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Module 2: Staple-fibre based processes

2.1 Fibre preparation processes


The staple-fibre based processes include fibre preparation processes (opening and mixing processes), web formation by carding or by air-
lay or by wet-lay processes and then web stacking by parallel-lay, cross-lay, and perpendicular-lay processes. The raw materials in the
form of staple fibres are converted into a web or batt structure with a given basis weight (weight per unit area). Virtually any staple fibre
that can be carded or dispersed in air or water can be used in these processes.

Raw materials

The conventional man-made and natural staple fibres and bicomponent staple fibres are primarily used for preparation of carded
nonwovens. The wood pulp is very popular for preparation of air-laid nonwovens. As noted earlier, manmade fibres account for the majority
of raw materials used in the nonwoven industry. Table 2.1 gives an overview of the staple fibres along with their important properties used
in carding and air-lay processes [1].
Table 2.1

In addition, the bicomponent fibres are also used for making carding and air-laid nonwovens. The b icomponent fibers are produced by
having two polymers simultaneously form a fiber. They are used as binder fibers for thermal bonding. Some of the popular configurations of
bicomponent fibres are shown in Figure 2.1.
Figure 2.1

Out of the six configurations shown, the sheath-core arrangement is mostly used. Three sheath-core bicomponent fibres are very popular.
In the polyester core and copolyester sheath bicomponent fibre, the core melts at 250 degree Celsius, but the sheath melts at 110 degree
Celsius. In case of polyester core and polyethylene sheath bicomponent fibre, the core melts at 250 degree Celsius, but the sheath melts at
130 degree Celsius. In case of polypropylene core and polyethylene sheath bicomponent fibre, the core melts at 175 degree Celsius, but
the sheath melts at 130 degree Celsius.

The air-lay process utilizes wood pulp. The wood pulp is produced by thermomechanical process (TMP) or by chemical process (Kraft
process). TMP involves passing wood chips between rotating plates having raised bars at high temperature and pressure. The heating
softens the lignin, which is a natural phenolic resin holding the cellulose fibres together, making it possible to separate the fibres. In
contrast, the kraft process dissolves the lignin using suitable chemicals such as caustic soda and sulphur under heat and pressure. TMP
yields over 90 %, but krafting process yields 50-60%. The length of wood pulp ranges from 1.8-2.7 mm and the fineness of wood pulp
ranges from 2.5-4.6 denier.

The following fibres are generally found to be used for making wet-laid nonwovens.
Natural cellulosic fiber, such as wood pulp

Regenerated cellulosic fibers, such as viscose and tencel

Synthetic fibers, such as polyester, polyamide, and polyolefins

Inorganic fiber, such as glass

Synthetic wood pulp such as polyolefins with branched configuration

The important physical properties of these fibres are listed in Table 2.2. It can be seen that viscose fibres have remarkably low wet
breaking strength as compared to their dry breaking strength, but they have excellent water imbibition capacity.

Table 2.2

Bale opener
The fibre preparation processes basically perform the following functions: fiber opening and fibre mixing. It can be noted that the cleaning
of fibers (separation of foreign matters) in not usually followed by the nonwoven industry. The natural fibers such as cotton are generally
purchased in a pre-cleaned form, and for medical application, bleached cotton is used. Above all, as the manmade fibres are mostly used
they do not require intensive cleaning.

Figure 2.2

The fibre preparation processes in the nonwoven industry closely resembles to that of the conventional blowroom process. Figure
2.2 shows the diagram of a bale opening machine. The wide bale opening machine is used which can accommodate several bales side by
side. The individual bales may consist of the same raw material or several different components to make up the blend. The fibres from such
bales are opened and mixed together. There exist three types of openers for bale opening machine: universal opener, single roll opener,
and multi-roll opener. Figure 2.3 displays the schematic diagram of these openers. The universal opener has three
Figure 2.3

different rollers and it is suitable for all fibres. It is also known as high performance opener. The single roll opener is suitable for man-made
fibres and it gives maximum protection to the fibres from damage. The multi-roll opener provides progressive opening action and it is
suitable for all difficult-to-pen fibres like bleached cotton. The intensity of opening of these openers can be calculated by the amount of
fiber mass per one spike or teeth of the opener for a given rate of production and angular speed of the opener. This is expressed as follows
Figure 2.4

where Io intensity of opening of the opener, Prate of production of the opener, nangular speed of the opener, Nno. of spikes or tooth
on the opener, Asurface area of the opener, and ...number of spikes or teeth density on the opener. The intensity of opening of these
openers is displayed in Figure 2.4.
Figure 2.5
Figure 2.6

fibrous material on the blending conveyor belt so as prepare a precise blend of fibers. Figure 2.5 shows the diagram of a weighing pan
bale opener. The sequence of working of this weighing pan bale opener is illustrated with a view to Figure 2.6.
1Weight pan is being filled by the material at high speed.

2The filling occurs at low speed when weight pan is almost full.

3The closing flaps are being shut when the target weight is reached.

4The materials is discharged on the blending conveyor belt.

5The bottom flaps are being shut balancing of the scales.

6Weight pan is being filled again by the material at high speed.


The multimixer is used to mix (homogenize) different varieties of same fiber or different types of fibers. Figure 2.7 shows the diagram of a
1feed panel, 2flap, 3mixing chamber, 4feed duct, 5light barrier, 6perforated plate,
7delivery roller, 8opening roller, 9blending duct, 10conveyor belt, 11multi-roll opener
Figure 2.7

Hopper feeder

The hopper feeders with integrated weight control systems are used to feed fibers uniformly to the carding machine so as to obtain carded
webs with uniform basis weight. The most widely-used weight control systems are:

Weighing pan system

Roller weighing system

Scanfeed system

These control systems will be discussed now.

Weighing pan system: Figure 2.8 shows the diagram of weighing pan system. It works as follows.
1spiked lattice, 2stripper roller, 3trap door, 4weigh pan,
5conveyor belt
Figure 2.8
When the weigh-pan achieves the pre-set weight, the spiked lattice is stopped and the trap doors are closed.

The weight of the in-flight fibers, which are still in the air on their way to the weigh-pan, is constantly monitored by adjusting the
stop point in anticipation of a calculated weight of the fibers falling into the pan when the lattice has stopped.

Further checking of the weight of fibers in the pan is made and if this weight is found to be higher or lower than the pre-set
weight, the drop point is automatically adjusted to allocate more or less space on the card feed sheet or the speed of the feed
rollers in the carding machine is adjusted accordingly.

Roller weighing system: Figure 2.9 shows the diagram of roller weighing system. It works as follows.

A unique twin weigh zone provides independent monitoring and control of both short-term and long-term regularity.

Lightweight rollers replaced heavyweight belts used earlier, and this brings out more precision in weight measurement.

Irregularities are automatically corrected at the card feed rollers, this is achieved by incorporating the correct delay between the
points of measurement and control.
Figure 2.9

Scanfeed system: Figure 2.10 shows the diagram of scanfeed system. It works as follows.

Fiber distribution in feed trunk is regulated by air flow.

A series of spring-loaded flaps across the width of the trunk provide pressure regulation as they open and close depending on
the thickness of the fiber passing through.
A series of spring-loaded sectional trays scan the thickness of the web in several zones over the width, control values are
determined and then transferred to servomotors that automatically change the position of the web thickness adjustment flap on
the corresponding profile box.

The system can provide short term control of both transverse and longitudinal feed uniformity.
Figure 2.10

Copyright IIT Delhi 2009-2011. All rights reserved.

Module 2: Staple-fibre based processes
2.2 Staple fibre web formation processes
2.2.1 Carding process
The opened and blended fibres then undergo carding process. The functions of the carding process are

Individualization of fiber tufts to almost single fiber

Mixing of fibers to average out variations in fiber characteristics
Forming a homogenous web of uniform weight per unit area

In the case of short staple system, the revolving flat card is used, but for long staple system the roller top card is used. As the dry-
laid process mostly utilizes the long staple fibres the roller top card is often seen to be used in the nonwoven industry. Figure
2.11displays the diagram of a roller top card [2]. Though this card is similar to the revolving flat card in its basic features, but it
differs from the flat top card in several respects, including the fact that their main carding fields are designed differently. The flats
are replaced by pairs of rollers, as shown in
Figure 2.11
Figure 2.11; thus the name "roller top card" is given to it. Each rollerpair comprises a "worker (or roller)" and a "stripper (or
clearer)". Together with the cylinder surface, they form a "carding triad." The typical locations of the roller pairs and their directions
of motion are also shown in Figure 2.11. The basic principles of carding process are lying in carding action and stripping action. The
disentangling of fibres is done by carding action and the transfer of fibres is done by stripping action. In order to realize the carding
action between two surfaces, the wire points of the two surfaces must have opposite inclination, but in order to realize the stripping
action between two surfaces, the wire points of the two surfaces must have the same inclination. This is illustrated in Figure 2.12.

For carding action, the movement of the surfaces should be in either opposite or same direction. When in same direction, the surface
charged with material should move faster in the direction of inclination of its wire points.
Figure 2.12
the fraction between wire and fibre. The carding action is found between cylinder to worker and cylinder to doffer, where as the
stripping action is found in taker-in to cylinder, worker to stripper, stripper to cylinder.

The carding process is often characterized by intensity of carding and delay factor. Intensity of carding is defined by the total number
of collections made by all workers during the entire period of time when a fiber is on the card. This is a measure of carding power of
a card. Intensity o carding is expressed as follows
where IC denotes intensity of carding, m indicates the number of workers, p is the fraction of material goes to the worker (collection
power of worker), and f is fraction of material moves to doffer (collection power of doffer). It can be noted here that the hi
gher pleads to better carding. It can be increased by increasing worker speed, besides keeping closer worker-cylinder distance. Use
of a small fancy roller in-between worker and clearer enables easy fiber transfer from worker to clearer, thereby increasing p. Delay
factor is defined by the average time taken by a large number of fibers for rotating along the surface of the cylinder, workers, and
strippers before they are ultimately removed form the cylinder by the doffer. These fibers get mixed with fresh fibers that are
continuously fed to the cylinder. The delay factor is a measure of mixing power of a card. It is expressed as follows

where is angular speed of cylinder and n is the number of revolution of cylinder that the fibers are held by a worker before being
returned to cylinder.

Besides the carding and stripping action, the feeding, doffing, and web forming are also important and many interesting
developments have been taken place in these regions so far [3].
Figure 2.13
There exist two feed arrangements: dish feed arrangement or roller feed arrangement (Figure 2.13). The dish feed arrangement
results in relatively harsh treatment to fibers, but the roller feed arrangement results in relatively mild treatment to fibers. The
position of clearer roller depends on whether the taker-in is down-striking or up-striking.

Also, there are advancements going on in the doffing region. The double doffer system (Figure 2.14) tends to increase fiber transfer
from cylinder to doffers, thereby increase production.
Figure 2.14
However, the top doffer takes away more material than the bottom doffer that may cause to differ tension in the respective webs
which ultimately affect the structure and properties of the final nonwoven fabric. To balance the proportion of fibers taken by each
doffer, different diameter, tooth density and setting between doffer and cylinder are adopted.
Figure 2.15
Further there exist four doffing systems for different orientation of fibres in the carded webs (Figure 2.15). The conventional
cylinder-doffer system (Figure A) produces webs with markedly anisotropic orientation of fibers in plane. A randomizer roller in Figure
(B) changes the direction of flow of fibers moving at high velocity resulting in almost isotropic web structure. A pair of condenser
rollers (C), moving slower than the doffer, causes sudden deceleration of fibers that results in fibers to stand up vertically, creating a
3D condensed web structure with almost isotropic orientation of fibers in plane.

The web formation region is also of interest for R&D. The oscillation frequency of the doffer comb is technologically limited, which in
turn limits doffer speed, hence production. High production cards run doffer at 25-40 rpm where the doffer comb can not be used for
stripping, but draw off rollers whose surface speed is slightly higher than that of doffer can be used to remove web through stripping
action. More advanced doffing system utilizes a draw off roller, perforated apron and suction system to control web transfer to the
1doffer, 2draw off roller, 3perforated apron, 4suction system
Figure 2.16

2.2.2 Web stacking processes

There exist three web stacking processes, namely

Parallel-lay process (parallel-laid)

Cross-lay process (cross-laid)

Perpendicular-lay process (perpendicular-laid)

Parallel-lay process
In parallel-lay process, the carded webs supplied by sequentially arranged parallel-cards are doubled on a common conveyor belt to
form parallel-laid batt. This is shown in Figure 2.17. The fibers in the parallel-laid batt are preferentially oriented in the carding
machine direction. The width of the parallel-laid batt is the same as that of the carded web. It produces batt with layered structure,
each layer of carded web can be made up of different fibers or different basis weight, etc.

Figure 2.17
Cross-lay process
The cross-lay process is very popular among the nonwoven industries. The functions of cross-lay process are as follows.

To obtain batt with higher basis weight than that of card web
To obtain batt with higher width than that of card web
To obtain batt with fibers preferentially oriented along the transverse direction of it
To obtain batt with layered structure

There exist two types of cross-laying, camel back laying and horizontal laying. The camel back laying is shown in Figure 2.18. It is
so termed because of the shape of the web path used by this machine. In camel back laying, a conveyor transports the emerging
web from a card, upwards to a pivot point from which the conveyor system reciprocates to layer the web onto a cross conveyor. Such
systems utilized simple harmonic motion to reciprocate the web layering conveyor and as such, produced heavy edges at the end of
each traverse due to overfeed of the web as the mechanism decelerated and then accelerated at the sides. Here, the laying width can
be changed and it depends on machine height and the machine throughput is constant.
Figure 2.18
Figure 2.19
Figure 2.19 illustrates the Jigger lattice horizontal laying. It utilizes a number of interacting conveyor aprons that operate in
conjunction with traversing carriages and drive rollers. The carding machine delivers the web to the in-feed conveyor, which
transports it onto the top sheet or belt assembly. The carriage reciprocates as the web is transported within the belts. The exiting
web is then layered concertina fashion onto a lower conveyor which runs perpendicular to the in-feed direction. The production rate
of horizontal cross-lappers is limited by the necessity to instantaneously reverse the conveyor mechanism, which develops a large
momentum as the carriage changes direction at the end of its traverse. In horizontal laying, the machine height does not depend on
laying width (constant). It also produces heavy edges at the end of the batt.

The problem may be partly compensated by setting the lay-down width slightly narrower than required. Nowadays, continuous belts
are used to make horizontal cross-lappers. One such cross-lapper is shown in Figure 2.20.
Figure 2.20
The heavy edges are avoided by controlled velocity variations in conveyor using variable speed drive. The principle of speed variation
can be understood from Figure 2.21.
Figure 2.21
Figure 2.22 establishes the kinematics of cross-laying. Let the card web of width b1 is moving forward at a velocity v1. The cross-
lapper delivery rolls then lay the web on the cross apron back and forth with velocity v1 over width b2. During this time the cross
apron moves to the left at velocity v2. The interaction between these two motions results in shearing of the web as shown, the
rectangle ABCD becomes ABCD. If the angle of fiber inclination relative to the cross-direction of the cross-laid batt is taken as ,
then it can be derived that
Figure 2.22

Perpendicular-lay process
The perpendicular-lay process is considered as a special laying process to obtain
Figure 2.23
significant z-directional orientation of fibres in the batt. The resulting batt, often thermally bonded, offers excellent compression-
recovery properties that make them suitable for automobile seat squab and sound insulation applications. The perpendicular-laid batt
can be obtained by reciprocating lapper (Struto technology) or rotary lapper (Wavemaker technology). The struto technology is
illustrated in Figure 2.23 (a) Here, a reciprocating lapping device is used to continuously consolidate the carded web into a
vertically folded batt that is bonded by through-air bonding. It has low rate of production. The resulting structure of the batt is
displayed in Figure 2.23(b). The wavemaker technology is shown in Figure 2.24(a). Here, a rotary lapping device is used to
continuously consolidate the carded web into a vertically folded batt which is bonded by for through-air bonding. It has relatively high
rate of production. The resulting structure of the batt is displayed in Figure 2.24(b).
Figure 2.24
Air-lay proces
Description of air-lay process

The air-lay process was invented during 1940s with an aim to overcome the high degree of anisotropy of fibre direction in the
nonwoven fabrics prepared from carded webs. In this process, the fibres are dispersed in air and then deposited from a suspended
state onto a perforated screen to form a web. Figure 2.25 displays the schematic diagram of air-lay system.
Figure 2.25
It consists of three units: feeding, opening and mixing, and web formation. The fibres are fed to an opening roller by a pair of feed
rollers. The fibres are gripped by the feed rollers and opened by the opening roller. The fibres are then transported by hooking
around the wire teeth on the roller and are subsequently removed by a high-velocity airstream directed over the wire teeth surface.
In this way, the fibres are mixed with air and transported with it to a perforated conveyor where the air is separated and fibres are
deposited to form a web.
Rando system
The rando system (Rando Machine Corporation, formerly the Curlator Corporation) is one of the oldest air-lay systems available in
the world. Figure 2.26 shows the diagram of a rando system. As shown it has four units, (i) Rando prefeeder, (ii) Rando opener and
blender, (iii) Rando feeder, and (iv) Rando webber. The fibres are pre-opened at an early stage of the process prior to the opening
and blending section. The opening and blending section opens out the fibres and then mixes them by using workers. The opened
fibres are then fed through the feeding unit to the web formation zone where they are further opened and individualized by the
actions of the licker-in. The feeding section is similar to a hopper feeder with an inclined lattice, evener condenser and stripper roller.
The opened fibres are then removed from the licker-in to the transport duct by means of a high velocity air stream and centrifugal
force generated due to the rotational speed of the licker-in. Finally, the fibres are deposited onto the cylindrical condenser to form an
air-laid web.
Figure 2.26
The production of a rando system is calculated by using the following formula
Dan web system
There are air-lay systems that utilize drums to form webs. One such system is known as Dan web system ( Denmark). Figure
2.27displays the schematic diagram of this system. It comprises of two contra-rotating forming (perforated) drums situated
transversely above the forming wire and connected to fixed pipes. There is a rotating brush roll inside the drums and transverse to
the forming wire or conveyor belt that removes fibres from the transport airstream and directs them through the perforated drums.

Figure 2.27
The fibres are then deposited onto the wire by means of a vacuum located underneath the forming head. It is claimed that the drum
forming design offers greater flexibility in terms of maximum fibre length (up to 15 mm) and reduced fibre build up in the system
and a completely uniform distribution of fibres across the web.
Air cards
The incomplete individualization of the fibres and inability to process longer fibres by licker-in of rando system resulted in
development of air cards. The K-12 air card introduced by Fehrer combined carding and air-laying. Figure 2.28 displays the
schematic diagram of this machine. In this machine, a batt of fiber flocks in the range of 300-500 g/m is fed by a feed roller-nose
bar system to a high speed wire-wound cylinder, equipped with two pairs of workers and strippers.

Figure 2.28
The cylinder and the worker-stripper systems nearly individualize the fibers, which are then stripped off tangentially by a high speed
laminar flow air stream. After the stripping point the fibers come under the influence of suction beneath the collection (screen) belt,
and they tend to form, it is asserted, a nearly isotropic web.

In order to better orient the fibres in the thickness direction of the web and also to produce high loft webs, Fehrer developed another
air card, known as K12 air card. The schematic diagram of this card is shown in Figure 2.29 In this card, an additional air stream,
generated from inside a perforated drum, positioned atop the collection point, provides a mechanism to orient the fibers in the
thickness direction of the final web, the latter helps enhance the loft in the final web.
Figure 2.29
Benefits and limitations
The benefits of air-lay process are

It delivers webs with high isotropy, high loft (if required), and high porosity.
It can utilize short fibres which are not possible to be processed by using carding technology.

The limitations of air-lay process are

The fibre configuration in the air-laid web is relatively poor.

The basis weight uniformity of the produced webs is in general poor.
The webs with high anisotropy are hardly obtained by employing this process.

The air-laid nonwovens are found to be used in a wide variety of applications depending on the fibre compositions used and the
bonding methods employed. These include high-loft products for the clothing and furniture industry, wadding, medical and hygiene
fabrics, geotextiles and roofing felts, filters, insulation and barrier materials, wall and floor coverings, moulded products, wipes,
preformed automotive components, absorbent cores, acquisition and distribution layers, etc.

2.2.3 Wet-lay Porcess

Historical perspective
The wet-lay nonwoven process is known to be derived from the wet-laid paper making process. H. Fourdrinier developed a
papermaking machine that has been the basis for the most modern papermaking machines employing very short fibers. The
schematic diagram of this machine is shown in Figure 2.30.
Figure 2.30

Figure 2.31
The wood pulp and water in the ratio of 0.003-0.007 (w/w) are mixed to make a good quality suspension of fibres and water. The
suspension is then pumped to the headbox which has a small opening, often called as slice. Through the slice, the fibre-water
suspension is dropped onto the moving perforated Fourdeinier wires. These wires contain a lot of perforations through which the
water gets drained to the vacuum and the fibres, deposited on the moving wires, formed a web. In this way, the wet-laid paper is
formed. But, by using this machine it was not possible to process relatively long fibers as the mentioned dilution ratio results in
inadequate fiber dispersion in water. In this regard, F. Osborne and C. H. Dexter proposed a solution. According to them, in order to
process longer fibres, the ratio of weight of fiber pulp and weight of water should be around 0.0005-0.00005 and in order to handle
such a huge quantity of water, the inclination of the forming wire to the base is required to be equal to 20. The modified machine
had a large headbox (slice) opening with inclined wire machine is shown in Figure 2.31. This machine has been used to make
papers from long fibres and subsequently the basis for making nonwovens also.
Process description
The schematic diagram of a typical wet-lay process for making nonwovens is shown in Figure 2.32. The fibres are mixed with water
and it forms fibre-water suspension. It shows two mixing tanks for preparation of better fibre-water suspension. This suspension is
then pumped through the headbox to the perforated wire. The water is drained through the perforations and the fibres are laid on the
moving wire to form a web. The wet-laid web is then dried and bonded by using binder. It is again dried and finally wound on a roll.
Figure 2.32
Process model
It is often necessary to calculate process parameters in advance with an aim to obtain a specific structure of wet-laid nonwovens.
Because of this, it is often necessary to model the wet- lay process. The following section deals with a simple model of wet-lay
process. Figure 2.33 displays the schematic diagram of a headbox of a wet-lay nonwoven machine.
Figure 2.33
The velocity of water in relation to the velocity of wire determines the structure of the web. When both the velocities are equal then
the fibre lay-down is found to be practically random. When the velocity of wire is higher than the velocity of water then fibres are
found to be preferentially orientated in the machine direction, but when the velocity of wire is lower than the velocity of water then
fibres are found to be preferentially orientated in the cross direction.
Fabric defects
Typically there exist three types of defects in the wet-laid nonwoven fabrics. They are known as logs, ropes, and dumbbells. Figure
2.34 displays the schematic diagram of these defects. Logs are characterized by bundles of fibres with aligned cut ends that are
never dispersed. They are normally considered to be a fibre supply problem or can be the result of remarkably low under agitation of
the initial dispersion. Ropes are characterized by assemblages of fibres, with unaligned ends, that are clearly more agglomerated
than in the general dispersion. They are formed when fibres are encountered a vortex that facilitates in entangling the fibres to form
ropes. Dumbbells are characterized by paired clumps of fibres connected by one or more long fibres. The formation of dubbells
requires an excessively long fibre and a snag in the system piping. A long fibre snags in the system piping so that its free end whips
in the flow and accumulates normal fibres on each end and these fibre bundles become so large that the fluid drag plucks the
dumbbells from the snagged fibre. It is thus often said that the good quality of dispersion of fibres in water is a key to the good
quality of wet-laid webs.
Figure 2.34
Critical material characteristics and process factors
It is known that the fibre-water dispersion quality primarily dictates the quality of the wet-laid nonwovens. The important fibre
characteristics that determine this dispersion are fibre length, fibre aspect ratio, and fibre bending rigidity. The higher fibre length,
fibre aspect ratio, and fibre bending rigidity result in more fabric defects and vice-versa. The important process factors are known to
be the ratio of fibre-to-water weight or volume, dispersion time, and impeller speed. The higher is the relative volume occupied by
the fibres as compared to that occupied by the water results in more crowding of fibres at the time of dispersion that ultimately
results in poor quality of webs. This can be explained by the following expression of fibre crowding factor

In order to examine the effect of wet-lay process factors on the quality of the wet-laid nonwovens, an interesting study was
conducted by Vaidya et al. [4]. They prepared a set of wet-laid hydroentangled glass and polyester blended nonwovens by varying
the wet-lay process parameters and examined the effect of dispersion time on the frequency of logs and ropes in the nonwovens.
They observed that most fibers were inherently held together and form logs, agitation was required to break them. Excessive
agitation, however, led to rope formation. With the increase in dispersion time, the frequency of log was decreased, but the
frequency of rope was increased. The inherent stiffness of glass fibers resulted in formation of very few ropes at the start of
agitation, but the flexible of polyester fibers showed log reduction immediately accompanied by rope formation. It was found that the
higher impeller speed resulted in less frequency of logs.
Merits and demerits
The merits of wet-lay nonwoven process are

High through-put rate

Isotropic as well as anisotropic structures can be created.

Too brittle fibres, generally not suitable for textile applications, can be processed.

The demerits of wet-lay nonwoven process are

High capital intensive process

High energy intensive process

High fiber quality requirements.

The wet-laid nonwovens are finding many applications in diversified areas, namely surgical clothing and drapes, bed linen, table
linen, cloths, and napkins, towels, kitchen wipes. In addition, the wet-laid technical nonwovens are found to be used in many
specialized applications, including glass fibre roofing substrate, glass fibre mat for flooring, glass fibre mat for printed circuit boards,
wall covering, insulation materials, battery separators, RFI shielding veils, etc.

Copyright IIT Delhi 2009-2011. All rights reserved.

Module 3: Web bonding processes
3.2 Thermal Bonding Processes

It is known that the fibres in the webs can be bonded thermally in order to have sufficient resistance to mechanical deformation. The
basic concept of thermal bonding was introduced by Reed in 1942. He described a process in which a web consisting of thermoplastic
and non-thermoplastic fibres was made and then heated to the melting or softening temperature of the constituent thermoplastic fibres
followed by cooling or solidify the bonding area. Since then many developments have been made in thermal bonding processes. Today
the thermal bonding processes include calender bonding, through-air bonding, infrared bonding, and ultrasonic bonding. Thermal
bonding requires a thermoplastic component to be present in the web in the form of homofil fibre, powder, film, hot melt or as a part
(sheath) of bicomponent fibre. The thermoplastic component becomes viscous under the application of thermal energy. The polymer
flows to fibre-to-fibre crossover points where bonding regions are formed. The bonding regions are fixed by subsequent cooling. The
thermal bonding process is environmental-friendly, as no latex binder is required. The thermal bonding process consumes less energy
compared to foam bonding or hydroentanglement bonding.

Principle of thermal bonding

The formation of a bond during thermal bonding follows in sequence through three critical steps:

(1) heating the web to partially melt the crystalline region,

(2) repetition of the newly released chain segments across the fibre-fibre interface, and

subsequent cooling of the web to re-solidify it and to trap the chain segments that diffused across the fibre-
fibre interface.

The time scales for these processes closely match commercial practice.

The formation of a bond requires partial melting of the crystals to permit chain relaxation and diffusion. If, during bonding, the
temperatures are too low or if the roll speeds are too high, the polymer in the mid-plane of the web does not reach a high enough
temperature to release a sufficient number of chains or long enough chain segments from the crystalline regions. Thus, there will be
very few chains spanning the fibre-fibre interface, the bond itself will be weak, and the bonds can be easily pulled out or ruptured under
load, as observed. Under-bonding occurs when there are an insufficient number of chain ends in the molten state at the interface
between the two crossing fibres or there is insufficient time for them to diffuse across the interface to entangle with chains in the other
fibre. Over-bonding occurs when melting occurs and many chains have diffused across the interface and a solid, strong bond has been
formed. If the web reaches a sufficient temperature, many chains or chain segments are released from the crystal, repeat across the
fibre-fibre interface, and form a strong bond. The fibres within the bond spot have lost their orientation and their strength. At the same
time, the polymer chains within the fibres located in the vicinity of the bond also lose some of their molecular orientation (and strength)
at the fibre-bond interface.

In well-bonded webs, failure occurs at the bond periphery because the bridging fibres are weak in the region adjacent to the bond, but
strong elsewhere. If the bridging fibres have the same strength over their entire length, including the region at the bond periphery,
better load sharing would lead to a stronger web.

Raw materials

The thermal bonding processes utilize either thermoplastic fibres alone or blends containing fibres that are not intended to soften or flow
on heating. The non-binder fibre components may be referred to as the base fibres or sometimes, carrier fibres. Commercially, a variety
of base fibres are used. The binder fibre component normally ranges from 5-50 % on weight of the fibre depending on the targeted
properties of the final product made thereupon.

Fibre Melting temperature

(degree Celsius)

PET 245-265

PP 160-175

PA 210-230

PE 115-135

PE/PET 130/250

PE/PP 130/175

CoPET/PET 110/250

The base fibres can be of n atural or synthetic or mineral or metallic origin. The binder fibres can be momocomoponent (homofil) like
polyester (PET), polypropylene (PP), polyamide (PA), and polyethylene (PE) and bicomponent (sheath-core) like PE/PET, PE/PP, and
CoPET/PET. Looking at the thermal bonding process, it is important to note down the melting temperature of these fibres.

Calender bonding process

In thermal calender bonding process, the fibrous web containing thermoplastic fibres is passed through a heated calender nip that is
created by two rolls (cylinders) pressed against each other (Figure 3.15).

Figure 3.15
One or both rolls are heated internally to a temperature that usually exceeds the melting point temperature of the binder fibres to
ensure there is sufficient hear transfer to induce softening at the prevailing line speed. As the web passes between the calender nip,
fibres are heated and compressed. This causes the binder fibres to become soft and tacky and induces polymer flow in and around the
base fibres. The fluid polymer tends to collect at the fibre crossover or contact points and bonding sites are formed. Cooling leads to
solidification of the polymer and bonding.

Figure 3.16
It can be seen that the convergence of the series depends on dimensionless time and there is a significant temperature that exists in-
between center and surface of the web.

Types of calender roller

There exist two types of calender rollers, that is, embossed calender and flat calender. These calender rollers are shown in Figure 3.17.

Figure 3.17

It is generally known that the point bonding results in softer fabric and the area bonding results in stiffer fabric.

Heating arrangement

The roll surfaces are heated from inside by direct electrical heat or through the use of heated oil. Heated oil is preferred because it leads
to more uniform temperature distribution along the nip. In some configurations a fixed quantity of oil is sealed inside the roll and it is
heated electrically. Thermal inertia of internally heated systems with or without oil is generally high. As a result heating by circulating oil
systems is much preferred. The calender roll systems must be so designed as to provide very uniform temperature and nip pressure
profiles all along the nip length. This is an engineering challenge of major proportions. As a result the technology of making rolls for
calender bonding is quite complex.

Critical process parameters

The critical process parameters of thermal calender bonding process are r oller temperature, roller nip pressure, and contact time.

Roller t emperature should be adjusted in such a way that the sintering of fibre surfaces can be achieved while avoiding complete fibre
melting and film formation. Increasing bonding temperature up to a certain point increases the tensile properties of the fabric due to the
formation of well-developed bonding structure. Further increase in temperature reduces the tensile properties which may be attributed
to the loss of fibre integrity and the formation of film like spot as well as the reduction in load transfer from fibre to bonding point. Over-
bonding of this kind leads to popping of the structure under tensile load as the fabric fails at the bond locations.
Figure 3.18

where t is contact time, h is nip width, and v is roller velocity. In general, the contact time for light weight fabrics is kept to be 0.001 s,
but for medium weight fabric, it is kept at 0.1-0.7 s.

Process description

Figure 3.19 displays the schematic diagram of the through-air bonding machine. The main component of this system is an air
permeable drum with a high open area onto which the web is transferred and supported by a travelling/carrying wire.
Figure 3.20

The perforated drum is covered with a hood from where the heat is delivered; the hot air is drawn through the web cross-section by
means of a suction fan.

Types of through-air bonding machine

Generally three types of through-air bonding machines are used. They are perforated drum though air bonding machine, perforated
conveyor (flat bed) through air bonding machine, and impingement (air jetting) through air bonding machine.
Figure 3.21

Figure 3.20 shows the schematic diagram of a perforated drum though air bonding machine. Here the web is carried by a permeable
screen around a perforated drum enclosed in a chamber. The upper part of the chamber serves as a plenum into which heated air is
blown in. Inside the drum, there are baffles covering the circumference except the portion through which heated air can be sucked in
through the fabric. The air suction is aided by suction boxes located inside the drum. The sucked-in air is then re-heated and circulated
back to the heating zone. This system is suitable for light weight webs of 10 g/m 2 to heavy but permeable webs up to 3000 g/m 2.

Figure 3.21 shows the schematic diagram of a perforated conveyor though air bonding machine. Here the web to be bonded moves on
a permeable support screen over a flat bed. Above the flat bed is a plenum into which heated air is blown in. Below the flat bed are
vacuum units which suck the heated air from the plenum above, through the passing fabric over the flat bed. The air is circulated back
into the heating zone after re-heating. This system is particularly suitable for bulky, low-density webs.

Figure 3.22 shows the schematic diagram of an impingement through-air bonding machine. In impingement bonding, the web is
carried over a permeable screen into an oven. In the oven are a series of boxes (plenums) positioned across the web passage. Hot air is
pumped into the boxes from one end, the other being closed.
Figure 3.22

The lower surface of the box contains an evenly spaced series of nozzles through which jets of hot air impinge on the surface of the web
passing beneath. While some hot air may diffuse through the web most of it is deflected in different directions on the surface. Maximum
bonding occurs at the surface and decreases as one goes into the thickness. In the case of denser webs, or to obtain symmetry of
bonding in the web, boxes containing nozzles may be placed below the web carrying screen. In these cases, the nozzles are aimed
upward so that hot air jets. This is mainly used for denser webs or webs that must be bonded gently.

Infrared bonding process

Figure 3.23 shows the schematic diagram of an infrared bonding machine. The mechanism is thermal radiation.
Figure 3.23

The IR emitting bulbs (heaters) are used to radiate electromagnetic energy in part of the IR wave length (0.7-300 m) which then
translates to heat by the receiving /absorbing material. The heat flux emitted by a heater is E= T4, where Eheat flux (W/m2), is
Boltzmann constant (5.67 x 10-8 W/m2), is emissivity (0 to 1) and T is absolute temperature (K). It does not require any medium, but
does not penetrate deep into a structure. For thinner webs, it is not economical. This is mainly used for glazing the surface of thick

Ultrasonic bonding process

Figure 3.24 shows the schematic diagram of an ultrasonic bonding machine. Here the web is compacted between an embossed
patterned roller (anvil) and an ultrasonic horn.
Figure 3.24

horn is vibrated at a frequency of 20-40 KHz. The friction between horn and web surface heats fibers above the raised points on the
anvil. Mechanical energy is converted into thermal energy. This is mostly used for joining nonwoven laminates.

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