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Game on

March 1, 2017

A competitive mind-set is what manufacturers of high-tech fabrics and fabric products say is powering demand for their high-performance solutions.  When you think about high-tech sports and recreation products designed to help athletes hone the competitive edge, equipment rather than fabric likely springs to mind first, but this reaction is behind the times—fabrics have evolved to …

Bring it on

Jacob Schwartz navigates the design and construction process by leveraging group strengths, examining all options and committing to long-term solutions for clients. “Without exception, the more—and earlier—we are engaged in the design process, the more successful the fabric application becomes,” says Jacob Schwartz, owner and director of engineering and construction for International Tension Structures (ITS), Phoenix, …

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Shade with character

Fabricators bring together innovative and classic elements to protect their boating customers from the sun’s harmful rays. Whether permanent or removable, shading on boats has a big job to fulfill: protecting the crew and passengers from the sun while creating a comfortable environment. And boat owners are becoming more knowledgeable about the health dangers that …

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The 2017 State of the Industry: Part 2

The slow economic recovery after the Great Recession has made kick-starting growth in the specialty fabrics industry a continuing challenge. Five of the six key markets covered in Part 2 of this report showed growth in 2016, which is expected to continue in 2017. (The military market was down 6 percent, and is expected to …

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Glamp it up

February 1, 2017

The growing glamping trend brings together comfort and the great outdoors-whether for a weekend getaway or as a way of life.  Glamorous camping—aka glamping—is more than camping for people who want a weekend in nature but don’t want the challenges that come with being outdoors. Glamping is fabric at its best. It’s soft shadows that …

The buck starts here

Chris Ritsema leads his company by building a strong culture that encourages growth and success for his employees. My vision has always been to grow a company that empowers its employees,” says Chris Ritsema, owner of Canvas Innovations in Holland, Mich. “I want to give people a reason to stay here and build their careers—and …

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More than covered

Demands increase for truck covers and tarps that offer weather protection and driver convenience. With millions of trucks being utilized across a wealth of industries, tarps and truck covers are big business for manufacturers and specialty fabric suppliers. As the industry continues to grow, some companies have increased their efforts to gain market share within …

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Part 1: State of the Industry 2017

Despite some slowing of global GDP in 2016, growth of the U.S. and Canadian specialty fabrics industry is slow but steady, and markets like fabric structures, tent rental and manufacturing, fabric graphics and marine fabrication are outpacing national averages. The pace is expected to continue, but can also be somewhat constrained by changes in unemployment …

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Air Apparent

January 1, 2017

Companies and event organizers use inflatables to grab public attention and promote their brands.  Although he now sells spaces in luxury subterranean survival shelters, Robert Vicino once focused his entrepreneurial spirit on loftier altitudes. He put a 90-foot King Kong on the Empire State Building and designed Otto the Autopilot for the farcical movie Airplane. …

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Sun-Powered textiles

Fabrics with self-cleaning properties can last longer, require less maintenance and even reduce air pollution.  Sunlight can damage many types of fabrics, yet it can also have a beneficial effect on textiles that are enhanced with self-cleaning technologies. Thanks to functional coatings and pioneering research, self-cleaning properties—powered by the sun—are extending the life of textiles …

Sustainable Opportunity

Eric and Angie Riggins create new products and capture new markets to ensure a steady stream of work throughout the year.  We’re always looking for opportunities to grow the business,” says Angie Riggins, co-owner of Alpha Canvas, Charlotte, N.C. “We have to be innovative to set ourselves apart from our competitors—we find ways to meet …

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Developing friendlier fabrics

As sustainability is increasingly important to growing numbers of consumers, fabric manufacturers are broadening their eco-friendly offerings, giving specialty fabricators plenty of green options. As a famous frog once lamented, it’s not easy being green. The same can be said for companies wanting to “green” up their product offerings and manufacturing processes, since doing so …

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Built for comfort, durability, and safety

December 19, 2016

Fabric manufacturers and upholsterers balance traveler and commuter requirements. Whether for business or for pleasure, people are always on the go. More than 121 million U.S. workers are employed full time, according to 2015 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. To reach their work destinations, 85 percent of these workers commute in automobiles, and …

IFAI Expo 2016: advanced textiles

December 1, 2016

Today’s textile testing is challenged with evaluating varied performance qualities for multiple environments. The Advanced Textiles Testing Track at IFAI Expo examined textile testing in light of a new wave of textile developments. Dr. Emiel Den Hartog, North Carolina State University (NCSU) Center for Research on Textile Protection & Comfort (TPACC), focused on a “multi-level” …

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IFAI Expo 2016: shade and weather protection

The special shade section on the show flow featured end products ranging from retractable awning systems, shade structures and canopies to motorized shade and weather solutions of all types. Programming and events included “Super Tuesday” seminars, tours of local shops and a keynote lunch, plus Wednesday evening’s opening reception at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. …

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IFAI Expo 2016: specialty fabrics programming

A variety of educational choices drove the Specialty Fabrics Program schedule Oct. 18-21 at the IFAI 2016 Expo. Attendees enjoyed dozens of presentations and “campfire” sessions featuring experts on topics as diverse as training the next generation of skilled workers, understanding functional fabric design and beating offshore manufacturers. The exhibit hall showcased the latest in fabrics, …

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Lights, camera, fabric

Fabrics set the stage for manufacturers who want a market share of the entertainment industry. Fabrics don’t get enough credit. Quietly, and usually without fanfare, they provide welcome and shelter as tents and awnings; they enhance decor and create distinct spaces as backdrops and banners; they manage movement of light and sound; and the list …

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IFAI Expo 2016: high points and highlights

Thousands of industry professionals joined the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) in the heart of the U.S. textile industry Oct. 18–21 to acquire a working education in the areas of specialty fabrics, shade and weather protection products and advanced textiles: seminars, exhibits, workshops, market roundtables and four days of concentrated networking. From business basics to …

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IFAI Expo 2016: industry leadership, IFAI style

At IFAI’s annual meeting, Kevin Yonce, MFC, IFM, CPP, past chairman of the IFAI Board of Directors and chairman of the 2016 Leadership Development Committee, announced this year’s election results.    • Dennis Bueker, Keyston Bros., has been elected to his second three-year term as director.  • Brian Rowinski, Rainier Industries LLC, has been elected …

Analyze this

Ed Skrzynski automates production, encourages teamwork and documents processes to deliver quality marine and shade products. There is a common thread with custom manufacturing—it’s very labor-intensive, very expensive and typically done by artisans and skilled trades people,” says Ed Skrzynski, owner of Marco Canvas, Marco Island, Fla. “When I took over the company from my …

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Marketing in the digital age

November 1, 2016

Technology has changed things,  but customer relationships are still paramount. Not long ago, business managers realized that the Internet would change everything,  especially marketing. With the click of a mouse, millions of potential customers could be reached. Although that revolution has come to pass and online platforms have matured, the takeaway for business owners is this: …

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Inside and out

Collecting rainwater, bird-proofing facades, even deflecting airborne volcanic fragments—buildings today are integrated with fabric in nontraditional ways. Architectural fabric can be integrated into buildings in more than the common uses such as roofs, shading devices and exterior cladding. Architects are now finding ways for fabric to improve building performance with special applications and unique materials. …

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Room to grow

As Mother Nature persists in her fickle and sometimes destructive ways, manufacturers of agricultural fabrics and fabric products report strong and growing demand in many areas. The agricultural arena isn’t for the faint of heart; just ask anyone who earns a living by keeping us supplied with food. Too many things can go wrong—too much …

Scheduled Evolution

October 31, 2016

Eric Heischmidt approaches project management with flexibility and an architect’s eye for precision. “Project management means planning ahead,” says Eric Heischmidt, senior project manager, Arizon Structures, St. Louis, Mo. “But more than anything it means being prepared to be flexible, because every project is an evolution. Things change, and you need to react to those …

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What’s happening to the military textile market

October 1, 2016

Decreased budgets are a reality, but markets exist for new and innovative products. While it’s fair to say that portions of the military textile market are shrinking—the U.S. now has far fewer troops overseas—it is also true that some segments are changing, which is an open door for innovation. Despite a decline in the U.S. Department …

Pete Weingartner builds a team to deliver turn-key projects and target continued growth

Even if projects are going well I try to improve them. I want to find a way to do things better; to do things faster,” says , president of Queen City Awning, Cincinnati, Ohio. “One of the ways I do that is by attending IFAI Expo and reading Specialty Fabrics Review magazine to keep up …

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Nonwovens reach beyond their beginnings as disposables

While he was managing nonwovens research and development at 3M, David Nelson observed an irony surrounding the technology with which he had been involved for 35 of his 40 years at the Minnesota-based powerhouse. “When I gave updates, I would say, ‘Of our 48 technologies, nonwoven is the only one described by what it isn’t …

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The future workforce

A Makers completed curriculum and a nationally registered apprenticeship program are in the final approval stages. The next generation of skilled sewers is in the works. Textile manufacturers need sewers. People entering the workforce need jobs that can lead to fulfilling careers. So why has it been so challenging to bring the two together? What …

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There are right and wrong ways to fix a shade structure in place

September 1, 2016

As anyone with knowledge of the history of tension structures will tell you, there is a logical and long-standing connection between marine hardware and tension structure hardware. One came from the other. Or more accurately, one (tension structure hardware) is an adaptation of the other (marine hardware). And just as the extreme environmental conditions of …

Blair Belluomo brings a strong and appreciative management style to the family business

I went to school with many kids whose parents had businesses, and they thought that just because their parents ran a successful business, they could just step in and be successful as well,” says Blair Belluomo, owner and president of Belle Isle Awning in Roseville, Mich. “So many of them failed because they hadn’t had other …

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Textile manufacturers respond to the need for flexible medical and biomedical products

In the world of bad news/good news scenarios, one can hardly find a more salient example than that presented in the medical arena. Technological advances are gaining traction amid the growing threats of superbugs, global spread of disease and demand for regenerative treatments to address the needs of aging populations. A Grand View Research Inc. …

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Getting the word out about fabric graphics

August 1, 2016

Fabric graphics have become a marketing and branding essential. As they go outside to play, the medium is definitely part of the message. Fabric graphics are a perfect vehicle for our branding-obsessed culture, providing the ability to transmit messages in fun, colorful, impactful and attention-getting ways. Fabrics and fabric graphics are at home everywhere indoors, …

The Third Dimension

John Bland revolutionizes marine fabrication by applying 3-D CAD principles to the design process. Look at the motor industry—you wouldn’t be happy driving a car that was spec’d 20 years ago,” says John Bland, managing director of Tecsew Ltd., Gosport, Hampshire, U.K. “It’s the same in the textile industry. Whether it’s in the finish, materials …

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Safety gear protects workers

July 29, 2016

Innovative materials help meet multiple safety requirements on the job to protect workers. Protective apparel and safety gear for industrial workers are evolving rapidly as advances in fiber, fabrics and comfort move beyond the traditional focus on fire and flame retardant (FR) materials. Personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers, firefighters and military personnel now includes …

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Equipment purchasing: price and value

July 18, 2016

ROI is still an important factor in buying decisions, but qualities like reliability, durability and customer service are moving to the forefront. The return on investment (ROI) and how long it might take to achieve it is always a key consideration in most purchasing decisions, particularly during the Great Recession when pricing and ROI moved …

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Revealing the romance of sailcloth tents

July 13, 2016

Trendspotting online shows tent renters and manufacturers what brides are looking for. If you want to know what’s trending in fashionable apparel, look to Paris, France. If you want to know what’s trending in automotive design, look to Torino, Italy. If you want to know what’s trending in cuisine, look on either coast of the …

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Partners in success

June 29, 2016

Specialty fabricators don’t have to go it alone. Equipment and automation manufacturers are working hard, developing technologies that sharpen the competitive edge. Founded in 1908, Minnesota Knitting Mills (MKM) started out supplying nearby colleges with letter award sweaters, says Patrick Hickey, president of the Mendota Heights, Minn.-based manufacturer. The company transitioned into providing knit apparel …

Fabric engineering

Ben Fox expands design capabilities for fabric structures, focusing on innovation and education to solve customer problems. “Our company’s roots are unique in that we started out as a construction service and kind of worked our way backward into manufacturing,” says Ben Fox, owner, president and CEO of Legacy Building Solutions, South Haven, Minn. “That’s …

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Streamlining standards

Compromise and collaboration are key to revising standards that improve textile product safety. The road to revised standards can be bumpy, fraught with lively discussions and detailed (some might say “picky”) decisions. The standards, some enforceable and some voluntary, guide material and product manufacturers through the complex world of creating safe and functional products. Hundreds, …

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Going up?

Creating a function—and personable—space for increasingly demanding customers is taking the tent-rental industry in some new directions. Poodle skirts and love beads, glam rock and disco, mood rings and pet rocks. There’s no denying that some trends end up being fads that fade. Occasionally, a trend—typically something with a reason to its rhyme—grabs a solid …

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Digital printing: New fabrics, inks and printers are expanding graphic applications, indoors and out

June 16, 2016

Advances in technology are making custom graphics easier, more affordable and much more impressive. Fabric printing has come a long way from the days when vinyl banners were the norm in signage and screen-printed T-shirts were the gold standard in custom apparel. “Advancements in digital printing technology have made it easy to print photorealistic images …

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Digital printing pushes boundaries in interior décor

June 1, 2016

If you follow interior design news, you probably know that major paint companies Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams herald Simply White and Alabaster as their respective 2016 “colors of the year.” Fortunately for those who eschew plain vanilla environments, there’s another growing trend: walls and even windows brought to life with digitally printed graphics. In a …

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Wide-format digital printing transforms space and public perceptions

The magic of wide-format digital printing transforms space and public perceptions, turning fabric into gold. As we’ve seen in “If walls could talk,” décor is one of the most popular applications for digitally printed fabric graphics today, and will likely be one of the fastest-growing markets in the future. But what is it, specifically, about …

Tents, trends and technology

From RFID to GPS, Mike Holland uses all the newest tools to keep Chattanooga Tent Co. at the leading edge. “We embrace technology here,” says Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent Co., Chattanooga, Tenn. “Especially when it comes to material handling, we’re always looking for anything that can help us work smarter and be more …

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Digital fabric printing responding to technical and creative demands

As applications respond, the digital fabric printing industry is responding to the technical and creative demands of customers. Digital printing on fabrics has revolutionized a number of markets: trade show exhibits, event marketing, home décor, activewear, retail branding, architectural signage, outdoor advertising and others. “Demand for printed fabrics and textiles continues to grow, and the …

2016 Exhibitor Product Preview: Call for entries

May 23, 2016

IFAI Expo Exhibitors: Tell us about the products and services you’ll be exhibiting at IFAI Expo 2016. Product descriptions are featured in the August issue of Specialty Fabrics Review. The August issue of Specialty Fabrics Review will include an advance look at new products and services to be exhibited at IFAI Expo 2016 in Charlotte, …

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Futuristic fabrics

May 1, 2016

Today’s smart fabric products, with embedded or woven technological components, are resonating with consumers, and the market is responding. Woven, nonwoven and knitted textiles are the foundation of the fabrics that make up our daily existence, from the clothes we wear to the upholstered chairs we sit on. They’re also the building blocks of the …

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To the rescue

More consumers are seeking protection from the sun, heat, bugs and high energy bills, and shading system manufacturers are surrounding the market, indoors and out. The U.S. market is looking rather attractive these days to manufacturers of shade systems. For a variety of reasons—energy conservation, protection from the elements and insects, heat and glare reduction—screens, …

At the intersection of textiles & technology

Qaizar Hassonjee mines market opportunities and forms partnerships to bring smart fabrics to market. “The intersection of textiles and technology is a huge untapped opportunity for the textile industry,” says Qaizar Hassonjee, senior director, business development and partnerships, for adidas Digital Sports. “Market segments such as hospitality, health care and military are really prime for …

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2016 Specialty Fabrics Showcase

April 1, 2016

IT’S ALL ABOUT FABRIC, and it’s all about performance—the qualities that customers demand. We asked fabric suppliers tosend us news about their high-performing products, fabrics that fight weather, disease, use and abuse for years, and look good doing it. We combined their responses into performance categories. >> View all products in the Specialty Fabrics Showcase