ETP to seek develop new agrotextiles from renewable resources
Collaborative research is crucial to future success, and many nonwoven companies are actively involved in the projects of the European Technology Platform (ETP) for the Future of Textiles and Clothing.
Over 30 such projects have been announced by the ETP since its establishment in 2004 – representing a funding commitment of around €220 million, of which about €150 million is being contributed by the European Commission.
The importance of these projects has been recognised by EDANA, the joint-organiser of the leading nonwovens show, which next takes place at Palexpo Geneva from April 12-15 2011.
The Innovation Pavilion at the last INDEX show in 2008 highlighted a number of these projects, including Inteltex, of which EDANA is one of 22 partners from nine countries. This research programme, which has a budget of €7.3 million, is working on developing intelligent, multi-reactive textiles integrating carbon nano-filler-based conductive polymer composite (CPC) fibres.
The nonwovens industry's capacity for new development was also recognised at the 2008 event with the presentation of the INDEX Innovation Awards, which will again be a highlight of the 2011 event.
The largest current ETP project is the €24 million, four-year Leapfrog venture, which began in May 2005 and has involved 36 partners from across Europe – from research organisations and SMEs through to leading clothing brands Hugo Boss, Ermenegildo Zegna and La Redoute.
Leapfrog has explored the development of robotic manufacturing techniques, sophisticated 3D garment prototyping and advanced supply chain logistics, with a view to eventually providing Europe's textile industry with the means to combat the low labour costs for and assembling elsewhere in the world.
Nonwovens are widely employed as interlinings in garments, and a notable component of Leapfrog has been the development of a new automated joining method and equipment for their attachment to the fabric layers. This fusing method was specifically developed to provide both a greater flexibility in the design of garments and a higher degree of automation in the production process.
The main innovative feature of the new concept is the application of laser welding technologies to reliably and efficiently join several layers of interlinings, as well as the interlining and outer fabric.
Digital inkjet finishing is also likely to be carried out on interlinings in the future, and this has been explored within the €12.7 million Digitex project.
The coating, dosing and monitoring techniques explored by Digitex participating companies have included:
• Antibacterial functions
• Anti-static functions
• Chromic materials
• Controlled release systems for medicines, perfumes, and repellents
• Hydrophobic/hydrophilic materials
“Both pre and post finishing treatments will change in the near future as a result of new digital inkjet techniques,” predicts Gerrit Koele, co-ordinator of the project. “We are getting to the stage where we know what we can do in respect of the textile architecture and chemistry in order to add only the very exact amount that is required to achieve a desired effect. And that implies huge savings and economies of scale. It's no longer about simply and inexactly mixing up recipes in huge quantities.”