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98

Nonwoven Fabric Binders


98.1 Introduction ......................................................................98-1 98.2 Binders ...............................................................................98-1

Albert G. Hoyle
Hoyle Associates

Latex Fiber Powder Netting Film Hot Melt Solution

Bibliography .................................................................................98-4

98.1 Introduction
A nonwoven fabric is precisely what the name implies, a brous structure or fabric that is made without weaving. In a woven or knit fabric, warp and/or lling yarns are made and intertwined in various patterns (weaving or knitting) to interlock them and to give the manufactured fabrics integrity, strength, and aesthetic value. By contrast, in manufacturing a nonwoven fabric, the yarn formation and yarn intertwining steps (weaving or knitting) are bypassed, and a web (brous structure) is formed using dry-lay or wet-lay formation techniques. This web is bonded together by mechanical entanglement or by the addition of a binder to create a nonwoven fabric. This chapter describes the various binders available for nonwoven bonding with their applications, and provides a listing of resource contacts for latex, binder solutions, ber, powder, netting, lm, and hot melt binder suppliers.

98.2 Binders
The degree of bonding achieved, using any of several binders, is enhanced when the carrier ber and binder are of the same polymeric family. Increasing the amount of binder in relation to the carrier ber increases product tensile strength and also overall bonding. Binders used in nonwovens are of the following types: latex, ber, powder, netting, lm, hot-melt, and solution. At present, the binders most frequently used are latex, ber, and powder, with ber having the greatest growth potential for the future.

98.2.1 Latex
Latex binders are based mainly on acrylic, styrene-butadiene, vinyl acetate, ethylene-vinyl acetate, or vinyl/vinylidene chloride polymers and copolymers. Within any one series or group, very soft to very rm hands can be achieved by varying the glass transition temperature of the polymer. The lower the Tg, the softer the resultant nonwoven. These temperatures range from 42 to +100C in latex available today. Most latex are either anionic or nonionic. Some have high salt tolerances, allowing for addition of salts to achieve ame retardancy. Some are self-cross-linkable, and others are cross-linkable by the addition of melamine- or urea- formaldehyde resins and catalysts to achieve greater wash resistance and

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high wet strength in cellulose-based nonwovens. Other latex, by means of special surfactants, can impart either hydrophobic or hydrophilic properties to the nonwoven. Still others, by means of certain surfactants, can be foamed easily to allow for foam application of the latex, resulting in greater economies in processing because of much lower energy demands for drying. Addition of thickeners to increase viscosity of the latex formulation makes for a much neater and cleaner application when print bonding is used. Addition of special heat-sensitive coagulants to the latex makes it possible to apply the latex to the brous web in a foamed state, and to gel or coagulate the foam in situ before it collapses while drying, resulting in permanently foamed, open cell nonwoven structure that is very water-absorptive and water-retentive. By and large, the acrylic-based latex are the most versatile ones in use, and they are also the most expensive to use.

98.2.2 Fiber
The main ber binder types are morphologically classied as follows: amorphous homopolymer, amorphous copolymer, crystalline copolymer, and bicomponent ber. Classifying these by chemical origin, the ones most used today are polyester, polypropylene, polyethylene, polyamide, and vinyl chloride, vinyl acetate copolymer. While latex binders are applied and processed by saturation, spray, foam, and print techniques, ber binders are activated by thermal bonding methods. Thermal bonding, when rst introduced, was used mainly in durable nonwovens and not used at all in disposables such as diaper top sheets and sanitary product covers both exceedingly high volume items for two reasons: (a) the higher prices of binder bers when compared to latex, and (b) the properties needed in disposable nonwovens softness, strength, porosity, capability of transferring liquids to an inner absorptive medium, and no adverse reactions upon skin contact. As energy cost increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s, thermal bonding became a viable option for disposable as well as durable nonwovens. 98.2.2.1 Amorphous Homopolymer The predominant amorphous homopolymer binder bers were and still are polyester and polypropylene. The polyester binder ber is blended with a polyester carrier ber into a web by carding or air-lay methods and hot calendered to achieve a 100% bonded product. This gives a thin strong, low extensibility, papery product, which is being used successfully as a coating substrate and in electrical insulation. The 100% machine direction orientation from carding and relatively high binder content result in relatively low extensibility and high tensile strength, properties that are important, specically, in coating substrates for tapes and for electrical insulation. Amorphous homopolymer polyester binder ber is used exclusively in area bonding for industrial products. Polypropylene carrier ber can be self-bonded by making a blend of coarse and ne denier bers and using the ne denier ber as the binder for the coarse one. This procedure is practical because polypropylene has a sharp bonding temperature and an almost simultaneous melting point, in the vicinity of 165C, when the blend is hot calendered, the ne denier ber is melted while the coarse one is relatively untouched. A practical blend is one containing bers of 6, 3, and 1.8 deniers per lament (d/f), and running the calender at 163 to 165C. A highly compacted, fairly stiff nonwoven results, which is used in water ltration. A polypropylene ber with a slightly lower melting point than regular polypropylene has been developed for use as a binder ber. This ber is capable of being used a binder for regular polypropylene bers of any denier and, with the sharp melting range characteristic of polypropylene, is usable in point bonding of disposables containing bers other than polyester, as well as in area-bonded products. 98.2.2.2 Amorphous Copolymer With the advent of point bonding by hot calendaring and the development of amorphous copolymers, mainly polyesters, work was reinitiated in adapting thermal bonding to disposable product needs. Overall area bonding is not acceptable in most disposables because open areas are needed for porosity and for the passing of liquids.

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Nonwoven Fabric Binders

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The development of amorphous copolymers with activation temperatures lower than amorphous homopolymers was an important development, allowing the making of a soft, absorbent, thin cover stock on a heated spot bonding calender at speeds high enough to make the process and product competitive. Amorphous copolymer bers are available with working temperatures in the calender from 227C down to 163C, allowing a full range of light- to medium-weight products, either 100% area bonded or else point bonded to be made at efcient processing speeds. 98.2.2.3 Crystalline Copolymer Crystalline copolymer binder bers are available in both polyamide and polyester types. These bers are characterized by very sharp melting points, where the ber is converted almost instantly to liquid when heat is applied. Microscopic studies show that the binder ber, once molten, tends to congregate in droplets at carrier ber interstices throughout the nonwoven. Thermal bonding with this type of ber can be effected in two ways: spot bonding with a heated spot bonding calender, and bonding with a through air oven with or without a consequent cold calendaring step, using an overall bonding calender. Through air oven heating is the preferred method of bonding because greater control and consistency can be achieved by using it. A crystalline copolymer binder ber can be used to produce a spot-bonded product with open unbonded areas, a spot-bonded product with open bonded areas, an overall bonded bulky product, and an overall bonded compacted but not papery product. 98.2.2.4 Bicomponent Fiber A bicomponent is a ber formed by coextrusion of two different polymers. It is available commercially in polyamide, polyester, and polyolen (polypropylenepolyethylene) combinations. The polyamides and polyesters are of the core sheath type, with the matrix ber as the core and the binder ber as the sheath. In the polyamide bicomponent, the core ber is nylon 66 and the sheath ber is nylon 6. In the polyester bicomponent, both the carrier and the binder bers generically are polyesters; the main difference is a lower melting or softening point in the binder ber portion. The polyolen bicomponent is of the side-to-side type. Polypropylene, the carrier ber, is one side, and polyethylene, the binder ber, is the other side. In all three instances polyamide, polyester, and polyolen the melting or processing temperature of the binder ber is sufciently lower than that of the carrier ber that the carrier ber is not affected by the heat used in the bonding step. Nonwovens containing bicomponent bers are processed similarly to those containing crystalline copolymers, and the resulting nonwovens have properties similar to those made using crystalline copolymers. Overall economics tend to favor use of crystalline copolymers, but achieving the best quality product favors use of bicomponent bers.

98.2.3 Powder
Because of renements in powder application techniques and an increase in polymers available in powder form, use of powder as a thermal binder is now a viable process. Polyester, polyamide, polypropylene, and polyethylene are available in a variety of mesh sizes. The preferred method of bonding is radiant heat followed by cold calendering. Products made with powder binders contain 10 to 20% binder. They have a soft hand and are porous. Possible markets are diaper top sheets, sanitary napkins, mattress pads, wipes, and medical-surgical products. Powder binders give characteristics and properties similar to crystalline copolymer bers. Advantages of using powder over crystalline copolymer bers are economies of powder versus ber and versatility of binder selection. Disadvantages are less efcient application methods of powder versus ber and permanence of location of powder once applied.

98.2.4 Netting
The netting type of binder is applied to a lightly prebonded web using a hot calender. The effect achieved is similar to that of spot or pattern bonding and is one-sided. Low or high amounts of binder

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can be deposited at the patterned bond points, depending on the netting pattern. The main advantage of this process is that it can be off machine; it is relatively simple and requires no large outlay for processing equipment.

98.2.5 Film
The lm is combined with a web containing, a carrier ber and an amorphous binder ber in a hot calendaring operation. The end-product nonwoven is quite tough, very strong, very smooth on one side, and usually impermeable to vapor or liquid.

98.2.6 Hot Melt


Hot-melt thermal bonding is accomplished by applying a hot melt to a lightly prebonded web. The hot melt can be applied to the web directly from a patterned hot melt applicator roll or else cast on release paper and applied in a separate step in transfer printing or bonding equipment. Characteristics and properties of a nonwoven made in this manner resemble those of one made using a crystalline copolymer binder ber or plastic netting as the binder. Advantages of using this binder are the capability of applying special binder formulations in unique binding patterns.

98.2.7 Solution
Solution binders and coating adhesives are available in both aqueous and organic solvent mediums. In nonwoven bonding the only solutions used are aqueous based, and these are selected only for very specic applications. Polyvinyl alcohol and some acrylics are used as prebinders or temporary binders for cellulose-based or berglass-based nonwovens when nal bonding cannot or should not be preformed at that particular stage of processing or when regular binders are needed but only in very small amounts. Water resistance can be imparted by adding a cross-linking agent such as melamine- or urea-formaldehyde resin to the polyvinyl alcohol formulation or using a cross-linking acrylic followed by curing after the product is dried.

Bibliography
Hoyle, A. G., Properties and characteristics of thermally bonded nonwovens, in TAPPI Nonwoven Division Workshop on Synthetic Fibers for Wet Systems and Thermal Bonding Applications, Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry, 1986, pp. 5154. Nonwovens Industry. Rodman Publications Inc., 26 Lake Street, P. O. Box 555, Ramsey, NJ 07446; phone (201) 8252552. Nonwovens World. 2700 Cumberland Parkway N.W., Suite 530, Atlanta, GA 30339; phone (404) 4323186. Textile World. McGraw-Hill Publications Company, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; phone (212) 3914570.

2006 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC