The fact that the nonwovens industry is growing in China is not news. During the past decade, the market has achieved growth in the low double digits, well above the rates seen in more developed areas like the U.S. or Europe.
As multinational companies like Berry Plastics, Freudenberg and TWE have surely made growth in China, and the greater Asian region, a key tenet of their growth strategies, locally based manufacturers continue to up the ante with increasingly sophisticated operations and technologically advanced materials. In fact, some say on the end product front that the Chinese consumers’ thirst for sophisticated products is actually driving innovation in the disposable baby diaper market, creating a market for value added nonwovens that offer softness and comfort.
A look at some of the largest, locally based nonwovens producers in China illustrates this drive toward innovation. Companies like Toray Advanced Materials, HJTC and Nan Liu Enterprises have made some major investments in western machinery to fuel growth while Dalian Ruigang and KNH focus on new market development.
Toray Advanced Materials Korea
Chinese capacity: 77,000 tons
Y.K. Lee, chairman and CEO; W.C. Hwang, vice president, head of fiber division; Hitoshi Takeuchi, senior director, fiber division; W.S. Chun, senior director, fiber division; J.N. Kim, president of TPN; Y.K. Kim, president of TPJ
Nantong, China (four lines)
Spunbond PP (SS, SSS, SMS, SSMMS, SMMMS, bicomponent), polyester (embossed and needlepunched)
Hygiene, medical, protective apparel, industrial specialties, agricultural, upholstery, filtration, construction, geotextiles
While based in Korea, Toray Advanced Materials currently operates one of China’s largest nonwovens operations in Nantong. The company’s fourth Chinese site came onstream in 2014, bringing its capacity in the country to 77,000 tons.
The new investment, an SSS spunbond line with an annual capacity of 20,000 tons, specializes in thin and soft products for the growing premium hygiene market. It came onstream in June 2014. According to Y.K. Lee, about 40% of nonwovens made at this site are sold in China while the remaining are exported elsewhere in Asia.
While this new line helped grow volumes 7% last year, executives reported a 9% sales decline due largely to lower selling prices amidst increased competition and decreasing raw material prices. However, Toray remains bullish about the nonwovens market in China as well as in Asia as a whole. “Based on a firm and an interconnected partnership with global hygiene manufacturers, Toray’s business strategy is planned carefully alongside our partners,” export manager Evan Lee says. “Accordingly to our customers’ Asian expansion strategy, Toray considers investment plans to provide products and the quantity to meet the needs of our partners. Our aggressive investment is none other than the aggressive investment plan of our customers.”
Besides Toray’s most recent investment in China, the company has added lines in 2012, 2010 and 2006, when it established the operation. Elsewhere in Asia, Toray is currently adding a second spunmelt line in Indonesia as well as new spunmelt line in Korea, its first there since 2003.
Airlaid, spunlace, carded, spunbond, meltblown
Hygiene, medical, automotive, household, construction, industrial, personal care
Dalian Ruiguang is seeing the fruits of a large-scale flushable wipes line, located at the Ruiguang Industrial Park, pay off. Last year, the company reported increased volumes but lower raw material prices led to lower sales.
In addition to the flushable wipes line, which is able to make a reported 15,000 tons of material per year, Dalian also operates a newly retrofitted spunlace line which targets more traditional wipes applications as well as medical nonwovens, a CPC (carded-airlaid pulp-carded) line which combines two layers of viscose nonwovens with a pulp layer. This line offers wipe producers an alternative solution to existing 100% viscose Tencel-based nonwovens.
In the medical market, Dalian Ruiguang’s new thermal bonding spunbond-spunlace (SP) production line is capable of making products for medical and sterilization applications. Dalian Ruiguang’s processing technology eliminates debris or flies during production.
According to executives, the nonwovens industry remains a promising business worldwide. The carding and spunbonding technologies keep in the mainstream, while wood pulp airlaid and wetlaid technologies are valued for their environmental consciousness. Product differentiation and specialty products with more functions will continue to be a focus as will the combination of nonwovens with paper making technologies.
Next up for Dalian will be a new composite line which will begin production in November 2017. Further ahead, Dalian hopes to invest in markets outside of China to better serve foreign customers locally.
Shanghai, Hainan, Hubai
Spunlace, spunbond, meltblown, nanospinning
Household cleaning, beauty care, general purpose wipes
Xinlong Holding (Group) Co., Ltd. was one of the first companies to start nonwovens production in China. In 1993, Xinlong introduced the first spunlace nonwovens production line in the country and produced the first piece of spunlace nonwovens in the country. In 1999, the company went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange Market.
For more than 20 years, Xinlong has been sticking to its core business—nonwoven roll goods manufacturing with continuous technology innovation and product development—and has contributed heavily to the development of the industry in China. Xinlong was among the first companies to pass a series of certifications including the ISO9001 quality management system, the ISO14001 environmental management system, the German DQS quality mutual recognition network and the AAAA certification of good behavior enterprise on standardization. It was also the first domestic producer of pure cotton spunlaced nonwovens, wood pulp composite nonwovens and recycled polyester (R-PET) spunbonded nonwovens.
Currently, Xinlong has three Chinese production bases in Shanghai, Hainan and Hubei with five spunlace nonwovens production lines all supplied from Europe—a wide-width polyester spunbond line, two meltblown lines, a wide-width functional finishing line, a nanospinning line, two lines imported from Europe and several sets of nonwoven end products production machines. In addition, Xinlong has three pilot lines and three engineering bases and is currently building an SMMMX line.
Xinlong makes a series of high quality spunlace, polyester spunbond, ultrafine meltblown, nanospinning and different functional finishing nonwoven roll goods as well as various kinds of nonwoven end products, including industrial and household wipes, moist towelettes, compressed towels, automobile multipurpose bags, surgical gowns, operating kits, operating covers, operating drapes, operating placemats, special protective suits, industrial protective clothing, chitin medical dressings and various kinds of wet tissues, facial masks, makeup remover cotton and masks. These can be used in a wide range of fields that are closely tied to social development including aerospace, national defense, healthcare, machinery and electronics, agricultural geotextiles, personal care and household.
U.S. Pacific Procurement Company
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Medical, protective apparel
U. S. Pacific, founded in 1980, is a privately owned company with manufacturing facilities in China. With the recent expansion, the company will continue to employ 300 or more workers in its factory which produces short-life/limited use nonwoven protective apparel and nonwoven-related products to serve specific market needs.
U.S. Pacific’s converting facility—U.S. Pacific Nonwovens & Technical Textile Technology—is located in the Dongguan, Guangdong Province of China. This facility manufactures short-life/limited-use protective apparels and a comprehensive range of end-use products using different types of basic and value-added nonwovens and technical textiles, advanced composites incorporated with plastic film, paper as well as scrims and/or other substrates to fit the purpose of its intended usage. These products find extensive applications in industrial, medical/healthcare, nursing homes, childcare, hospitality, food processing, cleanroom, beauty care, leisure/sports, household, consumer convenience, promotion and other diverse fields.
The company’s recent expansion is a six story factory unit which brought its total production area above 25,000 square meters. This expansion correlates to company growth, and the facilities are equipped with a selection of modernized conversion machinery such as ultrasonic welding machines, heat welding machines, hot air-taping machines, die cutting machines, sewing machines of different kinds, formaldehyde-free treatment machines, electrostatic charging machines, needle detectors and vacuum packing machines. Additionally, the company’s in-house laboratory provides constant technical support to meet with the product specifications.
CHTC Jiahua Nonwovens (HTJH)
Nonwovens Capacity: 56,000 tons
Xintao, China; Hubei, China (planned)
CHTC Jiahua Nonwoven (HTJH) was founded by China Textile Science and Technology Development Co., which belonged to China Hi-Tech Group Corporation and Xiantao Jiahua Plastic Products Co., in December 2011 and is located in Xiantao, China. The company operates a 47,000 square-meter facility and employs 200 people. The company has passed ISO 9001, ISO 13485 quality management system and got the CE Certification.
HTJC’s most recent investment was a 3.2-meter, six-beam Reicofil 4 spunmelt line in the first quarter of 2015. This investment is said to have followed the addition of two spunmelt lines, according to industry consultant David Price. Price estimates that HTJC now has four spunbond and four spunmelt lines in operation with a total nameplate capacity of 56,000 tons.
In May 2016, HTJC said it would invest more than $500 million to build a plant to house 10 or more new lines in Xiantao, Hubei Province China. “The types of lines vary from one report to another but for now we believe that CHTC will install five SB/SMS lines and five spunlaced lines,” Price adds. “We have not made an estimate of how large this new capacity will be as the size, timing and type of technology to be installed is still unclear.”
The company’s sale are estimated at $70 million.
Nan Liu Enterprises
Kaoshiung City, Taiwan
C.S. Huang, chairman; H.S. Huang, president; M. Yang, vice president; Sam Chang, vice president; Paul Cheng, general manager; Bernard Kerstens, commercial director, overseas business
Kaoshiung, Taiwan; Pinghu, China
Spunlace, thermal bond, air through bond, needlepunch
Hygiene, medical, wipes
Nan Liu Enterprises, a Taiwanese maker of spunlace fabrics for the wipes and medical markets has been seeing sales steadily rise thanks to expansion into new markets, like Japan, and new technologies, like air-through bonding technology.
“We are able to provide more to our customers with an increased range of services,” says commercial director Bernard Kerstens. “Besides, as a result of the deregulation of the one-child policy in China, we have experienced increasing sales in baby products.”
A veteran maker of spunlace nonwovens, Nan Liu currently operates the widest spunlace line in the world. This 6.2-meter-wide line, located in Pinghu, China, offers a number of unique functions to help meet clients’ needs. It began operation in late 2013.
“This line can help us to minimize the cost through improving speeds,” Kerstens says. “What’s more, we have been committed to combining the wood pulp paper to produce qualified surgical gowns and drape fabrics to meet the market needs.”
Nan Liu reports about half of its sales are conducted in China where growth in the medical market is attributed to the booming medical gowns converting industry. “The Chinese market has always been an important part of our overall sales. For example, the sales of medical surgical gowns/drapes fabrics have kept increasing. Our main customers for these surgical gowns/drapes are converters and they are mostly located in China. However, the overseas markets are always the markets where we strive to expand, including Southeast Asia and South and Central America,” Kerstens says.
While these markets are currently served through local sales agents, Nan Liu is taking steps to establish a manufacturing operation in at least one new market—India. While Kerstens couldn’t reveal firm details, he did say negotiations are currently underway to build a nonwovens operation there.
Back in Taiwan, Nan Liu has recently purchased a new land parcel in Kaohsiung where a new factory, which will expand its spunlace business, is currently under construction. At its existing site in Pinghu, Nan Liu has completed work on a new production line to make air through bonded nonwovens for the baby diaper market.
J.C. Tai, chairman and owner; Vicky Tai, president; Allen Huang, general manager; Jacky Su, technical vice president: Kevin Chen, assistant vice president
Taipei, Taiwan, Shanghai and Chengdu, China
Air through bonding, thermal bonding, meltblown, airlaid, needlepunch, spunlace
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles
Wearing two hats as a manufacturer and converter of nonwovens is KNH Enterprises, one of Taiwan’s largest nonwovens producers and converters. The company currently makes spunlace nonwovens, largely serving the wipes market, on three lines in the greater China area. According to executives, demand in this market has been growing gradually year on year.
“It is very competitive in China and the rest of Asia for the wipes market. However, consumers still appreciate unique materials to offer the benefits while using them as a skin care wipe,” says company spokesperson Aisha Chen.
Other areas of interest for the company’s spunlace business include the medical market, which has been well supported in Asia, particularly in wound care and blood filtration.
Capacity: 100,000 tons
Guangzhou, Weifang, Shandong, China
Spunbond, meltblown, SMS
Hygiene, medical, industrial
Jofo Nonwovens is one of China’s largest locally owned nonwovens producers. Most of its revenues come from plants located in Zhaoqing, Guangdong; Weifang and Dongying, Shandong in China. Three existing production lines—one meltblown and two SMS—in Jofo’s Weifang plant generate about half of its sales.
The company’s most recent known investment is a $60 million, 3.2 meter wide, multibeam Reicofil-IV spunmelt line and a separate finishing line in its Weifang plant in Shandong, China. The line started up in early 2013, joining an existing 4.2 meter Reicofil-IV multi-beam line at the Weifang plant. Together the two lines make more than 30,000 tons of material. Jofo targets the rapidly growing disposable hygiene and medical application areas in Asia with the new capacity.
In addition to Weifang, the company has faciliites in Guangdong and Shandong. Its total capacity is said to be more than 100,000 tons.
Jofo plans to continue investing in adding new capacity as well as research and development in the nonwovens areas to forge core competencies in supplying premium nonwovens to disposable hygiene, medical, geotextile, industrial and other application areas, according to executives.
Roughly 60-70% of its material for hygiene and personal care products targeted overseas markets, and the company is hoping to achieve full capacity by the end of 2016.
Nanhai Wonderful Nonwoven
Nanhai, Foshan, China
Nonwovens Capacity: 40,000 tons
Nanhai, Foshan, China
Hygiene, medical, industrial, cleanroom
With 16 years experience in nonwovens production and further post processing sectors, Wonderful Nonwovens currently produces 40,000 metric tons of nonwoven fabrics annually, which are used in hygiene, medical, protective and industrial applications. Wonderful Nonwovens has a 13,000-square-meter cleanroom area for the production of surgical gowns, surgical drapes, sterilization wraps, protective apparel and facemasks.
Wonderful Nonwovens is equipped with one SMMMS, one SMS, one SSS, six spunbond nonwoven production lines for different applications. The company manufactures nonwoven fabric with 100% virgin polypropylene chips. These fabrics can be processed with several finishing techniques for compound structures, special treatments, elasticity and antiskid and perforations.
Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China
Chemical bonded, thermal bonded, airlaid, spunlace, spunbond
Wenzhou Xinyu Nonwoven, a subsidiary of Wenzhou Timbering Group company, is a manufacturer of chemical bonded, thermal bonded, airlaid, spunlace and spunbond nonwovens as well as other nonwoven materials for interlinings. The company operates 10 production lines in a 10,000 square meter operation. Its total ouput is above 6000 tons.
The company has 10 production lines including a chemical bond production line (the width from 44”to 84”), a thermo bond production line, an airlaid web production line, a coating production line, and a spunlace production line.
The company has a set of advanced equipment to conduct Quality Testing System and has ISO 9001:2000 certification.