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10.01.2023

Fraunhofer: Optimized production of nonwoven masks

Producing infection control clothing requires a lot of energy and uses lots of material resources. Fraunhofer researchers have now developed a technology which helps to save materials and energy when producing nonwovens. A digital twin controls key manufacturing process parameters on the basis of mathematical modeling. As well as improving mask manufacturing, the ProQuIV solution can also be used to optimize the production parameters for other applications involving these versatile technical textiles, enabling manufacturers to respond flexibly to customer requests and changes in the market.

Producing infection control clothing requires a lot of energy and uses lots of material resources. Fraunhofer researchers have now developed a technology which helps to save materials and energy when producing nonwovens. A digital twin controls key manufacturing process parameters on the basis of mathematical modeling. As well as improving mask manufacturing, the ProQuIV solution can also be used to optimize the production parameters for other applications involving these versatile technical textiles, enabling manufacturers to respond flexibly to customer requests and changes in the market.

Nonwoven infection control masks were being used in their millions even before the COVID-19 pandemic and are regarded as simple mass-produced items. Nevertheless, the manufacturing process used to make them needs to meet strict requirements regarding precision and reliability. According to DIN (the German Institute for Standardization), the nonwoven in the mask must filter out at least 94 percent of the aerosols in the case of the FFP-2 mask and 99 percent in the case of the FFP-3 version. At the same time, the mask must let enough air through to ensure that the wearer can still breathe properly. Many manufacturers are looking for ways to optimize the manufacturing process. Furthermore, production needs to be made more flexible so that companies are able to process and deliver versatile nonwovens for a wide range of different applications and sectors.

ProQuIV, the solution developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern, fulfills both of these aims. The abbreviation “ProQuIV” stands for “Production and Quality Optimization of Nonwoven Infection Control Clothing” (Produktions- und Qualitätsoptimierung von Infektionsschutzkleidung aus Vliesstoffen). The basic idea is that manufacturing process parameters are characterized with regard to their impact on the uniformity of the nonwoven, and this impact is then linked to properties of the end product; for example, a protective mask. This model chain links all relevant parameters to an image analysis and creates a digital twin of the production process. The digital twin enables real-time monitoring and automatic control of nonwoven manufacturing and thus makes it possible to harness potential for optimization.

Dr. Ralf Kirsch, who works in the Flow and Material Simulation department and heads up the Filtration and Separation team, explains: “With ProQuIV, the manufacturers need less material overall, and they save energy. And the quality of the end product is guaranteed at all times.”

Nonwoven manufacturing with heat and air flow
Nonwovens for filtration applications are manufactured in what is known as the
meltblown process. This involves melting down plastics such as polypropylene and forcing them through nozzles so they come out in the form of threads referred to as filaments. The filaments are picked up on two sides by air flows which carry them forward almost at the speed of sound and swirl them around before depositing them on a collection belt. This makes the filaments even thinner: By the end of the process, their thickness is in the micrometer or even submicrometer range. They are then cooled, and binding agents are added in order to create the nonwoven. The more effectively the temperature, air speed and belt speed are coordinated with each other, the more uniform the distribution of the fibers at the end and therefore the more homogeneous the material will appear when examined under a transmitted light microscope. Lighter and darker areas can thereby be identified — this is referred to by experts as cloudiness. The Fraunhofer team has developed a method to measure a cloudiness index on the basis of image data. The light areas have a low fiber volume ratio, which means that they are less dense and have a lower filtration rate. Darker areas have a higher fiber volume and therefore a higher filtration rate. On the other hand, the higher air flow resistance in these areas means that they filter a smaller proportion of the air that is breathed in. A larger proportion of the air flows through the more open areas which have a less effective filtration effect.

Production process with real-time control
In the case of ProQuIV, the transmitted light images from the microscope are used to calibrate the models prior to use. The experts analyze the current condition of the textile sample and use this information to draw conclusions about how to optimize the system — for example, by increasing the temperature, reducing the belt speed or adjusting the strength of the air flows. “One of the key aims of our research project was to link central parameters such as filtration rate, flow resistance and cloudiness of a material with each other and to use this basis to generate a method which models all of the variables in the production process mathematically,” says Kirsch. The digital twin monitors and controls the ongoing production process in real time. If the system deviates slightly from where it should be — for example, if the temperature is too high — the settings are corrected automatically within seconds.

Fast and efficient manufacturing
“This means that it is not necessary to interrupt production, take material samples and readjust the machines. Once the models have been calibrated, the manufacturer can be confident that the nonwoven coming off the belt complies with the specifications and quality standards,” explains Kirsch. ProQuIV makes production much more efficient — there is less material waste, and the energy consumption is also reduced. Another advantage is that it allows manufacturers to develop new nonwoven-based products quickly — all they have to do is change the target specifications in the modeling and adjust the parameters. This enables production companies to respond flexibly to customer requests or market trends.

This might sound logical but can be quite complex when it comes to development. The way that the values for filtration performance and flow resistance increase, for example, is not linear at all, and they are not proportional to the fiber volume ratio either. This means that doubling the filament density does not result in double the filtration performance and flow resistance — the relationship between the parameters is much more complex than that. “This is precisely why the mathematical modeling is so important. It helps us to understand the complex relationship between the individual process parameters,” says ITWM researcher Kirsch. The researchers are able to draw on their extensive expertise in simulation and modeling for this work.

More applications are possible
The next step for the Fraunhofer team is to reduce the breathing resistance of the nonwovens for the wearer without impairing the protective effect. This is made possible by electrically charging the fibers and employing a principle similar to that of a feather duster. The electric charge causes the textile fabric to attract the tiniest of particles which could otherwise slip through the pores. For this purpose, the strength of the electrostatic charge is integrated into the modeling as a parameter.

The Fraunhofer researchers’ plans for the application of this method extend far beyond masks and air filters. Their technology is generally applicable to the production of nonwovens — for example, it can also be used in materials for the filtration of liquids. Furthermore, ProQuIV methods can be used to optimize the manufacture of nonwovens used in sound-insulating applications.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM

Photo: Performance Days
18.10.2022

Eco Award & Performance Award for innovative winter fabrics 24/25

  • Jury presents two awards for outstanding fabric Innovation

The next PERFORMANCE DAYS will take place from November 3-4, 2022 at the MOC Ordercenter in Munich. Visitors also have the opportunity to follow the events online. Thanks to the new platform The Loop, all important information is available all year round, including current trends, new material innovations and extended tools for ease of use. The focus of the curated PERFORMANCE FORUM continues in winter honoring the winners of both awards. This year, in addition to a PERFORMANCE AWARD, the jury also presented an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD.

  • Jury presents two awards for outstanding fabric Innovation

The next PERFORMANCE DAYS will take place from November 3-4, 2022 at the MOC Ordercenter in Munich. Visitors also have the opportunity to follow the events online. Thanks to the new platform The Loop, all important information is available all year round, including current trends, new material innovations and extended tools for ease of use. The focus of the curated PERFORMANCE FORUM continues in winter honoring the winners of both awards. This year, in addition to a PERFORMANCE AWARD, the jury also presented an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD.

Sustainable & innovative: the award winners of the Winter 2024/25 season
As part of the winter edition of the sourcing fairs, the fabric highlights plus accessory trends in the individ-ual categories for the winter season 2024/25 will be on display at the PERFORMANCE FORUM.
 
Particularly striking this year was the high levels of innovation and quality of many submitted fabrics on the one hand, but on the other hand – also as a result of this year’s Focus Topic – the sustainable component. “We wish to enable our visitors to make the best decision in terms of material selection, also in terms of CO2 neutrality and ultimately also in terms of textile recyclability,” states Marco Weichert, CEO of PERFORMANCE DAYS.  

Nevertheless, the road to CO2 neutrality remains a long one, yet the approaches adopted with the Focus Topic ongoing until the coming spring can be seen in a positive light. In general, manufacturers are increasingly relying on the use of natural fibers when possible, such as Tencel™ or other plant fibers – most of them also prove a low CO2 balance during production. The issue of recycling comes with many new facets and wide spanning trends. The portfolio ranges from the recycling of marine waste, such as old buoys, plastic waste or fishing nets, to the recycling of waste from the automotive and computer industries, such as old car tires or computer chips. Natural dyeing methods are also gaining in importance, as is the return of fabrics to the textile cycle.

In the Marketplace, visitors have the opportunity to view over 19,000 products from exhibitors, including the fabric highlights of the individual categories at the PERFORMANCE FORUM. In order for visitors to experience the fabrics in terms of haptics, design and structure in as realistic a form as possible, the PERFORMANCE FORUM has been equipped with innovative 3D technology, including innovative tools such as 3D images, video animations and U3MA data for download.

The jury has also presented two awards for outstanding fabrics for the Winter Season 2024/25 – with the PERFORMANCE AWARD going to Long Advance Int. Co Ltd., and the ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD to PontetortoSpa.

The ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD goes to “9203/M/RC” from PontetortoSpa: High Performance despite maximum sustainability
The fabric is a blend of 23 % hemp, 69 % recycled polyester and 9 % recycled elastane. Moreover, the material boasts a low CO2 footprint during production and focuses on low release levels of microplastics into the environment. “9203/M/RC” belongs to Pontetorto's Techno Stretch organic series, which boast an excellent 4-way stretch with great elasticity. In addition, it guarantees fast drying and optimal breathability. The polyester yarn is manufactured by the mechanical recycling of plastic bottles. Hemp, the most water–repellent among natural fibers, allows for quick drying and provides optimal comfort. Hemp is considered an extremely sustainable natural fiber due to its origin from an anti–bacterial plant that requires neither pesticides nor chemical fertilizers during its growth and consumes extremely little water.

PERFORMANCE AWARD for “LPD-22015-Y4E” from Long Advanced Int. Co. Ltd.: Perfect recycling for top performance
The monocomponent 2layer fabric is a mixture of 45 % polyester mechanical stretch and 55 % recycled polyester from recycled textiles, laminated with a PET Membrane, with a weight of 147 grams.
The special feature of the “LPD 22015-Y4E” is the recycling of fabric and cutting waste. Waste is thus returned to the textile cycle and used to spin new yarn. In the future, manufacturers will have to ensure that all fabric can be recycled. Accordingly, the production of waste is then reduced by 30 % compared to conventional processes. Furthermore, the jury praised the feel and the extraordinary look of the material.

The entire PERFORMANCE FORUM including both awards can be experienced live at the fair on October 26-27, 2022 in Portland, Oregon, and in Munich at the PERFORMANCE DAYS fair on November 03-04, 2022. As of now, all innovative materials can also be found online in the Marketplace of the PERFORMANCE DAYS Loop, with the option to order free samples directly from the exhibitor.

photo: pexels
26.07.2022

Composites Germany – Results of the 19th Market Survey

  • Current crises are dampening mood in composites industry
  • Pessimistic outlook
  • Subdued investment climate
  • Varying expectations for application industries
  • GRP is still a growth driver
  • Composites Index continues to decline

This is the 19th time that Composites Germany has identified the latest performance indicators for the fibre-reinforced plastics market. The survey covered all the member companies of the three major umbrella organisations of Composites Germany: AVK, Leichtbau Baden-Württemberg and the VDMA Working Group on Hybrid Lightweight Construction Technologies.

As before, to ensure a smooth comparison with the previous surveys, the questions in this half-yearly survey have been left unchanged. Once again, the data obtained in the survey is largely qualitative and relates to current and future developments in the market.

  • Current crises are dampening mood in composites industry
  • Pessimistic outlook
  • Subdued investment climate
  • Varying expectations for application industries
  • GRP is still a growth driver
  • Composites Index continues to decline

This is the 19th time that Composites Germany has identified the latest performance indicators for the fibre-reinforced plastics market. The survey covered all the member companies of the three major umbrella organisations of Composites Germany: AVK, Leichtbau Baden-Württemberg and the VDMA Working Group on Hybrid Lightweight Construction Technologies.

As before, to ensure a smooth comparison with the previous surveys, the questions in this half-yearly survey have been left unchanged. Once again, the data obtained in the survey is largely qualitative and relates to current and future developments in the market.

Current crises are dampening mood in composites industry
Both the economy in general and industry in particular are struggling with numerous challenges at the moment. The Covid-19 pandemic has now had a negative impact for over two years and is still affecting a range of segments of the composites industry. One area that has been hit especially hard by the resulting losses is the mobility sector. Another major strain has been a sharp rise in energy costs recently. Above all, we can expect price increases in fuel and gas to become a central issue over the next few months. In addition, there are still problems along international supply chains, coupled with steep increases in raw material prices, partly due to bottlenecks in the supply. The war in Ukraine has put an additional strain on many business sectors, affecting their supply chains, in particular.

In the current survey, both these and other effects have had a major negative impact on the mood in the composites industry.

The assessment index for the current general economic situation is showing a clear decline.

Compared to the last survey, the assessment of the respondents’ own business situations has dropped significantly and for the first time in eighteen months. However, this decline has been far less severe than during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pessimistic outlook
Furthermore, there has been a substantial decline in expectations for the future market development. The key figures for the general economic situation have been declining sharply and have reached an all-time low since the beginning of the survey. The respondents are also less optimistic about future expectations for their own companies.

However, respondents are less extreme when assessing the business situations of their own companies. Despite negative spikes, this curve is far less steep, showing that respondents are expecting less dramatic effects on their own companies than on the industry as a whole.

Subdued investment situation
Although, as expected, the investment climate has also become subdued, it should be noted that, in all, expectations are still relatively high. 70% of all respondents believe that machine investments are possible, or they are planning for it. This figure is somewhat lower than in the previous market survey, but it shows a far less dramatic development than the other factors mentioned above .

Varied expectations for application industries
We already mentioned the high level of heterogeneity of applications in the composite sector. In the survey, respondents were asked to provide assessments of market developments in various core sectors.

Their expectations clearly differ substantially from one another.

The proportion of pessimistic expectations has generally been rising for all application industries. While these expectations are almost entirely within a single-digit range, there has been a clear rise in the proportion of those expecting a deterioration of the market in the various application industries. Similar to the last surveys, major drops are expected above all for the automotive, aviation and mechanical engineering sectors. For the first time, however, we can now also see rather negative expectations on the infrastructure and building sector. Yet this is a segment which often reacts quite slowly to temporary economic fluctuations and has so far shown itself to be relatively resilient towards the above-mentioned crises. It remains to be seen whether such forebodings will come true, or whether the construction industry will continue to hold its own in the face of the current negative forces.

Growth drivers remain stable
Geographically, the survey shows that the most important growth stimuli for the composites segment are expected to come from Germany, Europe and Asia.

Where materials are concerned, we are seeing a continuation of the ongoing paradigm shift. Whereas, in the first 13 surveys, respondents always mentioned CRP as the material with the most important growth drivers in its environment, the most important stimuli are now being expected to come consistently either from GRP or from all materials.

Composites Index continues to decline
The industry is currently going through an extremely tense and difficult period, characterised by rising costs, supply chain issues, lack of availability of certain semifinished products and raw materials, increasing political instability and very pessimistic expectations for the future. All the relevant indicators of the current composites survey are pointing downwards at the moment. After some slight recovery over the last 18 months, the Composite Index has therefore clearly been weakening this time and has been dropping to new low points, especially concerning future expectations.

Industry in general, but particularly also Germany’s composite industry, has always shown itself to be very resilient towards crises and has often cushioned negative developments quickly. The total production volume for composites in Europe last year already reached its pre-crisis level of 2019. Germany continues to be the most important manufacturing country in Europe, with a market share of nearly 20%. Hopefully, the slowdown in the coming months will be less severe than expected and the composites industry will remain on an upward trajectory. We will continue to be optimistic, as composites are highly diverse and therefore a key material of the future.

The next Composites Market Survey will be published in January 2023.

Source:

Composites Germany

Photo: Pixabay
28.06.2022

Individual plastic budget - Fraunhofer UMSICHT presents study results

When plastics enter the environment, this brings with it many negative effects: these range from suffocating living organisms to transfer within the food chain and physical effects on an ecosystem. In addition, there are dangers from the release of additives, monomers and critical intermediates of metabolic processes, the metabolites.

How great the long-term impact of plastic emissions actually is, is not yet clear at the present time. In order to create a political decision-making basis for dealing with plastic emissions, researchers from Fraunhofer UMSICHT and the Ruhr University Bochum have therefore developed a budget approach and an LCA impact assessment methodology in the "PlastikBudget" project from December 2017 to the end of August 2021. The researchers have now completed the project. The result: When driving a car, a person emits more than half of their individual plastic emission budget through tire wear.

When plastics enter the environment, this brings with it many negative effects: these range from suffocating living organisms to transfer within the food chain and physical effects on an ecosystem. In addition, there are dangers from the release of additives, monomers and critical intermediates of metabolic processes, the metabolites.

How great the long-term impact of plastic emissions actually is, is not yet clear at the present time. In order to create a political decision-making basis for dealing with plastic emissions, researchers from Fraunhofer UMSICHT and the Ruhr University Bochum have therefore developed a budget approach and an LCA impact assessment methodology in the "PlastikBudget" project from December 2017 to the end of August 2021. The researchers have now completed the project. The result: When driving a car, a person emits more than half of their individual plastic emission budget through tire wear.

How big is the long-term impact of plastic emissions?
Six percent of global petroleum consumption goes to the plastics industry - and the trend is rising. While the plastics industry is an important economic factor in many countries, more and more plastic waste ends up in soils and oceans. Mostly in the form of highly mobile, small to large plastic fragments, plastic emissions can no longer be recovered from the environment. At the same time, the long-term effects of plastic in the environment are hardly predictable.

Due to the global and cross-generational dimension of the problem, it is important that science, industry and consumers work together to find a solution. One goal of the joint project PlastikBudget is therefore to quantify today's plastic emissions and to derive a plastic emissions budget. On this basis, the researchers can formulate quantitative emission targets that can be used to legitimize political decisions. In particular, the path from empirically verified data and normative values to a concrete emissions budget forms the core objective of the project.

From research to per capita emissions budget
Starting with a basic research on plastic quantities in the environment, the project addresses two major topics: The development of a budget approach and the development of an impact assessment method that can be used in life cycle assessments to consider potential environmental impacts of plastic emissions. Participatory formats complete the project. In this way, the results are anchored in political and scientific discourse. In the course of the project, the researchers will answer the following questions: What quantities of plastic are currently being discharged and what quantities have already accumulated? What quantities of plastic in the environment are still acceptable? How long does it take for plastics to degrade in real environmental compartments? How are the risks posed by different plastic emissions adequately represented? Finally, from the answers, they calculate a value for current emissions and what they consider to be an acceptable emissions budget.

250 million tonnes of PPE for 7.8 billion people
To measure plastic pollution, the researchers in the PlastikBudget project have developed the persistence-weighted plastic emission equivalent (PPE for short). This represents a virtual mass that takes into account the period of time until a specific plastic emission is degraded, e.g. in soil, freshwater or seawater. Relevant properties for this are the location of the emission, the material type, the shape of the plastic emission as well as the size of the emitted plastic part and the final environmental compartment in which the plastic remains. In the case of plastics that degrade completely within one year, the plastic emission equivalent corresponds to the real mass. If the degradation time is longer, it increases accordingly.

"Based on the thesis that the total amount of plastics already accumulated in the environment today has just reached a critical quantity, we were able to calculate a global plastic emission budget of 250 million tonnes of PPE," explains Jürgen Bertling, project manager of the project and scientist at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. "If each of the 7.8 billion people is allocated the same emission rights, this results in an individual budget of 31.9 kilograms of PPE per person and year."

Driving consumes half of the individual plastic budget
However, tire wear from driving alone corresponds to a plastic emission equivalent of 16.5 kg PPE per year and thus consumes more than 50 per cent of an individual's budget. Even waste from ten coffee-to-go disposable cups would consume 13.5 kg of PPE per year, more than a third of one's budget. "This is because the plastics used in disposable cups are more difficult to degrade than the rubber in the tire," explains Jan Blömer from Fraunhofer UMSICHT, who played a key role in developing the calculation methodology. The consumption of a coil of polyamide for a lawn trimmer, which releases microplastics when used, also weighs in considerably at 5.1 kilograms of PPE. Microbeads in cosmetics or the one-time sanding of a front door, on the other hand, consume significantly less of the individual emissions budget with 1.1 kg PPE and 0.5 kg PPE, but are still quite relevant in the overall balance.

Many other everyday activities also lead to plastic emissions. Nevertheless, the researchers show that the calculated budget limits can be met in various scenarios. However, such a scenario also entails considerable effort and massive changes in the way we deal with plastics today. One possible scenario to meet the budget would be a reduction of emissions by more than 50 per cent, if at the same time at least 50 per cent of all emissions consisted of readily degradable plastics.

Further work on accounting for plastic emissions in life cycle assessments
The persistence-weighted plastic emission equivalent developed in the PlastikBudget project could also represent a new impact category in life cycle assessments in the future. "With the help of factors that reflect the persistence of plastics in the environment, it will be possible in future to compare different product alternatives in terms of their plastic emission footprints," says Dr Daniel Maga, who is coordinating the corresponding further development of the life cycle assessment methodology at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. A corresponding exchange with companies is taking place here. However, implementation in the life cycle assessment methodology and the associated software solutions requires broad acceptance in the scientific community and must be prepared in corresponding standardisation committees.

The project is part of the research priority "Plastics in the Environment" (PidU) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), in which 18 collaborative projects with around 100 partners from science, industry, associations, municipalities and practice want to clarify fundamental questions about the production, use and disposal of plastics. The research focus "Plastics in the Environment - Sources, Shrinking, Solutions" is part of the Green Economy flagship initiative of the BMBF framework programme "Research for Sustainable Development" (FONA3).

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT

Nicolas Meletiou, Pixabay
01.03.2022

Textiles and the environment: the role of design in Europe’s circular economy

From the perspective of European consumption, textiles have on average the fourth highest negative life cycle impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. A shift to a circular textile production and consumption system with longer use, and more reuse and recycling could reduce those impacts along with reductions in overall consumption. One important measure is circular design of textiles to improve product durability, repairability and recyclability and to ensure the uptake of secondary raw materials in new products.

Key messages

From the perspective of European consumption, textiles have on average the fourth highest negative life cycle impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. A shift to a circular textile production and consumption system with longer use, and more reuse and recycling could reduce those impacts along with reductions in overall consumption. One important measure is circular design of textiles to improve product durability, repairability and recyclability and to ensure the uptake of secondary raw materials in new products.

Key messages

  • In 2019, the EU textile and clothing sector had a turnover of EUR162 billion, employing over 1.5 million people across 160,000 companies. As was the case in many sectors, between 2019 and 2020, the COVID-19 crisis decreased turnover by 9% for textiles as a whole and by 17% for clothing.
  • In 2020, textile consumption in Europe had on average the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change from a global life cycle perspective. It was the consumption area with the third highest impact on water and land use, and the fifth highest in terms of raw material use and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • To reduce the environmental impacts of textiles, a shift towards circular business models, including circular design, is crucial. This will need technical, social and business model innovation, as well as behavioural change and policy support.
  • Circular design is an important enabler of the transition towards sustainable production and consumption of textiles through circular business models. The design phase plays a critical role in each of the four pathways to achieving a circular textile sector: longevity and durability; optimised resource use; collection and reuse; and recycling and material use.

Textiles are identified as a key value chain in the EU circular economy action plan and will be addressed in the forthcoming European Commission’s 2022 EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles and EU sustainable products initiative. This briefing aims to improve our understanding of the environmental and climate impacts of textiles from a European perspective and to identify design principles and measures to increase circularity in textiles. It is underpinned by a report from the EEA’s European Topic Centre on Circular Economy and Resource Use available here.

1. Production, trade and consumption of textiles
Textiles is an important sector for the EU economy. In 2019, the EU textile and clothing sector had a turnover of EUR162 billion, employing over 1.5 million people in 160,000 companies. As was the case for many sectors, between 2019 and 2020, the COVID-19 health and economic crisis decreased turnover by 9% for textiles as a whole and by 17% for clothing (Euratex, 2021).

In 2020, 6.9 million tonnes of finished textile products were produced in the EU-27. EU production specialises in carpets, household textiles and other textiles (including non-woven textiles, technical and industrial textiles, ropes and fabrics). In addition to finished products, the EU produces intermediate products for textiles, such as fibres, yarns and fabrics (Köhler et al., 2021).

The textiles sector is labour intensive compared with others. Almost 13 million full-time equivalent workers were employed worldwide in the supply chain to produce the amount of clothing, textiles and footwear consumed in the EU-27 in 2020. This makes the textiles sector the third largest employer worldwide, after food and housing. Most production takes place in Asia, where low production costs come at the expense of workers’ health and safety.
 
Textiles are highly globalised, with Europe being a significant importer and exporter. In 2020, 8.7 million tonnes of finished textile products, with a value of EUR125 billion, were imported into the EU-27. Clothing accounts for 45% of imports in terms of volume, followed by household textiles, other textiles and footwear (Eurostat, 2021a). The EU imports mainly from China, Bangladesh and Turkey, and exports mainly to the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the United States (Euratex, 2020).

Consumption
European households consume large amounts of textile products. In 2019, as in 2018, Europeans spent on average EUR600 on clothing, EUR150 on footwear and EUR70 on household textiles (Köhler et al., 2021; Eurostat, 2021b).

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic, involving stay-at-home measures and the closure of companies and shops, decreased textile production and demand overall (Euratex, 2021). As a result, the consumption of clothing and footwear per person decreased in 2020, relative to 2019, while the consumption of household textiles slightly increased. Average textile consumption per person amounted to 6.0kg of clothing, 6.1kg of household textiles and 2.7kg of shoes in 2020 (see Figure 1).

Apart from this COVID-related drop in consumption in 2020, the estimated consumption of clothing and footwear stayed relatively constant over the last decade, with slight fluctuations between years (see Figure 2). Similarly, the consumption of household textiles was also relatively steady, with a slight increase over the decade.

When calculating the ‘estimated consumption’ based on production and trade data from 2020, and excluding industrial/technical textiles and carpets, total textile consumption is 15kg per person per year, consisting of, on average:

  • 6.0kg of clothing
  • 6.1kg of household textiles
  • 2.7kg footwear.

For 2020, this amounts to a total consumption of 6.6 million tonnes of textile products in Europe. Textile consumption estimates are uncertain, as they vary by study, often using different scopes and calculation methods.

2. Environmental and climate impacts of textiles
The production and consumption of textiles has significant impacts on the environment and climate change. Environmental impacts in the production phase result from the cultivation and production of natural fibres such as cotton, hemp and linen (e.g. use of land and water, fertilisers and pesticides) and from the production of synthetic fibres such as polyester and elastane (e.g. energy use, chemical feedstock) (ETC/WMGE, 2021b). Manufacturing textiles requires large amounts of energy and water and uses a variety of chemicals across various production processes. Distribution and retail are responsible for transport emissions and packaging waste.

During use and maintenance — washing, drying and ironing — electricity, water and detergents are used. Chemicals and microfibres are also emitted into the waste water. Meanwhile, textiles contribute to significant amounts of textile waste. At the end of their life, textiles often end up in general waste and are incinerated or landfilled. When textile waste is collected separately, textiles are sorted and reused, recycled or disposed of, depending on their quality and material composition. In 2017, it was estimated that less than 1% of all textiles worldwide are recycled into new products (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017).

To illustrate the magnitude of the impacts of textile consumption on raw material use, water and land use and greenhouse gas emissions compared with other consumption categories, we have updated our calculations of the life cycle environmental and climate impacts in the EU. We used input-output modelling based on data from the Exiobase database and Eurostat. In line with the reduced textile consumption level in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the environmental impacts decreased from 2019 to 2020.

Raw material use
Large amounts of raw materials are used for textile production. To produce all clothing, footwear and household textiles purchased by EU households in 2020, an estimated 175 million tonnes of primary raw materials were used, amounting to 391kg per person. Roughly 40% of this is attributable to clothes, 30% to household textiles and 30% to footwear. This ranks textiles as the fifth highest consumption category in Europe in terms of primary raw material use (see Figure 3).

The raw materials used include all types of materials used in producing natural and synthetic fibres, such as fossil fuels, chemicals and fertilisers. It also includes all building materials, minerals and metals used in the construction of production facilities. Transport and retail of the textile products are included as well. Only 20% of these primary raw materials are produced or extracted in Europe, with the remainder extracted outside Europe. This shows the global nature of the textiles value chain and the high dependency of European consumption on imports. This implies that 80% of environmental impacts generated by Europe’s textile consumption takes place outside Europe. For example, cotton farming, fibre production and garment construction mostly take place in Asia (ETC/WMGE, 2019).

Water use
Producing and handling textiles requires large quantities of water. Water use distinguishes between ‘blue’ water (surface water or groundwater consumed or evaporated during irrigation, industry processes or household use) and ‘green’ water (rain water stored in the soil, typically used to grow crops) (Hoekstra et al., 2012).

To produce all clothing, footwear and household textiles purchased by EU households in 2020, about 4,000 million m³ of blue water were required, amounting to 9m³ per person, ranking textiles’ water consumption in third place, after food and recreation and culture (see Figure 4).

Additionally, about 20,000 million m³ of green water was used, mainly for producing cotton, which amounts to 44m³ per person. Blue water is used fairly equally in producing clothing (40%), footwear (30%) and household and other textiles (30%). Green water is mainly consumed in producing clothing (almost 50%) and household textiles (30%), of which cotton production consumes the most.

Water consumption for textiles consumed in Europe mostly takes place outside Europe. It is estimated that producing 1kg of cotton requires about 10m³ of water, typically outside Europe (Chapagain et al., 2006).

Land use
Producing textiles, in particular natural textiles, requires large amounts of land. The land used in the supply chain of textiles purchased by European households in 2020 is estimated at 180,000 km², or 400m² per person. Only 8% of the land used is in Europe. Over 90% of the land use impact occurs outside Europe, mostly related to (cotton) fibre production in China and India (ETC/WMGE, 2019). Animal-based fibres, such as wool, also have a significant land use impact (Lehmann et al., 2018). This makes textiles the sector with the third highest impact on land use, after food and housing (see Figure 5). Of this, 43% is attributable to clothes, 35% to footwear (including leather shoes, which have a high land use impact because of the need for cattle pasture) and 23% to household and other textiles.

Greenhouse gas emissions
The production and consumption of textiles generate greenhouse gas emissions, in particular from resource extraction, production, washing and drying, and waste incineration. In 2020, producing textile products consumed in the EU generated greenhouse gas emissions of 121 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in total, or 270kg CO2e per person. This makes textiles the household consumption domain responsible for the fifth largest impact on climate change, after housing, food, transport and mobility, and recreation and culture (see Figure 6). Of this, 50% is attributable to clothes, 30% to household and other textiles, and 20% to footwear. While greenhouse gas emissions have a global effect, almost 75% are released outside Europe, mainly in the important textile-producing regions in Asia (ETC/WMGE, 2019).

About 80% of the total climate change impact of textiles occurs in the production phase. A further 3% occurs in distribution and retail, 14% in the use phase (washing, drying and ironing), and 3% during end of life (collection, sorting, recycling, incineration and disposal) (ECOS, 2021; Östlund et al., 2020).

Textiles made from natural fibres, such as cotton, generally have the lowest climate impact. Those made from synthetic fibres (especially nylon and acrylic) generally have a higher climate impact because of their fossil fuel origin and the energy consumed during production (ETC/WMGE, 2021b; Beton et al., 2014).

3. Design as an enabler of circular business models for textiles
To reduce the environmental and climate change impacts of textiles, shifting towards circular business models is crucial to save on raw materials, energy, water and land use, emissions and waste (ETC/WMGE, 2019). Implementing and scaling circular business models requires technical, social and business model innovation; as well as enablers from policy, consumption and education (EEA, 2021).

Circular design is an important component of circular business models for textiles. It can ensure higher quality, longer lifetimes, better use of materials, and better options for reuse and recycling. While it is important to enable the recycling and reuse of materials, life-extending strategies, such as design for durability, ease of reuse, repair and remanufacturing, should be prioritised. Preventing the use of hazardous chemicals and limiting toxic emissions and release of microplastics at all life cycle stages should be incorporated into product design.

Designing for circularity is the most recent development in design for sustainability. Expanding a technical and product-centric focus to a focus on large-scale system-level changes (considering both production and consumption systems) shows that this latest development requires many more disciplines than traditional engineering design. Product design as a component of a circular business model depends on consumer behaviour and policy to realise its potential and enable implementation. Figure 7 shows the linkages between the circular business model, product design, consumer behaviour and policy. All are needed to slow down and close the loop, making it circular.

Graphik: Pixabay
11.01.2022

FIMATEC innovation network enters second funding phase

The network for the development of fiber materials technology for healthcare and sports will receive funding from the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM) for another two years.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWi) approved a corresponding application in December 2021. This will continue to provide funding for the development of innovative functional fibers, smart textiles and application-optimized fiber composite materials until June 2023 and strengthen the technological competitiveness and innovative strength of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The network for the development of fiber materials technology for healthcare and sports will receive funding from the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM) for another two years.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWi) approved a corresponding application in December 2021. This will continue to provide funding for the development of innovative functional fibers, smart textiles and application-optimized fiber composite materials until June 2023 and strengthen the technological competitiveness and innovative strength of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

For this purpose, the FIMATEC innovation network combines competences from different engineering and scientific disciplines with small and medium-sized manufacturers and service providers from the target sectors in medicine and sports (e.g. orthopaedics, prosthetics, surgery, smart textiles) as well as players from the textile and plastics industry.      

This interdisciplinary combination of industrial partners and application-oriented research institutions increases competitiveness and enables the players to realise their technical research and development projects quickly and in a targeted manner. The focus for the joint R&D projects of the companies and research institutions is on the development of innovative materials and efficient manufacturing technologies. 
          
Fiber-based materials have become indispensable in many applications in medicine and sports. As a pure fiber, processed into a textile or as a fiber composite plastic, they offer an almost unlimited variety for adjusting property and functional profiles. At the same time, the demands on the range of functions, performance and cost-effectiveness are constantly increasing, so that there is great potential for innovation. Developments are driven on the one hand by new materials and manufacturing processes, and on the other by innovative applications. Products with new and superior functions create a technological advantage over international competitors and enable higher sales revenues. In addition, efficient processes, application-optimized materials or even the integration of functions into the basic structure of textile materials lead to lower production costs and improved marketing opportunities in the future.
For developments in this context, the partners have joined forces in the FIMATEC innovation network, thus combining their expertise. Within the network, innovative materials and processes are being developed jointly in the following areas and tested in future-oriented products and services:

  • Functional fibers
    Innovative fiber materials with integrated functionalities
  • Preforming
    Highly load path optimized fiber orientations for complex fiber composite components.    
  • Smart Textiles
    Textile-based sensors and actuators
  • Hybrid material and manufacturing technologies
    Application-optimized components through cross-technology solution approaches.    
  • Fiber composites  
    Intelligent matrix systems and function-optimized fiber materials.    
  • Fiber-reinforced 3D printing  
    High-quality additive manufacturing processes for the efficient production of individualized products.

 
17 network partners are researching fiber-based materials for medical and sports technologyCurrently, ten companies and seven research institutions are involved in FIMATEC. Interested companies and research institutions as well as potential users can continue to participate in the cooperation network or R&D projects. In the course of membership, the partners are actively supported in identifying and initiating innovation projects as well as securing financing through funding acquisition. One application for ZIM project funding has already been approved by FIMATEC in its first year.

The aim of the already approved project "CFKadapt" is to develop a thermoformable fiber-plastic composite material for optimally adaptable orthopedic aids such as prostheses and orthoses. In the "Modul3Rad" project, which is currently being worked out in detail, the project partners intend to develop a modular lightweight frame system for the construction of user-friendly therapy tricycles, suitable for everyday use by severely and very severely disabled children. Three further collaborative projects are already in the planning stage.

The technology and knowledge transfer enables in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access cutting-edge technological research, especially these are often denied access to innovations due to the lack of their own research departments. The IWS GmbH has taken over the network management for FIMATEC and supports the partners from the first idea to the search for suitable project partners and the preparation and coordination of funding applications. The aim is to obtain funding from the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM), which offers companies funding opportunities for a wide range of technical innovation projects in cooperation with research institutions.

FIMATEC-netzwork partners
all ahead composites GmbH | Veitshöchheim | www.bike-ahead-composites.de
Altropol Kunststoff GmbH | Stockelsdorf | www.altropol.de
Diondo GmbH | Hattingen | www.diondo.com
Mailinger innovative fiber solutions GmbH | Sontra | www.mailinger.de
Sanitätshaus Manfred Klein GmbH & Co. KG | Stade | www.klein-sanitaetshaus.de
STREHL GmbH & Co KG | Bremervörde | www.rehastrehl.de
WESOM Textil GmbH | Olbersdorf | www.wesom-textil.de
Faserinstitut Bremen e.V. (FIBRE) | www.faserinstitut.de
E.F.M. GmbH | Olbersdorf | www.efm-gmbh.de
REHA-OT Lüneburg Melchior und Fittkau GmbH | Olbersdorf | www.rehaot.de
Fraunhofer-Institut für Fertigungstechnik und Angewandte Materialforschung IFAM | Bremen | www.ifam.fraunhofer.de
Leibniz-Institut für Polymerforschung Dresden e.V. (IPF) | www.ipfdd.de
Institut für Polymertechnologien Wismar e.V. (IPT) | www.ipt-wismar.de
Institut für Verbundwerkstoffe GmbH | Kaiserslautern | www.ivw.uni-kl.de

Associated network partners
9T Labs AG | Zürich, Schweiz | www.9tlabs.com
Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Institut für Kunststofftechnik (FHNW) | www.fhnw.ch
KATZ - Kunststoff Ausbildungs- und Technologie-Zentrum | Aarau, Schweiz | www.katz.ch

Source:

Textination / IWS Innovations- und Wissensstrategien GmbH

(c) nova-Institut GmbH
07.12.2021

Finalists for „Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year 2022” announced

Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year 2022: Cellulose Fibre Solutions are expanding from hygiene and textiles as well as non-wovens up to alternatives for carbon fibres for light-weight applications.

Great submissions made the nomination for the Innovation Award difficult. All of them present promising sustainable solutions in the field of cellulose fibres value chain. Six of them now get the chance to demonstrate their potential to a wide audience in Cologne (Germany), and online.

Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year 2022: Cellulose Fibre Solutions are expanding from hygiene and textiles as well as non-wovens up to alternatives for carbon fibres for light-weight applications.

Great submissions made the nomination for the Innovation Award difficult. All of them present promising sustainable solutions in the field of cellulose fibres value chain. Six of them now get the chance to demonstrate their potential to a wide audience in Cologne (Germany), and online.

For the second time, nova-Institute grants the “Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year” within the framework of the “International Conference on Cellulose Fibres 2022” (2-3 February 2022). The advisory board of the conference nominated six  products, ranging from cellulose made of orange- and wood pulp to a novel technology for cellulose fibre production. The presentations, election of the winner by the conference audience and the award ceremony will take place on the first day of the conference.

Cellulose fibres show an increasingly expanding wide range of applications, while at the same time markets are driven by technological developments and political framework conditions, especially bans and restrictions on plastics and increasing sustainability requirements. The conference provides rich information on opportunities for cellulose fibres through policy assessment, a session on sustainability, recycling and alternative feedstocks as well as latest development in pulp, cellulose fibres and yarns. This includes application such as non-wovens, packaging and composites.

Here are the nominees:
Carbon Fibres from Wood – German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf (Germany)
The HighPerCellCarbon® technology is a sustainable and alternative process for the production of carbon fibres made from wood. The technology starts with wet spinning of cellulosic fibres using ionic liquids (IL) as direct solvent in an environmentally friendly, closed loop filament spinning process (HighPerCell® technology). These filaments are directly converted into carbon fibres by a low-pressure stabilisation process, followed by a suitable carbonisation process. No exhaust fumes or toxic by-products are formed during the whole process. Furthermore, the approach allows a complete recycling of solvent and precursor fibres, creating a unique and environmentally friendly process. Carbon fibres are used in many lightweight applications and the fibres are a sustainable alternative to fossil-based ones.

Fibers365, Truly Carbon-Negative Virgin Fibres from Straw – Fibers365 (Germany)
Fibers365 are the first carbon-negative virgin straw fibres on the market. The Fibers365 concept is based on a unique, state of the art process to provide functional, carbon negative, and competitive non-wood biomass products such as virgin fibres for paper, packaging and textile purposes as well as high value process energy, biopolymer and fertilizer side streams. The products are extracted from the stems of annual food plants such as straw by a chemical-free, regional, farm level steam explosion pulping technology, allowing an easy separation of the fibres from sugars, lignin, organic acid and minerals. In the case of annual plants, CO2 emissions are recaptured within 12 months from their production date, offering “instant”, yearly compensation of corresponding emissions.

Iroony® Hemp and Flax Cellulose – RBX Créations (France)
Iroony® is a branded cellulose made by RBX Créations from hemp. This resistant hemp plant grows quickly within in a few months, massively captures carbon and displays a high content of cellulose. The biomass is directly collected from French farmers who cultivate without chemicals or irrigation, in extended rotation cycles, contributing to soil regeneration and biodiversity. For a diversified supply, the hemp can be combined with organically-grown flax. Through its patented process, RBX Créations extracts high-purity cellulose, perfectly suitable for spinning technologies such as HighPerCell® of DITF research centre. The resulting fibres display versatile properties of fineness, tenacity and stretch, for applications like clothing or technical textiles. Iroony® combines low impact, trackability and performance.

SPINNOVA, Sustainable Textile Fibre without Harmful Chemicals – Spinnova (Finland)
Spinnova’s innovative technology enables production of sustainable textile fibres in a mechanical process, without dissolving or any harmful chemicals. The process involves use of paper-grade pulp and mechanical refining to turn pulp into microfibrillated cellulose (MFC). The fibre suspension consisting of MFC is extruded to form textile fibre, without regeneration processes. The Spinnova process does not generate any side waste, and the environmental footprint of SPINNOVA® including 65 % less CO2 emissions and 99 % less water compared to cotton production. Spinnova’s solution is also scalable: Spinnova targets to reach 1 million tonnes annual production capacity in the next 10 to 12 years.    

Sustainable Menstruation Panties: Application-driven Fibre Functionalisation – Kelheim Fibres (Germany)
Kelheim’s plant-based and biodegradable fibres contribute significantly to a sustainable future in the field of reusable hygiene textiles. Through innovative functionalisation they are specifically adjusted to the requirements of the single layers and thereby reach a performance comparable to that of synthetic fibres. A unique duality in fibre technology is created: sustainably manufactured cellulosic fibres that allow for high wearing comfort and reusability with extraordinary, durable performance. Fibre concepts comprise Celliant® Viscose, an in-fibre infrared solution and Danufil® Fibres in the top sheet, Galaxy, a trilobal fibre for the ADL, Bramante, a hollow viscose fibre, in the absorbing core and a water repellent woven fabric, a biodegradable PLA film or a sustainable coating as a back sheet.

TENCEL™ branded Lyocell Fibre made of Orange and Wood Pulp – Orange Fiber (Italy)
Orange Fiber is the world's first company to produce a sustainable textile fibre from a patented process for the extraction of cellulose to be spun from citrus juice leftovers, which are more than 1 million tonnes a year just in Italy. The result of our partnership with Lenzing Group, leading global producer of wood-based specialty fibres, is the first ever TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibre made of orange and wood pulp. A novel cellulosic fibre to further inspire sustainability across the value chain and push the boundaries of innovation. This fibre, part of the TENCEL™ Limited Edition initiative, is characterized by soft appeal and high moisture absorbance and has already obtained the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certificate and is undergoing a diverse set of other sustainability assessments.

(c) Toray
23.11.2021

Toray Industries: A Concept to change Lives

Founded in January 1926, Tokyo-based Japanese chemical company Toray Industries, Inc. is known as the world's largest producer of PAN (polyacrylonitrile)-based carbon fibers. But its overall portfolio includes much more. Textination spoke with Koji Sasaki, General Manager of the Textile Division of Toray Industries, Inc. about innovative product solutions, new responsibilities and the special role of chemical companies in today's world.

Toray Industries is a Japanese company that - originating in 1926 as a producer of viscose yarns - is on the home stretch to its 100th birthday. Today, the Toray Group includes 102 Japanese companies and 180 overseas. They operate in 29 countries. What is the current significance of the fibers and textiles business unit for the success of your company?

Founded in January 1926, Tokyo-based Japanese chemical company Toray Industries, Inc. is known as the world's largest producer of PAN (polyacrylonitrile)-based carbon fibers. But its overall portfolio includes much more. Textination spoke with Koji Sasaki, General Manager of the Textile Division of Toray Industries, Inc. about innovative product solutions, new responsibilities and the special role of chemical companies in today's world.

Toray Industries is a Japanese company that - originating in 1926 as a producer of viscose yarns - is on the home stretch to its 100th birthday. Today, the Toray Group includes 102 Japanese companies and 180 overseas. They operate in 29 countries. What is the current significance of the fibers and textiles business unit for the success of your company?

The fibers’ and textiles’ business is both the starting point and the foundation of Toray's business development today. We started producing viscose yarns in 1926 and conducted our own research and development in nylon fibers as early as 1940. And since new materials usually require new processing methods, Toray also began investing in its own process technology at an early stage. On the one hand, we want to increase our sales, and on the other hand, we want to expand the application possibilities for our materials. For this reason, Toray also began to expand its business from pure fibers to textiles and even clothing. This allows us to better respond to our customers' needs while staying at the forefront of innovation.

Over the decades, Toray has accumulated a great deal of knowledge in polymer chemistry and organic synthesis chemistry - and this know-how is the foundation for almost all of our other business ventures. Today, we produce a wide range of advanced materials and high-value-added products in plastics, chemicals, foils, carbon fiber composites, electronics and information materials, pharmaceuticals, medicine and water treatment. However, fibers and textiles remain our most important business area, accounting for around 40% of the company's sales.

What understanding, what heritage is still important to you today? And how do you live out a corporate philosophy in the textile sector that you formulate as "Contributing to society through the creation of new value with innovative ideas, technologies and products"?

Toray has consistently developed new materials that the world has never seen before. We do this by focusing on our four core technologies: Polymer chemistry, organic synthetic chemistry, biotechnology and nanotechnology. We do this by focusing on our four core technologies: Polymer chemistry, organic synthetic chemistry, biotechnology and nanotechnology. For textiles, this means we use new polymer structures, spinning technologies and processing methods to develop yarns with unprecedented properties. We always focus on the needs and problems of the market and our customers.

This approach enables us to integrate textiles with new functions into our everyday lives that natural fibers and materials cannot accomplish. For example, we offer sportswear and underwear that absorb water excellently and dry very quickly, or rainwear and outdoor clothing with excellent water-repellent properties that feature a less bulky inner lining. Other examples include antibacterial underwear, uniforms, or inner linings that provide a hygienic environment and reduce the growth of odor-causing bacteria. People enjoy the convenience of these innovative textiles every day, and we hope to contribute to their daily comfort and improve their lives in some way.

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 sustainable development goals – simply known as the 2030 Agenda, which came into force on January 01, 2016. Countries were given 15 years to achieve them by 2030. In your company, there is a TORAY VISION 2030 and a TORAY SUSTAINABILITY VISION. How do you apply these principles and goals to the textile business? What role does sustainability play for this business area?

Sustainability is one of the most important issues facing the world today - not only in the textile sector, but in all industries. We in the Toray Group are convinced that we can contribute to solving various problems in this regard with our advanced materials. At the same time, the trend towards sustainability offers interesting new business approaches. In our sustainability vision, we have set four goals that the world should achieve by 2050. And we have defined which problems need to be addressed to achieve this.

We must:

  1. accelerate measures to combat climate change,
  2. implement sustainable, recycling-oriented solutions in the use of resources and in production,
  3. provide clean water and air, and
  4. contribute to better healthcare and hygiene for people around the world.

We will drive this agenda forward by promoting and expanding the use of materials that respond to environmental issues. In the textile sector, for example, we offer warming and cooling textiles – by eliminating the need for air conditioning or heating in certain situations, they can help reduce energy costs. We also produce environmentally friendly textiles that do not contain certain harmful substances such as fluorine, as well as textiles made from biomass, which use plant-based fibers instead of conventional petrochemical materials. Our product range also includes recycled materials that reduce waste and promote effective use of resources.

The TORAY VISION 2030, on the other hand, is our medium-term strategic plan and looks at the issue of sustainability from a different angle: Toray has defined the path to sustainable and healthy corporate growth in it. In this plan, we are focusing on two major growth areas: Our Green Innovation Business, which aims to solve environmental, resource and energy problems, and the Life Innovation Business, which focuses on improving medical care, public health, personal safety and ultimately a longer expectancy of life.

Innovation by Chemistry is the claim of the Toray Group. In a world where REACH and Fridays for Future severely restrict the scope of the chemical industry, the question arises as to what position chemistry can have in the textile industry. How do chemistry, innovation and sustainability fit together here?

The chemical industry is at a turning point today. The benefits that this industry can bring to civilization are still enormous, but at the same time, disadvantages such as the waste of resources and the negative impact on the environment and ecosystems are becoming increasingly apparent. In the future, the chemical industry will have to work much more towards sustainability - there is no way around it.

As far as textiles are concerned, we believe there are several ways to make synthetic materials more sustainable in the future. One of these, as I said, is materials made from plants instead of petrochemical raw materials. Another is to reduce the amount of raw materials used in production in the first place – this can be achieved, for example, by collecting and recycling waste materials from production or sales. Biodegradable materials that reduce the impact of waste products on the environment are another option worth pursuing, as is the reduction of environmentally harmful substances used in the production process. We are already looking at all of these possibilities in Toray's synthetic textiles business. At the same time, by the way, we make sure to save energy in our own production and minimize the impact on the environment.

Toray's fibers & textiles segment focuses on synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester and acrylic, as well as other functional fibers. In recent years, there has been a clear trend on the market towards cellulosic fibers, which are also being traded as alternatives to synthetic products. How do you see this development – on the one hand for the Toray company, and on the other hand under the aspect of sustainability, which the cellulosic competitors claim for themselves with the renewable raw material base?

Natural fibers, including cellulose fibers and wool, are environmentally friendly in that they can be easily recycled and are rapidly biodegradable after disposal. However, to truly assess their environmental impact, a number of other factors must also be considered: Primarily, there is the issue of durability: precisely because natural fibers are natural, it is difficult to respond to a rapid increase in demand, and quality is not always stable due to weather and other factors.

Climatic changes such as extreme heat, drought, wind, floods and damages from freezing can affect the quantity and quality of the production of natural fibers, so that the supply is not always secured. In order to increase production, not only does land have to be cleared, but also large amounts of water and pesticides have to be used to cultivate it – all of which is harmful to the environment.

Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, are industrial products manufactured in controlled factory environments. This makes it easier to manage fluctuations in production volume and ensure consistent quality. In addition, certain functional properties such as resilience, water absorption, quick drying and antibacterial properties can be embedded into the material, which can result in textiles lasting longer in use.

So synthetic fibers and natural fibers, including cellulose fibers, have their own advantages and disadvantages – there is no panacea here, at least not at the moment. We believe: It is important to ensure that there are options that match the consumer's awareness and lifestyle. This includes comfort in everyday life and sustainability at the same time.

To what extent has the demand for recycled products increased? Under the brand name &+™, Toray offers a fiber made from recycled PET bottles. Especially with the "raw material base: PET bottles", problems can occur with the whiteness of the fiber. What distinguishes your process from that of other companies and to what extent can you compete with new fibers in terms of quality?

During the production of the "&+" fiber, the collected PET bottles are freed from all foreign substances using special washing and filtering processes. These processes have not only allowed us to solve the problem of fiber whiteness – by using filtered, high-purity recycled polyester chips, we can also produce very fine fibers and fibers with unique cross sections. Our proven process technologies can also be used to incorporate specific textures and functions of Toray into the fiber. In addition, "&+" contains a special substance in the polyester that allows the material to be traced back to the recycled PET bottle fibers used in it.

We believe that this combination of aesthetics, sustainability and functionality makes the recycled polyester fiber "&+" more competitive than those of other companies. And indeed, we have noticed that the number of requests is steadily increasing as companies develop a greater awareness of sustainability as early as the product planning stage.

How is innovation management practiced in Toray's textile division, and which developments that Toray has worked on recently are you particularly proud of?

The textile division consists of three sub-divisions focusing on the development and sale of fashion textiles (WOMEN'S & MEN'S WEAR FABRICS DEPT.), sports and outdoor textiles (SPORTS WEAR & CLOTHING MATERIALS FABRICS DEPT.) and, specifically for Japan, textiles for uniforms used in schools, businesses and the public sector (UNIFORM & ADVANCED TEXTILES DEPT.).

In the past, each division developed its own materials for their respective markets and customers. However, in 2021, we established a collaborative space to increase synergy and share information about textiles developed in different areas with the entire department. In this way, salespeople can also offer their customers materials developed in other departments and get ideas for developing new textiles themselves.

I believe that the new structure will also help us to respond better to changes in the market. We see, for example, that the boundaries between workwear and outdoor are blurring – brands like Engelbert Strauss are a good example of this trend. Another development that we believe will accelerate after the Corona pandemic is the focus on green technologies and materials. This applies to all textile sectors, and we need to work more closely together to be at the forefront of this.

How important are bio-based polyesters in your research projects? How do you assess the future importance of such alternatives?

I believe that these materials will play a major role in the coming years. Polyester is made from purified terephthalic acid (PTA), which again consists of paraxylene (PX) and ethylene glycol (EG). In a first step, we already offer a material called ECODEAR™, which uses sugar cane molasses waste as a raw material for EG production.

About 30% of this at least partially bio polyester fiber is therefore biologically produced, and the material is used on a large scale for sportswear and uniforms. In the next step, we are working on the development of a fully bio-based polyester fiber in which the PTA component is also obtained from biomass raw materials, such as the inedible parts of sugar cane and wood waste.

Already in 2011, we succeeded in producing a prototype of such a polyester fiber made entirely from biomass. However, the expansion of production at the PX manufacturer we are working with has proven to be challenging. Currently, we are only producing small sample quantities, but we hope to start mass production in the 2020s.

Originally starting with yarn, now a leading global producer of synthetic fibers for decades, you also work to the ready-made product. The range extends from protective clothing against dust and infections to smart textiles and functional textiles that record biometric data. What are you planning in these segments?

In the field of protective clothing, our LIVMOA™ brand is our flagship material. It combines high breathability to reduce moisture inside the garment with blocking properties that keep dust and other particles out. The textile is suitable for a wide range of work environments, including those with high dust or grease levels and even cleanrooms. LIVMOA™ 5000, a high quality, also demonstrates antiviral properties and helps to ease the burden on medical personnel. The material forms an effective barrier against bacteria and viruses and is resistant to hygroscopic pressure. Due to its high breathability, it also offers high wearing comfort.

Our smart textile is called hitoe™. This highly conductive fabric embeds a conductive polymer – a polymer compound that allows electricity to pass through - into the nanofiber fabric. hitoe™ is a high-performance material for detecting biosignals, weak electrical signals that we unconsciously emit from our bodies.

In Japan, Toray has developed products for electrocardiographic measurements (ECGs) that meet the safety and effectiveness standards of medical devices. And in 2016, we submitted an application to the Japanese medical administrative authorities to register a hitoe™ device as a general medical device – this registration process is now complete. Overall, we expect the healthcare sector, particularly medical and nursing applications, to grow – not least due to increasing infectious diseases and growing health awareness among the elderly population. We will therefore continue to develop and sell new products for this market.

In 1885, Joseph Wilson Swan introduced the term "artifical silk" for the nitrate cellulose filaments he artificially produced. Later, copper, viscose and acetate filament yarns spun on the basis of cellulose were also referred to as artifical silk. Toray has developed a new innovative spinning technology called NANODESIGN™, which enables nano-level control of the fineness and shape of synthetic fibers. This is expected to create functions, aesthetics and textures that have not existed before. For which applications do you intend to use these products?

In NANODESIGN™ technology, the polymer is split into a number of microscopic streams, which are then recombined in a specific pattern to form a new fiber. By controlling the polymer flow with extreme precision, the fineness and cross-sectional shape of the fiber can be determined much more accurately than was previously possible with conventional microfiber and nanofiber spinning technologies. In addition, this technology enables the combination of three or more polymer types with different properties in one fiber – conventional technologies only manage two polymer types. This technology therefore enables Toray to specify a wide range of textures and functions in the production of synthetic fibers that were not possible with conventional synthetic fibers – and even to outperform the texture and feel of natural fibers. Kinari, our artificial silk developed with NANODESIGN technology, is a prime example here, but the technology holds many more possibilities – especially with regard to our sustainability goals.

What has the past period of the pandemic meant for Toray's textile business so far? To what extent has it been a burden, but in which areas has it also been a driver of innovation? What do you expect of the next 12 months?

The Corona catastrophe had a dramatic impact on the company's results: The Corona catastrophe had a dramatic impact on the company's results: In the financial year 2020, Toray's total sales fell by about 10% to 188.36 billion yen (about 1.44 billion euros) and operating profit by about 28% to 90.3 billion yen (about 690 million euros). The impact on the fiber and textile business was also significant, with sales decreasing by around 13% to 719.2 billion yen (approx. 5.49 billion euros) and operating profit by around 39% to 36.6 billion yen (approx. 280 million euros).

In the financial year 2021, however, the outlook for the fibers and textiles sector is significantly better: So far, the segment has exceeded its goals overall, even if there are fluctuations in the individual areas and applications. In the period from April to June, we even returned to the level of 2019. This is partly due to the recovering sports and outdoor sector. The fashion apparel market, on the other hand, remains challenging due to changing lifestyles that have brought lock-downs and home-office. We believe that a full recovery in business will not occur until the travel and leisure sector returns to pre-Corona levels.

Another side effect of the pandemic that we feel very strongly, is the growing concern about environmental issues and climate change. As a result, the demand for sustainable materials has also increased in the apparel segment. In the future, sustainability will be mandatory for the development and marketing of new textiles in all market segments. Then again, there will always be the question of how sustainable a product really is, and data and traceability will become increasingly important. In the coming years, the textile division will keep a close eye on these developments and develop materials that meet customers' needs.

About the person:
Koji Sasaki joined Toray in 1987. In his more than 30 years with the company, he has held various positions, including a four-year position as Managing Director of Toray International Europe GmbH in Frankfurt from 2016 to 2020. Since 2020, Koji Sasaki has been responsible for Toray's textile division and serves as acting chairman of Toray Textiles Europe Ltd. In these roles, he supervises the company's development, sales and marketing activities in the apparel segment, including fashion, sports and work or school uniforms.

The interview was conducted by Ines Chucholowius, Managing partner Textination GmbH

(c) PERFORMANCE DAYS
16.11.2021

PERFORMANCE DAYS 2021: Hybrid Event in December

From December 1 to 2, 2021, the industry will meet up again live at the trade fair center in Munich. Trade visitors, industry insiders and experts can look forward to inter-personal exchanges, intensive networking, exciting fabric innovations and various other program highlights. The fair will go ahead in strict compliance with the current official hygiene regulations and in close cooperation with the Messe München authorities. Planned as a hybrid event, PERFORMANCE DAYS offers the possibility to follow what is on offer digitally.

From December 1 to 2, 2021, the industry will meet up again live at the trade fair center in Munich. Trade visitors, industry insiders and experts can look forward to inter-personal exchanges, intensive networking, exciting fabric innovations and various other program highlights. The fair will go ahead in strict compliance with the current official hygiene regulations and in close cooperation with the Messe München authorities. Planned as a hybrid event, PERFORMANCE DAYS offers the possibility to follow what is on offer digitally.

Live in Munich: PERFORMANCE DAYS in Hall A6
In Hall A6 on the grounds of the New Trade Center in Munich, trade visitors can look forward to an extensive portfolio of exhibitors showcasing their latest functional textiles and fabric innovations for the upcoming winter season, winter 2023/24. Exhibitors who are unable to present their highlights on site can also be accessed via the PERFORMANCE DAYS LOOP digital platform throughout the course of the fair. As part of the newly developed “remote booths” concept, trade visitors will for the first time also find collections from exhibitors who cannot be in Munich in person for the trade show. Interactive exchanges via chat, call or video call is planned.

Two further PERFORMANCE DAYS fairs are planned as live events: The Functional Fabric Fair by PERFORMANCE DAYS in Portland, Oregon, USA on November 17-18, 2021 and Functional Textiles Shanghai by PERFORMANCE DAYS on December 6-7, 2021. Registration is open at www.functionalfabricfair.com/ and www.functionaltextilesshanghai.com/

PERFORMANCE FORUM together with USA Fair
As part of the PERFORMANCE FORUM, a select jury of experts assembles for two days prior to the fair to exchange views on the latest fabric innovations for the winter 23/24 season. In order to ensure a more global market overview, the PERFORMANCE FORUM will curate highlights for the first time in conjunction with the US fair in Portland. Consequently, the next fair in Munich will not only feature the latest products from exhibitors at the Munich fair, but also highlights from the fair in Portland. This year’s Focus Topic in cooperation with the Vaude Academy will engage with the topic “The Sustainable Future of Nylon” and a specific hand-chosen selection of fabric materials. Furthermore, as part of the winter fair, the “sustain & innovate” conference on sustainability, organized in close cooperation with SAZsport, will take an in-depth look at the topic comprising all its aspects along with speakers, webinars and discussion rounds. The program will be broadcast live from the fair and thus accessible for all who wish to follow it online in digital form.  

Eco Award and Performance Award for Innovative Winter Fabrics 23/24
This year, in addition to a PERFORMANCE AWARD, the jury also presented an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD. An integral part of the winter edition of PERFORMANCE DAYS is the presentation of the fabric highlights and accessory trends in the respective categories for the Winter Season 2023/24 at the PERFORMANCE FORUM. The well-known segments will be joined for the first time this winter by the Shoes & Bags category, while the renowned Lifestyle Category will be continued under its new title, “Function Meets Fashion”. The high level of innovation and quality of many of the fabrics submitted this year are particularly striking.

“The fusion of the two PERFORMANCE FORUMs of our fairs in Munich and Portland has lead to a significant increase in quality and innovation. Thanks to the new partnership, not only were we able to get new, exciting manufacturers on board, but there was also a significant increase in participation in general“, says Marco Weichert, CEO of PERFORMANCE DAYS.

Natural fabrics such as organic cotton, wool or canvas remain in demand. These are joined by significantly more plant fibers such as hemp, coconut shell, bamboo or fibers derived from pineapple or banana leaves. The additional use of castor oil, zinc or ginger supports the antibacterial effect, ensures enhanced breathability, optimum temperature management and makes the fabric soft, light and kind to the skin. The topic of recycling presents itself in various new facets and features exciting trends. The portfolio ranges from the recycling of marine waste, such as old buoys, plastic waste or fishing nets, to the recycling of waste from the automotive and computer industries, such as old car tires or computer chips. Natural dyeing methods are also gaining increasing importance, as is the recycling of materials into the textile loop.

In the Marketplace, visitors have the opportunity to view over 13,000+ products from exhibitors, including the fabric highlights of the individual categories at the PERFORMANCE FORUM. In order to be able to present the fabrics to the digital visitors as realistically as possible in terms of feel, design and structure, the PERFORMANCE FORUM has been equipped with groundbreaking 3D technology, including innovative tools such as 3D images, video animations and U3M files for download.

In addition to the PERFORMANCE AWARD WINNER, which goes to drielease/Optimer, there is also an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD WINNER, awarded to Long Advance.

Completely new look: With the innovative Dricomfort Geo, drirelease turns to a blend of 6 % Lycra, 44 % polyester and 50 % recycled polyester. The processing of the various fibers in the knitting process, in combination with the Dricomfort GEO finishing, makes the reversible interlock fabric unique.

Unique, new pattern and knit designs are possible thanks to a special jacquard knitting process used to process the recycled polyester yarn. The material impresses with its lightness and versatility. The GEO technology also ensures optimal body temperature management. The adaptable technology provides excellent thermal regulation features through efficient heat management and enhanced moisture transport to optimize comfort and performance. Moreover, GEO boasts UV protection up to 50+.

New recycling variant: Long Advance presents LNT-21191-Z4C, a post consumer nylon that opens up a new world to recycling. The fabric, which consists of 7 % elastane and 93% recycled polyamide via Mass Balance, introduces new facets to the topic of recycling. BASF is using tire waste from now on and processes them into a new fiber. fiber. Due to the recycling, the need for synthetic fabrics are reduced to replace petroleum-based plastics with plastics made from renewable raw materials.

(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.

Photo: pixabay
24.08.2021

Air, Water, Oil: What PLA bioplastic can filter well - and what not

Air filters have been discussed so often in recent days in the fight against the pandemic. With filter material made of nonwoven fabric, they block the way back into rooms for aerosols containing viruses. But how can these devices not only protect health, but also be operated with filter material that is as environmentally friendly as possible?

Air filters have been discussed so often in recent days in the fight against the pandemic. With filter material made of nonwoven fabric, they block the way back into rooms for aerosols containing viruses. But how can these devices not only protect health, but also be operated with filter material that is as environmentally friendly as possible?

Under clearly defined conditions, the bioplastic polylactide (PLA), also known as polylactic acid, is suited for this purpose. This can be deduced from results obtained by researchers from the Zuse community in the recently completed "BioFilter" research project. The key question for this and other potential applications of biofilters is: How do the special properties of PLA affect the filter performance and durability? After all, PLA can have practical disadvantages compared to its fossil-based competitors. Its material tends to be brittle and it doesn't particularly like high temperatures beyond 60 degrees Celsius. As a biogenic material, polylactic acid is also potentially more susceptible to abrasion and organic degradation processes. This can play an even greater role in the use of filters, e.g. in sewage treatment facilities, than in air filters. Industrial customers, however, naturally want a durable, reliable product.

From monofilament to nonwoven
Against this background, the researchers studied the PLA properties in order to test nonwovens for biofilters on this basis. The German Textile Research Center North-West (German Textile Research Center North-West - DTNW) and the Saxon Textile Research Institute (STFI), where the nonwovens were produced, were involved. Granules from various commercially available manufacturers were used. However, the research did not start with nonwovens, in which the fibers are deposited close together in different layers, but with so-called monofilaments, i.e. fibers made of PLA that are comparable to threads. DTNW and STFI initially carried out tests on these monofilaments, e.g. in a climate chamber for aging and durability.

As can be seen in the picture, the monofilaments became brittle after only two weeks at higher temperatures from 70 degrees Celsius, as the DTNW authors recently reported in the Journal Applied Polymer Materials. Under normalized conditions, however, the monofilaments showed no measurable reduction in stability even after almost three years, and the PLA nonwovens were in no way inferior to their fossil-based counterparts in terms of filter performance. "In my opinion, the focus for the use of PLA as a filter material will be on applications where relatively low temperatures are present, with which PLA copes very well," says DTNW scientist Christina Schippers.

Besides temperature and humidity consider other factors
For the researchers, however, the project, which was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, was not just about the suitability of polylactide for air filters, but also for other applications, such as filtering water. In addition, the research revealed that when evaluating filter media made from bio-based and biodegradable nonwovens, it is important to consider other influencing factors, such as mechanical loads caused by air currents, in addition to temperature and humidity. "The innovative core of the project was to evaluate the possibilities and application limits of PLA nonwovens as filter media with sufficient mechanical properties and long-term stability," says project leader Dr. Larisa Tsarkova. Like her colleagues at STFI, DTNW is involved in the Zuse Community's Bioeconomy Cluster, in which researchers from nonprofit institutes cooperate under the guiding principle of "Researching with Nature." "For us, the bioeconomy is a top cross-industry topic that connects numerous institutes of the Zuse Community and is lived through collaborations such as with the 'Bio-Filter'," explains the future STFI managing director Dr. Heike Illing-Günther.

Cooperation in the Bioeconomy Cluster
With the results obtained from the "Bio-Filter" project, DTNW and STFI now want to continue working in order to be able to make derivations for clearly described areas of application for PLA nonwoven filters in the future. These possible fields of application extend far beyond room air filters and thus beyond the pandemic. For example, the water-repellent property of PLA is potentially interesting for filters in large-scale kitchens for water-oil filtration or also in the industry for engine oils.

The research is also so important, because PLA is already quite well established in individual consumer-related segments - keyword: carrier bags. Traditionally, lactic acid was used to preserve food, for example in sauerkraut. Today, PLA is obtained via a multi-stage synthesis from sugar, which ferments to lactic acid and polymerizes this to PLA, as Kunststoffe.de explains. PLA is one of the best-known bioplastics, but has not always been readily available due to strong demand in recent years. The Netherlands-based company Total Corbion has announced plans to start up a PLA plant with an annual capacity of 100,000 tons in Grandpuits, France, by 2024. It would be the largest plant of its kind in Europe, with Asia leading the way so far.

Source:

Deutsche Industrieforschungsgemeinschaft Konrad Zuse e.V.

Photo: pixabay
10.08.2021

Stand-up paddle board made from renewable lightweight mater

Stand-up paddling has become a popular sport. However, conventional surfboards are made of petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin and polyurethane.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut, WKI, want to replace plastic boards with sustainable sports equipment: They are developing a stand-up paddle board that is made from one hundred percent renewable raw materials. The ecological lightweight material can be used in many ways, such as in the construction of buildings, cars and ships.

Stand-up paddling has become a popular sport. However, conventional surfboards are made of petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin and polyurethane.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut, WKI, want to replace plastic boards with sustainable sports equipment: They are developing a stand-up paddle board that is made from one hundred percent renewable raw materials. The ecological lightweight material can be used in many ways, such as in the construction of buildings, cars and ships.

Stand-up paddling (SUP) is a sport that is close to nature, but the plastic boards are anything but environmentally friendly. As a rule, petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin, polyester resin, polyurethane and expanded or extruded polystyrene are used in combination with fiberglass and carbon fiber fabrics to produce the sports equipment. In many parts of the world, these plastics are not recycled, let alone disposed of correctly. Large quantities of plastic end up in the sea and collect in huge ocean eddies. For Christoph Pöhler, a scientist at Fraunhofer WKI and an avid stand-up paddler, this prompted him to think about a sustainable alternative. In the ecoSUP project, he is driving the development of a stand-up paddle board that is made from 100 percent renewable raw materials and which is also particularly strong and durable. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW is accompanying the research work, with TU Braunschweig acting as project partner.

Recovering balsa wood from rotor blades
“In standard boards, a polystyrene core, which we know as styrofoam, is reinforced with fiberglass and sealed with an epoxy resin. We, instead, use bio-based lightweight material,” says the civil engineer. Pöhler and his colleagues use recycled balsa wood for the core. This has a very low density, i.e. it is light yet mechanically stressable. Balsa wood grows mainly in Papua New Guinea and Ecuador, where it has been used in large quantities in wind turbines for many years – up to six cubic meters of the material can be found in a rotor blade. Many of the systems are currently being disconnected from the grid. In 2020 alone, 6000 were dismantled. A large proportion of this is burnt. It would make more sense to recover the material from the rotor blade and recycle it in accordance with the circular economy. “This was exactly our thinking. The valuable wood is too good to burn,” says Pöhler.

Since the entire sandwich material used in conventional boards is to be completely replaced, the shell of the ecological board is also made from one hundred percent bio-based polymer. It is reinforced with flax fibers grown in Europe, which are characterized by very good mechanical properties. To pull the shell over the balsa wood core, Pöhler and his team use the hand lay-up and vacuum infusion processes. Feasibility studies are still underway to determine the optimal method. The first demonstrator of the ecological board should be available by the end of 2022. “In the interests of environmental protection and resource conservation, we want to use natural fibers and bio-based polymers wherever it is technically possible. In many places, GFRP is used even though a bio-based counterpart could do the same,” Pöhler sums up.

Patented technology for the production of wood foam
But how is it possible to recover the balsa wood from the rotor blade — after all, it is firmly bonded to the glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) of the outer shell? First, the wood is separated from the composite material in an impact mill. The density differences can be used to split the mixed-material structures into their individual components using a wind sifter. The balsa wood fibers, which are available as chips and fragments, are then finely ground. “We need this very fine starting material to produce wood foam. Fraunhofer WKI has a patented technology for this,” explains the researcher. In this process, the wood particles are suspended to form a kind of cake batter and processed into a light yet firm wood foam that holds together thanks to the wood’s own binding forces. The addition of adhesive is not required. The density and strength of the foam can be adjusted. “This is important because the density should not be too high. Otherwise, the stand-up paddle board would be too heavy to transport.”

Initially, the researchers are focusing on stand-up paddle boards. However, the hybrid material is also suitable for all other boards, such as skateboards. The future range of applications is broad: For example, it could be used as a facade element in the thermal insulation of buildings. The technology can also be used in the construction of vehicles, ships and trains.

Photo: Pixabay
03.08.2021

Composites Germany presents results of the 17th Composites Market Survey

  • Highly positive rating of current business situation
  • Future expectations are optimistic
  • Varied expectations for application industries
  • Still the same growth drivers

This is the seventeenth time that Composites Germany has identified the latest KPIs for the fibre-reinforced plastics market. The survey covered all the member companies of the three major umbrella organisations of Composites Germany: AVK (Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe e.V.), Leichtbau Baden-Württemberg and the VDMA Working Group on Hybrid Lightweight Construction Technologies.

As before, to ensure a smooth comparison with the previous surveys, the questions in this half-yearly survey have been left unchanged. Once again, the data obtained in the survey is largely qualitative and relates to current and future market developments.

  • Highly positive rating of current business situation
  • Future expectations are optimistic
  • Varied expectations for application industries
  • Still the same growth drivers

This is the seventeenth time that Composites Germany has identified the latest KPIs for the fibre-reinforced plastics market. The survey covered all the member companies of the three major umbrella organisations of Composites Germany: AVK (Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe e.V.), Leichtbau Baden-Württemberg and the VDMA Working Group on Hybrid Lightweight Construction Technologies.

As before, to ensure a smooth comparison with the previous surveys, the questions in this half-yearly survey have been left unchanged. Once again, the data obtained in the survey is largely qualitative and relates to current and future market developments.

Highly positive rating of current business situation
After ratings of the current business situation had been steadily declining for nearly two years in succession, last year’s survey already displayed a trend reversal towards a more positive outlook. This positive trend has now continued in the latest survey, with entirely positive ratings for all three regions (Germany, Europe and worldwide). For ex-ample, 80% described the current general business situation as either positive or indeed very positive.

Moreover, unlike in the last survey, this more optimistic assessment applies not only to the general business situation, but also to the respondents’ own businesses, as they gave even more positive ratings than last year.     

There are currently quite a few challenges in the industrial environment. In many cases, the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, has merely receded, but has not disappeared.      
Business models have been and are still requiring adjustments. In some cases, supply chains have been severely disrupted and there are still some serious bottlenecks. The blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given has once again highlighted the vulnerability of international commerce.

Shortages of raw materials, sharp increases in the prices of many raw materials and, most recently, a shortage of chips are having a major impact on various application industries. Nevertheless, the overall picture in the composites in-dustry is extremely optimistic. Similarly positive ratings were last achieved in the autumn 2018 and spring 2019 surveys.

Future expectations are optimistic
The positive prevailing mood is further reinforced by positive expectations for the future. A consistently optimistic picture emerged when respondents were asked about their ex-pectations for future business developments. For example, more than 80% of respond-ents are expecting the business situation in Europe to improve over the next six months. The pattern is similar for the other regions.

Varied expectations for application industries
Expectations on selected application industries vary substantially. As in the previous survey, significant declines are expected, above all, in automotive, aviation and wind energy. However, we can see that the proportion of respondents giving more pessimistic assessments has once again declined significantly.
Whereas, in the last sur-vey, 46% were expecting to see the situation get worse in aviation, this value has now dropped to a “mere” 17%. In the automotive sector, it has dropped from 17% (second half of 2020) to only 14%.

Two areas of application, in particular – infrastructure/construction and sports/leisure – have long been seen by many respondents as major growth stimulants for the composites industry. Even in times of a more difficult industrial environment, these two areas are currently proving to be especially robust.

GRP is still a growth driver
As before, the current market survey shows Germany, Europe and Asia as the global regions expected to deliver the most important growth stimuli for the composites segment. Expectations for Asia, on the other hand, have declined somewhat in favour of Europe. Where materials are concerned, we are seeing a continuation of the ongoing paradigm shift.      

Respondents are still convinced that CRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) is losing ground as a growth driver. However, GRP (glass fibre reinforced plastic) is now ranking as the most important material for the third time in succession. A large number of respondents have also mentioned the area entitled “Across All Segments” this time.

Composites are still relatively young materials with a great deal of potential. It remains exciting to see to what extent composites will continue to emerge as alternative materials and whether they can benefit from the major forthcoming developments (e.g. alternative drives, a growing demand for sustainability, alternative power sources, 5G, etc.).
The next Composites Market Survey will be published in January 2022. 

Photo: pixabay
20.07.2021

Closed-Loop Recycling Pilot Project for Single Use Face Masks

  • Circular economy for plastics: Fraunhofer, SABIC, and Procter & Gamble join forces

The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Circular Plastics Economy CCPE and its Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT have developed an advanced recycling process for used plastics. The pilot project with SABIC and Procter & Gamble serves to demonstrate the feasibility of closed-loop recycling for single-use facemasks.

The transformation from a linear to a circular plastics economy can only succeed with a multi-stakeholder approach. The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Circular Plastics Economy CCPE combines the competencies of six institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and cooperates closely with partners from industry. Together, we work on systemic, technical and social innovations and keep an eye on the entire life cycle of plastic products.  

  • Circular economy for plastics: Fraunhofer, SABIC, and Procter & Gamble join forces

The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Circular Plastics Economy CCPE and its Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT have developed an advanced recycling process for used plastics. The pilot project with SABIC and Procter & Gamble serves to demonstrate the feasibility of closed-loop recycling for single-use facemasks.

The transformation from a linear to a circular plastics economy can only succeed with a multi-stakeholder approach. The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Circular Plastics Economy CCPE combines the competencies of six institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and cooperates closely with partners from industry. Together, we work on systemic, technical and social innovations and keep an eye on the entire life cycle of plastic products.  

Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT is a pioneer in sustainable energy and raw materials management by supplying and transferring scientific results into companies, society and politics. Together with partners, the dedicated UMSICHT team researches and develops sustainable products, processes and services which inspire.

Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT, SABIC and Procter & Gamble (P&G) are collaborating in an innovative circular economy pilot project which aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of closed-loop recycling of single-use facemasks.

Due to COVID-19, use of billions of disposable facemasks is raising environmental concerns especially when they are thoughtlessly discarded in public spaces, including - parks, open-air venues and beaches. Apart from the challenge of dealing with such huge volumes of essential personal healthcare items in a sustainable way, simply throwing the used masks away for disposal on landfill sites or in incineration plants represents a loss of valuable feedstock for new material.

“Recognizing the challenge, we set out to explore how used facemasks could potentially be returned into the value chain of new facemask production,” says Dr. Peter Dziezok, Director R&D Open Innovation at P&G. “But creating a true circular solution from both a sustainable and an economically feasible perspective takes partners. Therefore, we teamed up with Fraunhofer CCPE and Fraunhofer UMSICHT’s expert scientists and SABIC’s T&I specialists to investigate potential solutions.”

As part of the pilot, P&G collected used facemasks worn by employees or given to visitors at its manufacturing and research sites in Germany. Although those masks are always disposed of responsibly, there was no ideal route in place to recycle them efficiently. To help demonstrate a potential step change in this scenario, special collection bins were set up, and the collected used masks were sent to Fraunhofer for further processing in a dedicated research pyrolysis plant.

“A single-use medical product such as a face mask has high hygiene requirements, both in terms of disposal and production. Mechanical recycling, would have not done the job” explains Dr. Alexander Hofmann, Head of Department Recycling Management at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. “In our solution, therefore, the masks were first automatically shredded and then thermochemically converted to pyrolysis oil.

Pyrolysis breaks the plastic down into molecular fragments under pressure and heat, which will also destroy any residual pollutants or pathogens, such as the Coronavirus. In this way it is possible to produce feedstock for new plastics in virgin quality that can also meet the requirements for medical products” adds Hofmann, who is also Head of Research Department “Advanced Recycling” at Fraunhofer CCPE.

The pyrolysis oil was then sent to SABIC to be used as feedstock for the production of new PP resin. The resins were produced using the widely recognized principle of mass balance to combine the alternative feedstock with fossil-based feedstock in the production process. Mass balance is considered a crucial bridge between today’s linear economy and the more sustainable circular economy of the future.

“The high-quality circular PP polymer obtained in this pilot clearly demonstrates that closed-loop recycling is achievable through active collaboration of players from across the value chain,” emphasizes Mark Vester, Global Circular Economy Leader at SABIC. “The circular material is part of our TRUCIRCLE™ portfolio, aimed at preventing valuable used plastic from becoming waste and at mitigating the depletion of fossil resources.”

Finally, to close the loop, the PP polymer was supplied to P&G, where it was processed into non-woven fibers material. “This pilot project has helped us to assess if the close loop approach could work for hygienic and medical grade plastics.” says Hansjörg Reick, P&G Senior Director Open Innovation. “Of course, further work is needed but the results so far have been very encouraging”.

The entire closed loop pilot project from facemask collection to production was developed and implemented within only seven months. The transferability of advanced recycling to other feedstocks and chemical products is being further researched at Fraunhofer CCPE.

Photo: pixabay
06.07.2021

»Waste4Future«: Today's Waste becomes Tomorrow's Resource

Fraunhofer Institutes pave new ways in plastics recycling

A sustainable society, the renunciation of fossil raw materials, climate-neutral processes - also the chemical industry has committed itself to these goals. For the industry, this means a huge challenge within the next years and decades. This structural change can succeed if all activities - from the raw material base to material flows and process technology to the end of a product's life cycle - are geared towards the goal of sustainable value creation. The key to this is innovation.

Fraunhofer Institutes pave new ways in plastics recycling

A sustainable society, the renunciation of fossil raw materials, climate-neutral processes - also the chemical industry has committed itself to these goals. For the industry, this means a huge challenge within the next years and decades. This structural change can succeed if all activities - from the raw material base to material flows and process technology to the end of a product's life cycle - are geared towards the goal of sustainable value creation. The key to this is innovation.

Plastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) or polystyrene (PS), which are currently produced almost entirely from fossil raw materials, are fundamental to many everyday products and modern technologies. The carbon contained in plastics is an important resource for the chemical industry. If it is possible to better identify such carbon-containing components in waste, to recycle them more effectively, and to use them again to produce high-quality raw materials for industry, the carbon can be kept in the cycle. This not only reduces the need for fossil resources, but also pollution with CO2 emissions and plastic waste. At the same time, the security of supply for industry is improved because an additional source of carbon is tapped.

The "Waste4Future" lighthouse project therefore aims to create new opportunities for recycling plastics in order to make the carbon they contain available as a "green" resource for the chemical industry. "We are thus paving the way for a carbon circular economy in which valuable new base molecules are obtained from plastic waste and emissions are largely avoided: Today's waste becomes tomorrow's resource," says Dr.-Ing. Sylvia Schattauer, deputy director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS, which is heading the project. "With the know-how of the participating institutes, we want to show how the comprehensive recycling of waste containing plastics without loss of carbon is possible and ultimately economical through interlocking, networked processes." The outcome of the project, which will run until the end of 2023, is expected to be innovative recycling technologies for complex waste that can be used to obtain high-quality recyclates.

Specifically, the development of a holistic, entropy-based assessment model is planned (entropy = measure of the disorder of a system), which will reorganize the recycling chain from process-guided to material-guided. A new type of sorting identifies which materials and in particular which plastic fractions are contained in the waste. Based on this analysis, the total stream is separated and a targeted decision is then made for the resulting sub-streams as to which recycling route is the most technically, ecologically and economically sensible for this specific waste quantity. What cannot be further utilized by means of mechanical recycling is available for chemical recycling, always with the aim of preserving the maximum possible amount of carbon compounds. Burning waste containing plastics at the end of the chain is thus eliminated.

The challenges for research and development are considerable. These include the complex evaluation of both input materials and recyclates according to ecological, economic and technical criteria. Mechanical recycling must be optimized, and processes and technologies must be established for the key points in the material utilization of plastic fractions. In addition, suitable sensor technology must be developed that can reliably identify materials in the sorting system. Machine learning methods will also be used, and the aim is to link them to a digital twin that represents the properties of the processed materials.

Another goal of the project is the automated optimization of the formulation development of recyclates from different material streams. Last but not least, an economic evaluation of the new recycling process chain will be carried out, for example with regard to the effects of rising prices for CO2 certificates or new regulatory requirements. The project consortium will also conduct comprehensive life cycle analysis (LCA) studies for the individual recycling technologies to identify potential environmental risks and opportunities.

For the development of the corresponding solutions, the participating institutes are in close exchange with companies from the chemical industry and plastics processing, waste management, recycling plant construction and recycling plant operation, in order to consider the needs of industry in a targeted manner and thus increase the chances of rapid application of the results achieved.

The following Institutes are involved in the Fraunhofer lighthouse project "Waste4Future":

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS (lead)
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing IZFP
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategy IWKS
  • Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB
  • Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV
(c) Fraunhofer IAP
08.06.2021

Fraunhofer IAP: Recyclable, Fiber-reinforced Material made from Bio-based Polylactic Acid

"Packaging made from bio-based plastics has long been established. We are now supporting the further development of these materials for new areas of application. If in the future the market also offers plant-based materials for technically demanding tasks such as vehicle construction, the bioeconomy will take a decisive step forward," explained Uwe Feiler, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in Potsdam. The occasion was the handover of a grant to the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP. The Fraunhofer IAP wants to develop a composite material that consists entirely of bio-based polylactic acid (PLA) and is significantly easier to recycle than conventional fiber composites.

"Packaging made from bio-based plastics has long been established. We are now supporting the further development of these materials for new areas of application. If in the future the market also offers plant-based materials for technically demanding tasks such as vehicle construction, the bioeconomy will take a decisive step forward," explained Uwe Feiler, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in Potsdam. The occasion was the handover of a grant to the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP. The Fraunhofer IAP wants to develop a composite material that consists entirely of bio-based polylactic acid (PLA) and is significantly easier to recycle than conventional fiber composites.

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is intensively promoting the development of biomaterials as part of its Renewable Resources funding program. More than 100 projects are currently underway, covering a wide range of topics: from plastics that are degradable in the sea to natural fiber-reinforced lightweight components for the automotive sector. The projects are supported by the Agency for Renewable Resources, the BMEL project management agency responsible for the Renewable Resources funding program.

Easier recycling of fiber-reinforced plastics
PLA is one of the particularly promising bio-based materials. The global market for this polymer is growing by around 10 percent a year. PLA is also used, among other things, as a matrix in fiber-reinforced plastics. In these mechanically resilient plastics, reinforcing fibers are embedded in a plastic matrix.

The Fraunhofer IAP project is now focusing on these reinforcing fibers: "We are further developing our PLA fibers in order to transfer them to industrial scale together with partners from industry. These fibers are ideally suited for reinforcing PLA plastics. The resulting self-reinforcing single-component composite promises great recycling benefits. Since the fiber and the matrix of PLA are chemically identical, complex separation steps are not necessary," explains Dr. André Lehmann, expert for fiber technology at Fraunhofer IAP.

Novel PLA fibers and films are more thermally stable
The challenge with this approach is that conventional PLA has a relatively low temperature resistance. Technical fibers can be produced most economically using the melt spinning process. The Fraunhofer IAP team is now using more thermally stable stereocomplex PLA (sc-PLA) for the fibers. The term stereocomplex refers to a special crystal structure that the PLA molecules can form. Sc-PLA fibers have a melting point that is 40 - 50 °C higher and can therefore withstand the incorporation process in a matrix made of conventional PLA. In the project, the researchers are developing and optimizing a melt spinning process for sc-PLA filament yarns. The partner in this work package is Trevira GmbH, a manufacturer of technical and textile fiber and filament yarn specialties that are in demand from automotive suppliers and contract furnishers, among others. Furthermore, the development of a manufacturing process for sc-PLA reinforced flat films is planned. The international adhesive tape manufacturer tesa SE is participating in this task, and will test the suitability of sc-PLA films as adhesive foils. In a third work package, the Fraunhofer IAP will finally process the filaments in a double pultrusion process to produce granules suitable for injection molding.

Bio-based solutions for the automotive and textile industries
The scientists led by Dr. André Lehmann are certain that the self-reinforced PLA material can conquer many new areas of application. The automotive and textile industries are already showing interest in bio-based materials that are also easier to recycle. In terms of price, PLA would already be competitive here, and now the material is also to be made technically fit for the new tasks.

Professor Alexander Böker, head of Fraunhofer IAP, says: "The steadily growing demand from industry for sustainable solutions underlines how important it is to develop biobased and at the same time high-performance materials. With our research, we are also actively driving the development of a sustainable and functioning circular economy and therefore very much welcome the support from the federal government."

Information on the project is available at fnr.de under the funding code 2220NR297X.

Photo: pixabay
18.05.2021

ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD and PERFORMANCE AWARD for innovative Summer Fabrics 2023

The digital Performance Days will kick off on May 17 through to May 21, providing online access to even more information, current trends, all the latest material innovations and enhanced tools while providing all within the industry the opportunity to interact with one another and with exhibitors.

The focus of the trend-setting PERFORMANCE FORUM in summer will highlight the winners of the two awards. This year, the jury will present a PERFORMANCE AWARD as well as an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD.

The digital Performance Days will kick off on May 17 through to May 21, providing online access to even more information, current trends, all the latest material innovations and enhanced tools while providing all within the industry the opportunity to interact with one another and with exhibitors.

The focus of the trend-setting PERFORMANCE FORUM in summer will highlight the winners of the two awards. This year, the jury will present a PERFORMANCE AWARD as well as an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD.

Function revisited: Outstanding fabric innovations for the Summer 2023 season
Plant-based fibers such as hemp, organic cotton, bamboo, wool, kapok or coconut shell remain in demand, with manufacturers increasingly refraining from the use of environmentally harmful chemicals, avoiding micro plastics, advocating natural dyeing processes and striving to either return fabrics back into the cycle, to recycle plastic and other waste or to produce fibers in such a way that they are biodegradable.

In the Marketplace, visitors have the opportunity to view more than 9.000 exhibitors’ products, including the fabric highlights of the individual PERFORMANCE FORUM categories. In order to present the fabrics to visitors in digital form as realistically as possible in terms of feel, design and structure, the PERFORMANCE FORUM has been equipped with state-of-the-art 3D technology, including innovative tools such as 3D images, video animations and U3M files for download.

Exceptional: PERFORMANCE AWARD & ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD Winners
For the Spring/Summer 2023 season, the jury also presented two awards for outstanding new developments – so in addition to the PERFORMANCE AWARD, presented to the winner Trenchant Textiles, there is also an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD winner, in this year’s case, Utenos Trikotazas.

Sustainability at the highest level, wellbeing for body & soul:
With its fully biodegradable, brushed fleece material made of 11% hemp, 63% organic cotton and 26 % Tencel, Utenos Trikotazas fully convinced the jury and picked up the ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD for its sustainable comfort. The extremely comfy material is pleasant on the skin and impresses with an incredibly soft feel. Hemp is known for its natural anti-bacterial properties and natural UV protection. In combination with organic cotton and Tencel, this fabric guarantees ideal warmth and odour regulation.

Function redesigned, breaking down borders and creating space for the new: In keeping with the Focus Topic of the digital fair week “Still Physical – Your Success Story of 2020”, Trenchant Textiles combined functional features with fashionable design in its new fabric construction, fully deserving of the PERFORMANCE AWARD. The membrane on the outer side, SlickrB, is made of non-toxic, sustainable polypropylene membrane. By printing dot patterns on the surface of the membrane, the fabric provides greater abrasion resistance while maintaining its breathability properties. Absolutely revolutionary: patterns and colors can be altered individually according to preference. The inner liner made of N15DW (15D woven polyamide) also provides tear resistance as well as sufficient, adequate stretch.

(c) Porsche AG
04.05.2021

Fraunhofer: Lightweight and Ecology in Automotive Construction

  • The “Bioconcept-Car” moves ahead

In automobile racing, lightweight bodies made from plastic and carbon fibers have been standard for many years because they enable drivers to reach the finish line more quickly. In the future, lightweight-construction solutions could help reduce the energy consumption and emissions of everyday vehicles. The catch is that the production of carbon fibers is not only expensive but also consumes considerable amounts of energy and petroleum. In collaboration with Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have succeeded in replacing the carbon fibers in a car door with natural fibers. This is already being installed in small series at Porsche. The project team is now taking the next step: Together with HOBUM Oleochemicals, they want to maximize the proportion of renewable raw materials in the door and other body parts - using bio-based plastics and paints.

  • The “Bioconcept-Car” moves ahead

In automobile racing, lightweight bodies made from plastic and carbon fibers have been standard for many years because they enable drivers to reach the finish line more quickly. In the future, lightweight-construction solutions could help reduce the energy consumption and emissions of everyday vehicles. The catch is that the production of carbon fibers is not only expensive but also consumes considerable amounts of energy and petroleum. In collaboration with Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have succeeded in replacing the carbon fibers in a car door with natural fibers. This is already being installed in small series at Porsche. The project team is now taking the next step: Together with HOBUM Oleochemicals, they want to maximize the proportion of renewable raw materials in the door and other body parts - using bio-based plastics and paints.

Carbon fibers reinforce plastics and therefore provide lightweight components with the necessary stability. Mass-produced natural fibers are not only more cost-effective but can also be produced in a considerably more sustainable manner. For the “Bioconcept-Car” pilot vehicle, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have developed body parts with 100 percent natural fibers as reinforcing components.

“We utilize natural fibers, such as those made from hemp, flax or jute. Whilst natural fibers exhibit lower stiffnesses and strengths compared to carbon fibers, the values achieved are nonetheless sufficient for many applications,” explained Ole Hansen, Project Manager at the Fraunhofer WKI. Due to their naturally grown structure, natural fibers dampen sound and vibrations more effectively. Their lesser tendency to splinter can help to reduce the risk of injury in the event of an accident. Furthermore, they do not cause skin irritation during processing.

The bio-based composites were successfully tested by the Four Motors racing team in the “Bioconcept-Car” on the racetrack under extreme conditions. Porsche has actually been using natural fiber-reinforced plastics in a small series of the Cayman GT4 Clubsport since 2019. During production, the researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI also conducted an initial ecological assessment based on material and energy data. “We were able to determine that the utilized natural-fiber fabric has a better environmental profile in its production, including the upstream chains, than the fabric made from carbon. Thermal recycling after the end of its service life should also be possible without any problems,” confirmed Ole Hansen.

In the next project phase of the "Bioconcept-Car", the researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI, in collaboration with the cooperation partners HOBUM Oleochemicals GmbH, Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, will develop a vehicle door with a biogenic content of 85 percent in the overall composite consisting of fibers and resin. They intend to achieve this by, amongst other things, utilizing bio-based resin-hardener blends as well as bio-based paint systems. The practicality of the door - and possibly additional components - will again be tested by Four Motors on the racetrack. If the researchers are successful, it may be possible to transfer the acquired knowledge into series production at Porsche.

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is funding the “Bioconcept-Car” project via the project-management agency Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. (FNR).

Background
Sustainability through the utilization of renewable raw materials has formed the focus at the Fraunhofer WKI for more than 70 years. The institute, with locations in Braunschweig, Hanover and Wolfsburg, specializes in process engineering, natural-fiber composites, surface technology, wood and emission protection, quality assurance of wood products, material and product testing, recycling procedures and the utilization of organic building materials and wood in construction. Virtually all the procedures and materials resulting from the research activities are applied industrially.

 

  • EU Project ALMA: Thinking Ahead to Electromobility

E-mobility and lightweight construction are two crucial building blocks of modern vehicle development to drive the energy transition. They are the focus of the ALMA project (Advanced Light Materials and Processes for the Eco-Design of Electric Vehicles). Nine European organizations are now working in the EU project to develop more energy-efficient and sustainable vehicles. Companies from research and industry are optimizing the efficiency and range of electric vehicles, among other things by reducing the weight of the overall vehicle. The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM is providing support with mathematical simulation expertise.

According to the low emissions mobility strategy, the European Union aims to have at least 30 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030. Measures to support jobs, growth, investment, and innovation are taken to tackle emissions from the transport sector. To make transport more climate-friendly, EU measures are being taken to promote jobs, investment and innovation. The European Commission's Horizon 2020 project ALMA represents one of these measures.

Photo: Pixabay
16.02.2021

Carbon with Multiple Lives: Bringing Innovations in Carbon Fiber Recycling to Market

When it comes to the future of motorized mobility, everyone talks about the power drive: How much e-car, how much combustion engine can the environment tolerate and how much do people need? At the same time, new powertrains place ineased demands not only on the engine, but also on its housing and the car body: Carbon fibers are often used for such demanding applications. Like the powertrain of the future, the materials on the vehicle should also be environmentally friendly. That is why recycling of carbon fibers is required. Institutes of the Zuse Community have developed solutions for this.

Carbon fibers consist almost completely of pure carbon. It is extracted from the plastic polyacrylonitrile at 1,300 degrees Celsius, using a lot of energy. The advantages of carbon fibers: They have almost no dead weight, are enormously break-resistant and sturdy. These properties are needed, for example, in the battery box of electric vehicles in structural components of a car body.

When it comes to the future of motorized mobility, everyone talks about the power drive: How much e-car, how much combustion engine can the environment tolerate and how much do people need? At the same time, new powertrains place ineased demands not only on the engine, but also on its housing and the car body: Carbon fibers are often used for such demanding applications. Like the powertrain of the future, the materials on the vehicle should also be environmentally friendly. That is why recycling of carbon fibers is required. Institutes of the Zuse Community have developed solutions for this.

Carbon fibers consist almost completely of pure carbon. It is extracted from the plastic polyacrylonitrile at 1,300 degrees Celsius, using a lot of energy. The advantages of carbon fibers: They have almost no dead weight, are enormously break-resistant and sturdy. These properties are needed, for example, in the battery box of electric vehicles in structural components of a car body.

The Saxon Textile Research Institute (STFI), for instance, is currently working with industrial partners on combining the static-mechanical strengths of carbon fibers with vibration damping properties to improve the housings of electric motors in cars. The project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, is aimed at developing hybrid nonwovens that contain other fibers, in addition to carbon fiber, as a reinforcement. "We want to combine the advantages of different fiber materials and thereby develop a product that is optimally tailored to the requirements", explains Marcel Hofmann, head of department of Textile Lightweight Construction at STFI.

The Chemnitz researchers would therefore complement previous nonwoven solutions. They look back on 15 years of working with recycled carbon fibers. The global annual demand for the high-value fibers has almost quadrupled in the past decade, according to the AVK Industry Association to around 142,000 t most recently. "Increasing demand has brought recycling more and more into focus", says Hofmann. According to him, carbon fiber waste is available for about one-tenth to one-fifth of the price of primary fibers, but they still need to be processed. The key issue for the research success of recycled fibers is competitive applications. STFI has found these not only in cars, but also in the sports and leisure sector as well as in medical technology, for example in components for computer tomography. "While metals or glass fibers cast shadows as potential competing products, carbon does not interfere with the image display and can fully exploit its advantages", explains Hofmann.
 
Using Paper Know-How
If recycled carbon fibers can pass through the product cycle again, this significantly improves their carbon footprint. At the same time it applies: The shorter the carbon fibers, the less attractive they are for further recycling. With this in mind, the Cetex Research Institute and the Papiertechnische Stiftung (PTS), both members of the Zuse Community, developed a new process as part of a research project that gives recycled carbon fibers, which previously seemed unsuitable, a second product life. "While classic textile processes use dry processing for the already very brittle recycled carbon fibers in fiber lengths of at least 80 mm, we dealt with a process from the paper industry that processes the materials wet. At the end of the process, in very simplified terms, we obtained a laminar mat made of recycled carbon fibers and chemical fibers", says Cetex project engineer Johannes Tietze, explaining the process by which even 40 mm short carbon fibers can be recycled into appealing intermediates.

The resulting product created in a hot pressing process serves as the base material for heavy-duty structural components. In addition, the mechanical properties of the semi-finished products were improved by combining them with continuous fiber-reinforced tapes. The researchers expect the recycled product to compete with glass-fiber-reinforced plastics, for example in applications in rail and vehicle construction. The results are now being incorporated into further research and development in
the cooperation network of Ressourcetex, a funded association with 18 partners from industry and science.

Successful Implementation in the Automotive Industry
Industrial solutions for the recycling of carbon fiber production waste are being developed at the Thuringian Institute of Textile and Plastics Research (TITK). Several of these developments were industrially implemented with partners at the company SGL Composites in Wackersdorf, Germany. The processing of the so-called dry waste, mainly from production, is carried out in a separate procedure. "Here, we add the opened fibers to various processes for nonwoven production", says the responsible head of the department at TITK, Dr. Renate Lützkendorf . In addition to developments for applications e.g. in the BMW i3 in the roof or rear seat shell, special nonwovens and processes for the production of Sheet Molding Compounds (SMC) were established at TITK. These are thermoset materials consisting of reaction resins and reinforcing fibers, which are used to press fiber-plastic composites. This was used, for example, in a component for the C-pillar of the BMW 7 Series. "In its projects, TITK is primarily focusing on the development of more efficient processes and combined procedures to give carbon fiber recycling materials better opportunities in lightweight construction applications, also in terms of costs", says Lützkendorf. The focus is currently on the use of CF recycled fibers in thermoplastic processes for sheet and profile extrusion. "The goal is to combine short- and continuous-fiber reinforcement in a single, high-performance process step."

1) Since February 1st, 2021, Dr.-Ing. Thomas Reussmann succeeds Dr.-Ing. Renate Lützkendorf, who retired 31 January.

Source:

Zuse Community

(c) PERFORMANCE DAYS functional fabric fair
29.12.2020

PERFORMANCE DAYS: Positive Feedback for Online Fair and sustain & innovate Conference

As a result of the Corona pandemic, the PERFORMANCE DAYS fair on December 9th - 10th and the accompanying sustain&innovate conference for sustainability on December 10 could only take place in digital form. Nevertheless: exhibitors, visitors and partners can look back on a successful event. The focus topic “Nothing to Waste – Closing the Loop“ relating to the issue of the textile circular economy in the course of the sustain&innovate conference also provided great discussion material while generating a positive response.

As a result of the Corona pandemic, the PERFORMANCE DAYS fair on December 9th - 10th and the accompanying sustain&innovate conference for sustainability on December 10 could only take place in digital form. Nevertheless: exhibitors, visitors and partners can look back on a successful event. The focus topic “Nothing to Waste – Closing the Loop“ relating to the issue of the textile circular economy in the course of the sustain&innovate conference also provided great discussion material while generating a positive response.

The PERFORMANCE DAYS team also expresses its satisfaction. Because despite the event being solely a digital event on the 9th and 10th of December 2020, an estimated 15,000 participants made extensive use of the comprehensive online offerings of the 191 digital exhibitors, among them drirelease/OPTIMER, Merryson, Stotz, HeiQ, Schoeller Textil, Long Advance, Dry-Tex, Utenos, Fidlock, Cifra, dekoGraphics and Jia Meir, during the week of the fair. The popular “Contact Supplier” function was supplemented with a new online tool that allows exhibitors to be contacted directly via chat, call or per video. A total of 3,250 fabric sample orders were placed with exhibitors. The variety on offer included fabric innovations for Autumn/Winter 2022/2023 within the top class PERFORMANCE FORUM and an extensive digital supporting program via live-stream with informative webinars, talks and rounds of discussions. Best of all: the resulting videos will be available on demand on the PERFORMANCE DAYS website free of charge.  
 
Finally standard: PERFORMANCE FORUM with sustainable materials
Innovative, sustainable and cutting-edge: the 240 fabrics plus accessory trends at this year’s PERFORMANCE FORUM impressed throughout with exciting environmentally conscious solutions. Natural fibers such as hemp, organic cotton, bamboo, wool or coconut shell remain in demand, while manufacturers are also increasingly refraining from the use of environmentally harmful chemicals, avoiding microplastics, advocating natural dyeing processes and either trying to return fabrics to the cycle, recycle plastic and other waste in order to produce fibres in such a way that they are biodegradable. This environmental awareness is also reflected in this year’s FOCUS TOPIC – so here the 24 best fabrics not only score in terms of sustainability, but also demonstrate that they are both functional and can be returned to the textile cycle, true to the motto “Nothing to Waste – Closing the Loop.   

In the Marketplace section, visitors have the opportunity to view more than 9,500 exhibitor products, including the fabric highlights of the individual categories of the PERFORMANCE FORUMS. In order to be able to digitally present the fabrics to visitors as realistically as possible in terms of feel, design and structure, the Forum has been equipped with innovative 3D technology, including innovative tools such as 3D images, video animations and U3M files for download.  

From fiber to fiber: successful sustain&innovate conference generates discussion  
Textile circular economy is considered part of the solution to the global waste problem, curbing the consumption of resources and reducing climate damaging greenhouse gases. But what exactly is the circular economy and how can it succeed? Most importantly, how far are fiber manufacturers in developing mono-component fabrics that can eventually be returned back into the textile cycle?    
The Focus Topic of this year’s sustainability conference, launched in cooperation with SPORTSFASHION by SAZ, offered a platform for discussion and strove to enlighten with evocative talks, discussion rounds and webinars. Christiane Dolva, Head of Sustainability at Fjällräven, got to the heart of the matter at the start of the expert talks on the second day of the fair, outlining how important emotional consistency is for the brand itself and ultimately also for the consumer – especially when it comes to textile recycling. Durability, good quality, in combination with timeless design are more important than ever today and in the future in terms of sustainable action. Added to this is the possibility of reviving products by means of a repair service. Equally exciting: the development of new technologies in terms of recycling. Erik Bang from the H&M Foundation provided a first glimpse of the new Greenmachine, which should make it possible to separate mixed fabrics such as cotton and polyester as early as 2021. Alternatively, old clothing is converted into new fibres thanks to companies such as WornAgain, Re:newcell, Spinnova or Infinited Fiber, which soon promises to be more than just a mere vision. For those who wish to gain insight into the supply chain of their purchased garment, the start-up know your stuff lets customers track the journey of the respective garment by simply scanning a QR code on the garment in a store or online.    
 
Free extensive retrospective
The next edition of PERFORMANCE DAYS is planned as a hybrid fair and will take place on May 19th and May 20th, 2021 in Munich as well as online. Until then, the PERFORMANCE DAYS platform will remain accessible, for instance with the Marketplace and further inspiring topics of (video) material stories to make online sourcing even easier. The talks from the first day of the fair and the conference will be accessible free of charge on the fair website.

The most importantt links:
Highlights of Expert Talks & Webinars
https://www.performancedays.com/digital-fair/expert-talk-webinar.html

Marketplace:
https://www.performancedays.com/marketplace.html

3D-Forum:
https://www.performancedays.com/digital-fair/forum-highlights/3d-forum.html

PERFORMANCE COLORS by Nora Kühner
https://www.performancedays.com/digital-fair/color-trends.html

More information:
Performance Days
Source:

PERFORMANCE DAYS functional fabric fair