As this issue goes to press, I am fresh off a visit to the Nonwovens Institute (NWI) at North Carolina State University, a spot that is rapidly becoming (if it isn’t already) the center of innovation and research and development in nonwovens. I was at NC State for
the official grand opening of the institute’s brand new facility, which houses a state-of-the-art
advanced spunmelt and hydroentanglement facility featuring machinery supplied by some of
the most important names in nonwovens.
According to Behnam Pourdeyhimi, director of the institute and a professor at NC State, the
NWI has already invested about $10 million in the new facility—with more to come—and the
impressive line is worth much beyond that.
At its centerpiece, the new line is a 1.0-meter Reicofil 4 bicomponent spunbond line with
additional equipment including Hills Inc. bico or monofilament die packs, an Andritz thermo
bonding calendar, Perfojet hydroentanglement units, a kiss roll, a through air dryer and a high
speed A.Celli winder and slitter. The web path of the new line can be customized to meet specific
requirements and the whole line is dedicated to research, development and incubation. NWI
researchers will work with companies to make a customized product or to work with companies
to bring an idea to fruition. It joins other NWI assets which include a meltblown line, testing
equipment and filtration media development.
Interest in the new line is high and the grand opening ceremony attracted more than 300
members of the industry. These attendees ranged from former students to equipment suppliers
to nonwovens producers to end users, and their scope shows just how well respected the NWI is
in our industry. The graduate program in nonwovens at NC State is currently the only university
program dedicated exclusively to nonwovens, graduating 50 “career ready” Ph.D.’s every year.
As the nonwovens industry struggles to attract young members—INDA recently hired a career
services associate to recruit college graduates into nonwovens—the importance of this program
cannot be overestimated, especially considering it’s located in North Carolina where 40% of U.S.
nonwovens production exists.
This new equipment is another step in the institute’s goal to become the global leader for research, education and service for nonwovens—a mission that was outlined by its advisory board
in 2008, and it certainly won’t be the last investment we see there.
Nonwovens—Best in Class