Big Success For INDEX™ 14

INDEX™ 14, held April 8-11, 2014, was again the meeting point for the global nonwovens industry. More than 12,500 visitors made their way through the doors of Palexpo in Geneva to see the 586 exhibitors — 10 percent more than at INDEX 11 — from 41 countries, in more than 22,000 square meters of booth space. As the show closed, everybody in Geneva agreed that INDEX 14 was a big success.

Visitors were able to see a larger variety of technologies than ever before including automotive, packaging and geotextiles, among others; and product presentations and innovation events delivered value to the most diverse sectors of the nonwovens industry.

“Celebrating the 30th anniversary of INDEX in Geneva, INDEX stands as the most representative exhibition of the nonwovens industry,” said Pierre Wiertz, general manager of INDEX organizer EDANA, the International Association Serving the Nonwovens and Related Industries, Brussels. “With more exhibitors than ever, we see this as a sign that points to not only a recovery in the global economies, but to a healthy and diverse industry.”

And, he added, “Since INDEX first appeared in Geneva, our industry has evolved. Nonwovens and related materials are replacing traditional fabrics or plastic composites in vehicles, and in building and construction projects, showing that nonwovens offer high-tech fluid management solutions for not only hygiene and medical purposes, but with cross fertilization — in many other applications as well.”

INDEX™ 14 drew 12,500 visitors to Palexpo in Geneva to see the offerings of 586 exhibitors from 41 countries.

Happy Exhibitors
Most exhibitors were quite happy with the show’s outcome and with visitor quality. “The visitor frequency was very good,” added Sabine Duttenhofer, director, corporate communications, Freudenberg Nonwovens, Germany.

However, Thierry Masi, sales manager, Laroche S.A., France, saw the results of the show to be “medium,” and the frequency also was low.

Gunnar Hemmer, Ph.D., director, marketing & distribution, of Germany-based DiloGroup, was happy with the results and visitor frequency.

Overall, all companies’ expectations were fulfilled, although Masi said “not really.” Laroche also reported 20-percent fewer visitors than last time. Visitors came mainly from Europe for Dilo and Laroche, but “from all over the world” for Freudenberg.

Oerlikon Neumag, Germany, reported “high visitor resonance.” Its nonwovens technology for industrial applications also proved to be very much in demand. The nonwovens team summed up the show by saying there were “intensive and qualitatively good discussions as well as numerous concrete inquiries from clients and potential customers.”

Freudenberg presented 3-D patterned lightweight microfilament wipes for the first time at INDEX, as well as newly developed bicomponent fine filaments that are well-suited for use in applications in many industrial sectors. “Different polymers can be combined in one filament during the manufacturing process,” Duttenhofer said. “In addition, these bicomponent fibers can be mixed with monofibers, thus creating several different property profiles for these spunlaids. And the feedback to this product was good, because Evolon® fine filament and bico fibers are very unique solutions with huge application possibilities.”

DiloGroup and its businesses DiloTemafa, DiloSpinnbau and DiloMachines provided information about numerous applications of nonwovens featuring various products.

DiloGroup’s booth was always crowded with people. The group provided comprehensive information about numerous nonwovens applications.

Laroche showed a new way to recycle edge trims, and reported the feedback was very good.

Apart from their interest in Oerlikon Neumag’s nonwovens technologies, visitors were particularly interested in the Staple FORCE S 1000 staple fiber plant, which was presented for the very first time, for industrial applications. Neumag stated that “with its compact construction, simple handling and energy-efficient operation, the Staple FORCE S 1000 is not just for fiber manufacturers focusing on special applications and on ‘on-demand’ deliveries, it also enables nonwoven producers to efficiently integrate fiber manufacturing into their own production operations.”

Most In Demand
As for products most in demand, Duttenhofer said: “Evolon and medical solutions were the most demanded products. INDEX is focused on medical applications. The target group is very dedicated.”

According to Hemmer, for Dilo, lines for automotive and geotextiles were most in demand “because the markets are increasing and there is high demand for geotextiles.”

The most demanded products in Laroche’s portfolio are airlay and recycling machinery. “The reason for that is the fact that this is our very own specialty,” Masi said.

Market Changes
How has the market situation changed since INDEX 11? “Markets are always in motion,” Duttenhofer said. “There are more regulations, especially in the medical sector. There are more requests about sustainable solutions.”

Hemmer added that “products with more technology, reduced weights and new fibers provoke a constant change of the markets. Of course, the European market for nonwovens and technical textiles is still important.”

“In Europe, especially spunlaid technology is increasing,” Duttenhofer added. “Europe is the technology leader in nonwovens production and plays therefore a key role. Some of our most advanced products are only marketed in Europe. These products still show attractive growth rates.”

Everyone agreed that the Asian market is not in general becoming more important than before. However, Duttenhofer mentioned that “the nonwoven markets in Europe and Asia are very different. In 2013, we faced pretty strong textile production in Asia. This had a strong impact on our woven and knitted interlining turnover. The upswing in the automotive industry in Asia had a very positive effect on our tuft business. Our Evolon business is steadily growing, in Europe as well as in Asia. Asia is the fastest-growing market in the world. Freudenberg is making significant investments in its sites in Asia. The growth potential in Asia is much higher than in Europe.”

Current Market Situation
All in all, the current market situation is considered to be stable for all reporting companies. Europe, the United States, China, Germany, and also the Middle East and Latin America were unanimously mentioned as the most important export countries. “However,” Duttenhofer explained, “it is getting tougher because of the insecure economic situation worldwide and the crisis in Southern Europe. The medical market faces a lot of regulations that have impacts on nonwovens solutions.”

Where are possible problems? For Masi, it is clear that there is still too much competition. And Duttenhofer added: “In Europe, the market for interlinings is saturated, and that makes it difficult to grow. In the European healthcare business, we face many regulations. To meet these regulatory requirements and to receive approval by authorities are the biggest challenges, and the market requires more and more engineered textile solutions, tailor-made and sustainable.”

INDEX Awards
EDANA’s INDEX 14 Awards recognize excellence in the nonwovens industry, and highlight innovations from businesses of all sizes and from all parts of the nonwovens supply chain. This year’s winners for each section were:

  • Nonwoven roll goods: sandler fibercomfort® tread- and waterproof roof insulation;
  • Finished products made from or incorporating nonwovens: Imeco Nocemi® MED virucidal, bactericidal, alcohol-free and disinfectant wipes;
  • Most original marketing campaign: Lenzing AG, the TENCEL® Skin promotion campaign;
  • Innovation in a raw material: Eastman Cyphrex™ microfibers;
  • Innovation in machinery:
  • ITW Dynatec Vector™ Surge Applicator;
  • Sustainable Product: Ahlstrom Flow2Save™ filter media; and
  • Sustainable process/management practice: TJ Beall True Cotton greige cotton nonwoven for wound healing and hygienic product applications.

The Future
All companies approve the concept of INDEX taking place every three years. Hemmer expects “good business for 2014.”

Duttenhofer gave a more detailed answer: “Although the European financial and debt crisis is not over and many countries in Europe are still facing significant structural problems, there are signs that the pace of growth will accelerate.”

“We see the future market for nonwovens and technical textiles in progress,” Masi said.

According to Freudenberg, the markets for hygiene and medical applications will further grow. And Hemmer added that “depending on the country, good developments are in sight for products such as shoes, automotive, geotextile, technical products like filtration.”

In the coming years, “megatrends like demographic change and e-mobility will have impacts on nonwovens production. Most important for medical applications is the capability to functionalize material,” Duttenhofer said, mentioning antimicrobial treatments, dyes, hydrophobic treatment and odor adsorption.

In the next few years, Hemmer thinks that “the markets want the development of new products with better properties, less cost and new fibers or fiber blends.” He also mentioned “the use of special fibers like carbon for the car industry and airplanes, as well as glass and ceramic fibers.”

“There are a lot of uncertainties,” Duttenhofer said. “How will the global economic crisis finally be solved? How will expected reforms in China impact the markets? For sure, the nonwovens business in some markets will remain static. However, there will be great opportunities in niche markets with tailor-made solutions.”

Market Needs
To fulfill the needs of the markets in the future, Hemmer is convinced that DiloGroup needs to have “very close contact with our own representatives and agents in each country, participation at important exhibitions and symposiums, as well as the organization of our own Dilo symposiums.”

Duttenhofer sees it quite similarly, mentioning “close partnerships with customers to develop tailor-made solutions.”

And how will the companies achieve their goals? “Being innovative and being part of the Freudenberg Group is an advantage because we can use synergies in many markets. Via Freudenberg’s central R&D department, we have access to R&D experts covering all disciplines in material science,” Duttenhofer said.

Hemmer is certain that Dilo needs “development of new machines and technologies, as well as tests in our labs at Dilo.”

The same is also the main target for Laroche, Masi said, adding that “a strong presence in Asia will be very important.”

July/August/September 2014