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Published: September 2011
World consumption of nonwoven fabrics grew at an average annual rate of 6.5% during 2005–2010, down from 8.3% during 2000–2005, largely as a result of increased market penetration, product maturation and recovering demand in some regions from the 2008–2009 global recession. Year-end global capacity utilization was 75–80% in 2010.
Polypropylene is by far the most commonly used fiber to produce nonwoven fabrics, accounting for nearly 60% in 2010. Polypropylene's ability to be thermally bonded eliminated the cost of chemical binders and helped make it one of the lowest-cost webs available. Other important properties include fiber softness, good chemical resistance, and both low density and low specific gravity, which translate into high per-kilogram yield. Polypropylene fibers are the major fibers used in product applications such as diapers, adult incontinence, feminine hygiene, filtration, surgical/medical, agricultural/landscaping, geotextiles and furnishings/bedding.
Polyester is the second-largest-volume fiber used to produce nonwoven fabrics, accounting for nearly 26% in 2010. Polyester has excellent tensile strength, tear strength and crease resistance, as well as good resistance to UV, heat and rot. Polyester fibers are the major fibers used in product applications such as fabric softener substrates, filtration, surgical/medical, agricultural/landscaping, automotive fabrics, apparel interlinings and roofing.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of nonwoven fabrics:
World demand growth in nonwoven fabrics is driven by several factors, including:
- Population growth. Birth rates affect applications such as baby diapers while the growing aging population leads to increased demand for adult incontinence products.
- Urbanization. Increasing concentration of population centers usually leads to increased demand for applications such as filtration, insulation, furnishings/bedding, geotextiles, construction/building, wall coverings and roofing products.
- Increased buying power/growing middle class. Greater household incomes and higher levels of personal spending lead to increased use of several nonwoven products including disposable wipes, hygiene products, filtration and furnishings/bedding.
- Product innovation. Introduction of specialized nonwovens will increase demand, especially in developed markets where product saturation is high.
China is the largest single participant in the nonwoven fabrics market, accounting for nearly 26% of world consumption in 2010. This trend is expected to continue during 2011–2015, as significant growth in Chinese consumption will result in the commissioning of additional capacity and increased production. China is forecast to experience the fastest growth rates (15%) and the largest volume increases in nonwoven fabric consumption during 2010–2015.
Europe and North America (United States and Canada only) are the second- and third-largest nonwoven fabrics markets, each accounting for nearly 23% of world consumption in 2010. During 2010–2015, nonwoven fabric consumption in Europe is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 5.0%; higher growth is expected in Russia and Central/Eastern European countries than in Western European countries. In North America, nonwoven fabric consumption during 2010–2015 is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 3.3%; this moderate growth is largely due to product maturation. Significant-to-rapid growth is expected in nearly all other Asian countries except Japan, where weak demand is forecast to result in a moderate average annual growth of 1.7% during 2010–2015. Demand growth in Latin America is forecast at 7.0% during 2010–2015, the third-highest rate of growth after China and the Middle East. As a result, capacity in Latin America is expected to increase substantially during 2011–2015.