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Best of both solutions with the Sumo diaper

Highly-engineered core of viscose and PLA delivers host of benefits.

4th February 2022

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Berlin


Berlin-based design studio Sumo worked with Kelheim Fibres to develop a sustainable and high-performance absorbent washable diaper pad that has already received a number of awards.

Up to the age of three, a baby uses around 5,000 diapers which generates an enormous amount of plastic waste – in Germany alone, 10 million diapers are disposed of every day.

There are two ways to solve this dilemma – either disposable products are made from bio-based or biodegradable materials, or reusable products with a longer life span replace disposable products.

Sumo founding team Luisa Kahlfeldt and Caspar Böhme have gone further and combined both solutions, creating a reusable cloth diaper that is made entirely of sustainable materials while offering high performance and an innovative design.

The fitted Sumo diaper consists of a waterproof cover and absorbent inserts. The cover is sewn to create a pocket in which the absorbent pad is inserted to prevent slipping.

© Sumo

To further enhance the performance of the absorbent pad, the Sumo team turned to viscose speciality fibre manufacturer Kelheim.

“Kelheim’s speciality fibres are a perfect fit for us,” said Luisa Kahlfeldt. “Like all the fabrics we have developed for Sumo diapers, the fibres in the insert developed with Kelheim are based on cellulose and are biodegradable. They are as good for a baby’s skin as they are to the environment and thanks to their targeted functionality they outperform other cellulosic fibres, as well as synthetic fibres.”

Kelheim Fibres brings decades of experience from the hygiene sector, especially for sensitive applications where high absorbency is required (such as tampons), and has made a name for itself in the industry as an innovation pioneer.

Together, Sumo and Kelheim Fibres have developed a high-performance absorbent pad that uses no fossil materials.

The basis for the design form Kelheim’s functionalised specialty viscose fibres. Needle-punched and thermobonded nonwovens with a blend of adapted cross-sections viscose and PLA bicomponent fibres were chosen to ensure the product’s washability. By combining nonwovens, usually found mainly in the single-use sector, with reusable products, Sumo and Kelheim Fibres have chosen a completely new approach.

© Sumo

Inside the pad, fibres from Kelheim procide special properties. In the acquisition and distribution layer (ADL), the trilobal cross-section of Galaxy fibre forms capillary channels that enable efficient and optimised liquid distribution and optimum use of the capacity of the absorbent core, offering the lowest rewet values.

In the absorbent core, Bramante segmented hollow fibre stores liquid not only between but also inside the fibre. The liquid remains there even when pressure is applied to the construction, providing excellent rewet values. Bramante can absorb up to 260% of its own weight in liquid compared to cotton, which only achieves values of around 50% here.

The nonwoven construction with the speciality fibres from Kelheim performs significantly better in tests in terms of air permeability, liquid absorption and rewetting than commercially available solutions made of synthetic fibres or cotton in knitted structures, and has earned Sumo diapers a place among the finalists for the IDEA Long-Life Product Achievement Award.

“Working with Sumo is inspiring and professional in equal measure,” said  Dr. Marina Crnoja-Cosic, director of new business development at Kelheim.

The launch is scheduled for May 1st.

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