News Round-up Part II

News Round-up Part II

The second TextileFuture News Round-up deals with textile relevant innovations.

Smart textiles from 3D printing and Graphene

250 years after Manchester created the first industrial revolution in textiles it is happening again, but this time instead of coal and steam, 3D Printing is driving this new mass production industry

Manchester based Tamicare has spent the past decade developing and patenting a unique system to mass produce 3D printed textiles, and their first production lineTamicare capable of producing up to three million items a year has just gone into operation. The system virtually eliminates waste, and uses environmentally friendly recyclable materials.

Company founder and CEO Tamar Giloh explained: “Our Cosyflex® production system allows 3D printing to be used for mass production for the first time ever. Instead of creating items one at a time, Cosyflex® enables high volume high density production from a small footprint at costs far below traditional manufacturing processes.” The company is already attracting attention from major brands who like the idea of being able to print an entire garment or shoe upper in a single process. CTO and co-inventor of the technology Ehud Giloh explained that “sports shoes can require over a hundred individual operations during manufacturing, but Cosyflex® reduces this to three. The same is true for many other complex designs. This allows companies to produce in one location what previously required a complex global supply chain”.

After signing a multi million dollar agreement with a major sportswear brand the company is now setting its sights on the wearables market. Many current smart textile applications require conductive fibres to be woven into the material or applied to the surface of a finished garment. Cosyflex® allows sensors and wiring to be printed along with the the rest of the garment in a single process. This helps realise a long held dream in the world of smart textiles, where the garment is the device. To assist with this effort Tamicare is working with technology entrepreneur Tim Harper whose background in graphene, smart textiles and medical devices is helping Tamicare open up new markets. Initial work on printing graphene has shown that it is a highly promising material for applications ranging from medical and fitness monitoring through to smart bandages. Tim Harper commented that”the Cosyflex® system builds a garment layer by layer. Any one of those layers can be textile, polymer, latex or printed electronics allowing us complete freedom in the way we design smart textiles.”

The addition of graphene inks to the manufacturing process enables the creation of smart textiles and wearable electronics allowing the company to address new and emerging markets in fashion and health. The incorporation of graphene into polymers also allows the creation of high strength lightweight materials by strengthening the entire product or certain sections, with applications in footwear and personal protection equipment.

More information can be found in the IDTechex report Wearable Technology 2015-2025: Technologies, Markets, Forecasts on E-textiles, wearable electronics, medical diagnostics/telemedicine, smart glasses, smart wristbands and more. Another occasion to get acquainted with new trends will be at Printed Electronics Europe 2016 on April 27-28, 2016 in Berlin, Germany hosted by IDTechEx.


BCI continues to spread its footprint as global brands join in

As Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer for Ikea, cotton was contributing most negatively to the company’s overall carbon footprint. However, years of efforts to implement grassroots advocacy and educating its primary cotton farmers to embrace the Better Cotton Standard are now showing results with some witnessing reductions in water and fertilizer usage of up to 50 %, while yields for many have increased by 5 % to 15 %

The motive behind Better Cotton Initiative’s (BCI) is to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, for the environment it grows in and for the sector’s future. Many leading brands such as Ikea, Adidas, Gap and H&M joined the initiative to support sustainable growing practices that rely on less water, fertilisers and pesticides, among other things. However, Ikea was the only brand that succeeded in its commitment to sourcing 100 % of its cotton from BCI sourcesIKEA by 2015.

Ikea implements its promise to source ‘Better Cotton’

Ikea requires 0.7 % of the world’s cotton supply for its sofa, upholstery and towels and all the cotton sourced by this Scandinavian company now comes from famers working in collaboration with the Better Cotton Initiative.

As Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer for Ikea, cotton was contributing most negatively to the company’s overall carbon footprint. However, years of efforts to implement grassroots advocacy and educating its primary cotton farmers to embrace the Better Cotton Standard are now showing results with some witnessing reductions in water and fertilizer usage of up to 50 %, while yields for many have increased by 5 % to 15 %.

Ikea, in its efforts to reduce carbon footprint, started working closely with its supply-chain partners to reach individual farmers and switched cotton procurement to sustainable cotton sources, which created a market for sustainable growers. Howard said that the response was most positive in South Asia. The world’s largest home furnishing company sources most of its cotton from India, Pakistan, Turkey, China, Brazil and the United States. About 5 % of the supply comes from US sources, according to Ikea.

Efforts continue to further the Better Cotton cause

While the company has succeeded in achieving its initial goal, it will continue to take initiatives to increase the sustainable cotton production. In its aim to save water, the company supports drip irrigation techniques since they help in bringing down the amount of water sprayed onto soil where no crops are planted. According to Howard, Ikea is also long at diversifying the fibers it uses for textiles, both through recycling of previously used material and by increasing the ways in which it uses hemp and flax.

According to BCI, more than 25 million tons of cotton is produced annually. As of last year, about 7.6 % of that amount was produced using farming methods that met the Better Cotton Standard. As of 2014, more than 1.2 million small farming operations have embraced the initiative in 20 countries, which was ahead of schedule. By 2020, the target is 30 % of global production and five million farmers.

Among the leading apparel players committed to Better Cotton Initiative, Adidas Group aims to achieve its 100 % Better Cotton goal by 2018. In 2014, the company sourced about 30 % of its cotton fibre through BCI sources. H&M expects to reach its 100 % commitment by 2020 and as of 2014, 21.2 % of the cotton in products sold by the Swedish clothing retailer were organic, recycled or grown via BCI production methods.

Levi Strauss & Co is looking forward to achieving 75 % by 2020; as of April, the denim giant had reached 6 %. Whereas Marks & Spencer with a goal to reach 70 % Better Cotton by 2020; has said that one-third of its cotton comes from BCI, organic, recycle or Fair Trade sources. While Nike’s target was to source 100 % Better Cotton by 2020; as of a 2014 update, the company said it may take longer than expected to transition its cotton sources.


New Digital Printing Innovation presented by DyStar® and ZIMMER AUSTRIA

DyStar and Zimmer Austria presented the most recent innovations in the digital printing market already at ITMA Milan.

The digital printing market has developed a great deal since the last ITMA in 2011. Innovations in the digital printer and print-head technology drove the transformation into an upscale industrial digital printing production.

New inks must meet these new requirements. They need tighter drop forming performance, longer open time, improved stress resistance, higher colour strength, improved robustness and, of course, reliable eco performance and high fastness properties.

In response to the new industry standards, DyStar launched Jettex® 4.0 – the highest performing digital textile printing inks. The Jettex 4.0 ink ranges are available for all state-of-the-art and newly introduced print-heads.

DyStar´s new ranges of market leading, ultra-intense inks show improved longer life time and user friendly open time for the print-heads, with excellent robustness in processing. They also meet the most stringent ecological and fastness requirements.

All newly launched Jettex Black inks exceed current limits and are setting new industry benchmarks towards deepest blacks.

Thus far, none of the digital printing systems could fulfil the very high fastness requirements on inks in the home textile segment e.g. the very high fastness to light (especially in pale shades), high fastness to multiple washing and fastness to rubbing.

Based on their Indanthren® Vat dyes, DyStar developed Jettex Vat inks, the first industrialized vat inks on the market. Their high performance characteristics include:

–           High fastness to light, even in pale shades

–           High fastness to multiple washing

–           No crease markings like pigment prints

–           Good fastness to rubbing

–           Real, dark blacks compared to pigment prints

–           Vivid, brilliant shades

–           Excellent handle and drape of fabrics

The new Jettex Vat inks are the fit for the home textile market. The CMYK colour set is already available and DyStar will launch more shades in 2016 to offer a complete range to industries with high performance requirements.


German ITRS working group for digital printing and textile advertising technology with new goals

The newly elected board presents the new to be achieved goals in 2016.

Professional disposal of digital prints, flame retardant printed fabrics, the actual result and forecast for colours and varnishes, these were the topics among others theThe board of the German Digital Printing and Textile Advertising Technology in November 2015 newly elected board discussed on December 22, 2015 at the first board meeting.

This resulted in the arrangement of a future meeting with the branch group. Besides discussions there will be also presentations assisting vivid discussions in upcoming February 2016.

The section’s recommendation “Loads due to wind / suction forces on the border area of advertising banners have to be considered in the manufacturing process” have been already published. These entail useful hints for the statistical evaluation of technical manufacturing to test the influencing powers on the manufacturing process, as well as the compliance with certain norms, etc. Other important subjects regarding the digital printing sectors will be found in further recommendations.

The board of the working group consists of Miachel Teckenberg, Sign-Ware GmbH & Co. KG, Sundern (Germany), he is Chairman and member of the ITRS board, is assisted by the board members Joachim Rees, Multi-Plot Eurpe GmbH, Bad Emstal, Germany and Stefan Altgassen, Verseidag-Indutex GmbH, Kredfeld, Germany.

ITRS entails around 180 enterprises divided in seven sector working groups, namely Building Technology, Digital Printing and Textile Advertising Technology, Shutters, Sun Protection Automation, Bags and Jute Fabrics, Sun Protection Internally, Textile Surfaces, Transport and Protection Technologies. The sector working group Digital Printing and Textile Technology was founded in 2008 and comprises of 35 member companies of digital printing, fabric suppliers and accessory enterprises.


US Baker Aerospace Tooling & Machining, Inc. adding 3D Metal Printing Capabilities

Established in 1992, Baker Aerospace Tooling & Machining, Inc. has held fast throughout growth periods and recessions alike to a rigorous and straightforward philosophy — continue to reinvest in technology. Capping what founders Scott and Kevin Baker are calling a “defining year,” the company with 200+ employees and 220,000 sq. ft. spanning four plants is announcing new investment in 3D metal printing production equipment and expertise

Specifically, the company is taking delivery of two M 290 direct metal printing systems from German market leader EOS (with North American offices in Novi, MI) this month along with newly hired additive manufacturing director Mike Misener, who already sees growth for the company in this technology.

“3D metal printing is redefining part processing and production efficiencies in a number of industries we’re already serving, like aerospace, aircraft, defence, automotive, medical, power generation, and mould tooling,” he says. “The impact for our customers will be positive and immediate, and more will follow.”

“We’ve always considered ourselves leaders in bringing technology to our customers,” says company founder Kevin Baker, who along with his brother Scott founded Baker Aerospace Tooling & Machining, Inc. With a foundation in manual metalworking, the company was one of the first in its area to embrace 5-axis CNC, simultaneous multi-axis milling, and 3D surface processing throughout its existence. “Our customers have always expected us to be at the tip of new technology,” he adds.

“There have always been chips on the floor here,” adds Scott Baker. “Through the blending of these technologies we’ve proven through our FDM (fused-deposition modelling) and 5-axis milling technologies that it takes both additive and subtractive manufacturing to make customers successful. In FDM, we bought our first machine and quickly added to it a total of five plastic printers, with more to be added in 2016. We forecast similar results going forward for our metal printing.”

Both company founders confirm that they had been investigating 3D metal printing for the last few years and decided the technology has progressed enough to where it has the most value for Baker customers. Specializing in complex, CNC-machined parts, 3D metal printing holds promise for unconstrained new thinking for design improvements and parts that cannot be made any other way.

Conformal cooling inserts for injection moulds are one example. “3D-printed metal inserts allow cooling lines to closely conform to part dimensions,” Misener says. “By eliminating hot spots, cooling cycles are cut dramatically. Moulds run faster, last longer, and produce more quality parts. That’s only one example where 3D metal printing is changing the business.”

With an operating philosophy of continued technology investment backed by a 20-plus year track record of growth, the company expects many innovations to follow from its Baker 3D Solutions Division for its customers. 


Sportswear Stores Struggle in Race to Reach Consumers in the US

Nike Inc.’s business is booming but mum-and-pop sneaker shops find little reason to cheer.

The world’s largest maker of sportswear and sneakers is making a renewed push to boost its direct-to-consumer sales that has smaller athletic retailers feeling squeezed. Independent sportswear companies, already struggling with the expansion of online sales and industry consolidation, now worry that they may not be able to compete toe-to-toe with vendors, such as Nike.

Results from Nike’s most recent quarter underscore the effort: Business on rose 50% for the period ended Nov. 30, while all direct sales jumped 26%. It is part of a larger endeavour by the company for direct sales to grow faster than wholesale. By 2020, Nike projects the segment will more than double to $16 billion and account for a third of revenue, up from roughly a fifth today.

“In this day and age, with all the athletic brands doing direct to consumer on their own websites, if customers ever start to view your store as just a place where they go and pick up an item, like they go to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread, your value in the equation is diminished,” said Brian Shelton, the founder and owner of Foothills Running Co., a specialty store in Cookeville, Tennessee.

It does not help specialty retailers that athletic gear is now everywhere. The so-called athleisure movement of wearing sporty clothes for non-sport activities means sportswear has moved beyond athletic retail to fashion boutiques and department stores. Traditional sellers of sports gear have to work harder to hold on to their customer base.

Shelton sees the competition creeping up around him, so he has cut back on ordering athletic apparel after visits to the local TJ Maxx showed the store “packed to the gills” with USD 30 running shirts. Sometimes, he said, he spots his regular customers, wearing models of running shoes in colours he knows his store never stocked.

Ray Pugsley, co-owner of the Potomac River Running chain in the Washington, D.C., area, said as Nike ramps up its direct-sales business, he is seeing other brands in the sportswear industry, like Brooks and Saucony, attempt to follow suit.

“They’ll tell us with a straight face that online sales really does not do that much volume, and it is to increase awareness of the brand, that we should not be afraid,” Pugsley said. “Time will tell whether that is a good story to put us at ease, or whether it could be the truth.”

The wholesale ordering process puts small businesses at a distinct disadvantage. Most of athletic retail operates on a future-ordering system, whereby retailers place bulk orders, for products from manufacturers like Nike, and upward of six months ahead of delivery. However, fashion tastes change quickly, and it is tougher for smaller stores to keep up, since changing orders is costly and larger chains like Foot Locker Inc. can afford to ship products directly from Nike or vendor’s factories to their own facilities.

“We have set our buying pattern by the year, and now they have colour changes every three months,” Pugsley added. “That causes heartburn for us because people do not realise how the product cycles work, and people say, ‘if they can get it, why can’t you get it?’”

Nike too has more work to do on the logistics front. Inventories for the most recent quarter rose 11%, largely driven by an 8% rise in wholesale products. On an earnings call with analysts last week, executives said Nike’s new North American distribution centre, opened in Memphis in June, is not fully online yet. As Nike continues to expand its direct sales and clear excess inventory, Chief Financial Officer Andrew Campion cautioned that margins might suffer in the short term.

Some smaller retailers have been hit hard by Nike’s logistics issues, saying that in recent months they have faced product-shipment delays. At least two retailers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they have seen their orders delayed for as many as a few weeks to up to three months, in some cases, with products never being delivered.

While such issues appear to be limited in nature, they underscore Nike’s immense presence in the athletic retail world. The company already controls roughly 60 % of the U.S. market for all athletic footwear, according to industry tracker SportsOneSource.

Some analysts are questioning whether Nike’s growth will come at the expense of other retailers. Asked about the impact of Nike’s strategy on Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., Chief Executive Ed Stack said, in a conference call last month, the concern is “overblown” and that retailers like Dick’s have an advantage in offering consumers a place to shop where they can view products from Nike alongside competing brands.

City Sports Inc., the Boston-based sportswear chain targeted at urban professionals, failed to find a buyer in its chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The chain cited increased competition in the athletic retail market as among the factors that led to its demise.

The closing of City Sports “was a wake up call,” said Mr. Shelton of Foothills Running. To differentiate himself from the bigger chains and online retailers, he is now working on rolling out a free next-day delivery service for loyal customers. At most other sites, he said, “they get free shipping, but it are not going to get here the next day.”


MAPEI Planiseal ESP – A Game-Changer in Controlling Moisture and pH Below Finished Flooring

Specified-SurfacesSpecified Surfaces announced the launch of Planiseal ESP in collaboration with MAPEI Americas today. Planiseal ESP is a water-based, single component coating that dramatically reduces surface preparation requirements and the associated costs to bring high moisture and pH slabs into compliance for floor covering installation

“With the introduction of MAPEI Planiseal ESP we are eliminating the need for shot blasting and other time and cost consuming mechanical surface profiling processes associated with ASTM F3010-13 products and requirements,” said James Longo, National Account Manager, Specified Surfaces. “ESP will handle most typical moisture-related project challenges, offering the floor covering installer a value engineered means to specification compliance with the ability to deliver clients a warrantable installation.”

Designed to cost-effectively manage moisture and alkalinity up to 95%RH (ASTM F2170) 12lbs MVER (ASTM F1869) and 12pH (ASTM F710), Planiseal ESP (Encapsulator, Sealer and pH blocker) will be distributed exclusively by Specified Surfaces.  “Traditionally, moisture mitigation has been an all or nothing process that includes shot blasting, epoxies and cementitious materials at an installed cost of three or four times that of employing Planiseal ESP,” Longo added.  “While the 3010-13 products definitely have their place, Planiseal ESP will offer significant cost savings by allowing direct application of standard water-based glues without the use of primers, patches, skims or levelers over the moisture control coating… giving floor covering installers greater control of costs, schedule and application.”

After their successful collaboration launching Planiseal MVR in 2010 through an exclusive distribution model (resulting in more than five million square feet of Planiseal MVR warranted projects worldwide), MAPEI and Specified Surfaces have jointly developed Planiseal ESP to go to market utilizing the same model. MAPEI Planiseal ESP is only available through Specified Surfaces to commercial flooring contractors for professional installation.

Founded in 1997, Specified Surfaces has distributed more than twenty million square feet of warranted moisture control systems to commercial contractors on projects in the US and abroad. Focusing primarily on institutional and commercial applications, Specified Surfaces works closely with Architects and Owners to develop warranted solutions to challenging flooring related design-build issues.  Recognized as an industry expert in moisture and related flooring conditions, Specified Surfaces is a member of NAFCD and registered AIA provider delivering educational CEU programs to the AD community as well as Trade Groups, General Contractors, Flooring Contractors and Engineers.   

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