North Carolina State University (NC State) recently celebrated the grand opening of a new nonwovens facility on campus. Nonwovens have long-standing and wide-reaching roots in North Carolina. About 40 percent of the U.S. nonwovens industry is based in the state, reports Behnam Pourdeyhimi, executive director of the Nonwovens Institute at NC State.
The new manufacturing facility, however, is home to technology from around the globe. It utilizes spunbond machinery from Germany, a thermal calender from Austria, a hydroentangling system from France and a winder from Italy, boosted by bicomponent fiber technology from West Melbourne, Fla.
The Nonwovens Institute is also home to an academic program for the interdisciplinary study of engineered fabrics. Faculty from the Colleges of Textiles, Engineering and Natural Resources, along with colleagues from other universities, provide expertise in chemistry, mechanical and industrial engineering, bioengineering, chemical engineering, paper science and engineering, and fiber and polymer science.
The institute supported the work of 50 doctoral students last year across many programs at NC State, as well as partner institutions, both in the U.S. and U.K. During their time on campus, all nonwovens graduate students rub shoulders with academic and industry leaders and become familiar with advanced manufacturing facilities.
Pourdeyhimi cites that students recently were hired by Kimberly Clark, 3M, Freudenberg and others. Those companies are among the 68 industry partners in the Nonwovens Institute. The new facility will provide additional space where industry partners can test-manufacture and refine products before bringing them to market.
Research and development at the Nonwovens Institute has generated 80 U.S. and international patents. “We create not only jobs, but new industries,” Pourdeyhimi says. “We make things that haven’t existed.”
The nonwovens industry touches all 100 of the North Carolina’s counties. A Washington County Flanders plant manufactures HVAC filters for clean rooms. The company creates the filters and makes shells and housing for its products. Other examples include Freudenberg Performance Materials in Durham and Berry Global in Benson, according to NC State media information.