The filtration market is comprised of 20 varied market segments all offering opportunities for technical textile producers.
Technical textiles play a major and profitable role in filtration media. A wide variety of fibers, dref yarns, nonwoven fabrics, multifilament and monofilament woven fabrics, and in some cases blends or combinations of more than one of the above, are used in filtration applications. Within this article, dollar amounts are for North America specific to fiber, textile and nonwoven filtration media within the overall the market of nearly $2 billion. Filtration media fulfills a large number of specific uses as well as an overwhelming number of smaller niches that when combined, provides for overall growth at a rate higher than many developed counties gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate.
Growth is driven by many factors, often led by legislative actions and laws from global, national, state, regional and local governments and agencies for a cleaner environment. Bottom line, legislation has been filtration’s best friend. No less important, filtration is used widely to ensure product quality of many manufactured products from chemicals to pharmaceuticals and many other manufactured goods.
Nonwoven filtration fabrics are one of the largest market segments in the nonwovens industry and arguably one of the most profitable. “The filtration industry is seeing a fair amount of consolidation, at all levels with considerable M&A activity over the last several years,” said Brad Kalil, director of Market Research And Statistics, with the Cary, N.C.-based Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA).
This segment utilizes man-made polymer and inorganic fibers to produce the filters. Polyester and polypropylene dominate; with nylon, fiberglass, meta-aramids, fluoropolymers and polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) and other polymers also used because of their special properties. In addition to these fibers, a sustainable, renewable polymer produced by Minnetonka, Minn.-based NatureWorks LLC is beginning to find its way into the filtration market. “Renewable Ingeo™ PLA [polylactic acid] fibers are used in increasing volumes where disposable filters are found such as spunbond and meltblown fabrics in vacuum cleaner bags as well as a broad range of performance applications, including coffee and teabag filters,” reported Robert Green, global business director, Fibers & Nonwovens, NatureWorks. “Other nonwovens, like PLA nanofibers, exhibit exceptional processing consistency, a range of charge capabilities, and better nonwoven structure development offering lower pressure drop.”
The four most widely used nonwoven man-made fabrics are:
- Needlefelts produced from staple fibers;
- Wetlaid produced from short-cut fibers;
- Meltblown fabrics
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