Members Only  

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: …

Members Only  

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. …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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. …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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, …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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, …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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 …

Members Only  

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

Members Only  

Innovation on the water

Adding comfort, performance, style and durability to boats, inside and out, through the advantages of the latest marine textiles. Sun and water are the iconic companions of leisure and recreation. (Think lounging on a boat, salty sea spray misting your face, sun warming your skin … ) But if you’re a marine fabricator, those same …

Members Only  

Ideas in harness

Michael Lester doesn’t shy away from a challenge. He builds a team of fellow innovators and comes up with tensioned fabric solutions. “We’re always innovating,” says Michael Lester, managing director of MakMax Australia Pty. Ltd. in Brisbane, Australia, a world-renowned company building custom membrane structures and manufacturing a range of shade products. “We’ve always got …

Members Only  

The testing issue

As the textile industry continues to wrestle with questions that impact testing, certification and standardization of the processes, the testing market grows. The market for textile testing, inspection and certification is expected to reach more than $7 billion by 2020, according to a report published by MarketsandMarkets. There has been much debate on the need …

Members Only  

C8 phase-out prompts improvements in water-based coatings

March 22, 2016

APV Engineered Coatings, Akron, Ohio, is a custom coatings manufacturer, with growing sales in products for industrial fabrics. Founded in 1878, the company began promoting and engineering finishes for textiles the past 12-15 years-with a specific purpose. “There were performance issues that needed to be addressed with a coatings,” says Erin Brown-Neff, director of marketing …

Members Only  

Textile coating knowhow

March 10, 2016

Based in Belgium, Pennel & Flipo, through its ORCA® range, designs, produces and distributes high-tech, protective, engineered fabrics for the marine, safety and industry sectors. The company was created in 1924 due to the (then) technical innovation of applying a layer of rubber onto a textile backing. “Innovation is rooted in the heart of our …

Members Only  

Framework for success

March 1, 2016

Companies with in-house metal shops enjoy advantages in quality control and customer service, plus increased opportunities for expanding operations. Like the stars of box-office hits, fabric usually gets all the glory as the most noticeable player (especially when emblazoned with colors and custom graphics) in structural protective coverings. But just like those high-grossing stars of …

Members Only  

Finishing fabric

Coating and laminating treatments enhance fabric performance in important —and multiple— ways. The fabric itself can be just the beginning. For the end product manufacturer to get the performance qualities necessary to meet today’s stringent regulations and to satisfy the end customer’s high expectations, it is likely that the fabric will be coated. In some …

Members Only  

Part 2: State of the Industry 2016

As consumer confidence slowly increases, buoyed by improvements in the U.S. economy and employment figures, respondents in 10 of the 11 markets surveyed by IFAI predict single-digit increases in sales in 2016. Innovation in products and processes will help manufacturers anticipate customer needs and stay competitive in a global economy. Part I of IFAI’s 2016 …

Members Only  

Envision, build, repeat

Michael Catalano treats his clients as strategic partners—and that keeps them coming back. “We have a saying here: It’s not about the first job. It’s about the next job,” says Michael Catalano, CEO of Capitol Awning Co., Jamaica, N.Y. “And probably 90 percent or more of our work ends up being repeat business.” Michael Catalano …

Fabric on the frontier

February 1, 2016

Eric Walton and Devlin Mckee bring fabric solutions to Alaska’s wild and wondrous terrain. “The remote area where we work can be a challenge so we have to be flexible and willing to do lots of different things,” say Eric Walton, MFC, and Devlin McKee, CC, owners of Custom Canvas Alaska (CCA) in Fairbanks, Alaska. …

Members Only  

Part 1: State of the Industry 2016

With the U.S. economy continuing a slow but steady recovery, more job growth, more consumer confidence and increasing sales are anticipated for 2016. The world economy in review Six years after the world economy emerged from the Great Recession of 2009, a return to a strong global expansion remains elusive. The downside risks to the …

Members Only  

Textiles in space

The textile industry has made significant contributions to human space exploration in the past. There are also important opportunities to meet NASA’s needs today. Since the start of human spaceflight, the U.S. space program has faced many challenges in clothing astronauts. Survival inside a spacecraft needed to be addressed first. Historically, human space exploration started …

Members Only  

Nouveau cargo

Carving out new niches in a stable industry What could possibly be new in the cargo control and packaging industry? Aren’t containers, pallets and trucks the same as they’ve always been? Isn’t the goal always to secure items to transport them from point A to point B? The basics may be the same, but the …

Members Only  

A continuing thread

January 1, 2016

Fabricators’ needs evolve constantly, and so do the sewing threads they use. Thread is becoming more high-tech by the day—but not necessarily in the ways you might expect. Yes, it’s being made with new synthetic fibers (although the vast majority of thread sold in the world is still cotton-poly or some subset thereof). But the …

Members Only  

Keep moving

For most businesses, change is an essential part of long-term success. Ongoing innovation, in products, processes, service and value, is the best way to beat the competition. Innovation. It’s the essential ingredient in any company’s ability to thrive and stay viable for the long haul. Innovative companies are restless explorers, constantly searching for and testing …

Members Only  

Streamlining with software

Today’s software and apps help fabricators keep pace and stay competitive, efficient and productive. Few words captivate the software and app sector more than the word change. Software and applications are drastically changing the way we do business, and many specialty fabric end product manufacturers (EPMs) and suppliers have integrated software and apps into their …

Back to shore

Jeff Schmitt balances the reality of off-shore manufacturing with how to bring production back to the U.S. “At the end of the day we’ve got to figure out ways to be competitive,” says Jeff Schmitt, senior vice president of operations for The Coleman Company Inc., Golden, Colo. “As the person responsible for both the U.S. …

Members Only  

Tapping into innovation

December 14, 2015

Innovation doesn’t always come easily, but creating a culture that fosters creativity can improve the process (and results) of continuous improvement. Every company knows that innovation is vital, but knowing how to innovate is a different matter. Why are some companies able to launch one new idea or product after the next while others stagnate? …

Charting a course

December 1, 2015

Incoming IFAI board chair Katie Bradford takes the helm, using business expertise and networking know-how to lead the association. “I believe good leadership encourages participation and embraces differences,” says Katie Bradford, MFC, IFM, incoming chair of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) and owner and president of Custom Marine Canvas, Noank, Conn. “IFAI membership is …

Members Only  

Hazardous duty

How fabric technology is protecting rescuers against ever-more-dangerous situations. On the hot summer day in 2013 when 19 experienced firefighters lost their lives, the Yarnell Hill fire, northwest of Phoenix, Ariz., spanned 8,400 acres. The trees were dry, the humidity was low and the wind suddenly turned, cutting off escape and creating an inferno. The …