Introduction to Nonwovens   (Educational Research)

Education  Nonwovens

The Educational information in this section has been graciously donated to the Apparel Search Company by Professor Kermit Duckett.


Monika kannadaguli

An average person is unlikely to be familiar with the term nonwoven and a few decades back there were no experts in this field. When the consumer hears the term nonwovens it makes him think of something which is not like traditional woven fabrics, something >modern=, >advanced=, >hygienic=, but he is not aware of any specific types of materials among those which carry the same name. But now the precise meaning of the term is somewhat clearer to the experts. According to the experts, nonwovens is a class of textiles/sheet products, unique in industry, which is defined in the negative; that is, they are defined in what they are not. Nonwoven fabrics are different than the conventional textile fabrics and paper. Nonwovens are not based on yarns and (with frequent exceptions) do not contain yarns. They are based on webs of individual Fibers. Nonwovens are different than paper in that nonwovens usually consist entirely or at least contain a sizeable proportion of long Fibers and/or they are bonded intermittently along the length of the Fibers. Although paper consists of fiber webs, the Fibers are bonded to each other so completely that the entire sheet comprises one unit. In nonwovens we have webs of Fibers where Fibers are not as rigidly bonded and to a large degree act as individuals [ 1 ].

The definitions of the nonwovens most commonly used nowadays are those by the Association of the Nonwovens fabrics Industry (INDA) and the European Disposables and Nonwoven Association (EDANA).

INDA definition:

Nonwovens are a sheet, web, or batt of natural and/or man-made Fibers or filaments, excluding paper, that have not been converted into yarns, and that are bonded to each other by any of several means.

The various methods for bonding are:

a) Adding an adhesive

b) Thermally fusing the Fibers or filaments to each other or to the other meltable Fibers or powders.

c) Fusing Fibers by first dissolving, and then resolidifying their surfaces.

d) Creating physical tangles or tuft among the Fibers.

e) Stitching the Fibers or filaments in place.

EDANA defination:

Nonwovens are a manufactured sheet, web or batt of directionally or randomly oriented Fibers, bonded by friction, and/or cohesion and/or adhesion, excluding paper or products which are woven, knitted, tufted stitchbonded incorporating binding yarns or filaments, or felted by wetmilling, whether or not additionally needled.

The fibres may be of natural or man-made origin. They may be staple or continous or be formed in situ.

Nonwovens find numerous applications ranging from baby diapers to industrial high performance textiles. Some of the important areas where nonwovens are treated as primary alternative for traditional textiles as geotextiles, materials for building, thermal and sound insulating materials, hygienic and health care textiles and automotive industries. Nonwovens are also used in cover stocks, agriculture, aerospace, home furnishings etc. Although it is not possible to list all the applications of nonwovens, some of the important applications are listed in Table 1 [2 ] .

Table 1

Table 1 - Products That Use Nonwovens

Agriculture and Landscaping Home Furnishings Industrial/military
Crop Covers Furniture construction sheeting Coated fabrics
Turf protection products Insulators, arms and back Filters
Nursery overwintering Cushion ticking Semiconductor polishing pads
Weed control fabrics Dust covers Wipers
Root bags Decking Clean room apparel
Containers Skirt linings Air conditioning filters
Capillary matting Pull strips Military clothing
Bedding construction sheeting Abrasives
Automotive Quilt backing Cable insulation
Trunk applications Dust covers Reinforced plastics
Floor covers Flanging Tapes
Side liners Spring wrap Protective clothing, lab coats
Front and back liners Insulators Sorbens
Wheelhouse covers Quilt backings Lubricating pads
Rear shelf trim panel covers Blankets Flame barriers
Seat applications Wallcovering backings Packaging
Listings Acoustical wallcoverings Conveyor belts
Cover slip sheets Upholstery backings Display felts
Foam reinforcements Pillows, pillow cases Papermaker felts
Transmission oil filters Window treatments Noise absorbent felt
Door trim panel carpets Drapery components
Door trim panel padding Carpet backings, carpets, and Leisure, Travel
Vinyl, landau cover backings pads Sleeping bags
Molded headliner substrates Mattress pad components Tarpaulins, tents
Hood silencer pads Artificial leather, luggage
Dash insulators Health Care Airline headrests, pillow cases
Carpet tufting fabric and under Surgical: caps, gowns, masks,
padding shoe covers Personal Care and Hygiene
Sponges, dressings, wipes Diapers
Clothing Orthopedic padding Sanitary napkins, tampons
Interlinings Bandages, tapes Training pants
Clothing and glove insulation Dental bibs Incontinence products
Bra and shoulder padding Drapes, wraps, packs Dry and wet wipes
Handbag components Sterile packaging Cosmetic applicators, removers
Shoe components Bed linen, underpads Lens tissue
Contamination control gowns Hand warmers
Construction Electrodes Vacuum cleaner bags
Roofing and tile underlayment Examination gowns Tea, coffee bags
Acoustical ceilings Filters for IV solutions, blood Buff pads
Insulation oxygenators and kidney
Housewrap dialyzers School, Office
Pipe wrap Transdermal drug delivery Bookcovers
Mailing envelopes, labels
Geotextiles Household Maps, signs, pennants
Asphalt overlay Wipes, wet, dry polishing Floppy disk liners
Road and railroad beds Aprons Towels
Soil stabilization Scouring pads Promotional items
Drainage fabric softener sheets Pen nibs
Dam and stream embankments Dust cloths, mops
Golf and tennis courts Tea and coffee bags
Artificial turf Placemats, napkins
Sedimentation and erosion Ironing board pads
control Washcloths
Pond liners Tablecloths
Source: The Nonwoven fabrics Handbook, Association fo the Nonwoven fabrics Industry, Cary, North Carolina

The nonwoven industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It is rapidly developing a sophisticated and diverse market. It has been exhibiting an average growth of about 10% over the past twenty years and should continue this rate of growth in the next ten years. The technology in nonwoven industry has been improved significantly in nearly all available major manufacturing processes, including those of spunbond, meltblown, needle punched, spunlaced, wet laid and dry laid fabrication.

The most important point in rapid development and commercial acceptance of nonwovens is the ability to produce materials of special properties in less time and at reasonable prices. The relative production speeds of various textile technologies are compared in Table 2 [3,4 ].

Table 2 Relative production rates of different Textile technologies



Relative Production Rate
Weaving 1-6
Knitting 3-16
Nonwovens - web forming :








Nonwovens - bonding




-hot air bonding






A large number of Fibers are available n the market, but the nonwoven market is mainly dominated by three Fibers, namely polyolefins, polyester, and rayon. These three fiber types make up a substantial part of the overall nonwoven markets for Fibers [5 ].

The North American nonwoven industry is the largest in the world and accounts for almost one third of the worldwide sales of roll goods - around $2.8 billion - in 1997, according to estimates from the Association of the Nonwoven fabrics Industry (INDA). A major portion of the polyolefin and polyester fiber in the U.S. market is consumed by the nonwovens industry. Last year (1998), 57% of the polyolefin share was consumed by the nonwoven industry (Table 3) and only 43% was consumed by all the other industries, in spite of the fact that polyolefins are the major raw products for the packaging industry. Even in the case of polyesters, the share has increased to 14%. The major share of polyester fiber goes to high loft industry.

Table 3 U.S. shipments of olefin staple: Nonwovens Vs Other Markets, 1989-1998




Total U.S. Shipped to Nonwovens All Other
1989 363 195 168
1990 388 233 155
1991 438 272 166
1992 441 259 182
1993 466 276 190
1994 489 280 209
1995 458 267 191
1996 515 295 220
1997 542 314 229
1998 596 339 257
CAGR,1989/98 5.6% 6.4% 4.9%

Source : fiber Economics Bureau and Trade Estimates

CAGR- Compound annual growth rate.

Figure 1

Table 4 : U.S. shipments of polyester : Nonwovens Vs Other Markets, 1989-1998



Total U.S. Shipped to Nonwovens All Other
1989 2261 272 1989
1990 2015 240 1775
1991 2128 237 1891
1992 2191 244 1947
1993 2158 263 1895
1994 2221 280 1941
1995 2100 280 1820
1996 2016 285 1731
1997 2250 285 1965
1998 2105 292 1813
CAGR,1989/98 -0.7% 0.8% -1.0%

Source : fiber Economics Bureau and Trade Estimates

CAGR- Compound annual growth rate.

Figure 2

The production of nonwovens amounts to approximately 20% of the total production of textiles and this percentage grows year by year. The total world production is shown in Table 5 [ 6]. The growth rates of nonwoven production are extremely high, when compared with the conventional textiles industry.

Table 5

Nonwoven Textiles in General

Table 5 Worldwide Break-Out for Nonwovens

1,000a of Tons





% Year

North America




Western Europe












South America












The leading producers of nonwovens are given in Table 6 [7 ].

Table 6

Table 6 Leading Producers of Nonwovens


Worldwide Sales




(Millions USD)

1 Freudenberg Germany


2 DuPont USA




4 BBA Group UK


5 Kimberly-Clark USA


6 Veratec USA


7 Japan Vilene Japan


8 Dexter USA


9 Hoechst Germany


10 Asahi Japan


11 Toyobo Japan


12 Akzo Nobel The Netherlands


13 Lantor The Netherlands


14 Walkisoft Finland


15 Amoco USA


With the nonwovens successfully moving into more technical end-uses, the fiber requirements have also become more important with regard to the fiber properties. The cooperation between fiber supplier and fabric producers is now seen as an important criteria for more advancements to come about in the nonwovens field.


  1. Arthur Drelich, ANonwoven classification: A simple system@, Nonwovens Industry,54-55, Oct.1998
  2. The Nonwoven fabrics Handbook, Association of the Nonwoven fabrics Industry, Cary,NC
  3. J.Lunenscholss,J., Albrecht,W., Vliesstoffe,Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart, NY (1982)
  4. Princlples of Nonwovens, INDA, Cary,NC(1993)
  5. R.W.Mason,
  6. Najoul,J., ANonwovens in a Global Market@, Nonwovens Industry,26,#9,39-48 (19
  7. Nonwovens Industry, 26, #9,39 (1005)

Apparel Search   Add Your Company   Contact Us   About Us   Advertise   News Letter   Legal   Help
Copyright © 1999-2021  Apparel Search Company.  All Rights Reserved. Buy Fashion For The Holidays.