shear modulus. It has also been shown that there is a relationship
between absorbency capacity and hydroentangling energy used. An increase of hydroentangling energy
results in a decrease of absorbency capacity and absorbency rate [14]. Shear modulus remains low and is
virtually independent of the degree of entanglement [7]. The softness of the fabric is explained by the fact
that the entangled structures are more compressible than bonded ones, as well as having mobility and partial
alignment of fibers in the thickness direction. The absence of a binder is seen to result in a fabric with
yarn-like fabric intersections composed of "pseudoyarns". The pseudoyarns are "more highly intereconnected
than yarns of conventional fabrics because individual fibers can migrate from one pseudoyarn to another.
This tends to stabilize the intersection". This pseudoyarn structure seems to be the reason for good
dimensional stability, which is also accountable for drape [4], softness, and good strength/weight properties
of the fabric, pilling and abrasion behavior.

The strength of hydroentangled fabrics is lower than that of woven and higher than that of knitted fabrics,
whereas the wash durability is considerably lower than that of woven or knitted fabrics [11].

6. THE INFLUENCE OF PROPERTIES OF FABRIC ON THE SPUNLACE PROCESS [20]

Spunlaced fabrics are unique among nonwoven fabrics because of the balance achieved between strength and
shear modulus. General speaking, spunlaced fabrics rely primarily on fiber-to-fiber friction to achieve
physical integrity and are characterized by relatively high strength, softness, drape, conformability and
aesthetics closely approaching woven and knitted fabrics. The property map of shear modulus and strength is
listed in Fig-4 below
Therefore, the operational condition change in the process will affect directly on the properties of fabrics. For
example Fig-5, show that the spunlaced fabric has the lowest shear modulus among the nonwoven fabrics and
is very close to the shear modulus of woven and knitted fabric. Even if one tries to increase the fabric
strength, it doesn’t increase the shear modulus, as is the case normally for other nonwoven fabrics.

Fig. 5: Fabric strength and Modulus

Fig. 6 shows that the tensile strength of fabric increases with water pressure increase. This is due to the high
energy from water imparted to the fiber entanglement.
Fig. 6: Fabric strength verses water pressure

Generally, the water jet is perpendicular to the fabric. If we change the angle a little, the results show the
strength increases as demonstrated in fig. 7. Additionally fig. 8 shows speeding the speed of conveyor will
decrease the strength of fabric.

Fig. 7: Fabric strength verses jet angle


Fig. 8: Fabric strength verses conveyor speed

In the spunlace process, there are three water jet manifolds at least and the water pressure can be adjusted
individually. Therefore fig 9,10, and11 illustrate the change of water pressure at each of the jet manifolds 1, 2
&3.

Fig. 9: Fabric strength verses water pressure in 1st manifold


Fig. 10: Fabric strength verses water pressure in 2nd manifold

Fig. 11: Fabric strength verses water pressure in 3rd manifold

The results show the strength always increases with increasing water pressure. However, the lower water
pressure at the first jet manifold and similar water pressure at second and third, the closer tensile strength for
both MD and CD directions. In other words, the fabric is closer to isotropic properties as shown in Table 2.
This is a very important factor in deciding what kind of material property will result.

Table 2.

Injector I (bar) II (bar) III (bar) MD: CD

20 70 100 1.27

30 70 100 1.55

40 70 100 1.51
50 70 100 1.50

60 70 100 1.67

70 70 100 1.93

80 70 100 2.19

90 70 100 2.47

100 70 100 2.23

30 50 100 1.71

30 60 100 1.82

30 70 100 1.55

30 80 100 1.43

30 90 100 1.54

30 100 100 1.29

30 110 100 1.33

30 120 100 1.60

30 70 80 1.33

30 70 90 1.39

30 70 100 1.55

30 70 110 1.95

30 70 120 2.25
Fig. 12: Water pressure verses drape

Fig. 12 shows that there is no significant change for the drape with increasing water pressure which shows
that spunlaced fabrics have good drape even with greater entangling pressure.

Fig. 13: Strength increases when entangled on both sides.

Fig13 shows that the tensile strength of water jet entangling on both sides is much better than that on a single
or multiple treatments on one side.

7. APPLICATIONS

Hydroentanglement is a highly versatile process [8] because it can be used to produce nonwovens with a
broad range of end-use properties. These differences are achieved because of a wide range of fibers that are
available and because of the broad range of possible parameter adjustments. The versatility of the
hydroentanglement processes is seen as an advantage because this process can be used to combine
conventionally formed webs with melt blown, spunbond webs, paper, other textiles and scrims in order to get
a combination of properties that cannot be achieved by the use of a single web.

Spunlace fabrics can be further finished, usually dyed and/or printed, treated with binders to allow for wash
durability, or fire retardants can be applied to resist burning. The fabric can be treated by antimicrobial agents
to enhance resistance against microorganisms.
The largest US market [9] for spunlaced fabrics spans from surgical packs and gowns, protective clothing as
chemical barriers to wipes, towels and sponges for industrial, medical, food service and consumer
applications. The main reason for wide use of these fabrics in medical applications is based on relatively high
absorption abilities. Another important criterion is absence of a binder in the fabric allowing sterilization of
the fabric at high temperatures.

There are some applications: [22]

1. Bacteria-proof Cloth (Fig. 14)

· Based on 100% Rayon. The extreme absorption with water and oily stuff are good for your
convenience.

For our unique green earth, we adopt the recyclable material for protecting the environment.

By special water-processed method, the fluffed cotton cannot easily float away

Easy to wash, quick dry, making a becteriaproof environment.

No Starch, No fluorescence substance, and other chemical medicines.

Fig. 14: Bacteria proof cloth

2. Cleaning Cloth (Fig 15)

· Based on 100% Rayon. The extreme absorption with water and oily stuff provides convenience.

For our unique green earth, we adopt the recyclable material for protecting the environment.

By special water-processed method, the fluffed cotton cannot easily float away.

Easy to wash, quick dry, resulting in a bacteria-proof environment.

No Starch, No fluorescence substance, and other chemical medicine.


Fig. 15: Cleaning cloth

3. Magic Towel (Fig 16)

· Processed by the advanced high-pressure-water method, the magic towel has extreme absorption for
water, oil stuff and so on. Definitely, it has no formaldehyde and gluey substances. That's good for
your health and convenience.

Easy to carry out for picnic, travel, and even as promotion gifts. One can print their LOGO on the tag
for advertisement.

Fig. 16: Magic owel

4. Wet Tissue (Fig 17)

· Processed by the advanced high-pressure-water method. The nonwoven spunlace has no


Formaldehyde.

No glue-like substance, tender the soft skin.

For the refreshing experience, it is comfortable for body and parents like it.

The wet tissue is used for make-up, make-up removal, and other facial applications. In fact, it is
convenient all the day.
Fig. 17: Wet tissues

5. Make -up Cotton (Fig 18)

Hi-Tech Nonwoven Spunlace which has no any chemical substance, but does have a soft touch and is
tender to baby skin.

Saving the lotion and make-up cream. Best absorption, No fluffed cotton.

Best use for make up, wiping lips-sticker, fingernail polish, glasses, leather, jewels, and so on.

Fig. 18: Make up cotton

REFERENCES

1. The Nonwovens Handbook, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, 1988

2. Suzuki, M.: New Nonwoven and its Technical Features, INDEX 84 Congress, Session 2- Component
and Process developments, Geneva, 1984

3. White, C. F.: Hydroentanglement Technology Applied to Wet Formed and Other Precursor Webs,
TAPPI Nonwovens Conference, 1990, 177-187
4. Vaughn, E.: Spunlaced Fabrics, Canadian Textile Journal, October 1978, 31-36

5. Drelich, A.: A Simplified Classification of Nonwoven Fabrics, Sixth Annual Nonwovens Conference,
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1988

6. Jaussaud, Jean Paul: Rotary hydraulic Entanglement Technology, Nonwovens in Medical and
Healthcare Applications Conference, Nov 10th -12th 1987, Brighton, England

7. Shivers, Joseph C., Popper, Peter, Saffer, Henry W.: The mechanical and Geometric Properties of
Spunlace Fibrous Structures, INDA- TEC 1976, Symposium Papers

8. Information brochure for Hydroentanglement technology from Valmet Paper Machinery, Honeycomb
Systems Inc.

9. White, C. F.: A review of Hydroentanglement Technology - Development of Future Products and


Markets, Eighth Annual Nonwovens conference, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1990

10. 1White, C. F.: Future Directions, Nonwovens in Medical and Healthcare Applications Conference,
Session 3: Paper 19, Nov 10th - 12th, 1987, Brighton, England

11. Connolly, T.J., Parent, L.R.: Influence of Specific Energy on the Properties of Hydroentangled
Nonwoven Fabrics, Tappi Journal, v.76, Aug '93, 135-141

12. Vuillaume, Andre M.: A Global Approach to the Economics and End Product Quality of Spunlace
Nonwovens, Tappi Journal, v.74, Aug '91, 149-152

13. Widen, Christian B.: Forming Fabrics for Spunlace Applications, Tappi Journal, v.74, May '91,
149-153

14. Allen, Charles H., Jr.: New Development for Spunlacing Cotton, Paper presented at Fiber Society
Conference, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 19th-21st Oct. 1997

15. EDANA’s 1989 UK Nonwoven Symposium

16. "Spunlace technology today" 1989

17. Christian B. Widen , " Forming fabrics for spunlace applications " TAPPI Journal, May 1991

18. " Spunlace offers utmost versatility" Nonwovens manufacturing ATI, November 1997

19. " Spunlaced nonwovens overview" Nonwoven Industry, Feb. 1999

20. " Spunlace Nonwoven " Perfojet, December 1991

21. " The study on the mechanical properties of spunlaced nonwoven" 16th polymer symposium Vol.9, PP
433-436, Jun.1993

22. www.jenor.com.tw/pe2a.htm

23. Jurgen Heeler, “Hydroentanglement of short fibers” TANDEC Conference November 2001

Back to Table of Contents


THERMAL BONDING OF NONWOVEN FABRICS
Updated: April, 2004 - M. G. Kamath, Atul Dahiya, Raghavendra R. Hegde
(Xiao Gao & Hsu-Yeh Huang)
1. INTRODUCTION

There are three major bonding types: chemical bonding / thermal bonding/ mechanical bonding. The
development of the past few years has shown that the share of thermally bonded webs is growing steadily. [1]

The first thermally bonded nonwovens were produced in 1940s. Initial products used rayon as the carrier
fiber and plasticized cellulose acetate (PCA) or vinyl chloride (PVC) as the binder fiber [2]. The viability of
the thermal bonding process is rooted in the price advantage obtained by lower energy costs. However, the
thermal bonding process also addresses the demanding quality requirements of the market place. The
development of new raw materials, better web formation technologies and higher production speeds have
made thermal bonding a viable process for the manufacture of both durable and disposable nonwovens.

2. BINDERS

Many materials that can be used as a binder for thermally bonded nonwovens.

Binding fibers

Binding powder

Binding web

The following are the essential characteristics of the binder polymer:

Efficient melt flow

Good adhesion to the carrier fiber

Lower melting point than the carrier fiber

Desired stiffness or elasticity.

2.1 BINDING FIBERS

Single-component and bi-component fibers, as binder fibers, are most widely used in thermal bonding of
nonwovens [4]. Single-component fibers are the least sophisticated and most economical because the fibers
are often already in existence and low in cost. The type bond that is formed is dependent on several factors
including fiber chemistry, morphology, linear density, staple length, crimp, and processing conditions. The
major disadvantage encountered when using 100 percent single-component fibers is the narrow temperature
range that is necessary when thermal bonding. If the temperature is too low, there is inadequate bond
strength. If the temperature is too high, the web will melt excessively and lose its identity as a web.

When bi-component fibers are used to produce thermal bonded nonwoven, the acceptable temperature range
for bonding may be as great as 25°C. When thermal bonding, the high melting portion of the fiber maintains
the integrity of the web, while the low melting point portion melts and will bond with other fibers at the fiber
crossover points. The product produced tends to have bulk and exceptional softness.

2.2 BINDING POWDER


Powdered polymers are sometimes used in thermal bonding of nonwovens. The most prevalent use is
powdered polyethylene. The powder can be applied between layers of fibers when cross-laying, air laying, or
as an after treatment. A short exposure in an oven is sufficient to melt and fuse the powder. It is often used
when a light weight and open structure is required with a soft hand or when a reinforced, molded product is
necessary.

2.3 BINDING WEB

A very open-structured, low-melting-point thermoplastic fabric is placed between the webs and, during
thermal bonding between the calender rolls, the fabric melts completely bonding the webs together. The
nonwoven produced by this technique is soft and bulky. Thermoplastic coatings and hot melt print bonding
have been used to a limited extent in controlled porosity filters, impermeable membranes and other items.
However, the use of this method of bonding is not expected to achieve a high level of importance.

3. METHODS OF THERMAL BONDING

Hot calendering

Belt calendering

Through-air thermal bonding

Ultrasonic bonding

Radiant-heat bonding, etc.

3.1 HOT CALENDERING

There are three main types of hot calendering.

· Area bonding
· Point bonding
· Embossing.

3.1.1 AREA BONDING

This process involves the use of a calender with a hot metal roll opposed by a wool felt, cotton or special
composition roll. Two, three or four roll calenders can be used, depending on the weight of the web to be
bonded and the degree of bonding desired. The three-roll calender has the heated roll in the middle while the
four-roll configuration has the heated rolls on the top and bottom, with the two composition roll in the
middle. The amorphous or co-polymeric binder fibers used in this process provide bonding at all cross-over
points between the carrier and binder fibers. The resultant product - commonly used in electrical insulation
and coating substrates - is smooth, thin and stiff. The material is always two sided, but this effect is most
apparent in material processed through two and three roll calenders. Four roll calenders minimize this effect.
The application of heat from the outside produces a material whose inner area is less bonded than its outer
surface. This becomes more pronounced as the product weight increases beyond 35 g/m2 and can become
detrimental unless corrective measures are taken. These include increasing heat, slowing speed, or increasing
the binder/carrier fiber ratio. The two-roll calender is used for low-to-medium weight products with light-to-
medium bonding. The three-roll calender is used for special bonding and finish effects on a single surface.
The four roll calender produces the widest weight range of materials because it provides more flexibility in
the application of heat. .

Area-bond hot calendering is influenced by five factors:

Heat

Bonding occurs at the surface of the metal roll, which obtains its heat by conduction from heated oil
circulated through its center or from restrictive heating. The composition rolls obtain their heat from
contact with the heated metal roll. Before the start of a production run, the roll stacks are operated
until the composition rolls achieve dynamic heat equilibrium.

Pressure

Bonding occurs through simultaneous application of heat and pressure. The heat causes the fiber
binder to become thermoplastic. The pressure enhances mechanical bonding by forcing the binder
polymer to flow in and around the carrier fibers.

Speed

The speed at which the nonwoven passes through the calender, combined with heat and pressure
conditions, determines the degree of bonding in the nonwoven. It also determines the throughput rate
of the entire nonwoven line and is a critical factor in product cost. The faster the rate, the lower is the
cost. This is the primary reason for the recent development of lower melting binders.

Roll combination.

The only practical roll combination for area bonding is a metal roll-felt roll. The metal roll applies the
heat. The surface resilience of the felt roll enables uniform application of pressure to all the minute
surface thickness variations throughout the product.

Cooling rolls

The product is warm and thermoplastic as it leaves the calender nip. If the product were to be wound
while it was still hot, the tension applied to eliminate wrinkles would stretch the web and introduce
unrelieved stresses. This would lead to shrinkage whenever post-heat treatments were used. A set of
two cooling rolls placed immediately after the calendering stage eliminates these unwanted side
effects.

3.1.2 POINT BONDING

Point-bond hot calendering is the main method of thermally bonding in disposables as diaper, sanitary
products, and medical products. This method involves the use of a two-roll nip consisting of a heated male
patterned metal roll and a smooth or patterned metal roll (fig 1 a, b, c & d). This second roll may or may not
be heated, depending on the application. In a typical production line, the web is fed by an apron leading to a
calender nip and the fiber temperature is raised to the point at which tackiness and melting cause fiber
segments caught between the tips of engraved points and the smooth roll to adhere together. The heating time
is typically of the order of milliseconds [3]. The fabric properties are dependent on the process temperature
and pressure and other parameters like the contact time, quench rate and calender pattern. Experimental
results show that for a given nip line pressure and calendering speed, the breaking strength reaches a
maximum at a critical bonding temperature (fig1e); on keeping the nip line pressure constant, the critical
temperature was found to be a function of the calendering speed. Fig. 1A,B, C and D Showing details of
point bonding

Fig. 1a: Engraved rolls for point bonding [7]


Fig. 1b: Advances in bonding with a release pattern [7]

Fig. 1c: SEM of point bonding [8]

Fig. 1d: SEM of point bonding failures [8]

The maximum strength achieved is influenced by the nip line pressure. This influence depends on the melting
behavior of the fiber. If the maximum occurs in the softening region, higher pressure yields higher strength.
On the other hand, if maximum occurs in the early melting region, a low calendering pressure is desirable.
The degree of product bonding depends on the pattern of bond points on the roll surface. Bonded areas are
compressed and densely compacted. Unbonded area is very open, breathable and porous. The products
formed range from thin, closed, inelastic, strong, and stiff to open, bulky, weak, flexible and elastic
depending on the number density, the size and the pattern of the bond points
Fig. 1e: Stress-strain curves for various bonding temp (PP) [8]

3.1.3 EMBOSSING

This method is a figured or sculptured area-bond hot calendering. In this case, though, the area bonding is
three-dimensional. A "bulky but thin" product can be made in any pleasing or functional construction,
depending on the faces of the embossing rolls. The calender roll combination has a male patterned heatable
metal roll and a matching female patterned felt roll.

3.2 BELT CALENDERING

Belt calendering is a modified form of hot roll calendering. The two main differences are the time in the nip
and the degree of pressure applied. In belt calendering, time in the nip is 1-10 seconds. The pressure applied
is about 1/10th of the pressure applied in the hot calendering process. The belt bonder consists of a heated
roll and a rubber blanket. The nonwoven fabric is heat bonded by running it between the roll and the blanket.
Pressure is applied by varying:

a. The tension on the blanket against the heated roll


b. The pressure on the exit guide roll inside the rubber blanket.

Belt calendered products are much less dense and papery compared to hot roll calendering. The belt bonder
facilitates the use of binders with sharp melting and flow properties. Such binders can present difficulties in a
hot roll calendering process.

3.3 THROUGH-AIR BONDING

Through-air thermal bonding involves the application of hot air to the surface of the nonwoven fabric. The
hot air flows through holes in a plenum positioned just above the nonwoven. However, the air is not pushed
through the nonwoven, as in common hot air ovens. Negative pressure or suction, pulls the air through the
open conveyor apron that supports the nonwoven as it passes thorough the oven. Pulling the air through the
nonwoven fabric allows much more rapid and even transmission of heat and minimizes fabric distortion. (See
Fig.2)
Fig. 2: Through-air bonding

Binders used in through-air thermal bonding include crystalline binder fibers, bi-component binder fibers,
and powders. When using crystalline binder fibers or powders, the binder melts entirely and forms molten
droplets throughout the nonwoven's cross-section. Bonding occurs at these points upon cooling. In the case of
sheath/core binder fibers, the sheath is the binder and the core is the carrier fiber. Products manufactured
using through-air ovens tend to be bulky, open, soft, strong, extensible, breathable and absorbent.
Through-air bonding followed by immediate cold calendering results in thicknesses between a hot roll
calendered product and one that has been though-air bonded without compression. Even after cold
calendering, this product is softer, more flexible and more extensible than area-bond hot-calendered material.

3.4 ULTRASONIC BONDING

This process involves the application of rapidly alternating compressive forces to localized areas of fibers in
the web. The stress created by these compressive forces is converted to thermal energy, which softens the
fibers as they are pressed against each other. Upon removal from the source of ultrasonic vibration, the
softened fibers cool, solidifying the bond points. This method is frequently used for spot or patterned bonding
of mechanically bonded materials.

No binder is necessary when synthetic fibers are used since these are self-bonding. To bond natural fibers,
some amount of synthetic fiber must be blended with the natural fiber. Fabrics produced by this technique are
soft, breathable, absorbent, and strong. This bonding method is used to make patterned composites and
laminates, such as quilts and outdoor jackets.

3.5 RADIANT HEAT BONDING

Radiant heat bonding takes place by exposing the web or mat to a source of radiant energy in the infrared
range. The electromagnetic energy radiated from the source is absorbed by the web, increasing its
temperature. The application of radiant heat is controlled so that it melts the binder without affecting the
carrier fiber. Bonding occurs when the binder resolidifies upon removal of the source of radiant heat. Lower
energy and equipment costs make this a favored method for processing powder-bonded nonwovens.
Versatility and lower shipping costs are also factors. Post-calendered rolls can be shipped in thin, compacted
form and rebulked by reapplication of heat, without pressure or restraints, to the desired state at the time of
use. Powder bonded products made in this manner are soft, open, and absorbent with low-to-medium
strength. They also can be reactivated by heat for use in the manufacture of laminated composites.

4. ADVANTAGES AND ENERGY COMPARISION

Compared to other bonding processes, thermal bonding and the products thus obtained offer a number of
advantages [1]:
1. Quality of product soft and textile-like.

2. High economic efficiency as compared to chemical bonding with binder agents because no water
evaporation is required, i.e., considerable energy saving results. In comparison with chemical bonding,
thermal bonding only has a heat energy requirement of 1/4 to 1/6 (also in this respect ecologically
beneficial).

3. Less expensive machinery. The capital expenditure, maintenance and operating costs are often lower
because no binder preparation station and no binder application units are required.

4. It is possible to bond even thicker webs uniformly and thoroughly to the core that cannot be achieved
by spraying. While a regular bonding effect across the web cross- section can be achieved for a web
with a homogeneous distribution of the binding fibers, spraying only produces a bonding effect in the
outer layers of the web.

5. No binder agents are required and no curing process is needed. Hence, there is no exhaust air or
wastewater problem. Objections against certain chemicals can be dropped. Thus, thermal bonding is
non-polluting. (Note: New developments of the binder producers in the meantime have put on the
market new dispersions, which also can be considered ecologically harmless).

6. As pure polymer fibers or blends can be used for thermal bonding processes, recyclability is 100% in
practice.

7. Fiber properties can be influenced in an ideal manner (e.g. flame-retardence, nonwovens with high
bulk and excellent resilience owing to fiber crimping, heat-insulating characteristics due to hollow
fiber, etc.).

It has to be mentioned, however, that not all nonwovens can be processed by thermal bonding in such a way
that the product obtains the requested properties. It can be assumed therefore that binder bonding can also
secure its market share because the binder producers are trying to develop polymer dispersions which are
biodegradable and, in connection with the fiber polymers using the same polymer basis, allow recycling of
the respective nonwovens.

5. THERMAL BONDED NONWOVENS IN THE MARKET

A variety of nonwovens made of staple fibers with blends of matrix fibers and bicomponent fibers is
produced on Fleissner hot-air flow-through bonding installations. Other products are bicomponent and
bifilament spunbondeds. The following is a list of various thermo-bonded nonwovens: [5]

· Colback by Akzo, for the production of carpet carrier webs, roofing felts, geotextiles etc.

Lutradur by Freudenberg Spunweb for automobile construction, carpet fabrication, civil engineering
and building construction, roofing felt production, furniture industry, filtering technology, and
electronic industry, wall paper fabrication, horticulture and agriculture.

Lutrasil by Freudenberg Spunweb for sanitary products, medical products, automobile construction,
furniture, textile processing, bedding, filters, protective clothes, agriculture, packing material.

Freudenberg Colmar Spunweb for roofing industry and many other applications

Celbond by Hoechst for personal products, f urniture, quilts, needled webs made of spunbonded for
roofing felts, geotextiles etc.
Cambrelle by ICI for insoles.

Terram by ICI, Exxon for spunbonded geotextiles.

Islands-in-the-Sea or Citrus by BASF for filtration and wiping cloths, made of fibers that can easily be
broken up into microfibers.

ES fibers by Chisso or Danaklon for personal products up to paper maker felts.

Danaklon for short staple fibers in the airlaid fabric sector, etc.

Corebond by DuPont for fiberfill webs, etc. Melty and Bellcombi by Unitika, Kanebo for fiberfill
webs, mattress substitutes etc.

Sofil by Kuraray for various applications.

TBS by Teijin as short staple for wet-laid webs.

Estranal by Toyobo for needle felts.

Wellbond by Wellman: clothing (ski outfits, interlinings), bedding (comforters, mattresses),


construction industry (insulating webs, roofing), filters (industry, air, liquids, household), floor
coverings (needle felts), furniture (cushions, etc.)

MERAKLON is introducing a new series of thermal bonding fibers, S2000 for high-speed nonwovens
lines. These are available in hydrophilic, hydrophobic and durable strike-through types for both
coverstock and the production of cloth-like backsheets. [6]

The subsequent table lists the major applications for thermobonded webs (carded webs, wet-laid webs,
spunbonds) and the respective preferred bonding method.

Table 1: Applications of thermobonded webs

Type of Web formation Weight range Applications Bonding Type


gram/sq.meter
Card or aerodynamic 18-25 coverstock calender
Light weight sanitary webs incl. Bico & blends
Disposables through air bonding
Spunbonded 10-25 coverstock calender
Light weight sanitary webs
Disposables
Card or aerodynamic 25-150 Interlinings Calender
Through air bonding
Card or aerodynamic 100-1000 Filter webs Through air bonding
Bulky or needled
Card or aerodynamic 80-100 Geotextiles Through air bonding
And Spunbonded
Spunbonded 150-200 Carpet backing Through air bonding

Card or aerodynamic 80-2000 Technical textiles Through air bonding


Insulation, decoration
Wall cover, upholstery
Card or aerodynamic 80-2000 Wadding Through air bonding
Fiberfill webs
Card or aerodynamic 100-250 Wiping cloth Through air bonding

Card or aerodynamic 80-3000 Waste fiber web Through air bonding


For various uses
Card or aerodynamic 300-600 Needle web Through air bonding
Food covering
Card or aerodynamic 150-350 Bitumen carrier webs Through air bonding
With fiber heat set
Wet forming machine 20-200 Decoration Through air bonding
Tea bag paper
Dry-laid paper 25-150 Wiping cloth Through air bonding
Sanitary webs
Technical products

6. CONCLUSION

Thermal bonding is much less energy intensive, kinder to the environment and more economical than latex
bonding. A wide range of products can be made with thermal bonding, depending on the options used for
processing. The bonding method has a significant effect on product properties. Depending on the bonding
method, product properties can vary from nonporous, thin, nonextensible, and nonabsorbent to open, bulk,
extensible and absorbent. All thermal bonding methods provide strong bond points that are resistant to hostile
environment and to many solvents too.

REFERENCES

1. Alfred Watzi; "Fusion bonding, thermal bonding and heat-setting of nonwovens-theoretical


fundamentals, practical experience, market trends", Melliand, English, 10/1994, E 217

2. Albert G. Hoyle, "Thermal bonding of nonwoven fabrics", Tappi Journal, July '90, p 85-88.

3. "Thermal bonding", Textile progress vol 2 p 3-11.1995

4. J. Robert Wagner, "The bonding nonwovens, The Technical Needs: nonwovens for medical surgical
and consumer uses", p 70-73.

5. Alfred Watzi; Fusion bonding, thermal bonding and heat-setting of nonwovens-theoretical


fundamentals, practical experience, market trends", Melliand, English, 12/1994. P.E 270

6. "Fibers and Fabrics-Thermal Bonding", Textile Month, March 1999, p 20

7. Steve Gunter, “Advances in Thermal Bonding” INTC Sep 2002

8. Gajanan Bhat, “Structure Development in SBMB Process”, PP Fiber Tech Conf. 2002

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