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Suppliers and end-product manufacturers collaborate to create custom protection products

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As impact protection products become lighter in weight and more specialized, suppliers that can manufacture to varying specifications become important partners for end-product manufacturers.

“Over 90 percent of our customers involve ‘custom’ accommodations in both product and method of doing business,” says Bill Christmann, vice president of sales and marketing for Garden City, N.Y.-based Gehring Textiles Inc. The company manufactures a line of athletic fabrics, as well as medical and military fabrics.

End-product manufacturers determine what the market wants, and then “hope to connect to the right raw material—fiber, yarn, fabric—channels that have the ability and the drive to create solutions to those needs,” he says.

Gehring manufactures more than 80 construction variations of its D3 three-dimensional knit spacer fabric, which is produced from as many as three fibers in a single knitting sequence. Spacing between fabric faces ranges from 1.5mm (0.06 in.) to more than 15mm (0.6 in.).

The company adopts an “evolve or perish” culture, Christmann says. “We’re always looking to develop better technologies, and then see how these can pollinate over many markets.”

Jan M. Brenny is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor.

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