At Techtextil, Innovation That Could Impact the Industry

Frankfurt's three-day Techtextil show presented innovations for all product groups with a wide range of applications for textiles and nonwovens. Michael Jaenecke, Messe Frankfurt GmbH board member responsible for textiles/non-wovens, says that Techtextil had confirmed the "seminal concept of the combination of technical textiles and textile-processing technologies."

Jaenecke pointed out that the textile products and other raw materials for textile and apparel manufacturing on display at the show took account of the latest trends – for example, lightweight construction, functionality, sustainability and mobility. "Some novelties include sensory systems for apparel, extremely light textile-reinforced concrete and natural fiber-based composites for automobiles," he says. 

Besides the sector's "innovativeness," Jaenecke claims, the synergy effects emanating from the range of products at the parallel textile-processing technologies Texprocess show were very encouraging, with buyers and other trade visitors there also attending the Techtextil event.

TITV Greiz, a German research institute for special textiles and flexible materials, showcased its latest high-tech solution, which uses the classical textile technology as the basis for new working materials. The institute exhibited a variety of textiles, including apparel that glows, and skiing gloves from which one can make and receive telephone calls.

Conductive paths for illuminated textiles using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are usually applied to textiles with weaving or stitching technologies, according to Sabine Gimpel, a TITV representative. The tiny LEDs, she points out, were handled with tweezers outside the machine and positioned manually on the conductive paths with solder or conductive adhesive.  But the manufacturing process can be expensive, limiting the production to small areas or prototypes.

The most important application of these LED textiles is for making costumes for figure skating competitors, according to Gimpel. What's more, she adds, commercial manufacture of LED illuminated textiles is possible both for large and small volumes.

Another interesting product that seemed to attract considerable attention was the so-called "Q-Milch" fiber material presented by German firm Qmilch Deutschland GmbH. Anke Domaske, the company founder, explains that the Q-Milch fiber material is made from casein concentrate that is extracted from powdered milk. The protein fibers are used as thread that is then spun into yarn.

By heating the material, the molecules bond, thereby preventing them from breaking down.  "Casein has extremely high glutamine and calcium content with high industry potential," Domaske adds.
Under German law, about 1.9 million tons of milk are discarded annually and cannot be marketed or consumed as food. Qmilch Deutschland extends the product's lifecycle; the fiber is made of 100 percent recyclable materials. Qmilch's technology and special manufacturing process have set "new standards in fiber production," as Domaske put it.

Switzerland-based Schoeller Technologies presented a new textile technology called solar+ ™ - Soak Up the Sun. The company claims that new finish helps textiles better absorb the sun's heat rays.  "Even thin fabrics can provide more warmth and keep the wearer comfortably warm," says marketing representative Lien Hyunh.

Taking its cues from nature, the finish operates on the same lines as cold-blooded reptiles do.  On sunny days reptiles emerge from their habitats to bask in the sunshine. Their skin is designed to efficiently absorbs the heat rays and this thermal energy enables the animal to accelerate and react quickly.

solar+™ works in a similar way. Especially on days that are sunny but cold, textiles of any color absorb more efficiently the sun's heat rays.  Even thin fabrics treated with solar+™ provide greater warmth for the wearer, thus improving the body's heat management and leading to a higher degree of comfort and performance.

Another interesting piece of technology featured at the Techtextil show was Hohenstein Laboratories GmbH's aero-acoustic test for permeable textiles used for a variety of applications, including automobile interiors and large offices.

Encore 3 at the Canada Pavilion showcased its Monark, a fiber produced from milkweed that's harvested like cotton, behaves like silk and is the exclusive food of the monarch butterfly.
A Wuerzburg, Germany-based company called Alpha-Fit GmbH exhibited its "functional intelligent textiles" designed for measuring and diagnostic systems used in sports, orthopedics, medicine and technology.

Alpha-Fit's new technical textile is made with special coated filaments that possess unique sensory properties. These new filaments can measure space-resolved pressure distribution on variable areas in 3D — without actual sensors. Pressure-sensitive filaments worked into specially produced fabrics can be applied to various body parts, such as hands, feet and knees.

Functional Apparel Textiles' booth showcased corsage with LEDs or, as Forward Textile Technologies editor Viola Konrad put it, "haute couture meets high-tech." Other highlights at this stand included advansa's ski overalls with thermo cool properties; a feather-light down  jacket weighing just 285 grams; a fitness shirt that monitors vital signs; and a sailing jacket constructed of thin padding with a high warming factor.

German fiber-manufacturing company Trevira GmbH displayed innovative fibers (including bi-component fibers) in polyester and PLA (Ingeo™), flame-retardant and other special fibers and yarns in polyester, standard and spun-dyed filaments, as well as microfilament and hybrid yarns. 

According to the company, Trevira filaments cover a broad range of applications for technical textiles. Flame-retardant yarns for the construction of exhibition stands and print base materials (Trevira CS) are now standard. In addition, the firm produces special yarns for medicine and hygiene textiles, as well as textured PBT filaments as a basis for transdermal patches and bandages.

Hybrid yarns constitute an important specialty, blending a low-melt component (NSK) with a Trevira standard or flame-retardant filament. Using thermal treatment, textile fabrics made from these hybrid yarns can be controlled and shaped almost at will, and finally fixed in this state. They can also be described as thermoplastic composites or "prepregs." The single-material composition of these products — 100 percent polyester — means they can be recycled. Moreover, they can be finished in a variety of ways, which are not only energy-saving but also dyeable and printable.

This makes the fibers an interesting, and indeed, a compelling alternative, in both ecological and economic terms, since a stiffening coating of acrylate, for example, becomes unnecessary. When used in combination with flame-retardant Trevira filaments, the materials satisfy important international fire standards.

With staple fibers Trevira continues to focus on customer-specific product developments. Standard elements in the delivery program are short-cut fibers for air-laid and wet-laid applications, for instance, in hygiene products.  Flame-retardant fibers are also increasingly found in non-woven products.

The extensive range in bicomponent fibers comprises the various raw material combinations, such as PET/PE, PET/Co-PET and PET/PBT. Bicomponent fibers in core-sheath technology are used primarily in the manufacture of thermally bonded materials or non-wovens, for instance in the automotive sector, for insulation and filtration materials, and also for hygiene products.
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