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21.09.2021

Virtual Quality Inspection Optimizes Production of Filter Nonwovens

Nonwoven production received more attention than ever before from the general public in Corona times, because the technical textile is crucial for infection protection. The ultra-fine nonwoven products are manufactured in so-called meltblown processes. A cross-departmental team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern is optimizing the entire production chain in the »ProQuIV« project. Simulations help to guarantee the product quality of the filter material despite fluctuations in production.

Nonwoven production received more attention than ever before from the general public in Corona times, because the technical textile is crucial for infection protection. The ultra-fine nonwoven products are manufactured in so-called meltblown processes. A cross-departmental team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern is optimizing the entire production chain in the »ProQuIV« project. Simulations help to guarantee the product quality of the filter material despite fluctuations in production.

The abbreviation »ProQuIV« stands for »Production and Quality Optimization of Nonwoven Infection Protection Clothing«. This is because bottlenecks in the production of these materials were particularly evident at the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis. For the meltblown nonwovens, this optimization of the product quality is also particularly difficult because the textiles react very sensitively to fluctuations in the manufacturing processes and material impurities.

Digital Twin Keeps an Eye on the Big Picture
»Meltblown« is the name of the industrial manufacturing process whose ultra-fine fiber nonwovens are responsible for providing the crucial filtering function in face masks. In this process, the molten polymer is forced through nozzles into a forward-flowing, high-speed stream. It is stretched and cooled in a highly turbulent air flow.

»The overall process of filter media production – from the polymer melt to the filter medium – presents a major challenge in simulation,« explains Dr. Konrad Steiner, head of the »Flow and Materials Simulation« department. »In the project, we kept the big picture in mind and developed a completely integrated evaluation chain as a digital twin. In doing so, we take several key components into account at once: We simulate the typical production processes of nonwovens, the formation of the fiber structures and then the material properties – here, in particular, the filter efficiency. This allows us to quantitatively evaluate the influences of the manufacturing process on the product properties.« In each of these individual areas, Fraunhofer ITWM and its experts are among the leading research groups internationally.

Homogeneity of the Material – Fewer Clouds in the Simulation Sky
In the meltblown process, a key factor is the behavior of the filaments in the turbulent, hot and fast air flow. The properties of the filaments are strongly influenced by this air flow. The quality of the filaments – and thus the quality of the nonwovens – is influenced by many factors. Dr. Dietmar Hietel, head of the »Transport Processes« department, knows what this means more precisely in practice. His team has been working at Fraunhofer ITWM for years on the simulation of various processes involving filaments, threads, and fibers. »The focus of the project is the so-called cloudiness, i.e. the non-uniformity of the fiber distributions in the nonwoven,« explains Hietel. »We are investigating the question: How homogeneous is the fabric? Because the quality of the products can be greatly improved if we increase the uniformity. Our simulations help figure out how to do that.«

Objective Evaluation of the Homogeneity of Nonwovens
The researchers also use appropriate image analysis techniques to quantify this cloudiness. The power spectrum plays a special role here. »The cloudiness index (CLI) describes homogeneity complementary to local basis weight and its variance,« describes Dr. Katja Schladitz. She brings her expertise in image processing to the project. »Our CLI ensures a robust assessment of the homogeneity and can thus be used for different material classes and imaging techniques to be used as an objective measure.« The frequencies that go into the CLI calculation can be chosen so that the CLI is meaningful for the particular application area.

Filtration: How Efficient Are the Filters?
For the upscaling to industrial processes such as mask production, the ITWM expertise in filters is also included in the project. The »Filtration and Separation« team led by Dr. Ralf Kirsch has been working for years on the mathematical modeling and simulation of various separation processes.

»What's special about this project is that we calculated the efficiency of the filters for fluctuations of varying degrees in the fiber volume fraction,« emphasizes Kirsch. »This allows us to specify up to what level of cloudiness the required filter efficiency can be achieved at all.« As a current example of this, the figure depicts in the graphic the efficiency of a filter material for N95 masks as a function of the inhomogeneity of the nonwoven.

ITMW Methods Support Across the Entire Process Chain
In »ProQuIV«, digital twins and calculations from Fraunhofer ITWM support a holistic view and better understanding of the processes. The production of technical textiles thus not only becomes more efficient, but the nonwovens can be developed virtually without having to realize this in advance in a test facility. In this way, production capacities can be increased while maintaining or even increase the quality. Together with long-term partners from industry, the research can be put into practice quickly and efficiently.

Simulations save textile companies experiments, allow new insights, enable systematic parameter variations and solve upscaling problems that can otherwise lead to bad investments during the transition from laboratory plant to industrial plant. However, virtual implementation of nonwoven production also opens up new opportunities for optimization at other levels. For example, acoustic insulating nonwovens or even hygiene nonwovens can also be optimized in terms of their product quality precisely with regard to the material properties to be achieved – while taking into account the process fluctuations that occur.

The project is part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's »Fraunhofer versus Corona« program and was completed in April 2021. The results will flow into several follow-up projects with the nonwovens industry.

Textile Prototyping Lab The modules from the prototyping kit can be used to create a variety of e-textiles © Textile Prototyping Lab
14.09.2021

Art meets Science: Prototyping Lab for textile electronics

Anyone who thinks of research laboratories only in terms of protective suits and clean rooms is not quite right: Since April, patterns, seams and mannequins have not been uncommon in the new Textile Prototyping Lab (TPL) at Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin. With the TPL, there is now a place where creative high-tech textiles are produced and which already distinguishes itself from the style of usual research laboratories by its design. As a collaborative project with the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin, textile-integrated electronics are created here for a wide range of applications from architecture to medicine.

Anyone who thinks of research laboratories only in terms of protective suits and clean rooms is not quite right: Since April, patterns, seams and mannequins have not been uncommon in the new Textile Prototyping Lab (TPL) at Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin. With the TPL, there is now a place where creative high-tech textiles are produced and which already distinguishes itself from the style of usual research laboratories by its design. As a collaborative project with the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin, textile-integrated electronics are created here for a wide range of applications from architecture to medicine.

Since its opening, the lab has been available to designers and product developers to prototype individual visions in the field of e-textiles. The possibilities are virtually unlimited: From interfaces between textiles and electronics to the testing of process chains, parts of the laboratory or even the entire laboratory can be used freely. In addition to the pure development and construction work, the premises can be converted in a few moves and repurposed for workshops or exhibitions.

Malte von Krshiwoblozki, who is providing scientific support for the project at Fraunhofer IZM, cited other advantages: “Not only the modular workstations and the meeting area are attractive for joint project work, especially the machinery offers a wide range for interested parties. The ‘sewing and embroidery’ work area, for example, is equipped with several sewing machines as well as a computer-controlled embroidery machine. It thus becomes central to the TPL, as textile finishing with small-format machines is the focus of this lab's work.” Another work area covers “Cutting & Separating” with a laser cutter and a cutting plotter. In addition, there are several presses and laminators, a soldering station and a 3D printer.

In the TPL, beginners can also try their hand at e-textiles and expand their knowledge: The prototyping kit developed at Fraunhofer IZM, which includes a series of electronic modules, LEDs and sensors that can be embroidered by hand as well as by machine, is particularly helpful in this regard.

“For particularly durable electronic textiles, the textile bonder developed and built by Fraunhofer IZM researchers can also be used in cooperative projects of the Textile Prototyping Lab. The versatile modules of the prototyping kit are deliberately designed so that integration into the textile can take place not only with classic textile technology such as embroidery during the prototyping phase, but also for subsequent, more industrial implementations using the textile bonder. In keeping with the motto ‘sharing is caring’ and the principle of interdisciplinarity, we at Fraunhofer IZM are available to provide advice and support during the realization of the textile projects, so that the artists' ideas can be enriched using such new technology,” said Malte von Krshiwoblozki.

Even before the opening of the laboratory, the collaboration between the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin and Fraunhofer IZM had already produced developments that combine art and research in revolutionary ways. For example, a light rail for lamps that is made of a soft and conductive textile belt was created in cooperation with the designer Stefan Diez. For the Hans Riegel Foundation's Touch Tomorrow educational project, an interactive jacket was developed that can control the color of integrated LEDs via arm movements. The team of the Textile Prototyping Lab is looking forward to upcoming, exciting and agile projects and is open for ideas from start-ups, SMEs as well as industry partners.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM

(c) Messe Frankfurt GmbH / SPOTT for Heimtextil
07.09.2021

Next Horizons: Heimtextil presents Trends 2022/23

With “Next Horizons”, Heimtextil is presenting its design forecast for the new season 2022/23 – analysed by international trend researchers and packed with valuable inspiration and inspiring content. The new trend themes take sustainability and resource conservation in the heart of their approach. The international trade fair for home and contract textiles takes place from 11 to 14 January 2022 in Frankfurt am Main.

With “Next Horizons”, Heimtextil is presenting its design forecast for the new season 2022/23 – analysed by international trend researchers and packed with valuable inspiration and inspiring content. The new trend themes take sustainability and resource conservation in the heart of their approach. The international trade fair for home and contract textiles takes place from 11 to 14 January 2022 in Frankfurt am Main.

Three international design agencies form the Heimtextil Trend Council. Together, they develop a well-founded global vision of the coming interior trends. Alongside the Heimtextil Trend Council, Heimtextil management has established a trend forecast for the coming season and presented it live via an online conference on 1 September 2021 from Frankfurt am Main. Trend Council members Anja Bisgaard Gaede from SPOTT trends & business, Anne Marie Commandeur from Stiljinstituut Amsterdam and Kate Franklin and Caroline Till from London studio FranklinTill shared their insights into the future of the industry. Designers, interior architects and decorators get inspired by the design forecast for the new season.

Next Horizons: long-term and circular mindset
The Next Horizons are not a fixed goal or a finish line – they are mindsets. These are made up of long-term thinking, accepting that the best way to impact the world is simply not to. Paradoxically, we have begun our transition to sustainability by addressing the problems within our manufactured system instead of transforming our approach to not create waste or imbalance. Transforming our nexus begins with accepting our economies are embedded within nature. The composition of design should be accessed, made and recirculated in tune with a long-term and circular mindset and simply not create waste. The Heimtextil Trends 22/23 “Deep Nature”, “Hyper Nature”, “Beyond Identity” and “Empowered Identity” explore these new mindsets for “Next Horizons”.

Heimtextil Trends in a new digital format
With “Next Horizons”, Heimtextil is breaking new ground and, for the first time, making trend information fully available in a digital format. The brand-new online platform of Heimtextil introduces the trends richly illustrated via colours, short films, bespoke imagery, key designer features and a soundtrack. The new online platform and all trend activities are directed by SPOTT trends & business from Denmark.

The Future Materials Library is now digital
Curated by Futures Agency FranklinTill, The Future Materials Library was launched in 2020 and is now available online at www.heimtextil-trends.com/future. This collection of exciting interior material innovations from around the world celebrates radical designers, innovative manufacturers and environmentally conscious producers who are helping to turn the current, linear system of production and consumption into a circular model.

Heimtextil Trends 22/23 – overview
Deep Nature – Rebalance by relearning

“Deep Nature” explores our ecosystem’s strategies: it’s our legacy and future all at once. We need to relearn and give into untamed texture, slow process, natural structures and living colours. “Deep Nature” is a long-term transformation and relearning process which gives us the ability to rebalance the natural world for a regenerative future. The colour scale for “Deep Nature” has a harmonious and soft expression used for untamed patternmaking. Mouldy, herbal tones and delicate tones of blue and rouge create a calm, tonal, and earthy approach.

Hyper Nature – Reconnect with nature via technology
“Hyper Nature” is about reconnecting to nature through technology. The theme is a digital facilitator of nature’s blueprint, fusing technology and nature for a protopia state and creating a better tomorrow step by step. Responsive materials, technical fibres, fluid patterns and microscopic structure describes materials and textiles for “Hyper Nature”. Bioscience brings inspiration to colours of both bright and lucid and blurred nuances of green and grey. Reflections and artificial light create new perceptions of nature-based colours. Coral, salmon and light raspberry are highlights.

Beyond Identity – Values more than physical attributes
“Beyond Identity” addresses the future with hopeful messages and soft and powerful defiance toward existing norms, leaving identity in flux. For the world of home interiors and textiles “Beyond Identity” works with recycled synthetic fabric, vintage silk and satin, natural-coloured textiles and new cellulose-based textiles. They are formed via the uncontrolled colouration process of a pastel-coloured look resembling the constant flux of identity. The colours scale for “Beyond Identity” features a range of pastels, complemented with a familiar grey and pale khaki as muted transferral colours.

Empowered Identity – Empower artisanship to sustain culture
“Empower Identity” is about creating sustainable cultural connections, renewing artisan sources of inspiration in a collaborative way. Empowering Identity encourages forming new connections between heritage cultures and future generations. Recycled and heritage textiles combined with textile craft techniques as tufting, embroidered appliqué and Cross-stitch are in focus in “Empower Identity”. Primary colours resemble their colour pigment origins to support the heritage expression of the theme. Sparks of coral and a greyed lilac accompany these primary tones. Multi-coloured usage is key.

(c) Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Jens Liebchen
31.08.2021

Textile Services Industry a key to providing sustainable solutions and eco-friendly best practice

How can the major sustainability challenges in the textile industry be met? The textile services industry, whose business model has always been based on durability and re-use, has an important role to play here as ambassador. In the run-up to Texcare International, Elena Lai, Secretary General European Textile Services Association (ETSA), talks about these challenges and her expectations for Texcare International from 27 November to 1 December 2021.

How can the major sustainability challenges in the textile industry be met? The textile services industry, whose business model has always been based on durability and re-use, has an important role to play here as ambassador. In the run-up to Texcare International, Elena Lai, Secretary General European Textile Services Association (ETSA), talks about these challenges and her expectations for Texcare International from 27 November to 1 December 2021.

The textile sector was identified as a priority sector in the European Green Deal and in the Circular Economy Action Plan. What are the implications for the European textile services industry?
Elena Lai:
We are in a truly historic and exciting time for the textile services industry. We are all well-aware that our industry is the key to providing sustainable solutions and ecofriendly best practice. We had a series of webinars at ETSA dedicated to sustainability and circular economy being key elements of the Green Deal and our larger companies such as industrial laundries, key textile manufacturers and innovative machinery companies, are all up to the task and providing effective solutions. Our national associations too, members of ETSA, are all working synergistically to exchange their best ways forward, in Europe and beyond as we have also partners from the US. These efforts within ETSA’s value chain make us really proud and eager to go the extra mile, guiding our members also towards those areas which seem to be the most challenging. For instance, the new EU Climate Law, which calls for 55% CO2 reductions by 2030: this means that European industries will all have to do better to make us reach these targets in less than nine years. We know ETSA could represent the right network to identify the best way forward on this issue and truly perform and deliver what the EU is advocating for.

How can the textile services industry contribute to achieving circular economy in the textile industry?
Elena Lai:
The business model of textile services is inherently circular. By having a business model which is focused on renting and reusing textiles we can see a litany of benefits that it can offer to the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan. Firstly, in renting textiles. Through rented textile services, textile service companies can extend the lifecycle of products and thus reduce the amount of production that is necessary to occur in the first place, while also reducing the amount of wastewater and energy needed in the laundry process. Secondly, through re-use and repair textile products can remain in consumer hands for longer, which is paramount as our industry is one that battles against planned obsolescence. Both of these are important pillars to our industries that will help both consumers and the planet. Lastly, by continuing to expand recycling and upcycling we can minimise waste, ensuring that a product stays inside the European economy as long as possible. These are all important steps and help us do our part to help Europe reach its emissions and sustainability goals.

Textile recycling is a very important point. How do you think the textile recycling rate can be increased?
Elena Lai:
The Commission will mandate separate waste sorting of textiles by the year 2025, thus recycling, upcycling and end of life re-use must be improved. A ban on the burning of unused textiles will also soon take effect, this will incentivise further recycling and waste reduction. Fundamentally what we in textiles services need to do is to continue to reduce, re-use and recycle. We can increase the rate of recycling by making consumers aware of rented textiles and textile services so to increase the public demand for such services.

How can sustainability in textile services be further improved?
Elena Lai:
In order to boost sustainability in our industry we need to build on the existing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship where exciting, new, out-of-the-box ideas can be developed and refined. EU programs like Horizon Europe, which emphasise green and digital solutions to common problems are an excellent way to empower citizens, textile service firms and local communities to take the initiative and take matters into their own hands. The EU’s Due Diligence legislation is one example of somewhere we can see both consumers and firms come together and take proactive action to improve sustainability, not only in textiles and textile services, but in European industry more broadly. To put it clearly, we have to strengthen our technological innovation while also empowering consumers, authorities and textile service firms, we believe our work at the EU level helps to make this a reality.

How does ETSA promote new projects in the field of sustainability?
Elena Lai:
We at ETSA have been hard at work lobbying EU policymakers for responsible legislation, while also spreading awareness of the industry’s best practice to the public. Recently ETSA has also become an EU Commission Climate Pact Ambassador. This is an exciting opportunity which will allow ETSA to work closely with European Institutions to inform and inspire real climate action amongst our members, national associations and the industry as a whole. ETSA is a platform where stakeholders, citizens, industries and European Union representatives can come together and have a dialogue on the best ways to improve Europe’s sustainability. Furthermore, we have been hard at work disseminating information on the best practice that will help Europe get to 55% emissions reductions, as well information on chemicals, waste-water, microplastics and other salient environmental issues. Our work is far from being done but we look forward to continuing to strive and advance via our focused Working Group on Environment and our webinars to make the world green and sustainable again.

What role will circular economy/sustainability play at Texcare?
Elena Lai:
A central role, several European and World Leaders have underlined, is that Climate Change is the most important issue of our time and it is imperative we act now. Climate Change is also an issue with a global spill over and therefore we all have a clear incentive to find solutions and work in synergy with each other. We need future-oriented dialogue which understands the urgent need for sustainability across the entire textile value chain. ETSA in synergy with one of our members, DTV, is working hard to put together a panel at Texcare dedicated to the sustainability debate, with lots of members and participants to get engaged.

What does ETSA expect from this year's Texcare?
Elena Lai:
We at ETSA are excited to be at Texcare, we think it’s a great opportunity to not only network and converse with other relevant actors in the industry but also to share best practice, concerns and most of all opportunities. Due to the pandemic we had a difficult year 2021 and this event will really enhance a stronger engagement of key actors in this sector. The need for green, sustainable and digital solutions is nonetheless imperative. We are looking forward to hearing of ways that the industry across the world not only continues to adapt to the evolving COVID situation, but also how it is embracing the green and digital transition that has been emphasised as being the futuristic approach by our EU policymakers. We at ETSA wholeheartedly look forward to this event.

Texcare International will take place from November 27 December 1, 2021 in Frankfurt am Main.