By Adrian Wilson, International Correspondent
The first major events for the filtration industry taking place in 2018 are Filtech from March 13-15 in Cologne, Germany and FiltCon, the spring conference of the American Filtration and Separations Society, which will be held at the Mystic Lake Conference Center in Prior Lake, Minn., from April 23-25.
Both events will offer deeper insight into some of the major issues of relevance to the sector, not least the future for filtration in the automotive industry, which many are expecting to change more in the next five years than it has in the last hundred.
As both established car manufacturers and the technology giants of Silicon Valley invest billions in the bid to commercialize self-driving cars, there have been some other significant developments this year.
The governments of both the U.K. and France have announced that by 2040, the sale of both petrol and diesel-powered vehicles will be banned. In addition, at the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), held at the beginning of June in Beijing, the new EV 30@30 campaign was announced, with 24 member countries signing up to it.
This aims to speed up the deployment of electric and fuel cell vehicles to the extent that they account for at least 30% of all new cars sold globally by 2030. Volvo, meanwhile, will only make electric vehicles from as early as 2019.
Clearly, the combustion engine is under threat, along with the filter materials employed in it – including many of the advanced hybrid filter media materials that have been developed in recent years specifically to more effectively deal with engine emissions.
The further development of electric vehicles, however, is seeing some new filtration needs now arising, such as newly-developed brake dust particulate filters and gearbox oil filters for electric axles, as well as cooling air particle filters for high voltage battery systems.
And electric vehicles currently require a lot of batteries – those with range-extending motors can contain more than 200 – and each needs a separator positioned between its two electrodes.
The worldwide market for Li-ion battery separators is already around 500 million square meters and clearly on an upwards trajectory.
Once hydrogen fuel cells reach a required efficiency point and the price of them goes down with industrially scaled-up availability, they are also likely to assume a greater role in vehicle technology than batteries – especially since the fuel for hydrogen fuel cells is directly related to oil production as a by-product of oil cracker plants. And for the car user, refueling will be much more like the familiar routine of stopping at a petrol station to fill up today.
As a consequence, gas diffusion layers for fuel cells could become a major new market, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will also require new filters, such as an ion exchanger filter, a cathode air cleaner system and a coolant particle filter. Cabin air filtration is also only likely to assume greater importance as attention for the consumer shifts increasingly to the interior.
Another key theme that will be the subject of much debate at conferences and shows during 2018 is that of the current concerns over air quality around the world.
As Professor Nino Künzli, deputy director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute observed at the 2017 EDANA Filtrex conference in Geneva, there has been immense progress in establishing solid evidence that ambient air pollution can have very negative health effects, and the burden of disease is significant.
The Word Health Organization (WHO) has reported that nine out of ten people globally are breathing poor quality air and is calling for dramatic action against the pollution, which is blamed for more than six million deaths a year.
“Research, air quality monitoring, health impact assessment, air quality standards and the implementation of clean air policies all vary greatly across the world and equitable standards must be fostered to stop unethical globalized business models and protect the health of all people,” Künzli said. “Industries must adopt the best available technology and most stringent air emissions standards – globally.”
Related to this is the new ISO 16890 standard, which is being introduced to resolve the limits and weaknesses of the two standards it is intended to supersede – EN 779 in Europe and (perhaps) ASHRAE 52.2 in the U.S.
The new standard is said too much more closely reflect the real operating behavior of an air filter, enabling a selective filter choice to be made according to the real demands and technical requirements of customers.
As such, ISO 16890 could bring many significant benefits and since it has been established that smaller particles are the most harmful to human health, will ensure that ePM1-rated filters are selected for optimized indoor air quality.
Nonwovens and technical textiles
The key exhibitions for discovering new developments in nonwovens and technical textiles as filter media are Techtextil North America 2018, which takes place from May 22-24 at Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, and ANEX 2018, which will be held at the Tokyo Big Sight in Japan, from June 6-8.
There has been sufficient growth in the manufacture of both nonwoven fabrics and technical textiles in both North America and Asia recently to ensure the success of these two events.
North America is currently enjoying a surge of investment in new nonwoven lines, and most notably in North Carolina. Of around 35 new lines in total that have been announced, a third of them are to be situated in North Carolina, and a further five across the state line in South Carolina.
Nonwoven fabric production in Asia meanwhile, increased by 9.6% to 4.7 million tons in 2016, having risen by an average of 9.2% annually between 2008 and 2015, according to the latest figures from ANFA (Asian Nonwovens Fabrics Association).
China alone produced some 3,261,000 tons of nonwovens in 2016, up 10.9% from 2,941,000 in 2015.
Of China’s 2016 production, around 1,500 tons consisted of spunmelt materials (spunbond, meltblown and SMS composites) – an industry sector that was virtually non-existent in China 25 years ago.
As a result, it is perhaps no surprise that there is a proliferation of events in China among the further filtration-related 2018 shows and conferences, which are scheduled and include:
- The Cinte Techtextil China, which takes place at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre from September 4-6
- The IFAI Expo 2018, to be held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas from October 15-18
- The European Conference on Fluid-Particle Separation from October 15-17 in Lyon, France
- INDA’s Filtration 2018 event, to be held from October 2-4 in at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
- EDANA’s Filtrex Asia, which is to be held in Shanghai from November 19-20
- Filtration & Separation Asia, which also takes place in Shanghai from November 19-21
INDA, as the global trade association for the nonwovens industry, has just held its 2017 Filtration International Conference and Exposition, attracting a record of more than 1,400 attendees to Chicago’s Navy Pier from October 10-12.
A keynote address at the conference by Philip Whitaker, president and CEO of AAF Flanders on why the filter industry is suddenly so attractive to investors and what’s driving recent merger and acquisition activity provided particularly valuable insights on megatrends impacting filter media usage.
“The keynote presentation offered an overall picture of the potential future of the filtration industry and was a great reminder of why we’re part of this industry,” said Russ Johnson, head of new business development and strategic marketing at Freudenberg.
Debate was also lively during the panel discussion on ISO 16890 and whether it’s good or bad for the U.S. Industry. Moderated by Robert Burkhead, president of Blue Heaven Technologies, panelists discussed all aspects of this new ISO standard, adopted in Europe and now under consideration in the U.S. to replace the ASHRAE standard for classifying the efficiency of indoor air filters.
Among other conference highlights was a panel on the Industrial Internet of Things and how interconnected smart systems can improve filter change times, increase operational efficiency and capture new growth, which will certainly be another subject for further exploration at events in 2018.
“We are pleased that our attendees and exhibitors again received strong value from this event,” said INDA President Dave Rousse. “The conference speakers were outstanding and the show floor buzz was strong. We are delighted that this event continues to pull together in one place the key elements of this important industry.”