Is Foam Dyeing the Next Big Thing in Denim Manufacturing?
Representatives from across the apparel industry gathered at the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute of Texas Tech University for the reveal of a disruptive new foam-dyeing process for producing denim. Early stage investors — including Wrangler, Lee and the Walmart Foundation — were on hand for the event, hosted by Indigo Mill Designs (IMD).
“Wrangler advanced the commercialization of this technology because we believe it has the potential to dramatically improve the environmental impact of our industry and help us achieve our brand goals for water conservation,” said Wrangler brand president Tom Waldron.
Foam dyeing of yarn is a new technology that is environmentally friendly and cost effective. However, its use was previously limited in denim manufacturing because the indigo dye used to create the traditional blue color reacts to oxygen in the air.
IMD’s IndigoZERO™ solution, developed at Texas Tech University, overcomes this limitation, resulting in net reductions of water and energy usage of more than 90 percent. In addition, the foam-dyeing process reduces chemical usage while achieving the same or better dye quality compared to conventional processes.
“A large fabric mill uses millions of gallons of water every day to dye denim,” explains Sudhakar Puvvada, who leads denim innovation work for Wrangler and Lee’s Global Innovation Center and served as an advisor to IMD. “IMD’s innovation can greatly reduce that amount and cut the energy needed for dyeing and wastewater treatment.”
IMD’s foam-dying process also will allow fabric mills to produce much smaller quantities than conventional dyeing processes, when desired. In addition to reducing waste, smaller fabric runs will allow for exciting design and marketing innovations in the denim industry.
“We’re grateful for the support of Wrangler and Lee, whose investment and technical contribution greatly advanced the process of commercialization with IMD,” said Dean Ethridge, lead researcher at Texas Tech. “Credit also goes to the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund for supporting the research project that made development of this technology possible.”