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Nylon Industry Future Lies in Adding Value

Manmade Fiber Production Tops 31 Million Tons as Natural Fibers Post Slight Decline

Biomedical Holds Promise for Textile Fibers

KoSa Boosts Productivity, Quality With Start Up of New Spin-draw Lines

Product News

August 2001 - Volume 16 I Number 4

Nylon Industry Future
Lies in Adding Value
By Geoff Fisher, European Correspondent

For 50 years, application of polyamide (PA) has grown rapidly, due mainly to the excellent material properties of this well-established polymer. However, without introduction of new production technology or product development, nylon will continue to lose market share to other fibers. The use of polyamide for engineering plastics has increased steadily compared with a slower growth for fibers; PA resins now account for almost 35% of total consumption worldwide. The biggest drawback to polyamide is its price. PA fibers are 30-50% more expensive than polyester, acrylic or polypropylene. As a result, its use in textiles is limited to applications where it offers an advantage over other fibers. Nylon fibers are approaching maturity of their lifecycle. If PA fibers follow the classic lifecycle trend, the next phases are saturation then decline. Despite this scenario, PA still plays an important role in the textile industry, accounting for around 13% of total global fiber consumption. Nylon’s present and future were lively discussed at the Polyamide 2001 world congress, held in June in Düsseldorf, Germany. The event, the second organized by Maack Business Services of Zürich, Switzerland, attracted more than 320 delegates and included company sessions from Zimmer, Bayer and Saurer and a tour of the nearby Barmag AG facilities.

New Technologies, Added Value
Innovative technologies and adding value are key to the future success of nylon. Without any breakthrough developments in the field, Maack Business Services is forecasting global growth of only about 2% during the period 2000–2005 versus 6% growth for polyester fibers. The Far East is expected to account for most of the future growth in nylon fiber. The key market is China. It has substantial exports of fibers and finished goods to the Americas and Europe and its domestic consumption is expected to grow at twice the rate of the USA and Europe. Capacity of polyamide technical yarn is predicted to increase substantially in the Far East. Specific to tire cord, polyamide is used mainly in the Far East, whereas both polyester and polyamide tire cord are used in North America and Europe. In the carpet filament area, the market remains strong in the USA, while future growth of industrial and textile filament will continue in the Far East. Both PA6 and PA6.6, although often interchangeable, have different characteristics and cost structures. PA6 has lower production costs than PA6.6. On the other hand PA6 spinning is easier than PA6.6. With PA6.6 having higher temperature resistance, it shows higher tire cord productivity and shorter curing cycles. Therefore, it is favored by the tire industry over PA6 in both North America and Europe. Maack forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 1.3% for nylon-6 and 1.4% for nylon-6.6 during the period 2000-2005.

Zimmer Session
PA6 has the largest share of all the polyamides. Engineering expert Zimmer AG, Frankfurt, Germany estimates global capacity for PA6 at 5.1 million tons. From 1996 to 1999, PA6 capacity grew by 520,000 tons. Outlining integrated PA6 plant concepts, Konrad Wolff, technology manager, said this was due mainly to the availability of the raw material caprolactam, relatively simple and economical polymerization, spinning and recycling technologies, and the large range of economic capacities worldwide ranging from 20 to 30 tons/day. In the textile sector, the best growth possibilities for PA6 and PA6.6 are in industrial yarns and tire cord, followed by textile filaments. The carpet yarn market is relatively stable, but staple fiber output is expected to decline. Describing technologies for high-viscosity polyamides, Dr. Dirk Reimer, technology manager, pointed out that both PA6 and PA6.6 compete in the same markets, as well as against polyesters, polyolefins and polyacrylics, with PA6 accounting for more than 60% of total production capacities for both polyamides. Michael Streng, head of marketing and product development, outlined value-adding strategies, both along the product value chain and along the complete plant lifecycle. Kurt Krämer, senior engineer, control systems, presented Zimmer’s view of production management systems for manmade fiber plants

NPG-6 Overview
The congress was opened by Sim van der Linde, business development manager of DSM Fibre Intermediates, Sittard, The Netherlands, who gave an overview of the Nylon-6 Promotion Group, of which he is secretary general. He was followed by presentations from Charanpal Mann, president of Thai Baroda Industries, Rayong, Thailand, who outlined the company’s progress in PA6 tire cord fabric production; and Bruno de Bievre, general manager, engineering plastics, Ube Industries, Düsseldorf, Germany, who described nanocomposite technology. PA6 is the most advanced polymer used for nanocomposites, Mr. de Bievre explained. PA nanocomposites can be used to improve filament properties of tenacity and modulus for tire cords or for fiber spinning where there is a requirement for high heat resistance. He said some work had been carried out by Bridgestone to spin PA nanocomposites for tire cord fabric, but these are not yet commercially viable.

PA Technology
In the session on PA technology, Wolf Karasiak, managing director of Aquafil Engineering, Berlin, Germany, outlined the lactam direct recycling (LDR) polymerization process for PA6 production. (See article, page 64.) Dr. Turgut Mutel, technology group leader for nylon polymerization research and development at DuPont Nylon, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, discussed the application of reactive distillation technology to nylon polymerization. He described both a distillative polymerization concept for PA6.6 and the application of reactive distillation technology to produce PA6 from 6-aminocapronitrile (ACN). The main advantages of the anhydrous PA6.6 process are reduced capital investment and lower operating costs. The new reactive distillation technology enables the production of PA6 pre-polymer from a new monomer (ACN) with low degradation products. Brent Culbert, R&D manager of polyamide processing at Bühler, Uzwil, Switzerland, described a catalytic gas purification system for PA applications. The system is clean and reliable and can be applied to solid-state polycondensation (SSP) systems, Mr. Culbert said. Eight polyester SSP plants currently use Bühler’s catalytic gas purification system. Dr. Klaus Bergmann, product manager polyamide at Inventa-Fischer, Domat/Ems, Switzerland, described modern extract recycling technology, namely re-feeding and re-polymerization. These technologies provide no loss of extracted caprolactam and oligomers, no solid waste, no wastewater and low energy consumption. Product development using Inventa-Fischer technology and know-how from BASF has produced a high-performance PA6 with improved spinning performance, higher speeds, deeper dyeing, increased melt stability, minimized caprolactam regeneration, improved heat-set stability, and improved resistance against ultraviolet light and weathering, Dr. Bergmann said. He also described a permanent bacteriostatic PA yarn for sportswear, underwear, socks and hosiery.

Barmag Opens Doors on
New FDY Spinning Plant
By Geoff Fisher, European Correspondent

Manmade fiber machinery supplier Barmag introduced a new 12-end FDY spinning plant at an Open House held at its headquarters in Remscheid, Germany.
The event coincided with the Polyamide 2001 World Congress in Düsseldorf, with delegates to the Barmag Technical Center gaining an insight into the company’s range of products from spinning to texturing and individual components.
Specially developed for the Far East market, the new 12-end concept is a further development in the number of threads per spinning position. The system was shown with Barmag’s new ACW winding head with a chuck length of 1,380 mm, which permits a large packing width.
Barmag Executive Sales Manager Michael Korobczuk said about 250 spinning positions had already been sold, mainly to Indian and Chinese customers, with a further 150 positions under negotiation.
In the field of POY spinning, the company’s Evospeed plant, developed in cooperation with DuPont, was also demonstrated. Barmag claims the output of polyester POY commodity yarns can be increased by up to 50%. This significant rise in productivity is matched by increased flexibility. Both POY/HOY and microfilaments (up to 0.5 dpf) can be produced on the same plant.
At the Open House, an industrial yarn plant was shown producing PA6.6 (470 dtex, F72) at a maximum process speed of 4,000 m/min.
Sister company Neumag also presented the STM40 three-end BCF carpet yarn plant. Carpet yarn of 1,100 dtex is made on this plant at a process speed of 4,000 m/min.
Two texturing machines were demonstrated for polyamide specialties: one producing textured yarns with an elastane content and another producing thick and thin yarn effects. These machines can also be used for polyester, where the speed potential can be maintained, even with plied yarn, Mr. Korobczuk said.
Barmag Spinnzwirn, Chemnitz, Germany presented the new BabyASW automatic winding head at the Open House. This was introduced at ATME-I in Greenville last year. With considerable cost savings, the unit is significantly smaller than the ASW winder, and operates at around 3,500 m/min for industrial, BCF or FDY yarns.
Mr. Korobczuk added that Barmag intended to launch in July a new generation of polypropylene yarn production machines, with deliveries beginning in the first quarter of next year. This will be based on a modular concept and aimed at polypropylene POY entrants. “These will be the first machines for manufacture of real quality polypropylene yarns,” Mr. Korobczuk said.

Fiber Session
Dr. Klaus Heinemann of the Thüringisches Institut für Textil- und Kunststoff-Forschung (TITK), Rudolstadt, Germany, presented improvements of the material properties of polyamide filaments using new reactive liquid crystalline polymers (LCPs) in a process called “microphase reinforcement.” The novel, meltable PCPs developed by TITK have proved to be useful as reinforcing components, particularly in applications where high strength parameters and excellent dimensional stability are required. Josse Kunst, general product manager for Stanyl fiber intermediates at DSM Fibre Intermediates, presented a new high performance PA fiber for rubber reinforcement. The fiber has particular application for automotive V-belts, which operate in an environment where under-the-hood temperatures can reach 150°C. Stanyl is also generating interest in the tire industry. Here, the fiber can be used in the cap ply to limit heat generation and tire deformation. Further, Stanyl’s properties allow for less material to achieve the same performance. Both of these factors can help reduce rolling resistance and fuel usage. “For extreme high-speed and racing tires, Stanyl can allow fabric constructions that are simply not possible with other materials, such as PA6.6 and polyester,” Mr. Kunst said. Michael Teckentrup, process leader – industrial yarn for Rieter Automatik, Grossostheim, Germany, described spinning and twisting technology for industrial yarn. He noted that fiber processors are increasingly integrating or combining processing steps to optimize productivity and develop products for new applications.

Melt-spinning Technologies
Ulrich Enders and Detlev Schulz of Barmag, Remscheid, Germany, part of the Swiss-based Saurer Group, presented economical and flexible melt spinning technologies for PA6 and PA6.6 POY and FDY yarns, particularly industrial yarns for such products as airbags, sewing thread, tire cord and mechanical rubber goods. At Barmag’s R&D laboratory in Remscheid, two spindraw machines are installed for yarn producers to run sample lots and develop new processes. These units are configured to run 3 and 4-end production for heavy industrial PA yarns or 6 and 8-end production for light industrial yarns. The R&D center also includes 10 spinning machines, six for textile yarns that can be adapted for all POY and FDY processes, and a pilot machine for industrial yarns with a flexible take-up floor module for up to six yarn ends. Dieter Noss discussed Barmag’s Unitens online quality system for quality management by yarn tension monitoring in PA texturing, while Herbert Oppenborn, head of the project and engineering department at Saurer Group subsidiary Neumag, Neumünster, Germany, outlined BCF yarn produced on turnkey plants.

Third Congress
Although some delegates questioned the need for an annual polyamide conference, MBS has scheduled its third such congress to be held June 10-12 next year in Zürich.