Easy application, sustainability and recycling opportunities are strong characteristics
In the past, the use of plant fibres in non-wovens for technical textiles was mostly for properties-oriented, demand-and disposal-related niche applications. The tradition is quite an old one indeed – flax e.g. was already used in wet non-wovens in 1934. And even older is the use of jute and sisal for needle felts (1890).
Since the 90’s of the 20th century natural fibres were increasingly in use as reinforcing fibres in thermoset and thermoplastic components for vehicles’ interior trim. Here, thermoform pressing is the primarily used manufacturing processes for the mostly large-scale mouldings.
Their good properties, both the materials themselves as much as aspects like recycling and sustainability, however preclude some problem points. The influence of variety, climate, cultivation techniques, harvesting and pulping process with plant fibres; as much as racial, husbandry conditions and retrieval of animal fibres often mean variations in volume, features and price.
Because of its ease of handling, environmental compatibility and recyclability the trend is clearly going towards thermoplastic materials. With natural fibres, using polypropylene as a matrix polymer seems to be the best choice, due to its low melting point; writes the special interest magazine „Allgemeiner Vliesstoff-Report“ in its issue 2/16.
Boom in Geotextiles
Geotextiles are a product group of technical textiles with annual growth rates of 10 per cent. These plant fibres (flax, hemp, ramie, jute and coconut) are currently mainly used in general earth-moving environments. Long standing practiced applications are mats and non-wovens for erosion and slope protection, the restoration of slopes in mine reclamations as well as for skiing pistes or as support material for instant turf.
Especially ’temporary’ effects like stabilising embankments and deviating precipitation, up to the adoption of these functions by natural vegetation are particularly important. It is increasingly essential to look at the international demand, since here a large future market is to be expected.
Due to the climate changes solutions to combat soil erosion through the use of geotextiles is very much wanted in threatened countries of South America, Asia and Africa – looking especially for technically and economically effective methods to achieve these tasks. Torrential rains and other climate change effects are of course increasingly reasons for the use of such nonwovens in Europe and in Germany, too.
Photo: Moreno Soppelsa