First time ever machine washable & tumble dry merino wool fabric
The Textile Science and Technology Section, based at AgResearch Lincoln, received the inaugural Product Innovation and Commercialisation Award at the 86th Textile Institute World Conference in Hong Kong. The award, organised in conjunction with the Institute of Textiles and Clothing of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, recognises organisations that specialise in cutting-edge product design, development and commercialisation.
Lincoln based Senior Textile Scientist, Dr Surinder Tandon and his team, won the Award for the development of an environmentally friendly, natural machine washable and tumble dryable merino wool fabric, developed in a project funded by Australian Wool Innovation. The technology developed to make these Natural Easy Care (NEC) shirting, trousering and suiting fabrics does not use any chemical shrink-resist process for wool – something that the textile industry has been unable to achieve - until now.
AgResearch Textile Science and Technology Section Manager, Dr Peter Ingham, says while wool is globally desired as a premium apparel fabric for its superb breathability, comfort and drape, the “dry-clean only” aspect isn't quite so appealing. “So we have answered the call of today's modern suit wearer with the NEC fabric.” He points out that Dr Tandon and his team originally developed a lighter version of the suiting fabric for men's shirts and women's wear.
The comfort properties of these lighter weight fabrics are outstanding, particularly in hot conditions where wool's superior moisture vapour transfer and better drape combine to give a much “cooler” and less sweaty experience, which can now be combined with full non-chemical easy care properties.
He says the development of the NEC wool shirting, trousering and suiting fabric brings wool into a new area of the apparel market, which provides an opportunity to promote a new image for wool. “While there are many synthetic suit brands on the market that lay claim to being fully machine washable, 100% wool suits always had a drawback. So we have combined the positive laundering care aspects of synthetics with all the inherent comfort qualities of wool and developed a unique product.”
Dr Surinder Tandon – the scientist who headed the team that developed the NEC fabric - says another advantage of the product is that it's easy and cost-effective for the industry to adopt the technology. “The specially designed device used to create the yarn can be easily retro-fitted to an existing wool spinning frame and the technology is robust in terms of application and performance. NEC fabrics are given an improved durable worsted finish using standard worsted finishing machinery - and there's no cost for shrink-resist chemicals.”
Judging criteria were based, among others, on the significance of the technological advancement, the product's commercial success and market potential and the impact on the environment and society. The TextileInstitute represents most of the world's major textile industries with individual and corporate members in 80 countries. The aim of the Institute is to facilitate learning, recognise achievement, reward excellence and disseminate information.
AgResearch CEO, Dr Andrew West says this award confirms AgResearch's Textile Science & Technology Section's innovation leadership in the world of textiles. “The Textiles team in AgResearch at Lincoln is a valuable resource to the company and indeed New Zealand. They are recognised worldwide for their cutting-edge research and innovative developments, which validate wool's rightful place in the textiles market.”