A rail strike in Germany did little to dampen the enthusiasm for visitors to Techtextil last month, when around 42,000 from 116 countries made their way to Frankfurt am Main. Together with Texprocess, the two fairs hosted 1,662 exhibitors from 54 countries (2013: 1,660 exhibitors from 56 countries).
“Not only was there a fantastic atmosphere at the fair and in the sectors, the visitor standard was exceptional and there were more new products to be seen than ever before,” said Detlef Braun, member of the Board of Management of Messe Frankfurt.
The travel disruption had less impact on visitor numbers than initially expected, but it did result in an inevitable, although slight, decline from Germany. More than half the visitors came from outside the host country, with the leading nations being Italy, France, Turkey, the U.K., Poland, the Netherlands and Spain.
With Techtextil held over four days for the first time and with 1,389 exhibitors, an increase of 4.4% over the last edition in 2013, the leading exhibitor countries were Germany (445), Italy (135), France (97), China (84), the U.K. (66), Switzerland (62), Belgium (50), Taiwan (41), Spain (39) and Turkey (37).
Fifteen countries hosted national pavilions this year, compared with 13 in 2013: Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, the U.K., Italy, Portugal, Spain, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and the U.S.; the new pavilions were Switzerland and Tunisia. A number of German federal states also organized regional pavilions.
The range of technical textiles and nonwovens seen at Techtextil was once again characterized by diversity, with innovative fibers used in many applications, including the agricultural, automotive, construction, apparel, energy and medical fields.
Exhibitors also presented synthetic fibers for covering stadiums or for truck/goods-wagon tarpaulins, as well as non-combustible glass-fiber mats for seats, flooring and luggage racks.
In addition to multifunctional jackets that can communicate, warm and illuminate, other highlights at Techtextil included embroidered electrodes for long-term electrocardiograms (ECGs), algae-based artificial snow, an artificial womb for premature babies and a marine textile for cultivating kelp.
In the new Hall 6.1, manufacturers presented developments relating to functional apparel fabrics and smart textiles, explained Michael Jänecke, director of brand management technical textiles & textile processing. These included Nike IHM, a new participant at the show.
The complementary program at Techtextil was also extended for 2015. A highlight was the first Innovative Apparel Show, where four university departments and fashion schools from Germany and Switzerland presented their futuristic designs.
This event proved to be a magnet for participants interested in new materials and processing technologies, and attracted around 500 trade visitors per show to the catwalk on all four days.
Meanwhile, the Techtextil Symposium, which was moved to a more central location, was split into six blocks of lectures, each with six presentations, with simultaneous translation into English and German.
The Techtextil Innovation Awards honored eight outstanding developments in six categories during the show’s opening ceremony.
The winners in the New Technology category were Sosa Fresh for its 3DWeaver, a 3D printer that can produce 3D woven structures, and Emil Stutznäcker for its high-performance sewing technology, which can manufacture preforms for textile reinforced lightweight structures at speeds of around 3,000 stitches a minute.
In the New Product category the award went to Empa – Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology for an embroidered electrode that can be used for long-term ECGs.
Two companies were honored in the New Concept category: Switch Embassy for a washable LED screen that can be used in applications from clothing to interior furnishings, and ITV Denkendorf for BioGlizz, a biological alternative to artificial snow, which is based on an algae-covered textile layer.
The winner in the New Application category was the Hohenstein Institute for Textile Innovation with Artus, a technical textile that can be used as an artificial womb for premature babies, which reproduces the mother’s movements and heartbeat.
The New Composite category was won by a technology developed by the Forschungskuratorium Textil research association, which makes it possible to weave fiber reinforced 3D structures that can, for example, contribute to weight reduction in automobiles and machinery.
In the New Material category, the jury gave the award to Sioen Industries for developing a marine textile that makes it possible to cultivate kelp and alternative, sustainable biomasses.
The Textile Structures for New Building student competition encouraged ideas for the use of textiles in building and construction, with the award-winning designs displayed in a special exhibition in collaboration with TensiNet association.
Meanwhile, with 273 exhibitors, the parallel Texprocess, the trade fair for processing textile and flexible materials, extended the textile value chain with a product range stretching from design and cutting, via sewing, joining, embroidering and knitting, to finishing, textile printing, logistics and information technology (IT).
Besides Germany the key exhibitor nations at the 3rd Texprocess were China, the U.K., Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Taiwan, Turkey and the U.S.
This four-day trade fair also offered a complementary program of events. The Texprocess Forum featured experts from the apparel industry providing the latest information on current trends in the sector, including Industrie 4.0, sustainability and new strategies for quality management, sourcing and logistics.
IT@Texprocess saw companies presenting new IT solutions for the apparel industry, while the Texprocess Campus featured ideas from leading universities. In addition, the Texprocess Innovation Award was presented for the third time, with the jury singling out four new product/process developments.
Techtextil saw a number of fiber innovations introduced at the show. For example, Outlast Technologies launched the second generation of a phase-change material (PCM) acrylic fiber, which is said to provide four times the performance and offers climate comfort for apparel, such as socks and knitwear, and home textiles, such as blankets.
“We are now using a non-encapsulated pPCM system; we no longer work with encapsulated mPCMs,” explained Martin Bentz, president.
Meanwhile, European polypropylene (PP) staple fiber supplier Beaulieu Fibres International added Ultrasoft Trilobal PP fibers to its Meraklon Trilobal portfolio. These are designed to answer the hygiene sector’s requirements for softness and improved coverage from lightweight nonwovens.
Target applications for the new trilobal fibers include topsheets and other parts for diapers and feminine sanitary napkins, as well as baby and facial wipes.
Further extensions to the Meraklon portfolio are planned for 2015, including the introduction of new polyethylene/PP bicomponent fibers.
U.S.-based Noble Biomaterials used Techtextil to help increase the penetration of its technologies into the European market.
The company’s focus was its X-static antimicrobial technology, which is permanently woven into finished products to reduce bacteria on soft surfaces in healthcare settings, such as staff uniforms, cubicle curtains, patient apparel and bed-linen.
Products incorporating X-static are clinically proven, safe and effective in providing permanent antimicrobial protection and odor management, said Steve Milner, vice president, Healthcare Division.
Noble also highlighted its Circuitex technology for data transmission and pressure sensing in smart fabrics, and XT2 permanent odor protection technology.
Cellulosic fiber maker Lenzing introduced a new concept using the lyocell fiber Tencel in various footwear components.
“The goal is to launch a shoe on the market in which all of the component parts are made with Tencel,” explained Marina Crnoja-Cosic, segment manager, technical textiles.
Available as a fiber or in powder form, Tencel can be used in inner and outer soles, as an outer fabric, and in shoelaces and sewing thread.
Austrian footwear producer Legero is about to commercialize the Vios shoe, in which the shoelaces are already made with Tencel, and work is under way to further extend the use of this cellulosic material in other components.
A children’s collection will be launched in 2016, revealed Stefanie Stolitzka, sustainable development manager at Legero. It is hoped that 70-80% of future footwear could be made of Tencel, where there is a compromise to make shoes both strong and compostable, she said.
Italian fiber producer Sinterama introduced a low-melt stiffening bicomponent polyester, which melts at 180°C for one minute instead of the usual 220-230°C for traditional polyester, providing a feeling of plasticity and rigidity.
When used in combination with other yarns, this new product can produce a mélange effect for vertical blinds, automotive seat upholstery and other technical products where this effect may be desirable.
Meanwhile, RadiciGroup showcased new ceramic polyester yarns that offer thermoregulation properties for technical sportswear, said Daniele Dossi, site quality manager of Noyfil.
“Radyarn and Starlight Ceramic yarns absorb, reflect and emit heat energy in the form of far-infrared rays, which contribute to maintaining better body thermal equilibrium and stimulates superficial microcirculation,” he said.
Name change to DFT
This year’s Techtextil was the first showing for DuraFiber Technologies (DFT), formerly Performance Fibers, a producer of industrial polyester fiber and fabrics, following the sale of its Asian operations to Indorama Ventures, which has retained the rights to the Performance Fibers name.
“This sale has enhanced our consolidation of resources to focus on our core business, further strengthened our financial position and, most importantly, will accelerate our modernization, quality and innovation,” said DFT chief executive officer Frank Papa.
He added that the sale and name change will have no operational impact on the Americas and Europe business, which will continue to operate as one entity under the DFT name, whose products are used in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications, from tires and offshore mooring ropes to seatbelts and sewing thread.
Trevira made a joint presentation with its owner, Indorama Ventures, and sister companies FiberVisions and Wellman at Techtextil. Trevira’s booth offered a wide range of manmade fibers, including fibers from biopolymers (polylactic acid/Ingeo) that are used for nonwovens, bicomponent fibers for hygiene applications, flame retardant fibers and short-cut fibers.
Fiber and textile machine builders continue to use the Techtextil events as an additional marketing platform between ITMA shows and again exhibited in large numbers with presentations in particular from the German and French machinery associations.
With its Barmag and Neumag brands, the Manmade Fibers Segment of the Swiss Oerlikon Group presented a range of technologies for manufacturing industrial fibers, yarns and nonwovens, as well as the latest developments in recycling.
Meanwhile, the Reifenhäuser Group announced the acquisition of German spinneret manufacturer Enka Tecnica. Uwe Gaedike will continue as chief executive officer of the company, which will operate as an independent business unit within the Reifenhäuser Group.
Hills, a producer of specialty fiber extrusion equipment, announced the opening of an office located inside the Centre Européen des Textiles Innovants (CETI). Located in Tourcoing, France, the CETI technical center offers customers the latest innovations in fiber and fabric research and development capabilities.
The new Hills office will provide technical advice with trials at CETI, as well as performing marketing and service activities to support Hills’ European customers. The office is set to open in summer.
The next Techtextil and Texprocess will be held in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, from May 9-12, 2017.