...sustainable development has become and will remain a global trend for the foreseeable future.
Gerard de Reuver, President and CEO of DSM Dyneema, talks about the global market for high-performance fibers, in an interview with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Ridaa Saiyed.
DSM Dyneema manufactures Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMwPE) products in the form of fiber, tape and uni-directional (UD) sheets. It is a part of DSM Group, a renowned producer in life science and materials science products. It employs 22,000 people and its approximate annual revenue is 9 billion Euros.
Gerard de Reuver is the President and CEO of DSM Dyneema since April 2010. He joined DSM group as President of DSM Anti Infectives in 2002. Before this, he was holding non-executive positions in a number of Biotec and life science companies in UK and Germany. He started his career with the Swedish Pharmacia Biotechnology and started his own company in 1985. He studied Pharmacology / Physiology and Biology in Utrecht.
How do high-performance (HP) fibers differ from various other fibers used in the textile industry? What significant changes have taken place in this segment over the years?
Yes they do, the newer HP fibers are designed for various tasks in specific other fields e.g in bullet resistant vests (ballistics), ropes (bending fatique) or gloves (cut resistancy), etc. We have found that these same performance advantages in other fields could be applied in apparel as well.
The Fashion industry has been around for decades and nylon and polyester fibers are the most commonly used. However, during the last few years a number of factors have started to affect this. These factors include sustainability, protection level and safety standards. They play a more significant role, which has opened the door for high performance materials.
Can you give us a broad idea about the different uses and applications of high-performance fibers across various industries?
Ultra High Molecular weight PolyEthylene (UHMwPE) fiber from DSM branded as Dyneema, is light enough to float on water but is also 15 times stronger than quality steel and up to 40% stronger than aramid fibers. It is used in diverse applications including bullet-resistant armour used for vehicles, bullet resistant vests and helmets for personal protection, clothing, ropes, cables and (fish) nets and safety gloves.
In which areas and sectors do you expect an increase in demand for high-performance fibers in the coming years? Why?
Expanding across geographies, in many cases requires an investment from both us and our customers. The consequence, and it’s a good consequence, is that we forge a sustainable rather than transactional relationship. We see opportunities especially in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India & China), but we are looking further too, at Turkey, Indonesia, and the Asean countries.
Although our production process is one of the best in the world – and our fiber provides the best performance, compared to nylon, steel and other high performing fibers, there are still many opportunities for improvement and step-change innovation. A key example is the breakthrough of Dyneema Max Technology which completely redefines the material’s already exceptional performance in deep sea mooring. However, it also brings added value to lines for the offshore, maritime & sailing industry.
What proportion of high-performance fibers are used in the apparel industry and do you expect this demand to go up? Give reasons.
The market for functional fibers in apparel is huge. We currently have our first success in Levi jeans and as you can imagine the application can be expanded easily into many different other brands and designs. With demand on the increase, it will be key to monitor and control the quality in the market. Although we are relative newcomers to the apparel industry, we understand the value of innovation and the need to create differentiation. For this reason, we have taken extraordinary measures to manage access to our technology and to our brand name.
At what rate is the demand for high-performance fibers and life protection materials growing at present? Do you expect the growth rate to continue at the same level?
The market is presently growing with 3-5 % on a year to year basis. We expect (with the advantages of light weight and premium ballistic performance) to grow double digit the coming years.
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