NatureWorks LLC has selected U.S. Pacific Nonwovens Industry, Ltd. as the exclusive agent for Ingeo™ spun-melt (spun-bond and melt-blown) nonwovens in the Asia Pacific Region.
The new relationship between NatureWorks, the manufacturer of Ingeo™ biopolymer, made from plants, not oil, and U.S. Pacific was announced in April at the international biopolymers conference, “Innovation Takes Root 2010,” in Dallas. The conference, organized by NatureWorks, also featured announcements about several additional advances with Ingeo™ in fibers and nonwovens.
U.S. Pacific Nonwovens Chief Technology Officer Dr. Larry Wadsworth said, “We see huge potential for readily substituting Ingeo™ for PET on many spun-bond lines in China and other countries in Asia.”
The new commercial relationship is a natural one, as U.S. Pacific Nonwovens is also the exclusive agent for Biax-Fiberfilm for stand-alone Biax melt-blown lines in the Asia Pacific Region. Biax President, Doug Brown recently said his firm has demonstrated significant capability with Ingeo™ processing on its melt-blown lines.
Dr. Wadsworth laid the groundwork for the U.S. Pacific Nonwovens announcement during his presentation at the “Innovation Takes Root, Advances in Ingeo™ Fibers and Nonwovens” conference track. Wadsworth presented the results of USDA-funded research on biodegradable mulches for crops produced under protective covers, which included an assessment of next-generation nonwovens including Ingeo™. He concluded with new results based on work done at Biax-Fiberfilm and U.S. Pacific in China on the blending of Ingeo™ with PHA’s to produce melt-blown wet wipes fabric not only with improved shelf-life in the package, but also with enhanced biodegradation in river water, mud, and compost.
Ray Volpe, technology director for Ahlstrom Advanced Nonwovens business area, also shared new details of Ahlstrom’s Ingeo™-based BioWeb™ spun-bond nonwoven product line. Noting that BioWeb™ is now available in a range of basic weights, Volpe attracted strong interest when he compared BioWeb™ and polypropylene webs. With tensile strength, dye ability, and surface energy equivalent to, or better than PP, BioWeb™ offers improved cuttability, stain release, and flammability/heat/smoke characteristics, while lowering web elongations. With the 2009 announcement of its new Chirnside UK spun-bond line, Ahlstrom made it clear that its immediate intent is to target beverage infusion applications such as tea bags. In Dallas, however, Volpe also emphasized that Ahlstrom’s interest in BioWeb™ renewable nonwovens is broad, covering a wide variety of end-use applications including topsheet/backsheet for diapers, plant-root protection, and soft furnishings.
Rounding out the Ingeo™ nonwovens discussion, Dr. Gajanan Bhat of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville’s Nonwovens Research Lab reviewed Ingeo™ melt-blown nonwovens for filtration applications. Bhat included a detailed review of Ingeo™ melt-blowing process parameters, process variables, and response factors for nonwovens, property characterizations that are important to the filtration industry. With research that underpinned Wadsworth’s earlier points, Bhat showed that Ingeo™ can be melt-blown to produce fine fiber webs with good mechanical and performance properties.
Goulston Technologies’, Chris Hagler described the company’s latest advances in Ingeo™ fiber surface modification for fibers and nonwovens, emphasizing Goulston’s core strength in tailoring the finish chemistry to meet the specific application demand. Goulston now has a formal relationship with Polyvel, which has been a long-time provider of additives for a wide variety of Ingeo™ packaging applications.
Fiber Innovation Technology co-founder, Dr. Jeff Dugan, described his organization’s long relationship with NatureWorks since it became the first Ingeo™ fibers master licensee partner in 2003. Fiber Innovation Technology has extensive experience with and knowledge of Ingeo™ fibers and processing, and Dugan shared the latest innovations and ongoing work on producing Ingeo™ (PLA/PLA) binder fibers with significantly improved bond strength.
The fibers and nonwovens conference track was moderated by Robert Green, NatureWorks’ business director for Ingeo™ fibers and nonwovens. Green said, “In addition to the individual advances shared in Dallas, an overarching takeaway from the session is that there is now increasing momentum throughout the supply chain in terms of the technology and expertise required to process Ingeo™ fibers and nonwovens.”