ITMA 2011 confirmed its position as the top show for sophisticated textile machinery, especially
for nonwovens and technical textiles. Since ITMA 2003 in Birmingham, United Kingdom, there have
been a lot of discussions within the global textile industry in general, and among the Western
European machinery suppliers in particular, about whether an ITMA in Europe still makes sense. It
seems these discussions are over now. Reflecting on the recent ITMA Europe in Barcelona, Spain,
held Sept. 22-29, 2011, one can say this event is still the top performance show for high-quality
machinery, especially for nonwovens and technical textiles production.
DiloGroup presented a complete nonwovens production line in its booth and ran fiber on it to
show a number of newly developed characteristics.
Confirmed Global Top Event
It is once again time to remember that three main events challenged one another in Barcelona:
the annual conference of the International Textile Manufactures Federation, Sept. 19-20; the World
Textile Summit the day before ITMA 2011, featuring keynote speaker Kofi Annan, former
secretary-general of the United Nations; and ITMA itself. Many interested people were not able to
attend the World Textile Summit because of their own duties at ITMA. This circumstance was heavily
regretted among summit participants, but also by people who were not able to attend.
There is no doubt at all: the ITMA in Europe is still the top event among all global textile
machinery shows. After talking to many exhibitors, one can say ITMA itself was a massive success,
which was apparently not the case for the other two events.
It took quite a while to convince the officials from ITMA owner CEMATEX (European Committee
of Textile Machinery Manufacturers) that nonwovens machinery is not a part of spinning equipment in
spite of the cards, which to some extent apply the same technology. Since ITMA 1999 in Paris,
nonwovens have had their own nomenclature in the ITMA catalog. And with its steady growth, this
important sector is today one, if not the, cornerstone of the remaining top-class Western textile
industry. On top of that, other fabric production machinery, such as that for woven and
warp-knitted technical textiles, is classified in the catalog in a much better way.
Even one decade ago, the nonwovens sector was rather a mass market. Those days are gone
forever, at least for durable and custom-made products. Today, there are two different nonwovens
manufacturing sectors: disposables including products such as feminine care products, wipes and
other one-use items; and tailor-made nonwovens, which are becoming more and more a specialized
niche market with a growing demand.
That’s one reason why high-quality nonwovens machinery is still produced mainly in Western
Europe, and particularly in Germany and France. There are companies such as Andritz Küsters GmbH,
Germany; NSC nonwoven (now Andritz Asselin-Thibeau), France; Trützschler Nonwovens GmbH, Germany;
and Andritz Perfojet, France, just to name a few, but also France-based Laroche S.A. with its
recycling equipment, which today is an important part of the nonwovens business.
DiloGroup, Germany, was the only exhibitor in the nonwovens sector to present a complete
nonwovens production line, on which it ran fiber to show a number of newly developed
characteristics. According to DiloGroup Chairman Johann-Philipp Dilo, this line attracted some
3,500 visitors to the company’s 1,000-square-meter booth.
Top products were the new Alphamix as well as suction, filtration and sound insulation
techniques from DiloTemafa; MultiFeed and MultiCard from DiloSpinnbau; and the Webguide of the
DiloLayer as well as the Isomation Process to produce a more consistent fiber mass flow and a more
even end product.
Of course, one must not forget weaving and warp knitting machines for technical textiles —
with labels such as Dornier, Karl Mayer and Sultex. The P7300HP projectile weaving machine from
Switzerland-based ITEMA Weaving’s Sultex brand still plays a prominent role for technical textiles
as well as polypropylene ribbons. All these and other companies prominently exhibited the top
products of their ranges. Many confirmed that only at ITMA in Europe would they show the high end
of their production lines. For Asian fairs, the products exhibited are mainly produced at their Far
Eastern production sites.
The Sultex P7300HP produces fabrics of high quality, from all raw materials and for all
applications, as well as fabrics made of polypropylene ribbons.
Europe In The Foreground
In contrast to traditional textile industry visitors, the visitors for nonwovens and
technical textiles came mainly from Western Europe and North and Latin America. Visitors from
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and the Middle East mainly were looking at traditional textile
manufacturing machinery. This fact was confirmed by Marc Wolpers, sales director, nonwovens,
Trützschler Nonwovens. China was absent, which is no surprise considering there are a lot of
domestic events in China — in particular, ITMA Asia + CITME next June in Shanghai.
The importance of the European markets for technical fabrics and nonwovens is a fact. Wolpers
said his company is enjoying very good business in Europe, particularly in the fields of
filtration, automotive and hygiene products. It is very difficult to get firm facts and figures for
European nonwovens and industrial fabric production. However, experts say that today, some 40-plus
percent of all textile articles produced in Europe are made of woven fabrics and nonwovens.
However, Asia Is Keeping Up
On the other side, “The Asian market is of course a growing market for Trützschler
Nonwovens,” Wolpers mentioned. “China, India and Indonesia are becoming more and more important
also for the nonwovens industry. Further industrialization, rising standards of living as well as
improvement in infrastructure will support further growth in the next few years.”
Most of the exhibitors were very pleased with the quality and level of the visitors. “The
quality of the visitors was excellent; we have been busy every day and were able to fulfill our
entire goals for the show and are very satisfied with ITMA 2011,” Wolpers said.
Trützschler Nonwovens presented two new machines: the Streamliner drum dryer with improved
air flow distribution and higher drying capacity with lower energy consumption; and the Erko
EKLB439 crosslapper with improved material guidance for enhanced web qualities at speeds above 160
meters per minute. “At the same time, we have been able to reduce the energy consumption of the
crosslapper drastically,” Wolpers added. Both machines received excellent feedback from the
industry, and Wolpers is sure these products will be top sellers for Trützschler Nonwovens in the
It seems the nonwovens industry is not that jeopardized by the current financial turmoil.
Furthermore, Wolpers added, “We don’t see any slowdown in order income or requests for new quotes.
We feel well-positioned because we can offer all major staple-fiber-based web forming and bonding
technologies. Therefore, we are not dependent on certain product markets. We can fulfill most
requirements of our customers from our portfolio, which certainly helps to continue our growth. In
addition, we can offer know-how from staple fiber production to the final product. This will help
us to support our customers even more in developing new products.”
Concentration Of Producers
The manufacture of machinery for technical textiles and particularly nonwovens production
requires a certain company infrastructure and size. Until recently, there were many more players in
this sector. As seen in the past few months and at ITMA in Barcelona, there is an ongoing
concentration in these markets. One big issue was the takeover of NSC nonwoven by the Andritz
Group. Andritz had already acquired Perfojet from the Switzerland-based Rieter Group some months
Another astonishing move was the acquisition of Autefa Solutions Germany GmbH, Autefa
Solutions Austria GmbH; and Autefa Solutions Italy S.p.A. by the China Hi-Tech Group Co. Ltd.
(CHTC) — a major state-owned enterprise under the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration
Commission of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, with more than 200 subsidiaries
and branch offices worldwide. CHTC’s target is to become a number-one player in the nonwovens
business to manufacture complete nonwovens lines for spunbonds, spunlace, needlepunching,
through-air thermal bonding, hot-calendering, melt-blowing and composite material.
That’s quite a challenge for the established suppliers. Wolpers mentioned that “the group
formation in our industry seems to be finalized with the acquisition of NSC through Andritz and
from the Oerlikon Carding Unit through the Chinese High Tech Group. This will help us to position
ourselves even more strongly as a family-owned company that is a technology leader.”
None of the companies mentioned sees any real difficulties with the actual market situation.
Most of the order books are full, and the only problem is delivery time. For the future, there is
no trouble, either. The comments about the coming years were unanimous that nonwovens and technical
textiles are cornerstones of the future for the Western textile and textile machinery industry.
One thing is certain: The markets for these products and, in parallel, the man-made fibers
markets — particularly, filaments — will further grow. In contrast to the traditional textile
industry, the nonwovens and technical textiles sectors comprise strictly innovative businesses and
solution providers. And there is no sign that fewer solutions will be needed in the future.
And yes, in spite of all rumors in the markets and the ongoing discussions about the
frequency of the ITMAs, everybody will attend ITMA Asia 2012 in Shanghai as well as ITMA 2015 in