The German lower Rhine area and its textile significance
By Virginia F. Bodmer-Altura
The German lower Rhine area has a historic textile tradition and nowadays it is a cluster for textile technology enhancement, textile machinery innovation and high-tech fabrics including Technical Textiles. Further a place for textile and textile machinery education both on the professional and engineering level. TextileFuture has been visiting this textile cluster and will bring some knowledge to our readers
1200 years ago, in 812 the city of Aachen has been mentioned for the first time as a manufacturing site for fabrics and over the years it became the centre of the German wool industry. Today it is the home of RWTA the Aachen University and ITA the Institute of Textile Technology and the chair of Textile Engineering. The later participates also in the Cluster of Excellence “Integrative Production Technology for High Wage Countries” (second edition). The first edition of TeXellence, a network of competence and innovation of textiles and textile machinery, an initiative of the Lower Rhine, is located in the Mönchengladbach area, the home of the University of Applied Sciences, as well as of important textile machinery manufacturers and textile and clothing companies. Applied Sciences means also that students are working in companies and are taking courses at the University, gaining at the same time practical and theoretically applied knowhow, to enable them to become experts in various textile fields. The area of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia represents the number one in view to the textile and clothing industry in Germany and where almost one third of the companies and their employees are located. It is within this German state that around 30 % of the German textiles. Clothing sales are generated with an export share of around 40 %. Around half of the sales cater to Technical Textile underlining the important innovative spirit of the companies.
The TeXellence initiative
With the TeXellence initiative, it was the first time ever, that textile relevant companies were uniting and creating useful projects to enhance tradition, innovation and creativity and to launch regional interest by opening the doors of the participating companies to the public, and especially to young people looking for career possibilities. The University of Mönchengladbach initiated also a recruiting and innovation exhibition for the textile and clothing industry. Further the economic promotion agencies of Mönchengladbach and Krefeld (there is also a weaving school) and the Association of the Rhine Textile Industry were participating in TeXellence.
The industrial members of TeXellence can be had from the following Table
Apart from the participating members there was also public funding involved, by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as the German government. The funding has come to an end in spring of 2012, and another future initiative is in discussion. The targets of TeXellence was to form a Think Tank, to establish a Cluster Management and accompanied by marketing measures. The Think Tank should improve R&D efforts, with a weight on energy, colour, surfaces, RFID technology and globalisation. The Cluster Management was to form a network, to develop the steering and organisation of the network, to identify synergies through innovative projects exceeding the textile, clothing and textile machinery industries, to establish business relationships, to secure and extend jobs, and to establish an exchange of opinions and results. Marketing measures were defined and initiated to give the textile industry of the Lower Rhine an impetus and profile, to upgrade the image of the textile region and to market this textile region and to support an innovative culture with a high R&D share and to place the textile competence region internationally.
There were many activities surrounding successfully TeXellence. In November 2009 the first network meeting was arranged to be followed by another in June of 2010. A fashion show was presented at the occasion of the CDP fair in Düsseldorf with a great media follow-up. Various strategy meetings and workshops took place, as well as several excursions with students. An extensive documentation was established and the open door meetings were organised, a career guide established, as well as a magazine for textile students. In 2010 the 4th Business Forum took place at the University of Mönchengladbach (covering all textile relevant areas and closely knitted to the regional industry), and on the subject of corporate social responsibility, with a gathering of 80 participants. TeXellence was present at important fairs/conferences such as IMB Select, Techtextil and Techprocess and Home Textiles in Frankfurt, the Hannover Fair, the International Textile Conference Aachen and the Future Conference in Stuttgart, and of course ITMA in Barcelona, including a media event und students visiting. An Atlas of Competence has been established. And from 2009 to 2012 also a special event “Mönchengladbach is clothing – go textile” was organised to interest new students to the University of Mönchengladbach. There was also a competition initiated on the cluster of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Think Tank led to technological enhancement of the specified R&D projects initiated. Also the competences of the participant companies were newly defined. All in all, TeXellence has been a total success and it was for the first time ever that all textile relevant companies and some textile machinery manufacturers of the area entered not only a fruitful dialogue at one table, but these defined also new R&D projects with respective results. TeXellence created also a new understanding among the participating companies, their specific problems, innovations and solutions. The Mönchengladbach University could considerably increase the number of students, also from far away nations and extended the range of departments and also the Textile and Clothing Research Institute was provided with interesting and lucrative projects. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has 15 technical universities and better than 13000 students from all continents.
The participating textile machinery companies
The five regionally headquartered world leading textile machinery manufacturers, Trützschler, Monforts, Oerlikon (has lately moved its headquarters to Shanghai, China) and WUMAG Texroll as well as Dahmen are among the leading companies in their fields and have been very active in TeXellence. TextileFuture has been visiting Trützschler (machines, installations and accessories for spinning preparation and the nonwovens industry), Monforts (machines for dyeing, finishing of woven and knitted fabrics) and WUMAG (rolls, cylinders) and was impressed by the excellence of production facilities, some of them with in-house developments, the state-of-the-art organisation and the perfect products to meet global customer requirements. A member of TeXellence was also Dahmen Textilmaschinen (machines for the manufacturing of mattresses, bedding, upholstery and the clothing industry). All of these textile machinery manufacturers are dedicated to their regional origin in regard to R&D, sub-suppliers and keep their core know how in the region and manufacture their noble parts in Germany.
Since our visit there was a change in ownership at Monforts belonging now to the Fong Group and in turn to the state owned China Hi-Tech Group, and Trützschler has entered a development cooperation for a new type of combing machine with Japanese Toyota Industries Corporation.
The ITA Institute in Aachen
The ITA Institute for Textile Technology at RWTH Aachen University is covering the following technological research areas: Filament yarn technology, high module fibres, staple fibre yarns, knitting, broad weaving, narrow fabrics, reinforcing textiles, coating and manufacturing technologies. Its foremost competence lays in construction, process analysis, polymer analytics, simulation, automation, resource efficiency, quality management and textile economy. ITA organises also international conferences (see TextileFuture’s Event Calendar for details).
In the future there will be new fields of activities such as bio based fibre and resin materials, resin modification, prepreg – metal hybrid materials, smart textiles, textile reinforced concrete functionalisation and high temperature applications.
ITA is following through process chains of textiles, Technical Textiles, Nonwovens, textile performs, implants, smart textiles and interior textiles for various application areas and industries.
On December 7, 2012 a new Centre for High Performance Fibre Materials will be inaugurated and further enhance the research and applied activities of ITA.
TextileFuture is convinced that all the initiatives, R&D and the textile, clothing and textile machinery companies located in the Lower Rhine area, as well as the universities, all will continue to play a very important textile relevant role in Germany and will continue to be among the cutting-edge of their fields globally!