In response to industry’s growing demand for more innovative and sustainable products, NIRI has recently upgraded its spray bonding capability. The new equipment is specifically designed for applying binders to both high and low loft fabrics and has the potential to enhance product performance, improve sustainability credentials and reduce cost.
NIRI is already using the equipment to develop novel products, particularly for wipes and feminine hygiene sectors directly affected by the EU Single-use plastic directive (SUPD). With industry replacing single-use plastic products with plastic-free versions, one way of tackling the performance gap is by applying bio-based binders to reduce linting and improve softness, comfort, structural integrity, processability, aesthetics and surface functionality. In addition to improving performance and potentially reducing cost, the developed products can be completely biodegradable and potentially 100 % compostable.
NIRI has designed the system to apply the binders through microdosing, using spray jets streams running over a conveyor system. The line consists of a transport conveyor to support and carry a substrate/medium. A microdosing unit, comprising of up to 3 flat spray nozzles, sits above the conveyor. The conveyor runs over a suction slot, which is in-line with the spray nozzles. The technique has several key benefits over submerging (impregnation) and padding (squeezing excess solution) processes including:
Performance & sustainability – Opportunities to develop advanced product performance, combined with reduced environmental impacts.
Cost – The ability to maintain all or most of the loft of the fibre matrix, thus helping to maintain the low volume density characteristics.
Energy usage – Significant reductions in the amount of binder and water required, which in turn reduces water consumption during processing, as well as energy consumption associated with subsequent heating and drying.
This has been possible with help and funding from PAPI Project which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020, in partnership with the Northern Powerhouse, and delivered by the University of York.
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