The term “nonwovens” is used to describe a range of technologies making textile products in ways other than the traditional weaving and knitting methods. The technology used by SAAF is polypropylene spunbond and spunmelt, which is the most common of the nonwovens technology due to its relatively low cost of manufacturing Spunbond and spunmelt is a method of extruding polymer and turning it straight into a fabric in one process, without going through the steps of making fibers, yarns etc. This is a hybrid of textile and papermaking technology. In simple terms the molten polymer is extruded through fine holes and then, as it cools, it is stretched by the use of air jets to make controlled diameter filaments. The filaments are laid, as randomly as possible in all directions, on to a belt running the length of the machine. This process is repeated at each beam of the machine so a multi-layer product is produced. At the end of the process these layers are bonded together by the application of heat and pressure to form one coherent fabric. The spunbond (S) beams are on the front and back of the machine so S is on the outside of the product as these S layers supply the strength and wear characteristics of the final fabric. The meltblown (M) layers are sandwiched inside the S layers and control the water and air permeability of the final product. In a surgical gown, for instance, the requirement is for air to pass through for comfort but a high level of barrier to fluids to be in place to protect the surgeon from any body fluids reaching his skin during the operation.
Demand for polypropylene spunbonded and spunmelt nonwoven products originate from consumer, medical or industrial applications. Medical end-products include gowns, drapes and sterile wraps. Non-medical uses of nonwoven fabrics are generally found in construction, automotive, home furnishings and packaging segments within the industrial sector with the Hygiene sector (babies’ products, feminine care etc.) being the biggest market