The primary focus of Southern Meltblown Nonwovens business is sorbents or, more specifically the spill control market. Polypropylene meltblown nonwovens offer some unique characteristics, compared to other absorbents, according to president Derek Yurgaitis.
“It absorbs oil and repels water in its natural state and it can be treated to allow it to pick up things without a chemical reaction,” Yurgaitis explains.Meanwhile competitors to meltblown, like cotton rags, pose potential risks. While cotton will initially repel water, over time it will allow some of the water to stick to it. This will make it heavier or “water logged,” he explains.
Within sorbents, most of Meltblown Technologies’ products are active in the industrial hygiene space. “We make products that go in or around machines where there may be leaks and drips,” Yurgaitis says. The number one purpose would be to stop that oil from running into the walkway where someone would slip and fall and the secondary purpose is to protect the outside of the facility, where there may be a leak or drip and you don’t want it getting into the environment.”
Recently, Meltblown Technologies expanded this protective role with the development of a yellow floor mat that not only absorbs spills and leaks but also warns walkers-by of the potential for an accident. This can be used both in the manufacturing space but also in any public place—a grocery store or an office lobby—to prevent accidents.
Irema Offers Face Masks, Respirators
At Ireland’s Irema, the majority of meltblown goes into internally made respirators or face masks or is outsourced to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning market.
“As far as development our main concentration has been on fine fiber and nanofiber products and adding different characteristics to make (our products) UV compliant so we put it into different products like geotextiles,” says managing director John Rice who has also seen improvements in masterbatch technology.
On the filtration side, this is allowing Irema’s materials to meet new international standards.
“Meltblown is ideal for filtration because all of its properties—lower pressure drop, fine fibers, high efficiency—benefit filtration,” Rice says. “You can even add a charge to the fibers.”
These properties have helped meltblown expand its share in the filtration market, particularly against microglass type of media, which have raised concerns during the past 15 years. “Synthetics has been steadily developing marketshare,” Rice says.
Mogul’s Meltblown Offers Value
For Turkish nonwovens producer Mogul, the majority of meltblown nonwovens are targeting the spill control market but other areas of interest include wipes, medical, vacuum cleaner bags, roofing underlays and filtration applications. “We really want to focus more on high efficiency filters, wipes and medical applications,” says commercial director Serkan Gogus.
Meltblown is not a major part of Mogul’s business in terms of turnover but its potential, a specialty area that helps with niche market development and higher margins, makes it an important one for the company, which also makes spunbond and spunlace nonwovens. Other advantages include the barrier features for medical and low pressure drop for filtration as well as the diversity of polymers that can be used.
“The biggest challenge with technology is throughput compared to other technologies, which is fairly low but we see more composites and specialty polymers being made as well as some changes in the technology itself,” Gogus adds.
Sandler Focuses on Filtration and Beyond
The primary application for German nonwovens producer Sandler’s meltblown nonwovens is the filtration industry. The company manufactures pocket as well as pleatable filter media that is applied in HVAC, automotive filtration, synthetic vacuum cleaner bags and various specialty applications. In these fields, Sandler harnesses the unique advantages offered by the meltblown technology—very fine fibres, uniform nonwovens featuring a homogeneous distribution of fibers and high productivity.
Sandler’s latest development in this segment, enAIRsave is a new pocket filter medium for HVAC applications comprising several filter layers and allowing for the deposition of dust particles even in the coarser layers. This allows air to still flow through the filter at a relatively low pressure and, consequently, at reduced energy consumption. “In this way, the medium combines excellent depth filter properties and dust holding capacity with energy efficiency,” says Ulrich Hornfeck, board member and chief commercial officer. “While the meltblown fine filter layer is essentially the heart of the filter medium and determines its efficiency, Sandler combines different technologies in the production of our filter media.”
Outside of filtration, Sandler’s meltblown nonwovens are increasingly being applied to other technical applications including medical uses, industrial cleaning applications, insulation and support layers, and even the food industry. “In all of these markets, the singular properties of meltblown media have opened up new applications for this technology,” Hornfeck says.
All in all, the advantages offered by meltblown media also helped expand the range of applications for this technology – both within the filtration market and in other sectors, he continues. “Filter media, for example, tap into areas of use with more stringent requirements on air quality, such as medical institutions. In other technical applications and even the food sector, meltblown nonwovens make inroads into entirely new markets.”