The medical market relies heavily on the nonwovens industry for medical textiles and that demand is increasing.
Currently, we are seeing a major shift from the use of reusable textiles to single-use disposables, which offer a soft, stretchable material that is absorbent and acts as a barrier to viruses, bacteria, and other transmittable particles.
The primary reason that nonwovens fabrics have been chosen as the preferred candidate for medical textiles is that various properties of the material can be tightly controlled to produce the right textile for a specific use. Properties that can be easily controlled include:
- Surface softness
- Ease of sterilization
In addition, nonwovens medical textiles are inexpensive and quick to produce, making mass production easy. This is particularly useful when demand is high.
Increasing demand for Medical Textiles
There has been a growing need for nonwovens medical textiles around the world in recent years. A significant factor in this rising need is the increasing rate at which we are experiencing outbreaks of infectious disease, including both known and new diseases. The current coronavirus outbreak is a prime example of this.
More than 20,000,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 900,000 people have died. These numbers are increasing daily as cases spread around the world. The result has been panic buying of face masks, causing a global mask shortage that isn’t expected to be resolved any time soon. And it’s not just face masks that are in short supply: according to the World Health Organization (WHO), all personal protective equipment worn by medical professionals is in short supply and governments and industry are asked to increase production by 40%.
With a growing, and at present, urgent need for nonwovens medical textiles, knowing how to mass produce the very best disposable textiles is critical. In order to accomplish this, it is important to understand the key characteristics of high-quality medical textiles.
Laminate key characteristics for Medical Textiles
When it comes to making the best nonwovens medical textiles, it is critical to start right from the beginning by choosing the best materials. These include:
- Drylaid – Natural or manmade fibers that are blended and carded to produce a strong isotropic web structure.
- Spunlaid – Strong material that can be used as thermal binding fibers, thus making it possible to produce the medical textile at the same time as producing the fibers. This makes spunlaid nonwovens production very economical.
The nonwoven material and a polyethylene film are then joined together using a hot melt adhesive with a full coating or multiline pattern to ensure good bonding and a high-quality composite.
Read our wiki on Nonwovens Lamination
The characteristics of a quality product include:
- High wet strength
- High shear strength
- Outstanding barrier properties
- Resistant to abrasion and tears
- Low odor
- Long shelf-life (3+ years)
- Meet medical regulatory compliance
Key challenges with Nonwovens Medical Textiles
Since the quality of medical textiles can literally mean the difference between life and death, their production must be tightly controlled. The primary challenges when making medical textiles are:
Adhesive distribution across the coating head – This may result in the uneven distribution of the adhesive, which can leave areas with no adhesive (causing a loose or leaky composite) or areas with too much adhesive (causing areas of the composite to be bulky and stiff).
Bleed-through – This happens when the adhesive bleeds through the medical textile as it is being applied. This can result in adhesive leaking through and contaminating machine parts and seepage into the nonwoven fibers.
Adhesive degradation – This is the degradation of the adhesive during application, which can compromise the quality of the medical textiles produced.
For more information on how to handle these three key challenges, see our article: 3 Main Process Challenges in Textile Backsheet Lamination (+ How to Solve Them).
Results and product applications
The high-quality production of medical textiles results in a composite material that has high breathability and absorbency and is effective at keeping out dangerous pathogens that can be transmitted through the air or via bodily fluids. These medical textiles can then be used for many different medical applications, such as:
- Surgical gowns
- Face masks
- Medical caps
- Shoe coverings
- Bed coverings
- Pillow coverings
Nonwovens medical textiles protect and save the lives of both patients and healthcare workers. Since they play such an important role, it is critical that they are made to the very highest standards. To accomplish that you must not only be aware of the most important characteristics of high-quality nonwovens medical textiles, but also the potential challenges faced during production. When you have full oversight of production, you can ensure the very best medical textiles for today’s demanding medical landscape.
If you are interested in pro-tips in nonwoven lamination process, you can download our free eBook 4 Essential Hacks for Your Lamination Process!