While farming, automobile manufacturing, and long-standing baseball rivalries are undeniably Midwest staples, Illinois-based NonWoven Solutions (NWS) went against the grain when it jump-started a nonwovens production line in Ingleside, about 50 miles north of Chicago. According to NWS, converting nonwovens is a practice much more prevalent on the East Coast. But with years of nonwovens experience among them, investors Gerald Leineberg, Joe Leineberg, Tom Leineberg, Frank Porto, and Steve Brown were determined to expand
the supply chain in a central location.
Launched in May 2007, NWS manufactures and supplies high quality nonwoven rollstock across the US for a variety of converting applications, including industrial and technical felt, medical and personal care wipes, and filtration products.
“There is very little nonwovens converting in the Midwest because of logistics,” says Steve Brown, partner and general manager. “A lot of our customers are contract converters, and most of our competitors are way east."
“We saw a distinct void in the nonwovens supply chain that could only be filled with a new production line and thus a new company,” he says of their decision to launch the startup. “The void was a strategically located manufacturer of very clean, very uniform, needle-punched nonwovens centrally located in the United States.”
Getting in Motion
After setting up shop in a 50,000 sq-ft facility located next door to the already-established Superior Felt & Filtration (a full-service converting operation owned by brothers Gerald, Joe, and Tom Leineberg), NWS spent the remaining year custom building its extensive nonwoven production line. Brown says NWS is diligent in collaborating with its customers to develop a fabric based on price point or performance criterion.
To ensure the level of quality necessary to meet its customers’ stringent needs, a critical feature of the production line is its needle punch component, designed specifically to handle the unique thicknesses and combined materials NWS produces.
To provide the most uniform and even fabrics across the full production width, NWS also has installed the latest technology in web forming, web delivery, and web and batt profiling. Webs are produced on AsselinThibeau’s Excelle card system.
“We are able to exceed traditional industry standards of plus or minus ten percent on both web weight and web thickness,” describes Brown. “In addition, this uniformity further allows for exceptionally low deviation in the air permeability of CFM [cubic feet per minute per square meter] of webs used in such products as respirators and micron-rated felts.”
Slitting for Perfection
After a year of perfecting its customized production line, NWS began hiring full-time production employees, running two shifts daily, and quickly moved to three shifts by spring 2009. As its clientele grew, thanks to a relatively stable medical and personal care market, the needs of its customers became more specialized, and Brown soon realized the need for more precision slitting. “We needed more versatility. We had to upgrade the slitter,” he says. With a mission to find a system that could meet its rigorous production needs, Brown approached Maxcess Intl. during the CMM show in Rosemont last June. Soon after, he purchased the Tidland MSP (modular slitting positioning) system with Class III Performance Series Knifeholders.
In early November, NWS prepared for the installation. Brown describes, “A Tidland engineer came in to measure, drew it out for us, and then sent us the system. It was easy to install. We installed the system ourselves.”
Tidland’s MSP system is a custom-configured solution, using pre-engineered components, that’s a practical solution for converters of a variety of materials. The system is designed to provide quality slit edges, faster setup times, and less dust, resulting in better rolls and high productivity at a cost-efficient price—all critical features that Brown says NWS required for the operation’s only production line.
Each level builds upon the components of the previous version to provide additional benefits. The system can slit from 3–35 mpm.
“What impressed us was the engineering, the ease of use, and ease of setting,” says Brown. “The slitters were real easy to set, change, and adjust.” Brown says the critical function of NWS’s process is its attention to quality. And when it comes to nonwovens production, differentiation is a not an option. “It is important that all rollstock is high quality and uniform. By uniformity, I am referring to our ability to maintain the target slit width and then hold the plus/minus targets,” he describes. “With less tension we find there is no distortion caused by stretch, since we cut the felt with virtually zero tension.”
The accumulation and winding equipment, supplied by Signal Machine Corp., which run before and after the new Tidland slitting system, also are instrumental in ensuring the precision and efficiency of the slitting process. The winder is 6.5 ft from the point of slit, says Brown. “Since we use less tension, we have less neck-down of the fabric, all as a result of a very clean cut.”In addition to product uniformity, another slitting challenge for the converter is handling lighter-weight materials. “Previously we had difficulty getting a clean cut with 70 grams per square meter material bers that were not cut cleanly,” says Brown. “Obviously now this is resolved. Tidland simply gives us better slitting.” After two full years of production and now 26 employees strong, Brown says the company is looking ahead. Talk of a second line eventually could become a viable goal. For now, Brown is satisfied with the progress the Midwest nonwovens manufacturer has achieved. “It was a lot of work, but it has gone as planned.”
As published in the June 2010 issue of Paper, Film and Foil Converter Magazine. Read the full article online.