Throughout the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, technical textile, non-wovens, machinery, sewn products and equipment companies touted their latest innovations as part of the dual Texprocess Americas and Techtextil North America show. Through new materials, processes or machinery, the push to increase sustainability and circularity in the textile industry could be felt throughout the show.
Two companies touting sustainable solutions were recognized by show runners Messe Frankfurt for their efforts to improve the environment. Henderson Sewing Machine Co. and Twine Solutions earned the show’s innovation award in the category of new approaches on sustainability and circular economy for their thread digital dyeing system TS-1800. And Dürkoop Adler GmbH earned the nod for new technology on sustainability and recycling for its M-Type Delta e-con sewing machine.
The TS-1800 operates with a waterless, digital system that allows companies to dye the exact amount of thread or yarn needed. The machine was designed for shorter runs and can dye up to 1,800 meters of polyester thread or yarn per hour.
“We wanted to solve the problem of textile dye—which is very polluting—along with overproduction, water waste and all the bad things that happen with dying,” said Yuval Nahum, vice president of sales, Twine. “So the idea was to develop a machine that would be waterless and digital, so you can dye only what you need. You save money because you don’t order the minimum order quantity, you don’t stock a lot of thread you don’t need, and you’re able to serve your customers better.”
The machine offers dye-to-match capabilities as well as applications for everything from ribbon and tape to circular knitting for socks. But Nahum says the fashion industry has been the biggest user of the machine.
“There are now more than four seasons of the year for fashion, and the trends change so frequently,” he said. “The whole process of producing it is labor- and cost-intensive so customers really like this solution to making new yarns and threads easier.”
Nahum said the company also has another model on the way that will offer greater output for larger production orders.
Dürkoop Adler’s M-Type Delta e-con sewing machine uses a digital platform to reduce the machine’s energy consumption by 25 percent.
“We upgraded our existing digital sewing technology with a higher grade of sustainability to get rid of the waste and lower our carbon footprint,” said Sebastian Kinnius, head of product management, Dürkoop Adler GmbH.
The digital interface allows the machine to have a short changeover time for new tasks via automatic updates, and it controls drives and lights, shutting them down when not in use for energy savings. Kinnius said that while the M-Type Delta e-con uses less energy, that doesn’t mean it lacks in power.
“When you’re using this machine, which is still powerful and really productive, you’re not only getting money in your pocket, but you’re also getting rid of electrical waste,” he said.
Other companies at the show focused more on cutting or eliminating harmful chemicals from their products. Covestro—previously known as Bayer Material Science—touted its waterborne bio-based Insqin textile coating made with partly bio-based and partly bio-degradable polyurethane. The coating is designed for use on activewear, athletic shoes and automotive textiles, among other uses.
Robert Saunders, head of textile coatings at Covestro, said the company is moving to improve its sustainability and reduce its carbon footprint.
“We are going completely away from solvents, trying to get them out of everything—it’s just being a good citizen of the planet,” he said. “Originally our products were all water-based, but now we’ve graduated to bio-based products and even some that are biodegradable.”
Saunders said Covestro’s research and development department is focused on further expanding the company’s product sustainability, with the goal of being fully circular by 2035.
Milliken also preached the gospel of eliminating harmful chemicals during the show, sharing how it has removed PFAS from all its products. Jeff Strahan, director of research, compliance and sustainability at Milliken explained that removing PFAS from textiles required the company to think differently about how its products perform.
The company has developed a new PFAS-free finish that offers stain and water repellency, but does not have the oil resistance that PFAS provides.
“Oil repellency is the holy grail—a lot of smart people have been working on it for decades and haven’t found it yet,” he said.
Until that solution presents itself, Strahan said the company has focused on cleanability of oil-based stains while also telling the story of its durable water repellant’s (DWR) ability to resist many other stains.
“It’s not a direct substitute—we’re still working on this,” he said. “There never was one bucket of PFAS that did everything for everyone, so there’s not one bucket of DWR that does everything.”
Strahan said that fear of difficulty or reduced performance shouldn’t prevent textile makers from removing PFAS from their products, too.
“It’s not a quick change, and it’s not easy, but it’s possible,” he said.
Parkdale Advanced Materials has been working to eliminate microfiber pollution with its Ciclo sustainable textile technology. Microfiber textiles are a major contributor to microplastic pollution.
“We love synthetics, but one of the challenges in our industry is microplastic pollution,” said Cheryl Smyre, director, advanced materials division, Parkdale. “Thirty-five percent of the microplastics in the environment are actually coming from washing synthetic textiles, so that’s a huge problem.”
The product—which was produced in collaboration with Silicon Valley startup Intrinsic Textiles Group—helps reduce plastic microfiber pollution by embedding biodegradable spots throughout the matrix of the plastic. These spots act like nutrient sources for microbes that naturally exist in the environment.
Because of that, textiles made with Ciclo-enhanced fibers will biodegrade naturally at rates comparable to natural fibers because microbes are attracted to the fibers and mineralize them.
“So when that fabric containing Ciclo is being washed those those microfibers aren’t contributing to pollution the way traditional microfibers do,” Smyre said.
Solutions such as Ciclo, and many others introduced at Texprocess Americas/Techtextil North America, demonstrated the effort the textile industry is putting into working toward a more sustainable and circular future.