Let there be (flexible) light

May 1, 2016

As efficiencies continue to improve, more applications are found for flexible photovoltaics. For a long time, it was common knowledge that thin film and flexible photovoltaics (PV) were not practical because of their lower efficiencies compared with more traditional glass-encased PV. That is no longer the case. Efficiencies are now comparable (approaching or exceeding 20 …

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Futuristic fabrics

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 …

Getting physical: The other smart textiles

Nonelectronic fabrics can cool, warm and clean themselves—and enhance the health and performance of the wearer. Much attention has been given to textiles that are integrated with electronic sensors and circuitry (e-textiles). But some smart textiles do not rely on electronics. According to Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, professor and founder of the Pratt Institute Intelligent Materials Applied …

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Soaking up the sun

Solar-powered Techstyle Haus demonstrates the aesthetic and functional benefits of state-of-the-art fabric architecture. When the 2014 Solar Decathlon Europe issued a call for attractive, energy-efficient homes powered by the sun, one team of design students tapped the potential of fabric architecture. The competition submission, known as Techstyle Haus, brought together 50 students from Rhode Island …

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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, …

Smart Fabrics Summit draws key industry participants

Government and industry players gathered in Washington, D.C., April 11 to discuss the “nascent smart fabrics market,” as described by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who moderated the final session at the one-day event. “This room is buzzing with energy,” said David Lauren, executive vice president of global marketing and communications for Ralph Lauren Corp., …

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Finding shelter in fabric

Alaska Structures® Inc. recently completed a contract for 365 new and improved U.S. Air Force Medium Shelter Systems. The United States Air Force (USAF) is no slouch when it comes to providing quality equipment, supplies and shelter for its ranks. The military branch recently invested more than $15 million in a Medium Weight Shelter Systems …

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Innovation on the water

April 1, 2016

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 …

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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 …

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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 …

Smarter every day

The wearables market builds customer relationships with new products and high-tech expertise. The speedy acceptance of wearable technology by health and fitness enthusiasts has supported impressive growth in this market. This growth reflects today’s larger culture, in which people expect ready access to information. Consumers can even monitor and evaluate their health and fitness goals …

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Full coverage

Tips and trends in travel and mooring covers. Every boat owner wants to be on the water as much as possible. Even on shore, however, protection from the elements is crucial. Good mooring and travel covers protect the finish, upholstery and interior/exterior environments of boats. A custom cover ensures a good fit, proper ventilation and …

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Tropical canopies

Climate and sustainability goals dictate the choice of ETFE membrane structures for the U.S. Embassy in Laos. In the capital city of Vientiane, Laos, the U.S. Embassy complex recently underwent major rebuilding and a thorough sustainability assessment. The outcome of this multi-year process produced some of the most energy-efficient, sustainable facilities to date for the …

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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 …

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Sailing the ocean blue

Leo Pohlmann, owner and designer of Uncharted Marine Canvas, Gulf Breeze, Fla., has been serving the Gulf Coast’s boat canvas and marine upholstery needs for more than 25 years. Recognized by the Marine Fabricators Association for his achievement in design, Pohlmann’s business objective of providing customers with cutting-edge material and design products has been a …

Clothing makes the competitor

Athletes are always looking for new ways to push the limits of endurance and test their physical and psychological mettle. It’s no secret that the right clothing can affect performance, protect against the elements and help prevent injury. But what if athletic wear could go a step further and enhance a competitor’s cognitive and physical …

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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 …

Safety first

A closer look at environmentally preferred DWR finishes. With the growing emphasis on multiple functionality and comfort in safety apparel, breathable and durable water repellency (DWR) has become an important attribute of most safety clothing and workwear. Uniforms and workwear coated with PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or its greener alternative, polyurethane, successfully repel water, oil, dirt, …

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Start to finish

February 15, 2016

Fabric structure companies with metal shops make material decisions based on multiple factors. Site conditions, local building codes, aspects of design and customer preferences dictate the type of metal used with fabric structures, says Gerald Thompson, CEO of Awnings of Hollywood. His company works with high-strength steel pipe and tubing, aluminum pipe and tubing, and …

Connecting the threads

February 1, 2016

Tips for obtaining strong patent protection in textiles. Imagine that a research scientist developed a new woven fabric that could potentially have a significant impact as an implantable medical device to replace damaged tissue. Excited about the potential of this breakthrough technology, this scientist now grows concerned about the next steps. How does she protect …

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Angles of shade

Tech giant Google™ relied on old-school textiles to help shed some shade on its new campus expansion. Google™ is known for its inventiveness, creativity and efficiency. It’s no surprise that the unique Internet company continued that trend when it chose an industrial fabric solution for the outdoor area of its new campus expansion. The shaded …

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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 …

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Behind the curtain

January 1, 2016

Geosynthetics make an impact in a large marine construction project near the Golden Gate Bridge. Marine construction projects often come with a unique set of obstacles. In addition to the challenge of building stable structures in and under water, the environmental impact of construction must be limited. Creative and inventive methods for mitigating environmental contamination …

R&D for everyone

Gaston College Textile Technology Center offers its equipment and expertise for hire. Autocoro, MDTA Rotorring, Spectraflash, Statimat. If you don’t have one of these, know how to operate one or even know what it does, don’t feel bad. That’s why there’s a place like Gaston College Textile Technology Center in Belmont, N.C. The facility has …

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Domes of discovery

December 1, 2015

Detectors at the HAWC Gamma Ray Observatory are protected by custom domes made of military grade fabric. We have learned a lot about the universe by looking out from our planet. Scientists are discovering much can be learned about outer space by looking at our immediate surroundings as well. One of the most effective ways …

Comfortable, versatile—and smart

Interest, investment and applications in wearables show robust growth. With wearable technology continuing to thrive, IFAI’s Advanced Textiles Conference in Anaheim, Calif., in October offered attendees a variety of opportunities to learn about the current and projected market, new product offerings and breakthrough technologies. IFAI’s market research manager Jeff Rasmussen reports that the worldwide smart …

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The age of automation

Sewn or sealed, automation is trending as U.S. companies strive to increase efficiency and decrease costs. The art of sewing textiles is lacking in U.S. manufacturing as lower-cost labor in Asia has helped meet consumer demands for competitive retail prices. But automation technology is slowly advancing, helping companies bring production costs down while keeping quality …

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Supplying forces

November 1, 2015

The U.S. relies on the domestic industrial base to meet military needs. In enacting the Defense Production Act of 1950, Congress listed eight findings to support its “statement of policy.” The last one states that “the inability of industries in the United States, especially smaller subcontractors and suppliers, to provide vital parts and components and …

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Reaching for the stars

Tectoniks pioneers inflatable technology in developing high-value asset protection for Lockheed Martin U.K. To help provide environmental protection to its high-value assets, aerospace and defense contractor Lockheed Martin U.K. needed a robust, portable and retractable structure that met specific and rigorous functional and technical requirements—and everything had to be accomplished in a compressed timeframe. After …

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Protecting those who serve

A fabric cover at an army heliport shields against the Arizona sun. The Silverbell Army Heliport, located near Marana, Ariz., about 30 miles northwest of Tucson, is a training site for the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA). There, aviation training is conducted using several different types of helicopters, which are stored and …

Determining relevance

A process for choosing standards and testing for your products. Standard test methods characterize goods and services so that communication between buyers and sellers is facilitated across the global marketplace. Manufacturers may be motivated to test their products according to published standards to communicate their quality or function, to enable specific advertising claims to be …

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Breaking from tradition

October 1, 2015

Game-changing shifts in the flexible substrate printing market prove the rules are changing in the growing graphics industry. It’s not news that fabric graphics are booming. Thanks to continuing advances in technology, printing on flexible substrates has experienced reliable growth for years. More than any other single factor, the existence of fabric graphics has shaped …

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Printing possibilities

More technology There are two main parameters that shops look at when they’re investing in printers: print quality and speed. Both have been improving markedly. In recent months, Rainier Industries has been upgrading to Durst Rhotex’s P10/P12 series of direct-to-fabric printers. Scott Powell, marketing director, is a fan of the new tech. “The P stands …

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Demand + supply = prevail

Robert Cole brings decades of experience and common sense to the time-honored but always evolving economic model of supply and demand. One of the great things this industry has to offer is the quality of its suppliers,” says Robert Cole, IFAI Honored Life Member (HLM) and owner of Goodwin-Cole, Sacramento, Calif. “They’ve kept our industry …

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Thriving on innovation

Success in medical and biomedical textiles markets requires established expertise and a long-term commitment. If you want to talk about today’s medical textiles markets, it’s necessary to go beyond the end product—and even the finished textile—and look at what goes into making that textile. And as much as highly engineered materials are now well established, …

Vital signs

The medical textiles market is growing, serving both health and wellness. The majority of research and development in smart materials comes from transport. Health and well-being have great need of responsive technologies, so why should medical textiles be one of the smallest sectors of the market? The time and money involved in bringing a product …

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In the commercial upholstery market, is small beautiful?

September 7, 2015

Smaller shops may not always have the staff, but they’re local and they’re flexible, advantages that are still valuable in the business. With commercial furniture and upholstery becoming increasingly large-scale and increasingly technical in nature, is there still a niche for smaller shops? The answer is yes—if only by the skin of their teeth. Robert …

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Just right

September 2, 2015

With the right guidelines and strategies, calculating the correct square footage for a tented event can be more science than art. Accurately calculating the amount of space a tented event requires is a critical component of the service that tent and event professionals provide. A too-small structure will result in an overcrowded event, impeding flow …

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Powering up

September 1, 2015

The demand for inflatables used for shelters, rescue and training is strong and growing, as new applications for a well-known but developing technology attract more attention worldwide. Air is a powerful force. Properly harnessed, it can be completely transformed, becoming an integral player in products that serve all manner of purposes, from strictly fun to …

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Fabric meets frac sand

A fast-growing industry relies on fabric architecture for a long-term, large-format storage facility. Wind and sand are like oil and water; they don’t mix. When Source Energy Services (SES), Eau Claire, Wis., enlisted the assistance of Legacy Building Solutions Inc., South Haven, Minn., to build the largest regional frac sand storage facility in Alberta, Canada, …

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Estimating for profit: Where to begin

Understanding the customer’s unique wants and requirements goes to the heart of successful custom projects. Larry Schneider, owner of Homestyle Awning & Upholstery in Bay View, Wis., recently worked on a project that seemed fairly simple—adding screens to a car trailer so the customer could sleep in it. After talking it through with the customer, …

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A healthy living

Inflatable products need not be oversized to have a big impact; small can be mighty, especially when it comes to inflatables designed to provide relief on an individual basis, such as those popping up in wellness centers, hospitals, nursing homes and even on clothing racks and in closets. Here’s a quick overview of three companies …

What to wear to Mars

Requirements for space garments share similarities with those worn on Earth. For human space missions beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO), the logistical burden is at least twice as great as that of missions in low-Earth orbit. Take, for instance, a trip to Mars, which is being planned by NASA to occur sometime in the 2030s. For …

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Taking center stage

August 26, 2015

Whether they are watching an orchestra performing under a soft-sided band shell or in a field with thousands of other fans screaming along with their favorite band, outdoor concert attendees probably aren’t noticing two of the biggest supporting players: staging and tenting. For rental companies, portable stages and large tensile structures represent opportunities for new …

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Attachment issues

August 21, 2015

Connecting a tent to a building poses a set of challenges for tent installers. Stability, weatherproofing, auxiliary HVAC systems and custom flooring all need to be accounted for. These projects almost always require customized solutions that take the unique environment of the building and the tent site into consideration. One of the biggest considerations is …

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When textiles live long, service companies prosper

August 13, 2015

For textile service companies that provide linens, towels, uniforms and workwear to large institutional users, the longer an item survives its multiple industrial laundry cycles, the better. The Hohenstein Institute, Bonnigheim, Germany, has developed guidance and testing services to ensure that leased textiles hold value longer. The wholesale price of Asian cotton has increased by …

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Room for inspiration

August 1, 2015

The commercial upholstery market is becoming increasingly performance oriented, with noticeable growth in health care, hospitality and sports. New fabrics and coatings are in demand, and in development. When most people think of commercial upholstery, they think of offices . While that`s a big part of the market, it`s by no means where the most …

Keeping it cool in space

Specialized textiles play an important role in thermal control for an evolving aerospace marketplace. Where there are flights, space missions and satellites, there are advanced textiles. For composites used in aircraft engines, multi-layer insulation (MLI) blankets for launch support and satellites, or—of course—space wear for participants of manned space exploration, textiles and textile components are …

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Work smarter

Tools and strategies to help tent rental companies get maximum efficiency from their crews. “Our philosophy is that installing tents is hard. How can we make it easier for the installer?” posits Kenny Puff, armed with an answer. “Every tent installer should have his own toolkit with the basics so they’re not continually borrowing or …

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Selling shade

Conrad Masterson builds his business by focusing on what clients really want—and what employees need. “The first thing I learned when I entered the shade sail industry was to focus on what the customer really wants,” says Conrad Masterson, president of SHADE Industries, Phoenix, Ariz. “That may sound simple, but it can be easy to …