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Debra Cobb

Expert Opinion

20th May 2014, Atlanta, GA

American Ingenuity Sparkles at Techtextil/Texprocess NA

Although the North American version of Messe Frankfurt’s Techtextil is less intimidating than the original in Frankfurt, three days was not enough to thoroughly explore the exhibits and presentations at the show’s 11th edition in Atlanta May 13 – 15. Held in conjunction with the 2nd edition of Texprocess Americas and the composites show JEC Americas, the three filled the Georgia World Congress Center with some 754 exhibitors from 29 countries.

Messe Frankfurt's Techtextil NA and Texprocess Americas joined with JEC Americas to host some 754 exhibitors in Atlanta. Photo Messe Frankfurt.

The combined events brought together raw materials, equipment and technology suppliers, and niche start-ups in a collaborative atmosphere benefitting the technical textiles, sewn products, and composites industries. The international show included pavilions from Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal, China, and France; but it was impossible to ignore the enthusiasm in the Supply Chain USA area of Texprocess, which saw a 50% increase in exhibitors.

Supply Chain USA

The Supply Chain USA Pavilion was organized by the SEAMS, a Carolina-based organization focused on helping the manufacturing base in the US. Founded in 1967, the organization comprises 220 companies in 37 states involved in manufacturing sewn products. According to SEAMS executive director Sarah Friedman, “Our membership has come back in the past 4 – 5 years, and grew by 24% in 2013 alone. There is definitely a movement back to manufacturing in the US.”

The Supply Chain USA Pavilion drew crowds throughout the show.

While US government cutbacks have adversely affected military programs, US textile mills are finding additional business in technically-oriented markets such as active wear, team sports, uniforms, health and medical, safety apparel, and the growing area of energy and petrochemicals.

According to Contempora Fabrics’ president Ron Roach, “The budget cuts have hurt us in some degree, but synthetic knits for team sports and performance are big, and other segments are coming back now. We’ve learned to be faster and better, and we now have a unique opportunity within the region.”

Contempora Fabrics' performance jersey in cat/disperse polyester drew a good response.

Founded in 1899, North Carolina specialty yarn spinner Tuscarora is “growing by leaps and bounds” said merchandising director Kim Williams, with products such as ring spun heathers, mock twists, and slub yarns incorporating various blends of cotton, polyester, Modal, CRAiLAR flax, EcoSure, TransDRY® cotton, cationic fibres, and wool.

Tuscarora Yarns ring spins a variety of specialty yarns and is an important supplier to the American textile value chain.

Protection Plus Comfort

Comfort and appearance have become more important to American workers, according to Rich Lippert, director of business development for the protective market at GRTF (Glen Raven Technical Fabrics). Advising workers to “Get into your comfort zone,” the company’s GlenGuard® FR fabrics, woven with Kermel Softshield® aramid and modacrylic fibres, are among the industry’s lightest FR fabrics. The fabrics are solution-dyed for longevity, and feature a proprietary wicking finish.

Comfort also features in Mount Vernon FR’s AmTEX® TC woven sateens, oxfords, and denims of cotton and Tencel®, engineered with the formation of a durable flame-resistant polymer within the fabric. New versions add nylon for additional abrasion resistance, or spandex for stretch.

“While there is a perception that lighter weights are more comfortable, with the addition of Tencel® we achieved comfort without sacrificing weight,” explained Mount Vernon FR’s technical director Craig Tutterow. With 14 production facilities across the southern US, the company is vertically integrated with spinning, weaving, dyeing, and FR treating within its own facilities.

SSM Industries has developed a range of light weight, flame-resistant cotton knits. Photo DJC.

SSM Industries has developed a line of comfortable, light weight, FR-treated cotton knits called Pro-CFR®. The 6.25 oz knit has a 12 cal/cm2 arc rating, while lighter weights offer additional comfort features such as TransDRY® moisture management and antimicrobial technologies. Located in Tennessee, the company is a full service safety and protective fabric manufacturer, with knitting, weaving, dyeing, and finishing under one roof.

The Techtextil, Texprocess, and JEC exhibitions provided an eye-opening look at the innovative ideas being generated by the textile and sewn products industries in order to meet the challenges of rapidly-changing consumer demands and business conditions. Photo Messe Frankfurt.

Wool Goes Technical

With its no-melt, no-drip, odour-resistant qualities, wool is increasingly being specified for protective textiles and base layers. Wool, acrylic, performance polyesters, and flame-resistant fibres are the hallmark of National Spinning, which was found as a worsted wool spinner and dye house in 1921.

President Jim Booterbaugh was especially enthusiastic about the company’s FR blends of wool with PyroTex®, a German modified acrylic that is compliant with the Berry Amendment for use in US government products; and with Zoltek’s Pyron®, an oxidized polyacrylonitrile carbon fibre. “Everyone is trying to come up with the best FR blend,” he remarked. “My belief is that wool is going to somehow play into that.”

At the High Performance Division of Pharr Yarns, a 75-year old spinner based in North Carolina, technical fibres such as Kermel®, Nomex®, Kevlar®, Twaron, PBI®, Lenzing FR®, and the like, are blended with wool and other fibres to create the yarns used in much of the protective clothing made in the US.

Alamac's American Linen collection featured polyester blended with CRAiLAR flax. Photo DJC.

Wool is among the products in demand at 65-year old Alamac American Knits, with a full range of knitting capabilities including feeder and engineered stripes, mini-jacquards, double knits, fleeces, terries, and collars and welts, along with dyeing and finishing, all under one roof in North Carolina.

“People are trying to comprehend the fact that the supply chain is still here,” said Alamac president and CEO, Mark Cabral. “It’s not all about the price of the fabric. As a vertical mill we can offer a better lead time; and American yarns are helping to drive the renaissance.”

Disruptive Technologies

Industry-transforming technologies that evoke the response “That’s cool!” were on display at the Cool Zone pavilion, organized by technology facilitator and solution provider [TC]2. Robotic sewing machines, 3D body scanners, and cloud-based technologies are changing the way the industry manufactures, communicates, and interfaces with consumers.

For example, AM4U (Apparel Made for You) addresses the industry’s inventory glut with its demand-based manufacturing system. At the core of its new paradigm is Active Tunnel Infusion, a form of digital printing which uses physics rather than chemistry to permanently infuse solid or patterned colour into a synthetic fabric.

The system bombards the fabric with photons, causing the amorphous and crystalline zones to separate, so that the dye is taken into the fibre via capillary action. The fabric is permanently sealed, and the colour will not wash or even bleach out. The technology not only saves time, but eliminates the use of water and resulting effluents.

Another radical technology, APJeT Inc. could be “the next big thing in textiles,” according to sales and customer development director, Martha M. Emrich. Using atmospheric pressure plasma, the technology treats textile substrates with monomers to form a grafted polymer on the surface, creating a permanent finish.

APJeT is a new technology using plasma to bond finishes to textiles. Photo DJC.

Built in partnership with Morrison Textile Machinery, and currently housed in the College of Textiles at NC State University, the closed-loop system uses no water or heat to create repellent finishes on textiles of virtually any fibre, and no effluents are released. The application does not change the hand or colour of the fabric, or weaken the fibre. Down the road, the technology offers potential for the application of wicking, antimicrobial, and UV finishes as well.

Rising to the Challenge

“Textile manufacturers need to rethink and realize their products should offer more than one application,” challenged Bradley Seese, technical brand manager for Fiber & Yarn Products, at the Techtextil symposium on new fibre technologies. The Techtextil, Texprocess, and JEC exhibitions provided an eye-opening look at the innovative ideas being generated by the textile and sewn products industries in order to meet the challenges of rapidly-changing consumer demands and business conditions.

Techtextil attendees scrutinized new technologies for textiles and sewn products. Photo Messe Frankfurt.

The next Techtextil NA will be held in Houston, Texas June 2 – 4, 2015, in conjunction with JEC. Texprocess will rejoin them in Atlanta in 2016.

 

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EDITOR'S VIEWPOINT

Editors ViewPoint
Another great exhibition review from Debra. So much happening in US textiles at the moment.

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