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We are working with global leaders for scaling up production
AMSilk GmbH, headquartered in Planegg near Munich in Germany, is a leading industrial supplier of silk biopolymers. Its high-performance biopolymers have the functional properties of the natural product they are based on and they are tough, lightweight, skin-friendly, sustainable, and biocompatible. Head of Fibre Business Severin Bertsch annotates key factors leading to a growing demand of biopolymers and discusses its important applications.
What is the size of the market for synthetic spider silk? At what rate is it growing?
I would think of this as a global textiles market rather than a specific market. Of the global textiles market, AMSilk of course focuses first on the premium sectors. The rate of growth of this market is higher than GDP growth.
What are the major growth drivers of this industry?
I see two major growth drivers: first, the natural growth of the global market that occurs simply due to an increase in the human population and increasing demand in developing countries, and second, the drive to deploy new innovative materials which are fulfilling increasing demand for environmentally friendly textiles.
Why is spider silk so sought after?
There are two elements here, the first being finding sustainable solutions for the textiles industry, yes, but also other industries. There is a lot of discussion around the negative impacts of petroleum-based products and the increasing problem of waste in the ocean, which are certainly big drivers for alternative, sustainable solutions. The second element is innovation as a general driver for bringing new products to the market combined with a market that is highly tech-driven. Biosteel, AM Silk's bionic high performance fibre-based goods are lighter, flexible, and can offer higher performance than traditional materials, and the concept of using bacteria to produce high levels of silk is a high-tech innovation to many consumers worldwide.
What is your USP and market share?
Speaking of USP, internally we use the phrase "bridging opposites," which is combining performance with biodegradability. When it comes to the market, we see ourselves as the only company reliably supplying these materials with strong international brand partners.
Which are your major markets (textile applications and geographically)?
Biosteel fibres have a unique combination of properties that makes them attractive to many industries for multiple applications. The sky's the limit. We are currently active in the sports performance, fashion, accessories, automotive and aircraft segments.
What is the production technique used for Biosteel? What type of silk do you use?
AMSilk produces its raw silk material at scale using bacterial fermentation techniques i.e., similar technologies that have been used to brew beer for thousands of years. We provide a sugar source to genetically modified E. coli bacteria, which then start to produce our silk material. We spray dry the material to produce 100 per cent silk in a white powder form, which is then put into a water-based solution. The liquid is then pushed through a spinneret to create the Biosteel filaments which form the base of the Biosteel fibre. The result is a sustainable product, consisting of amino acids and completely biodegradable. It's also vegan.
Please share details of the last two fiscal years and the expectations for the next two.
As we are privately held, we do not publish such data. However, I can share with you that in our cosmetics business in 2018 we sold products in multi-tonne volumes.
How is the biopolymers market developing? What can be the range of applications in future?
The most obvious applications are typical textile applications, but generally speaking the range of future applications is wide: apparel, automotive, workwear, building and manufacturing.
Which are some of the important partnerships on the cards?
Biosteel fibres have a unique combination of properties that make them attractive to many industries for multiple applications. We work with leading brands globally and across industries, from cosmetics and healthcare to apparel and aerospace. This includes Airbus to develop a composite material that could one day to a certain extent replace the airplane parts on the outside of airplanes, companies like Omega to create the world's first biofabricated product sold to markets worldwide, Adidas to create shoes made of Biosteel fibres, and more. We also have partners in the fashion and automobile industries.
What are the challenges that this industry faces?
The global textiles industry as a whole is facing the issue of environmental toxicity posed by petroleum-based materials, such as plastic in the oceans and other issues. For AMSilk specifically in this industry, the biggest challenge is the disparity between the huge market demand versus available capacities-which means we are continuously ramping up supply to meet market demand.
What new developments at AMSilk can be expected in the next 1-2 years?
We are working with global leaders for scaling up production. Other partnerships are going to be announced soon. It is a very exciting time for us. (HO)
Published on: 08/10/2019
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.
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