By Jason Chen, China Correspondent
At the 17th Shanghai International Nonwovens Conference & Exhibition (SINCE 2017) held in early November 2017 in Shanghai, China, experts and executives said that the filtration market would benefit from both the demand and supply sides of the nonwoven industry in China. On the demand side, filtration technologies and products are used for the production of nonwoven; on the supply side, nonwoven has been widely used as an important filtration media for tackling air and water pollution in China.
Organizers and Attendees
The organizers of SINCE 2017 included China Technology Market Association (CTMA), China Nonwoven Technology Association (CNTA), UMB China, and CNTA Science & Technology Co. Ltd. In addition to a three-day exhibition, the event also included a forum and a series of training courses and technology presentations during the first two days, where experts from CNTA, the American Filtration Society (AFS), universities, and manufacturers spoke about the current situation and future trends of the nonwoven and filtration industries in China and the world.
SINCE 2017 was held at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center (SWEECC), covering a total exhibition area of 27,000 square meters. The total number of exhibitors was 461. The exhibition started November 8, and welcomed approximately 25,000 professionals from more than 50 countries. The organizers said the number of exhibition areas, exhibitors and visitors all hit a record high since the event was launched over three decades ago.
Nonwoven for filtration
There are dozens of downstream industries that consume nonwoven materials in China. According to Li Lingshen, president of the China Nonwovens & Industrial Textiles Association (CNITA), the three largest consuming industries of nonwoven materials in China are medical & hygienic products, geotextile & buildtech, and filtration & separation. For filtration and separation, nonwoven materials had a fast-growing use for three applications in China: high-temperature air filtration, medium temperature air filtration, and liquid filtration. The filtration and separation applications will become more important as its market share in the whole Chinese nonwoven market is likely to increase in the coming years – the growth of nonwoven filtration materials was over 10% in 2016, faster than the overall Chinese nonwoven industry of around 8%.
As a result of strong market potentials, the organizers tried to strengthen the connections between nonwoven and filtration through a series of activities at SINCE 2017. Experts from the AFS, the Taiwan Filtration and Separation Society (TFSS), the filtration departments of several universities, and filtration companies were invited to speak at the China International Filtration & Separation Forum (CIFSF), the training courses, and the technology presentations held the first two days of the event.
A basic training course for explaining the connection between nonwoven and filtration was held by two senior engineers, Xiang Yang and Yao Gongbi, the first day. This training course provided overall knowledge about the basic concepts, manufacturing methods, filtration mechanisms, air filtration applications, liquid filtration applications, and the developments of nonwoven materials.
At the CIFSF, Dr. Christine Sun of AFS described the current situation and the future of nonwoven filtration materials, while other experts went deeper to specific technology or market aspects. For example, Dr. Peter Tsai, professor at the University of Tennessee, discussed the impact of web defects and structures of nonwoven materials on the performance of filter media.
In addition to the paid training courses and the paid CIFSF, nonwoven and filtration companies provided free technology presentations in the exhibition hall. For example, Jerry Fan of the Mogul Tekstil Sanayi Ve Ticaret A.S. presented attendees with the current innovation of nonwoven fabric and the usage of advanced nonwoven for filtration and other purposes.
“We’ve got a better understanding about how nonwoven and filtration work together for winning the market through the lectures and presentations at the SINCE 2017,” said Yi Yang, an attendee who is a wholesaler of nonwoven materials in China.
The enthusiasm of the speakers and the audience is based on a multi-billion-dollar market and its potential. According to Adrian Wilson, a UK-based textile analyst, the global market for nonwoven filter media could reach $4.6 billion in 2016 and will grow to $6.5 billion by 2021, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7% from 2016 to 2021. This means that the growing use of filter media will contribute to a growth of $1.9 billion per year for nonwoven between 2016 and 2021.
Pollution and Filtration Progress
In the Chinese market, over 0.5 million metric tons of nonwoven was used for making filter media in 2016. The market in value terms was nearly $1.0 billion. Strong demand growth of over 10% per year is expected in the coming few years as a result of severe air and water pollutions in China, which has raised nation-wide public concern and forced the government to set up ambitious goals for reducing the pollution.
Experts said Chinese manufacturers had made significant progress in making nonwoven filtration products, especially for air pollution control purpose. Tao Hui, vice director of the Bag Filter Committee, China Association of Environmental Protection Industry (BFC, CAEPI), explained at the CIFSF how China made a breakthrough in the bag filter industry during the past few years. He said the severe air pollution in China had forced the Chinese manufacturing and filtration industries to work hard in several fields, and significant progresses had been made there, including:
- High efficiency, low resistance and long service life of bag filters
- Localization of filter material production and supply
- Breakthrough of filter bag cleaning technology
- Significant improvement of large-scale dust collectors
- Fast-growing revenues of electrostatic precipitator and bag filter combined dust collectors
- Initial achievements of treating fine particulate matter (PM 2.5)
Tao said Chinese manufacturers now are able to produce bag filters at very good standards, including 99.9% dust removal rate, 98% PM2.5 removal rate, and four-year service life or above for filter bags.
Advanced material was another focus at SINCE 2017. Dr. Sun said that nanofiber nonwovens would be an important nonwoven filtration media in the future. She too held a training course about nanofiber filtration, describing the production methods of nanofibers and the design of nanofiber filters.
Chinese experts said they believed nanofiber is a key material for solving the PM2.5 pollution problem in China. Zhao Shuguang, general manager of Shanghai Yuntong Nano Materials Institute, described the industrial production technology and equipment of the nanofiber industry. He believed nanofiber would soon generate a significant market share in China through Chinese manufacturers’ industrialization efforts.
Currently, nanofiber nonwoven media still have a very small market share. The global nanofiber market in 2016 could range from $400 million to $600 million, according to several different sources, and nonwoven filter media just accounted for a small share of the whole nanofiber market, at no more than $40 million per year.
But the nanofiber market will have a very strong growth in the next few years. According to a research by BCC Research, the global market of nanofiber would grow at a CAGR of 38.6% from 2015 to 2020. At this speed, the global nanofiber nonwoven media market will soon surpass $100 million in just a few years.
Filtration for nonwoven
Filtration technologies and products also play an important role in the production of nonwoven.
“Metal filters has important application in the production equipment of spunbond and meltblown nonwoven,” said Rick Li, general manager of the Baoding Filter Equipment Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of fteu® Group. Li explained the functions of metal filters in nonwoven production, saying that fteu had been supplying spinneret filters to some of the world’s leading nonwoven equipment manufacturers such as Reifenhäuser for many years.
Filtration technologies and products will no doubt benefits from the fast-growing installation of nonwoven production facilities in China. In the first half of 2017, the total investment in the nonwoven industry was 17.47 billion yuan ($2.6 billion), up 32.12% from the same period of 2016. It is estimated the total investment in 2017 will reach $5.5 billion, which will provide a strong momentum to the growth of filters used in nonwoven production lines.
Testing methods and machinery
The complexity of the filtration process makes testing filtration materials a very challenging task. This also makes testing – a value-created process – that attracts many global players to enter the Chinese market. At SINCE 2017, filtration product test solution providers presented many new testing technologies and equipment.
For example, Bob Burkhead, president of the Blue Heaven Technologies spoke at CIFSF about how to improve China’s air quality through improvement of laboratory testing. Blue Heaven Technologies is currently trying to increase its share in the fast-growing Chinese market through its air filtration testing services for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), industrial applications, indoor air quality and automotive applications.
On the other hand, Dr. Vincent Hu, of Advanced Filtration Center, Taiwan Textile Research Institute (TTRI), introduced the applications and testing methods of condensed filter media. The Taiwanese filtration industry hopes to build strong connections with this vast and fast-growing market in mainland China.
New models of testing machines were shown at SINCE 2017 as well. For example, EMTEC Electronic GMBH showed its TSA-Nonwovens Softness Analyzer, which provides an efficient and reliable way to test the quality of nonwoven materials, according to Ullrich Kasten, global sales manager of the company.