With two full days, the IFAI’s Advanced Textiles Conference covered a lot of territory about new technologies and processes, business topics, markets, and sustainability issues. Sessions were well attended, with presenters fielding many questions from attendees. The interaction continued at two luncheon meetings that featured keynote addresses and at a casual reception for all participants.
Dina Dunn from marketing and communications company Blink and Denine Woodrow, D.P. Woodrow & Co. LLC, were the Tuesday luncheon speakers, presenting on the topic “Ingredient Branding: How to Effectively Push and Pull Ingredient Brands Through the Supply Chain.” Host brands, they said, want to create uniqueness, which is where ingredient branding can play an important role. The ingredient supplier needs to articulate the functional benefit of its product that will be central to the performance of the end product and will, therefore, differentiate the end product from its competitors.
NASA innovations become everyone’s
“Ninety percent of the space shuttle is covered with fabric,” said Brooks Kimmel, Abacus Technology Corp. technical training manager. Kimmel serves on NASA’s Safety and Mission Assurance Team and provided Wednesday’s luncheon address. He also noted that innovations with their origins in the space program frequently find their way into the consumer marketplace. In fact, the bill by which Congress first funded NASA stipulated that innovations must be available for all. “The catalyst for space is necessity,” he said, “[but] they are later used by society.” Examples in the textile world include:
- Materials developed for spacesuits are now used in apparel for race car drivers and in airline seat covers
- Triaxial fabrics derived from space shuttle pressure suits are used in inflatable equipment, life vests and aircraft evacuation slides
- Cooling apparel for consumer markets was developed from the liquid cooling system in space suits
Kimmel noted that there are “lots of missions now,” but they’re unmanned. There will be more manned missions in the future and a need for new materials—including those that better protect NASA workers on earth.
Above and below the surface
Track One sessions about “Advanced Modification of Textile Surfaces” included presentations on:
- A new technology developed by Celgard LLC that enables covalent attachment of dyes and finishes and other materials to synthetics, such as polyolefins and other polymers
- From Consolidated Pathways Inc., a new polymeric structure using a controlled release of silver ions for more efficient bacterial control on textiles (see “The polymer approach”)
- Burlington Lab’s EPA-approved No Fly Zone™ insect-repellent technology
- Polyolefin elastomers (POEs) from Dow Chemical Co. that can be RF welded
Track Two covered “Advanced Textiles Fundamentals,” which included an overview of fibers used in advanced textiles, how they’re made and how they acquire specific desirable properties. A session on textile recycling and sustainable yarns and fibers by Rick Otero, CEO of Martex Fiber, revealed how his company sources, sorts, machines (pulling the fabric back into fibers) and bales fabrics from many sources to create new, recycled fibers. “U.S. textile waste is about four billion pounds per year that goes into landfills,” he said. That’s about 70 lbs. per person. The company uses no dyes in creating 60 different colors; it just mixes the fibers of recycled, colored textiles.
“An Overview of the U.S. Smart and Interactive Fabrics Market,” by IFAI market research manager Jeff Rasmussen provided insights concerning smart fabric products used for military applications and in thermal protection, ballistic and impact-absorbing material for sports protection apparel, health monitoring and other applications. The worldwide market size in 2012 for smart and interactive fabric was about $1.3 billion; the 2012 U.S. market was about $300 million.
New developments: smart and beyond
Day two provided focused presentations on smart textiles, including auxetic engineering by Advanced Fabric Technologies (see “Auxetic advances”) and electroluminescent technology by ElastoLite®. (See “ElastoLite® enters online distribution network.”)
Adidas vice president of innovation, Qaizar Hassonjee, explained Adidas miCoach Elite System, which tracks athletes’ on-field data in real time. The device feeds important data, such as heart rate, acceleration, speed, distance and location to the coach to evaluate the performance and needs of each athlete on the team. The information can be transferred to the Cloud to do longer-term comparisons. Hassonjee stressed the importance of testing and retesting smart fabric products and making sure that wearables are “fit for use” with proper sizing and comfort.
Lucy Dunne, director of the Wearable Technology Lab at the University of Minnesota, discussed her lab’s research and testing of garment-integrated sensors. The lab examines in fine detail all the factors, “working on the best balance between comfort and accuracy for the garment’s purpose,” she said.
In afternoon sessions, Dr. D.P. Kakad presented “Simple, Smart, Short,” concerning the influence of the addition of Nanotalc on polyester polymer matrix, comparing properties such as tensile strength, elongation, moisture regain, gloss, dyeability, thermal stability and others. Kakad also mentioned product applications in textiles for sports, healthcare and other markets.
Dr. Sam Moore, managing director, Hohenstein Institute America Inc., explained the new sustainable textile production certification STeP from the International OEKO-TEX® Association. (See “Sustainability metrics.”)
Curtiss Burdette from Southern Weaving discussed “Improvements in Rope Performance Using Woven Technology,” comparing tests between woven and braided technologies that showed superior results for woven ropes.
Marco Scipioni, Ph.D., ParaSol Technologies LLC, completed the second day’s sessions with “The Future of Energy Fabrics.” Scipioni illustrated how the ParaSol technology has the potential to convert fabrics—woven or nonwoven—into active, electrical-energy sources by converting light into “a special kind of light,” he said.
Parasol fabrics can satisfy the power needs of small electronics, such as laptops, cell phones, LED lighting and even an energy-efficient refrigerator. Scipioni noted potential to supply military needs for safety and economic power supplies; 70 percent of tonnage shipped by the military is fuel, he said, which is very expensive.
Funding from the National Science Foundation in 2012 was used to improve the technology and make prototypes. The company hopes to commercialize its product soon.