ANDRITZ Nonwoven Using technology and innovation to stay ahead of the game

Nonwovens Technology

The company has manufacturing facilities and technical centres worldwide that comply with international standards, thus guaranteeing comprehensive quality assurance and quality control practices. It shares technologies and unites market experience with cultural diversity and well-established customer and supplier relations all along the value chain

Andreas Lukas, Senior Vice President of ANDRITZ Nonwoven, with face mask produced on ANDRITZ D-Tech face mask machine

ANDRITZ Nonwoven is one of the world’s leading suppliers of technologies for the nonwoven and textile finishing industries. Its key competences lie in technologies for air-through bonding, needlepunch, spunlace, spunbond, wetlaid or wetlace, converting, textile finishing, airlay, recycling, and natural fiber processing. The innovative processes complement one another ideally in process solutions for a great variety of applications. By uniting forces in engineering and process development, ANDRITZ can provide unrivalled expertise to the benefit of their customers. Complete lines, rebuilds, upgrades and automation are part of the portfolio as well as business with individual machines. The nonwoven ‘eXcellence’ brand stands for certified, high-quality performance, top-class service, and prompt, smooth project execution.

ANDRITZ Nonwoven has manufacturing facilities and technical centres worldwide that comply with international standards, thus guaranteeing comprehensive quality assurance and quality control practices. ANDRITZ shares technologies and unites market experience with cultural diversity and well-established customer and supplier relations all along the value chain. Listening to customers and understanding their products is the first step in all development work. International R&D teams from all competence and service centres have joined forces to create innovative and visionary plans for sustainable products.

Running complete lines calls for in-depth nonwoven expertise and excellent service. ANDRITZ offers a full-service portfolio and thus can ensure improved uptime, productivity and product quality. This includes on-site support, specific training, line audits and troubleshooting, upgrades and modernizations, genuine spare parts, and service and roll repair centres in Europe, North America, Turkey, Brazil, and China. In addition, with the service hub in Chennai, India, ANDRITZ is close to its Indian customers with the complete range of services. 

Facing the Pandemic-Triggered Challenges

ANDRITZ D-Tech face masks

Looking back over more than 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, everybody was surprised by the rapid spread worldwide and the impact it had on our daily lives. As time passed, it became clear that we were facing a dangerous and long-term pandemic. “At that point, we started discussing and implementing strict company policies for travel, health, and safety. We reorganized our arrangements to work more by digital means, while working from home became the standard set-up within 48 hours,” says Andreas Lukas, Senior Vice President of ANDRITZ Nonwoven.

“We were able to continue successfully with customer meetings and everyone adapted very quickly to remote learning. In addition, we initiated risk teams and special task force groups to carry out daily reviews in important areas, and there was – and still is – an extremely high level of communication. As a result, we were able to deal with almost all the difficulties successfully and keep to the delivery times agreed with our customers. This was our promise. Moreover, the pandemic showed us that nothing is impossible, and the new opportunities created now provide a different picture of our everyday work. For instance, start-up of complete machines remotely, very little travel activity and working from home with digital tools have become the new standard,” he adds.

“We have become widely known as an industry, and this is a big change. Now we have moved from being a hidden industry to one that can now provide essential products in a situation that nobody has faced before. The pandemic has spread the knowledge of nonwovens all over the world. For us as a company, the pandemic has increased people’s awareness of ANDRITZ, and especially of ANDRITZ Diatec. It is no great exaggeration to say that we were able to develop new processes and equipment for a face mask converting line virtually from one day to the next, as well as providing solutions for disinfection wipe applications in order to meet the increased demand and also helping to set up production facilities in Europe. There is still a need here in Europe to remedy the lack of production facilities for nonwoven roll goods and face masks. All this has brought us to the attention of producers and governments,” Lukas states.

Adopting the Path of Innovation

The pandemic has confirmed that the new ways of working are successful and that ANDRITZ should continue to develop them further. The clear goal in its daily business was and is to offer nonwovens producers technologies that reflect the latest state-of-the-art. “We can add that our innovation strategy for new products is still driven by the idea of providing our customers with solutions that will bring more added value to their products. One of our major targets is to enable our customers to expand their business opportunities in an ever more demanding and challenging market environment,” Lukas says.

ANDRITZ Laroche technical center for airlay processes

Another major topic at ANDRITZ is to focus on is remote service support for customers. With its Metris Remote Access Service (Metris RAS), for example, the company uses a state-of-the-art solution to provide customers with guidance and remote support for their production lines from a distance. Metris RAS provides a set of tools for audio, video and, optionally, AR-supported communication between an engineer in the field and the experts in ANDRITZ’s back-offices to identify and resolve any issues quickly and smoothly, with fewer misunderstandings and no unnecessary, additional calls. “Thanks to this tool, we have succeeded in assisting our customers online with machine maintenance and start-ups in spite of the lockdown and travel restrictions. We use similar technology in our workshops in order to facilitate in-house communication between our technical departments,” Lukas adds.

Another issue that came up during the pandemic is the strong demand for disinfection wipes and the production technologies behind this product. Have you ever thought about the number of hands touching the keypad of a credit card terminal or the horizontal bar of a trolley at the supermarket? We encounter high-contact surfaces in daily life on public transport, in shops, hospitals or in food service. These are all potential sources of contamination, and disinfecting wipes offer an efficient, convenient and safe sanitizing solution. In addition, the environmental situation worldwide and new governmental regulations forced ANDRITZ to rethink sustainable product applications, which are becoming more important than ever. “In parallel, we are on the way to transforming the meaning of the Green Deal, implemented by the European Union, into processes and production know-how like textile recycling and the use of more natural fibers,” he adds.

Global Performance

ANDRITZ Laroche technical center for recycling processes

In conjunction with the increased global demand for nonwoven fabrics to be   used in hygiene products, ANDRITZ has seen a large volume of equipment sold over the past year. Nonwoven products like face masks, medical protective clothing, protective suits and hoods, and disinfection wipes are more important than ever nowadays. All these nonwovens can be produced with the company’s state-of-the-art technologies, including spunbond calenders, spunlace lines, Wetlace™ CP processes, and converting machines. This is reflected most drastically in the company’s capacity figures – in a positive sense of course.

Acquisition of Laroche

With Laroche, who has been a very important partner for ANDRITZ in the field of fiber preparation for drylaid nonwovens for over 10 years, ANDRITZ is securing another technology gem that not only fits excellently into the existing lines but also provides a clear added value, for example in the recycling sector. Thus, the product portfolio further complements the ANDRITZ Nonwoven product range. ANDRITZ Laroche is a leading supplier of fiber processing technologies such as opening, blending, and dosing, airlay web forming, textile waste recycling, and decortication of bast fibers.

Thanks to this acquisition, ANDRITZ is now able to offer the complete supply and value chain, from opening and blending, to web forming, bonding, finishing, drying, and converting. Laroche’s high-performance technologies for opening and blending enhance the ANDRITZ scope of supply for air-through bonding, spunlace, Wetlace™ CP and needlepunch production lines. Moreover, both companies have agreed to further strengthen the development of their existing technologies for high-speed and high-capacity applications and also to continue pursuing the development of textile recycling processes in order to stay ahead of the changes the industry is facing.

Laroche has been developing fiber processing technologies for more than 100 years. With integrated manufacturing, the company supplies lines for a wide range of industries/products: spinning, bedding and furniture, automotive, acoustic, and thermal insulation, geotextiles, filtration, wipes, and many more. One focus of this product range lies on complete recycling lines for post-consumer and industrial waste to produce fibers for re-spinning and/or nonwoven end-uses. Customer awareness and regulations are pushing apparel brands to recycle their waste in their own products. Recycled fibers can also be used in the nonwovens industry for various applications such as automotive, insulation, mattresses, and furniture felts. To support ANDRITZ customers, a process know-how team is at customers’ disposal to conduct customized trials in its advanced technical center located at the ANDRITZ Laroche facilities.

Digitalization and Automation Technologies

Metris mixed reality

Digitalization is far from a distant dream in the nonwovens industry – it is now a reality. However, there are many suppliers offering the ability to digitalize your production plant – most of them without the process knowledge that is essential to obtain the right result. This is where partnering with an experienced supplier, not only in digitalization but one who implicitly knows the processes involved in nonwovens production, is a real benefit. ANDRITZ has decided to pool its many years of experience in the plant engineering business to develop smart, attractive, and seamlessly integrated solutions for existing and new plants under the Metris brand. This digital transformation has now arrived on the scene in nonwoven production, and Metris Digital Solutions by ANDRITZ are making a real difference in improving production line performance.

ANDRITZ has already installed Metris solutions in a growing number of its customers’ nonwovens lines, and these customers are reporting major savings and increased production uptime after implementation. Thanks to the company’s internal R&D strategy, Metris solutions are constantly evolving to meet the demands of tomorrow. Metris can collect data from right across the line or process for which the customer wants specific information to help manage the line better. The technology can be installed on all nonwovens equipment, whether brand new or already in operation, or from suppliers other than ANDRITZ. And importantly, the data recorded is the property of the customer. ANDRITZ guarantees that this data is secure, complying with the highest security standards.

Metris can be implemented across the entire production line to enable a number of key operations:

• Production monitoring

• Control of stability for consistent quality

• Cost optimization leading to major savings in raw materials and energy use

• Predictive maintenance.

When it comes to production monitoring, the Metris platform has been fully adapted to nonwovens fabric production and is tailor-made for each production line according to the individual needs of the customer. This is where    ANDRITZ’s domain know-how in the process engineering, mechanics and electronics of nonwovens lines comes to the fore. Production monitoring using Metris allows the customer to identify the sweet spots in the production line – where there are wins and, more importantly, where there are losses in production performance, as well as data on raw material and energy use.

Metris uses sensors deployed in the line to gather and synchronize the data, which is then accessible via series of apps containing simple but relevant data displayed in an easy-to-read format. There are no complicated Excel sheets to have to wade through looking for information. The customer can easily analyze the data and then identify the areas of the line that are performing well, and those that are not. Another key area Metris can focus on is that of “seeing into the future” for the vital area of predictive maintenance. Again, using sensors deployed along the line, machine parts and ancillaries are monitored for anything that might be going wrong, for instance a bearing or motor heating up, or an accumulation of fibers that might damage a machine.

Another key factor is the ANDRITZ Metris Remote Assistance (Metris RAS). This product now gives customers access to top nonwovens technology experts no matter where in the world a plant is located. Technical issues on machines and lines such as spunlace, needlepunch, wetlaid and calendering – which would normally take days or even weeks to resolve – can now be eliminated in a matter of hours using Metris RAS. This provides live dynamic assistance, direct support from the most suitable expert, cost optimization in breakdown or service issues, real-time support, and reduced downtimes.

neXline wetlace CP for the production of pulp-based bio-wipes

Focus on Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Products

Sustainability has always been an integral part of     ANDRITZ’s corporate policy and is reflected in the daily work of each employee as well as in the management principles implemented and business relationships within the Group. At ANDRITZ, sustainability is a decisive factor in order to be successful in the long term. It is an important element of the company’s corporate policy and strategy. The company’s “We Care” sustainability strategy combines all ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) initiatives and achievements under one roof. We Care takes a multi-dimensional, comprehensive, and practically oriented approach towards sustainability. ANDRITZ has set itself ambitious goals for each of the focus topics: Environment (E), Social (S), and Governance (G) principles. These goals are aimed at making the business activities of ANDRITZ and its stakeholders more sustainable.

ANDRITZ Nonwoven’s processes play a pioneering role in the production of biodegradable materials. For many years now, ANDRITZ has offered different processes, like spunlace, Wetlace™ and Wetlace™ CP, all with one goal in mind: Reduction and elimination of plastic components while maintaining the high quality of the desired product properties. Such processes achieve high performance with entirely plastic-free raw materials. The added benefit of using a blend of natural fibers without chemical additives results in a 100% sustainable fabric, thus meeting customers’ needs exactly as well as supporting today’s strong tendency to move away from plastics and synthetics. And ANDRITZ will continue to work on achieving this goal. The latest development in this field is the ANDRITZ neXline wetlace CP line. This is a fully engineered production line combining the benefits of wetlaid and drylaid technologies in a new generation of biodegradable wipes. The use of wood pulp results in cost-effective production because the raw material accounts for approximately 70% of the total production costs. Wipes produced with this technology have the most economical and environmentally friendly process. In addition, the company’s focus lies also on complete recycling lines for post-consumer and industrial waste to produce fibers for re-spinning and/or nonwoven end-uses. Customer awareness and regulations are pushing apparel brands to recycle their waste in their own products. Recycled fibers can also be used in the nonwovens industry for various applications such as automotive, insulation, mattresses, and furniture felts.      

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