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Information @ a Glance

General
  • Felt is a non-woven cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibers. The fibers form the structure of the fabric. While some types of felt are very soft, some are tough enough to form construction materials. Felt can be of any color, and made into any shape or size.

Manufacturing Process

  • Felt is made by a process called wet felting, where the natural wool fiber is stimulated by friction and lubricated by moisture (usually soapy water), and the fibers move at a 90 degree angle towards the friction source and then away again, in effect making little "tacking" stitches. Only 5% of the fibers are active at any one moment, but the process is continual, and so different 'sets' of fibers become activated and then deactivated in the continual process.
  • This "wet" process utilizes the inherent nature of wool and other animal hairs, because the hairs have scales on them which are directional. The hairs also have kinks in them, and this combination of scales (like the structure of a pine cone) is what reacts to the stimulation of friction and causes the phenomenon of felting. It tends to work well only with woolen fibers as their scales, when aggravated, bond together to form a cloth.
  • Felting is done by a chemical process in industry. It is also sometimes done with special felting needles, which grab individual fibers and drag them against their neighbors, thereby binding them. Felting may also be done in a domestic washing machine on a hot cycle.

Market

  • US demand for nonwoven roll goods is projected to increase 3.9 percent per year to $5.6 billion in 2011, driven by healthy gains in key markets such as filtration, construction, wipes and adult incontinence. Further growth will derive from increased market penetration in many applications, including industrial wipes and roofing membranes, as new technologies improve the functionality of nonwoven materials. However, gains will be limited by intense price competition in consumer markets, as converted product manufacturers seek to cut costs by reducing the amount of nonwoven material in their products.
  • Spunbonded nonwovens will remain the dominant product, accounting for roughly half of total volume in 2011, owing to their position as the material of choice in major markets such as baby diapers. Gains in spunbonded nonwovens will be driven by performance advantages, the development of new applications, and increasing demand for the composite nonwovens featuring spunbonded webs. Although carded and wet laid nonwovens are expected to register the slowest gains, certain segments of these product types will have more favorable prospects.

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