Part 2: Technical textiles are sustainable – what else?
Sustainability is now, as a matter of principle, a necessity for companies’ continuing success. This relates not only to the manufactured products themselves, but also to the way in which they are presented in the market place. Reducing the oft-described ecological footprint is really the only thing that will achieve both things at the same time.
In the Mimaki textile printing company, for example, it has been possible to increase the efficiency of the production process by 20 percent. Emissions were reduced and less electricity used per item of equipment. Mimaki is accredited under the ISO 14001 environmental management scheme, and has introduced processes and procedures in the company which apply to all “sustainable” companies: limiting the consumption of electricity, fuels, raw materials and energy; reducing industrial exhaust emissions, as well as encouraging recycling and strictly separating the different kinds of waste; preventing environmental pollution, though a reduction in the use of hazardous chemicals; promoting environmentally friendly designs for products; reducing the drop-out rate in the manufacturing process; extending sales of environmentally-friendly products; encouraging customer demand to favour environmentally friendly products; improving ways of deploying measures to correct mistakes.
And then there’s textile printing. Be it dyeing or printing, functional treatments such as water repellent or flame resistant surfaces, antibacterial functions or even coatings – it is only when the textile is treated that it gains its desired serviceability. Insqin, from Bayer MaterialScience, offers a new kind of sustainable textile coating. The range of applications for this purely water-based PU technology stretches from PU leather and functional textiles to high-performance printing and much more, enabling all kinds of coated textiles to be manufactured without the use of solvents. 95 percent less water and 50 percent less energy is required for the coating process. A good example of the way in which innovative products and processes can help to improve people’s lives, whilst, at the same time, conserving resources and ensuring that the ecological footprint on the environment is as small as possible.
These are, indeed, lots of little steps, which together lead to greater degrees of sustainability. In this context, we must also mention the ‘Bluecompetence’ initiative of the VDMA (Association of German Machine and Plant Manufacturers), which encourages companies to conserve resources and energy. Be it through the introduction of an energy management system from Sedo Treepoint, with which energy savings of up to 25% for textile finishing can be achieved, or through the use of a new relaxation dryer from Brückner, with which the energy costs for the drying process in the textile industry can also be reduced by up to 25%. The impact that a small needle can achieve is demonstrated by litespeed from Groz-Beckert. The huge 20% saving in energy used by each circular knitting machine, as well as the concomitant CO2 reduction of 1.5 tonnes, have already won the company the sought-after Kyocera Environmental Award for their miraculous needle.
And what will the future bring? What trends are emerging in terms of sustainability? “Sustainability will continue to gain profoundly in importance and sustainable products and materials will be more and more talked about, just as today we get noticeably more information about litter in the world’s oceans and the conditions involved in intensive animal husbandry,” insists futurologist Thomas Strobel with absolute certainty. Products with a sustainability label will gain ever greater acknowledgement and features such as renewable raw materials, recyclability, bio-degradability and environmental friendliness will be in much greater demand. As far as technical textiles are concerned, too, it is renewable raw materials which will continue gain in importance. The same applies, claims Strobel, to lightweight construction using composite materials. “These will only have a chance in the long term, if they are not based on mineral oil and if the lightweight components made of composite materials can be recycled.” We can already begin to guess at the changes, in terms of sustainability, that this will bring with it for the composites market.
Author: Iris Schlomski