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Tejidos Royo and Partners Fine-Tune Indigo Foam Dyeing

The development of IndigoZero is a study of what can be achieved with industry-wide support and collaboration.

The new foam-dyeing technique, presented by Spanish mill Tejidos Royo last month at Kingpins Amsterdam, aims to transform the denim industry by drastically reducing water usage in the dye process and eliminating the barriers of large-scale needs.

Whereas traditional rope dye for 100 yards of fabric consumes 400 gallons of water, IndigoZero consumes just 3.5 gallons—a 99 percent savings that brings with it fewer costs and greater efficiency and flexibility, since it uses a much smaller machine than other dye techniques.

IndigoZero is powered by a special applicator developed by machinery company Gaston Systems Inc. and Tejidos Royo, along with a foam dye developed by Gaston and Indigo Mill Designs (IMD).

Jose R. Royo, sales director and board member at Tejidos Royo, said the mill worked hand in hand with Gaston for more than eight years to create the applicator. Afterwards, Gaston and IMD, in cooperation with the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute at Texas Tech University, came together to develop the foam.

Research, Royo said, really ramped up when Walmart came on board as the project’s first sponsor. “Without their sponsorship, we would not be talking today about this revolution,” he added.

While foam dyeing is known in the apparel industry, IndigoZero is said to be the first of its kind to be successfully applied to denim. Until now, rope dyeing has been the most effective—albeit time- and labor-intensive—way to produce deep shades of indigo in yarn.

In the different trials Tejidos Royo undertook with the foam and new machine, Royo said the mill has been able to dye any color it wants in both light and dark shades.

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“The results are there,” he said. “Since it is foam, our customers will be able to reach final aspects faster than today. The foam drops faster, so there is a big reduction in time in garment processes. It works with hand methods, laser and ozone garment treatments.”

Additionally, IndigoZero’s foam dyer can be sized to accommodate needs as one machine will dye approximately 3.5 million yards annually. This scaling allows manufacturers to produce at lower levels while reducing the barriers of large-scale needs to justify waste-treatment plants and large rope dye machines. The technology has the potential to reduce a company’s product development cycle by 50 to 90 percent.

Response to IndigoZero at Kingpins Amsterdam was enthusiastic. The mill’s presentation included a virtual tour of the process. Royo said the mill has been talking to big players in the denim industry for the past six months. “They all want in and are ready to invest with us. It is really encouraging. The industry is really looking to change,” he said.

The first fabrics made with IndigoZero are due in November or December 2018. “We are developing special articles with our customers in order to get the meters right away,” Royo said. Tejidos Royo has exclusivity of Gaston’s machine until the end of ITMA 2019 in Barcelona. Until then, other companies can purchase the foam, but they cannot apply it to their fabrics until the machine is available to them.

Royo believes IndigoZero is at the starting line of a new era for technical textiles. While the denim industry tends to make great claims of water reduction, Royo bluntly pointed out that “if you use a million liters of water and you reduce half of it, it is good, very good, but you are still using half a million liters of water that could be used for people.”

With IndigoZero, Royo said the industry has a physical example of turning ideas into reality. “What is more important, we are really doing something for the next generations,” he said. “We are not only talking—we are acting.”