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Getting networked in the UK

Adrian Wilson

Adrian Wilson underlines the potential that collaboration with an organisation like the Nonwovens Network could result in.

14th October 2014

Adrian Wilson
 |  UK

Packaging, Industrial, Medical/Hygiene, Sustainable

At the recent 2014 Nonwovens Network UK seminar which took place in Bradford, West Yorkshire, I made a presentation which aimed to convey the inventiveness of the country’s nonwovens industry.

The Nonwovens Network UK has around 170 members, not all of them fabric manufacturers, but also raw materials suppliers, machinery manufacturers, agents and auxiliary services firms.

Adrian Wilson presenting at the 2014 Nonwovens Network UK seminar.

I was a founding member of the Network, along with the University of Leeds and the British Textile Technology Group; it was established in 1997, aided financially with a grant from the European Social Fund. However, long-time, indefatigable chairman Andrew Leather has recently retired and the Network is currently seeking new blood to drive it forward.

Diversity

While the Network represents a fair cross section of the UK’s nonwovens industry, its membership is by no means comprehensive and this was reflected in my selection of eight diverse innovations which were:

  • Nice-Pak. Hygéa flushable wipes.
  • Technical Fibre Products. Nonwoven veils and mats based on recycled carbon fibre.
  • EcoTechnilin. Flax floor panel for Jaguar.
  • Technical Absorbents. Superabsorbent fuel cleaning nonwovens.
  • Cella Energy. Nanofibre nonwovens for hydrogen storage.
  • Freudenberg Filtration Technologies. Filter media for MBR.
  • P2i. Plasma enhancement of nonwoven filter media.
  • NIRI and partners. Blood plasma filtration.

Nice-Pak

The Summer 2013 ‘fatberg’ in London – a drain-blocking lump of food fat mixed with nonwoven wet wipes the size of a bus and weighing fifteen tons – meant that nonwovens hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – even as the industry was responding with tighter guidelines.

Unfortunately this negative publicity isn’t going to go away easily – on September 2nd 2014 the London Standard ran a story under the following headline:

WORKERS SPEND FOUR DAYS CLEARING GIANT ‘FATBERG’ FROM SHEPHERD’S BUSH SEWER.

This latest problem under London was, the paper reported, “the length of a jumbo jet, and contained “tennis balls, food and planks of wood, all caught up in the enormous congealed mass.”

The Summer 2013 ‘fatberg’ in London – a drain-blocking lump of food fat mixed with nonwoven wet wipes the size of a bus and weighing fifteen tons.

Just who tries to flush planks of wood down a toilet is anybody’s guess, but it suggests wipes alone are not the problem.

Industry bodies EDANA and INDA published their 3rd Flushability Guidelines in September 2013. These are much simpler than previously and involve just seven basic tests. All wipes and other bathroom products not meeting these criteria are now to be labelled as not for flushing.

Nice-Pak’s Hygéa brand flushable wipes comply with these latest INDA/EDANA guidelines.

There’s an inherent contradiction, of course, in requiring a material to be both strong enough to do its job and at the same time weak enough to disperse in water. It needs an excellent tensile strength to go through both production and converting and then be fit for purpose, but once flushed this stability has to completely disappear – in fact, the product has to become invisible.

Technical Fibre Products

Carbon fibre waste may not be too much of a problem now, but it will be in the future, with over 50% of the latest Airbus and Boeing planes now being made from the material.

Technical Fibre Products, has developed a range of nonwoven veils and mats based on recycled carbon fibre. © Technical Fibre Products

Technical Fibre Products, headquartered in Kendal, is pro-actively addressing this issue by developing a range of nonwoven veils and mats based on recycled carbon fibre. They have been produced from fibre reclaimed from composites by pyrolysis and integrated into new structures with aerospace applications as surfacing or semi-structural layers. This is providing a viable route for the recycling of fibres until now considered waste.

EcoTechnilin

Headquartered in Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire, but with a manufacturing plant in Normandy, France, EcoTechnilin produces up to 6,000 tons of nonwoven mats each, for parcel shelves, dash boards or interior trim panels.

Its patented new FibriCard combines 100% flax nonwovens with a waste-sugar-based bio resin which can be turned into a structural, lightweight load floor panel in just 120 seconds.

EcoTechnilin’s patented new FibriCard combines 100% flax nonwovens with a waste-sugar-based bio resin. © EcoTechnilin

These panels are now in series production in a number of vehicles, most notably Jaguar’s flagship F-type.

Technical Absorbents

Superabsorbent fibre (SAF) technology made by Technical Absorbents is now being used to effectively remove water from aviation and automotive fuels, in addition to hydraulic oil.

Superabsorbent fibre (SAF) technology made by Technical Absorbents is now being used to effectively remove water from aviation and automotive fuels, in addition to hydraulic oil.

SAF filter media fabrics can remove both dispersed and free water to very low levels at industry leading rates, which results in reduced fuel and oil degradation and also provides the required filter quality for efficient engine operation.

Cella Energy

Nanofibre nonwovens as the key to safe and low-cost hydrogen storage are being developed as part of the technology portfolio of Cella Energy, based in Oxford.

With its proprietary processes, materials can be pelletised to form a solid fuel with fluid properties, to overcome the challenge of transportation.

The huge potential of this technology has been rapidly recognised and in September, Cella announced a joint venture with the French aerospace and defence company Safran, which had sales of €14.7 billion in 2013 and has over 60,000 employees worldwide.

Freudenberg Filtration Technologies

Nonwoven water filter media have a global market value of over $800 million in 2014 and a surprising amount of these nonwovens are employed in membrane-based technologies for water filtration.

Freudenberg Filtration Technologies manufactures all types of water filtration media. © Freudenberg Filtration Technologies

Nonwovens are not considered absolute methods of purification, since particles of 1 micron or less in size can pass into the filtrate and further membrane-based separation processes are employed to effect complete removal.

Freudenberg Filtration Technologies manufactures all types of water filtration media and in March 2013 acquired the UK company Aquabio.

Aquabio is a specialist in membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology which combines a membrane-based filtration process – based on Freudenberg’s nonwovens – with a biological reactor.

P2i

The plasma enhancement of nonwoven filter media is now being promoted by P2i – a spin-off from the UK’s MOD – which owns a proprietary liquid repellent nanocoating that bonds to surfaces, with a coating thickness that is 1/1,000th of the width of a human hair.

This makes any 2D or 3D object – whether a raw material or a finished product – completely hydrophobic and oleophobic, without changing how it looks or feels.

The plasma enhancement of nonwoven filter media is now being promoted by P2i – a spin-off from the UK’s MOD. © P2i

The opportunities it presents to manufacturers of filter media are in allowing them to tailor surface properties to meet product requirements, with minimal effect on pressure drop.

NIRI

NIRI and partners, including the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) are currently involved in the Sanguis Project. The aim is to introduce a new filtration technology which can remove antibodies from donated blood.

It’s based on NIRI’s Hydrospace, which contains an active ingredient for the removal of harmful antibodies in donated blood plasma and could enable the production of universal plasma.

The aim of the Sanguis Project is to introduce a new filtration technology which can remove antibodies from donated blood.

Among other things, universal blood components will enable transfusion to all A-B-O blood groups and allow hospitals to keep a single stock of blood components on site. The emergency services could also benefit from universally transferable products and health services will be able to reduce wastage, administrative, and logistical costs.

Call to arms

Hopefully, my brief talk through some of the exciting developments currently underway in the UK served to underline the potential that further collaboration and connections through an organisation like the Nonwovens Network could result in and new companies are urged to become involved.

The Nonwovens Network UK will hold its annual dinner on December 4th, at The Holiday Inn in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. Current members, potential new members and guests will all be welcomed.

For further details see: www.nonwovensnetwork.com

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