Melt-Blown Extrusion Process: All About Non-Woven Fabrics
The melt-blown fabrics and plastics manufacturing is a multi-billion-dollar industry that continues to grow every year. The various applications and the convenience of this material are a few of the reasons behind this success.
Here below, we have over-simplified the concept of melt-blown extrusion, where it is applied, what the end goal is, and how to perfect the process with the right set of equipment.
What is Melt Blown Extrusion?
Also known as the non-woven manufacturing system, the melt-blown extrusion process aims to convert a polymer into a continuous filamentous sheet which, in turn, forms a non-woven fabric.
The name "non-woven fabric" comes from the very nature of materials that stem from this process. Other forms of fabric manufacturing processes are characterized by the forming of a raw material (such as cotton) into a yarn which is then knitted/woven into the large body of the fabric. Here, though, the fabric does not come with any visible weaving or knitting lines – and that is not because of the brilliance of the process.
The sheet is instantaneously generated as a continuous material with no actual joint points. For this reason, the extruded material looks like a unique piece.
Why are Nonwoven Fabrics Important?
Non-woven fabrics are used in a wide range of industries for an even wider range of applications. Some of which include, but are not limited to:
By leveraging the tufted porous manufacturing technique, these non-woven fabrics can create a continuous sheet of filters. They are hygienic enough not to impact food security so that they can be applied to food and water-based filters too.
In the same line as filters, they can also be used to create tea bags, liquid cartridges, and vacuum bags. The food industry does not have a monopoly on the filtrations aspect. With broad applications for surgical masks, for example, the process was one of the many saviors of the world during the surge in demand for masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
● Sterile medical-use products
The healthcare industry is one of the pickiest buyers, only going for materials that ensure the best functionality while keeping hygiene as a top consideration too.
This explains why they would go for non-woven fabric in their choice of surgical gowns, masks (as mentioned above), gloves, plasters, and shoe covers, among other things.
The widespread application of these materials in the demanding healthcare industry is one of the reasons why there are increased studies into how to make these materials better. The trend is moving toward both higher efficiency and increased usability.
Geotextiles win the strength match when compared to woven materials sharing the same level of thickness.
This makes them a better, more cost-effective, and more efficient space management solution in civil engineering and other related engineering practices.
For starters, they are preferred for the lining of canals, soil stabilization, and erosion control. They have also been developed in other capacities as adequate frost protection and water canal drainage systems.
● Sanitary Products
Non-woven fabrics maintain a beautiful balance in B2B and B2C applications. Besides tea bags and consumer-grade nose masks, they make their way into female sanitary products and disposable incontinence fabrics too. Due to the low cost of manufacture and production, they are best equipped for the single-use nature that they are applied for the most.
Besides these, non-woven fabrics are also an essential part of the oil industry, as well as finding numerous electrical applications. They also have a specialty for shining as hot mesh adhesives, among other things.
And this is not all. Here are other applications of non-woven fabrics:
● Agricultural coverings
● Agricultural seed strips
● Apparel linings
● Automotive headliners
● Automotive upholstery
● House wraps
● Household & personal wipes
● Laundry aids
● Wall coverings
What Makes Non-woven Fabrics so Desirable?
The plastic extrusion process behind non-woven plastics equips the continuous sheet of fabric with a slew of features that makes it so functional, as discussed above.
Such standout features driving the various application of this fabric includes, but are not limited to:
By combining high material stability with massive strength (especially as compared to woven fabrics), non-women fabrics maintain a high degree of flexibility.
This makes it possible to manipulate (roll, fold, etc.), store, and transport the material in different forms. The level of flexibility also reduces the overall bulkiness of the manufactured material, considerably cutting down transport costs that would otherwise occur.
● Exceptional Insulation Properties
Just like its parent material (polypropylene plastic), non-woven fabric is an insulator, too.
Its insulation capabilities allow its use in electrical situations and other related engineering configurations where electric impact is a defining factor. Thanks to the lightweight nature of the material, it doesn't take up much space in the build, nor does it add unnecessary weight to the overall outcome.
● Bacterial Barrier Properties
The primary non-woven material is designed to resist bacterial attacks. This feature comes in handy for consumer-faced applications such as sanitary pads, surgical masks, water filtration systems, and other related cases.
After the initial launch, the material is also guaranteed to create an inhabitable environment for preventing future bacteria breeding. Even though the bacteria barrier is not 100% effective, it is sufficient to ward off severe infestation.
● Mechanical Strength
A combination of resilience, liquid repellency, and flame retardancy is enough to make this material a sure winner over others with similar properties. However, it combines that with stretch, cushioning, and softness in the same build for improved functionality.
It is rare to get a single material that brings all these to the table, depending on how the production process is optimized. It is, thus, little wonder why it is the darling of most of the industries where it has found application – and will continue to find application.
Choosing the Right Non-Woven Fabric Process
There is no one-size-fits-all model for plastic extrusion for non-woven fabrics. The ideal process will depend on a series of factors, including:
● The desired physical and mechanical characteristics of your intended non-woven fabric;
● The raw material fiber intended for the process;
● The specific brand and operational requirements for the manufacturing process (optional but necessary).