There is no area of textile manufacturing where so much can be gained via advanced technologies and processes – in terms of both profit and planet – than in dyeing and finishing.
With this in mind, ITMA 2015 – the world’s largest textile and garment manufacturing technology showcase – is holding its second one-day Textile Colorant and Chemical Leaders Forum on November 15th, as one of a series of conferences taking place during the show.
Among issues it will address are the responses of the suppliers of chemicals and colorants to current environmental issues.
As sustainability has grown higher on the agenda right across the textile chain – influencing the decisions of everyone from the apparel brands and retailers right back to the suppliers of fibres and ancillaries – the vast savings in water, energy and raw materials that can be obtained through more effectively adding colour and functionality have been under the spotlight.
Within this context, the recent announcement of a collaboration between two ITMA 2015 exhibitors is particularly notable.
DyeCoo Textile Systems, based in Weesp in the Netherlands, is teaming up with Singapore-headquartered DyStar, a leading supplier of colorants and auxiliaries. DyeCoo is the world’s first supplier of industrial CO2 dyeing equipment, which uses recycled CO2 gas instead of water to permeate textiles with dyes.
In conventional textile dyeing, huge amounts of water are employed both in terms of the input of fresh water and the waste water that needs cleaning or disposing of after use. Water is also required in many pre-treatment and finishing processes, such as washing, scouring, bleaching and dyeing.
The DyeCoo technology has already been employed by sportswear giants Adidas and Nike, and offers huge potential to save water and energy, both of which are top priorities for textile dyers.
The companies believe their new partnership will pave the way for more ecological products which will meet the rigorous demands of the industry.
There is currently estimated to be around 28 billion kilos of textile fabric processed on traditional dyeing ranges globally each year, however, which indicates the enormous task of achieving a perfect balance between resource savings, productivity and improving profitability.
On average, it has traditionally taken an estimated 100-150 litres of water to process 1 kg of fabric, but even assuming that completely waterless dyeing will become more widely adopted, this is already being considerably reduced. Not only have liquor ratios of as low as 2:1 been achieved with conventional dyeing technology, but the time taken to carry out the entire processing cycle has been drastically cut too.
Advanced dyestuffs are also making a very significant contribution, with new formulations developed by the major chemical producers allowing the water required for successful dyeing to be cut down to around 15-20 litres per kilo of fabric. This is even without the switch to new capital equipment, but simply by replacing one dyestuff with another and adjusting processing parameters accordingly.
Archroma is another global leader in dyestuffs and specialty chemicals, and at ITMA 2015 will be demonstrating how it is leveraging innovative chemistry to generate new fashion-forward, eco-conscious colours and finishes to add value for consumers, mills and brand owners alike.
The raw materials supplied for dyeing and finishing processes are also becoming more sustainable themselves, and a particularly exciting development here, is the Archroma EarthColors range of dyes.
These are based on biosynthetics derived from almond shells, saw palmetto, rosemary leaves and other natural products – agricultural waste products that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
They are suitable for cotton and cellulose-based fabrics and can provide rich red, brown and green colours to denim and casualwear.
In a further step, Archroma is providing brand owners with transparency along the complete supply chain for Earthcolors and also offering to make that transparency available to clothing consumers.
The company is putting all information about individual batches of colour on hang tags to be attached to each item of Earthcolors-dyed clothing. Each hang tag incorporates a chip with all the information on it, and that information can be accessed by the buyer in the shop using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology incorporated into smartphones. Archroma believes this is the first time that NFC has been used in this way.
NFC is a relative of RFID (radio frequency identification) which many retailers already use for tracking products, but it’s more sophisticated and more consumer-friendly. The company believes it will provide shoppers with a more involved buying experience.
“Our aim is to give consumers a choice,” says Alan Cunningham, Head of Textiles Dyes Marketing at Archroma. “We should all have the opportunity to choose the fashion option with the least environmental impact and to be safe in the knowledge that there is substance behind what is claimed on the label.”
The chip contains information such as the mill which dyed the fabric and where the garment was laundered, as well as the source of bio-based raw material.
The new dyes have been four years in the making and have comparable performance of the company’s existing range of sulphur dyes made from conventional synthetic materials.
A significant number of the leading manufacturers of dyeing and finishing equipment who will be exhibiting at ITMA 2015 are now part of the Beijing-headquartered China Hi-Tech Group Corporation (CHTC).
In 2015, CHTC employs some 56,000 people worldwide and its textile operations largely assumed their current global shape through acquiring the Hong Kong-headquartered Fong’s Group in 2011.
Fong’s itself grew in part through a series of acquisitions of European companies. It started as a dyeing and finishing machinery manufacturer and its proximity to China proved highly beneficial following the country’s opening and reform policy of 1979. In 1998 it joined forces with Germany’s Monforts to form Monforts Fong’s, to manufacture high-end fabric finishing technology for the Chinese market at a plant in Shenzhen.
The first full European acquisition by Fong’s was of Xorella, based in Wettingen, Switzerland, a manufacturer of steam setting and conditioning equipment for yarns and fabrics, in 2002. Two years later, it acquired the dyeing and finishing technology of Then, based in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, which later became the headquarters of Fong’s Europe. Fong’s also purchased Goller, the Swiss manufacturer of wet finishing ranges.
Following the amalgamation of Fong’s into CHTC, further purchases of European companies have been made by CHTC, including Monforts in 2012.
Due to their reputations built up over many years, Autefa Fong’s, Goller, Monforts, Then and Xorella all continue to trade under their original company names and have individual listings for ITMA 2015 in Milan.
Going forward, there will inevitably be much synergy between them as a result of their common ownership. ITMA 2015 will undoubtedly be a focal point for innovative technologies and meaningful dialogues which will contribute to improvements in the dyeing and finishing sector.