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Update March12


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LIFE Project Number


Report of activities

Reporting Date



New absorbing materials and technologies for feminine hygiene products with reduced waste (Sustabs).



1.    Executive summary

1.1. General progress.

Overall, in the first six months, the Sustabs project has got a timely Phase 1 implementation, putting in place all the needed steps of Pilot Demonstration of the multilayer structure. The Project team has been formed with adequate skills to contribute to the project and on board the team members assigning Roles & Responsibilities and giving clear project objectives.

Dissemination and Networking activities have also been identified.

On the actual technology development, the team has developed absorbent core designs for handling biological fluids, with the following principles:

(i)           reduce material usage of about 10-15% versus current absorbent structures of market products;

(ii)          design thinner absorbent structures enabling 10% reduction in packaging material usage and potential reduction in transport (objectives is 5% reduction);

(iii)         feasibility of the new absorbent structure designs on a industrial process which maintains at least current throughput level.

The prototypes have been realized at the prototyping facility in Oct-Nov 11 timeframe. We have conducted an experimental trial to learn and understand the Process to make prototypes for specific core structure handling human fluids.

Enhanced multi-layer structure description

The new absorbent core comprises 2 substrate layers entrapping a discontinuous layer of absorbent polymer material particulates  The discontinuous layer of absorbent material comprises a layer of thermoplastic material in partial contact with the surfaces of the substrate layers.
The layer of absorbent polymer material is distributed over the substrate layer with uniform or non uniform basis weight over the area interested by the distribution.

The layer of thermoplastic material is made of hot melt adhesive that serves to immobilize the absorbent polymer material. The adhesive is a fiberized hot melt adhesive, i.e., being provided in fibres as a fibrous layer. The hot melt adhesive is in contact with the absorbent polymer material and with the substrate layer. 

In this structure the absorbent polymer material layer is provided as a discontinuous layer, a layer of adhesive is laid down onto the layer of absorbent polymer material such that the adhesive layer is in contact with the layer of absorbent polymer material and with the substrate layer. This imparts an essentially three-dimensional structure to the fibrous layer of hot melt adhesive which in itself is a two-dimensional structure of relatively small thickness (in z-direction), as compared to the extension in x- and y-direction.

New Absorbent Core Process

We have analyzed and prototyped at test stand the process for creating the new core, which comprises the following steps:

     providing a substrate material

     depositing absorbent material onto the substrate material in a pattern

     fiberizing a hot melt adhesive onto the substrate material and the absorbent material.

Specifically the absorbent core is laid down onto a drum, which presents an uneven surface. In a first process step the substrate layer is laid on to the uneven surface. By using a vacuum means, the substrate layer material will follow the contours of the uneven surface and thereby the substrate layer material will assume a mountain and valley shape. Onto this substrate layer absorbent polymeric material is disposed. The absorbent polymer material will accumulate in the valleys presented by the substrate layer.

In a further process step a hot melt adhesive is placed onto the absorbent polymer material applied by a nozzle system. The nozzle system provides a relatively thin but wide curtain of adhesive. This curtain of adhesive is than placed onto the substrate layer and the absorbent polymer material.

In a further process step a cover layer is placed upon the substrate layer, the absorbent polymer material and the hot melt adhesive layer.


1.2. Assessment as to whether the project objectives and work plan are still viable.

The project objective to demonstrate the pre-industrial feasibility of new Fem Hygiene product absorbent structures reducing environmental impact is fully on track. We have broaden the project to develop core structure designed to cope with various human fluids. The new designed absorbent structures showed to meet the target to reduce 10-20% of total material usage and showed to be feasible at prototyping test stand work.     


2     Technical part

Project Background. Demonstrate that actions for mitigating the environmental impact in the absorbent products for feminine hygiene sector can be developed through a combination of eco-design technologies, engineering optimization and integration of absorbents materials. Based on previous scientific research and laboratory experiments, it is possible to combine and upscale the new technologies for the material and the manufacturing process to a pre-industrial scale. The project will demonstrate the feasibility to produce a new absorbent core for a specific feminine hygiene product, designing a fully new multilayer concept, targeting 20-30% material usage reduction, a saving of 10% tCO2eq/yr per year and an overall waste prevention. The project will have an impact on the industry of disposal absorbents, by demonstrating the environmental advantages and economical benefit of the new absorbing core technology.


2.1 Actions

2.1.1    Action 1. Project Management.

(i)           Established Fem Hygiene Technology Project Team.  Defined Project Team with clear membership, roles & responsibilities.

(ii)          Organized kick off meeting with Project Monitor to share/concur project objectives, team membership, deliverables and timesheet system.

(iii)         Scouted for potential technical project collaboration areas with external partners.

(iv)         Planned team activities for designing the multi-layers absorbent structure, lab assessment of superabsorbent materials and first prototyping making.

(v)          Planned dissemination activities with Dissemination.

All these sub-actions have enabled a full operational team, overcoming the issues of two team members leaving and moving to other assignments in the Company, not functional to the scope of Sustabs project.   

2.1.2    Action 2.  Project Monitoring.

(i)           We have implemented an internal monitoring protocol defining key items to be measured and related indicators. The monitor protocol matrix includes: (a) product design and optimization actions; (b) pilot line upgrade and process optimization actions; (c) multi-layer absorbent structure prototypes and test actions; (d) accomplishment of expected technical and environmental objectives; (e) dissemination and networking actions.

(ii)          Monitoring of product designs. Several multi-layers absorbent structures have been designed, prototyped on a small base and assessed in the lab for their fluid handling behaviour mimicking human fluids.

(iii)         Monitoring of accomplishment of technical and environmental results. Laboratory results for these absorbent structures have been generated and data analysis is undergoing. The newly designed absorbent structure make use of at least 10% less materials versus traditional structures.

(iv)        Monitoring of pilot line and process definition. Absorbent Core prototypes have been executed at Pilot Line test stand. Process/Engineering experts have been engaged to analyse and study the industrial feasibility of the new absorbent structure designs.

2.1.3    Action 3.  Enhancement of the multilayer structure material properties, functionality and integration.

(i)           Designed and prototypes several options of the enhanced absorbent structure. Preliminary assessment shows a saving of about 10% materials.

(ii)          Performed a preliminary study of the Fem Hygiene multi-layer absorbent structure concept with fluids. Preliminary results show performance in line or improved vs. current absorbency structure.

(iii)         Defined key fluid handling attributes to measure target performance of the multi-layer core structure. Results expect to be predictive of consumer response.

2.1.4    Action 4. Upgrading and fine-tuning of the production process and equipment for the multi-layer structure.

(i)           Defined test stand equipment for making prototyping for screener of the optimal multi-layer absorbent structure. Test stand equipment will be the base to design/upgrade the equipment to make the absorbent structure.

(ii)          Conducted experimental process trials at pilot plant to define  preliminary process parameters for Process / Engineering study

2.1.5    Action 6. Optimization of the menses specific superabsorbent material its production and application

(i)           Defined preliminary material specifications for optimal absorption of menses fluid.

(ii)          Performed lab fluid handling assessment of new SAP samples formulated for menses absorption. First Results show promising performance in line or improved versus current market SAP material.

(iii)         Material prototypes properties have the potential to lead to 15% SAP superabsorbent usage reduction.


2.2 Envisaged progress until next report.

Priorities and focus of the next months activities and deliverables will be:

(a)  Action 3: identify lead option of the enhanced multi-layer absorbent structure via completion of the lab fluid handling. The lead option will be then fully validated via consumer testing on final product.

(b)  Action 4: Completion of the feasibility process study for the pre-industrialization of the absorbent structure and definition of the required equipments. 

(c)  Action 5: Start production of prototypes on the pilot line and related performance assessment

(d)  Action 6: Complete assessment of new generation of superabsorbent materials for its efficacy to absorb menses and urine. Identify lead for pre-industrialization.


Sustabs Test Stand trial


I.            Conclusions: 

         The new Process unit was able to successfully deliver all Sustabs options that met the formula variable and attribute targets at line speed

         Test bonding strength data suggests that there is a potential to lower the glue basis weight


II.          Background:

         Sustabs core making EO was executed in December 2011 to generate prototypes, which will be used for placing consumer tests.

         A total of 8 options were delivered which include two different SAP types and basis weights, two different top layer

          This summary report mainly highlights the QA test methods data collected for all the options made.


III.        Objective:

         Conduct lab tests and check to see if all the options made meet formula variable and attribute targets as specified by test methods


IV.         Approach:

         Execute test using the new process unit on Test Stand to deliver different options for Sustabs CORE;

         Analyze 5 samples for each option for each test to gather relevant data

V.           Results:


VI.         Observations:

         The new process unit was able to successfully deliver all core options that met the formula variable and attribute targets at line speed

         The bonding strength for all options was observed to be much higher than the lower limit which indicates a potential to further lower the glue basis weight


VII.       Next Steps:

1) Analyze physical and functional characteristics of COREs within product mockups and finalize options to be placed for consumer testing



SUSTABS  Test Dec 11




05-16 December 2011











Option a

Option b

Option c

Option d

Top Layer

NW a

NW b

NW a

NW b

SAP type





SAP bw (gsm)





Bottom Layer





Core Total weight (g)




















core Thickness (mm)

























Lower limit















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