Applied Extrusion Technologies Inc. said its Specialty Nets Division will enter markets for melt-blown, nonwoven fabrics by the end of the year.
AET will invest about $11 million in the program, said Mark Abrahams, division vice president and general manager. It has ordered dies, extrusion and calendering equipment to make nonwovens using technology licensed from the University of Tennessee and its own technology, Abrahams said from his division's Middletown, Del., head office.
AET said markets for melt-blown materials are growing among the division's filtration and medical customers. The Peabody, Mass., firm said the new technology fits well with its Plastinet specialty net fabrics and Delnet microporous film operations and will allow the firm to develop advanced composites based on the materials.
Abrahams said medical applications of such composites include masks, gowns, drapes and blood purification components. Filtration applications include air and water filters. He stressed AET will target high-value end uses and avoid commodity nonwoven markets such as paper substitutes.
``These advanced composite laminates represent the real growth opportunity in these markets, and this is certainly borne out in the patent activity in the past several years,'' Tim Cullen, business unit manager for the division, said in a news release. Abrahams said AET's Plastinet and Delnet products have been used by other firms as support media in composites but his firm has not been involved directly in nonwoven composites.
AET's Specialty Nets Division will install melt-blown capacity for making nonwovens as wide as 161/2 feet at Middletown. Abrahams said the division will upgrade a calender focusing on medical applications and it will install a new calender dedicated to filtration products.
The division recently moved its Plastinet operation from Salem, Mass., to Middletown and will install a research lab and pilot line to help product development. Abrahams said the Salem facility will continue to make industrial products and netting. He did not disclose the division's sales.