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Creating the future of textiles: Multifunctional textiles

August 1st, 2012 / By: / Markets

It will take teamwork among supply chain partners to develop multifunctional solutions for safety and protective applications.

What are the most exciting or intriguing developments in the industry in advanced textiles?

Multifunctional fibers, yarns and fabrics are leading the way in advanced textiles. The end user has become accustomed to multifunctional devices in many parts of their lives and is now demanding multifunctionality in their textile products. This is especially true in the safety product market. Customers no longer accept uncomfortable safety clothing but are demanding apparel that performs many functions and is comfortable to wear and to work in.

Who is driving new developments,
the researchers or the market?

New developments are coming from both the researcher and the market. Basic research is coming from the researchers but the path to commercialization is from the market. Many of our markets are specification driven, such as NFPA, and we work with our customers to develop fabrics that meet strict requirements. End users are no longer satisfied with traditional safety fibers; they demand new fibers that offer protection and comfort.

What is the market demanding and how is your company or research team responding to market demands?

ICF Mercantile scans the globe for new yarn technologies to introduce into the North American market. We have teamed with Glanzstoff to market their Viscont HT filament rayon and Viscont FR, HT filament rayon. Viscont FR, HT filament rayon is a unique fiber that combines the strength of an industrial yarn, FR properties of a high performance yarn and the comfort of an apparel yarn.

Another company we support is FilVa specialty monofilaments. Monofilament yarns are mature commodity products; however, FilVa uses their extruding process to extrude polymers into highly engineered performance monofilaments.

Are new technologies finding their applications and markets? If so, where is the most robust growth occurring or likely to occur in the near future? If not, what’s holding up the implementation of new technologies?

New technologies are finding their way to suppliers, but it takes time to reach the consumer. It is not unusual for a certified product to take months or even years to be developed, tested and certified. As many of the new fiber technologies are multifunctional, adjusting for the fiber for one property may have an effect on another property. For instance, Glanzstoff Viscont FR filament rayon employs high tenacity yarn production technology to compensate for the chemistry required for the FR property. Viscont FR filament rayon is still the only FR rayon fiber that can be used to create a 100-percent FR rayon fabric.

In the monofilament market, FilVa is constantly balancing properties, such as diameter, flexibility, rigidity, strength, elongation and working temperatures. New combinations of polymers, such as Nylon 12, Nylon 10, bi-components and fiber profiles, are being produced to meet strict performance requirements.

What new products and/or processes are being developed now that will have the most profound impact on the way in which end product manufacturers do business tomorrow?

For business today and for the foreseeable future, new product development will need to provide an economic incentive to be brought to the market. Because end users want products that make them safer, there is a balance between safety and protection, comfort and cost. Glanzstoff Viscont FR filament rayon provides FR, no melt, tensile strength, moisture management, abrasion resistance and dyeability at a reasonable cost. This fiber will provide end users with comfortable and durable safety apparel.

Another process that will have a profound effect on the way businesses operate is relationship management and teamwork. Fabrics with multifunctional properties will attain superior properties from fiber, yarn, fabric construction, and finishing. Very few companies have the capabilities to develop and process this all in-house. Companies will need to team with their supply chain partners to develop solutions. Knowledge sharing among all partners up and down the supply chain may be needed to solve critical issues and to develop the multifunctional solution.

David Ronner is president and owner of ICF Mercantile LLC in Fort Lee, N.J., a member of Safety and Technical Products, a division of IFAI.

Safety and Technical Products (S+TP), a division of IFAI, represents the interests of the textile industry in safety, protective, interactive, medical and other high-tech applications.

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