Index02:The fabric of nonwovens

The enticing world of nonwovens meets every three years in Geneva.

Maura Leonardi

From 16 to 19 April, 2002 at the Palexpò Center in Geneva, Switzerland, the Index02 show was held. The world of nonwovens met once again through the eleventh edition of this show, which is held every three years. Index has always presented a veritable meeting point for operators in this field: from raw material suppliers to manufacturers of machinery and equipment - a vast and complete showcase specifically for nonwovens. In the 20,000 square meters of space made available by the show organizers, 420 exhibiting companies came from the entire world to show and discuss innovations and growth in this sector.

The application fields for nonwovens are widespread in that they are technologically advanced materials having a high added value that tend to progressively replace traditional fabric supports or other products, thanks to the possibility of being able to adapt their characteristics to the specific requirements of each end-use. The most well known applications are baby diapers and products for personal care and hygiene and also for medicine. But numerous other possibilities of use can be found in filtration, packaging, cleaning, car equipment or building materials.

THE MAIN PRODUCERS OF NONWOVENS ARE CONCENTRATED IN EUROPE, where in 2000 production exceeded one million tons (Fig.2), with a volume growth of 13%. This figure shifted the production record from the USA to the European continent. After the turbulent period experienced during the first half of the 1990s, characterized by a lack of raw materials first and by excess production later, the present growth of European production to the disadvantage of the USA and Japan, has been favored both by the improved economic situation as well as by the creation of new products.

In particular, the nonwovens industry has demonstrated great capacity for innovation and quick response to market fluctuations and trends in demand. Hygiene products rank number one and wet wipes - thanks to product innovations - are continuing their triumphal march towards success. But also feminine hygiene products and baby diapers play an important role. The hygiene products niche-wipes, wet wipes for personal hygiene or for domestic use, new anti-static cloths (dry or impregnated with solutions for domestic or industrial use) - are presently registering widespread and unexpected popularity.

As of today, they represent a market niche that absorbs 10% of total production but are registering an annual growth rate of between 40% and 50%. From 1999 to 2000, nonwovens production has gone from 324,900 tons to 341,400 tons, while pre-moistened products have gone from 101,700 tons to 152,500 tons in the same one-year period.

THE NUMEROUS TECHNOLOGICAL NOVELTIES PRESENTED IN THE FIELD OF RAW MATERIALS AND IN CONVERTING MACHINERY ATTRACTED 11,187 VISITORS to Geneva for this year's Index edition, 8.4% more with respect to the previous one, testifying to the large interest for the wide world of nonwovens. "Adding value to nonwovens" was the leitmotif of the conference cycle organized by Edana during the show to discuss and introduce new technological developments with an emphasis on the importance of added value to attribute to nonwovens: decorations, embossings, prints.

FABIO PERINI SPA PARTICIPATED AT THIS EVENT TOGETHER WITH DIATEC, a sister company also belonging to the Körber Group, that produces machines for the production of baby diapers, feminine pads and incontinence pads. During the four days of the show, Diatec introduced the Diana Tiny machine, the new line concept for the production of traditional and "tanga" type panty shields. The machine line is based on the "plug & go" principle and brings all the operations of converting, stocking and packaging all together in one structure. The entire line requires less than 16 square meters of space to be installed.

During the Geneva show, the two machines comprising the Diana Tiny line brought in for demonstration operated at full regime, attaining a production level of 1300 pieces for the "tanga" model panty shield and 1000 pieces/minute for the traditional one, produced in two colors: black and white. The "tanga" is packaged in cardboard boxes containing 30 pieces each, while the traditional model comes in a double 20-piece package. Innovations drive the market. Indeed, in 2001, the black panty shield and the "tanga" model were the absolute protagonists of the feminine hygiene field.

For example, in Italy the introduction of new panty shield models has brought its market percentage up from 53% to 62% and growth opportunities for the future will be favored by consumption trends. The number of panty shields consumed by Italian women in a year is 131 against the European average of 170. The importance of this market segment is also demonstrated in terms of turnover which in 2001 was of over 103,291,380 Euro. Furthermore, the diversities with which women who use panty shields perceive the product in terms of benefits leads to a further segmentation and leaves space for core businesses: 56% of Italian women perceives the product in terms of freshness and freedom, and 44% views it as protection and skin health.

The next appointment with Index is fixed for 2005, when we will once again be able to enter into the inticing fabric of nonwovens.

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