India's "people's Car" Opens Door to Expand Opportunities for Non Wovens

When Tata Motors unveiled its Nano car at India’s Delhi Motor Show last month, the people clamored onto the show floor to get a glimpse of what had become known as the peoples car. Tata which plans to sell the car for a mere 100,000 rupees or approximately $2500 has caused a whirlwind in this country of 1.1 billion people. With only seven of every 1000 people owning a car in India, this price has made it affordable to a larger portion of the population.

As always, when a new product opens to great customer interest, competitors strive to recreate the same product to cash in on its success. One of the biggest challenges is to streamline the manufacturing of the car as Tata Motors has done. One area of interest may be nonwovens and how they can play a role in this process.

Nonwoven fabrics are broadly defined as sheet or web structures bonded together by entangling fiber or filaments (and by perforating films) mechanically, thermally or chemically. They are flat, porous sheets that are made directly from separate fibers or from molten plastic or plastic film. They are not made by weaving or knitting and do not require converting the fibers to yarn.

The automotive market is one of the largest durable markets for nonwovens. Nonwovens can be found in over 40 automotive parts: headliners, hoodliner, trunk, insulation, door, seats, packaging trays, cabin air filters, floor carpeting, and other non-interior components such as gaskets, seals and battery separators.

INDA estimates that nonwoven materials consumed in India averages about 13-18 square meters per vehicle. Indias four-wheeled vehicle production doubled in the five year period from 850, 300 units in 2001 to almost 1.8 million units in 2006. The release of the nano will surely increase these numbers dramatically.

There are numerous advantages that nonwovens hold over woven or knit fabrics: nonwovens are easily customized, attractive, durable and cost effective.

Easily customized

Engineered nonwoven fabrics can be molded and contoured to fit virtually any interior, trim or other complex surface. Producers can also tailor materials’ thickness, rigidity and fiber makeup for the most demanding requirements of vehicle manufacturers.

As the time a driver spends in their vehicles increases, consumer comfort has become imperative. Nonwovens used as acoustics have helped drown out noise within a vehicle, thus making for a quieter ride. Acoustical insulation is an area that is seeing many enhancements as automotive manufacturers strive to meet the needs of their consumers.

Attractive

Since engineered nonwoven fabrics can be used throughout the vehicle, they offer superior color and texture matches. And when colorant is incorporated into fibers during formation production, they are highly resistant to color fading and rub-off. In addition, these materials provide a more uniform draw across the length and width of carpet than do woven materials, resulting in a more “uniform” appearance.

Durable

Relative to their weight, engineered nonwoven fabrics can be designed to be stronger than comparable materials. They can also be designed to be extremely abrasion- and heat-resistant.

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