Meltblown nonwoven fabrics are still in the early growth stage. They are already becoming more and more popular in the medical and filter industries due to the meltblown ability to produce microfibers. But what is the meltblown process and how can it be beneficial to other products?
What is the meltblown process?
According to an academic paper by Edmir Silva, the meltblown process “directly transforms polymer resins to a nonwoven fabric in a single, integrated process.” The process was originally developed by the Naval Research Laboratories and commercialized by Exxon Chemical.
The final meltblown fabric properties are determined by the polymer resin, conditions in the extruder, ambient air conditions, the bonding method and the finishing treatment, among other process parameters.
The output of the meltblown process is a microfiber with diameters ranging from as little as 0.1 micron to as large as 15 microns.
What are the primary applications to consider for meltblown products?
Filtration: This is the single largest market currently for meltblown fabrics. Meltblown applications include surgical face masks, liquid filtration, gas filtration, cartridge filters, clean room filters and more.
Medical fabrics: The largest segments of the medical market for meltblown nonwoven fabrics are disposable gowns, drapes and sterilization wraps.
Sanitary products: Meltblown fabrics are used frequently in feminine sanitary napkins, diaper top sheets and disposable adult incontinence products.
Oil adsorbents: Picking up oil from water, such as an accidental oil spill, is a common use for meltblown fabrics. Additionally, they are used for mats in machine shops and industrial plants.
Apparel: Disposable industrial apparel, thermal insulation and substrates for synthetic leather are the primary uses for meltblown fabrics with usage in other markets anticipated to grow.
Electronics: Meltblown fabrics are sometimes used in battery separators and as insulation in capacitors.
The future of meltblown fabrics is certain to be a bright one. With characteristics such as softness, porosity and rigidity, the range of applications for meltblown nonwoven fabrics is wide. As the technology continue to advance, the opportunities to include meltblown nonwoven fabrics in more products will continue to increase.
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