TT: How much do you think technical textiles/nonwovens will dominate the next decade? In which sectors/ applications, are we most likely to see that kind of dominance?
It is a fact that the technical textiles market is one of the most innovative in the world. It is reported to be among the top five technology-intensive markets with a great potential for advancement. The industry accounts for about 30 per cent of global textile production and it is expected to expand at an annual growth rate of more than 4 per cent to $198 billion by 2022. The leading regions are Asia-Pacific, the US and Europe. Regarding Europe, technical textiles are a key pillar of the textiles industry in the European Union (EU) member states. And, with annual sales of €13 billion, Germany is the global market leader for technical textiles. The positive development of the industry is reflected by the large number of exhibitors and visitors at our Techtextil and Texprocess trade fairs, the leading international events for technical textiles and nonwovens and the processing of textile and flexible materials. The upcoming editions of the two fairs from May 14 to 17 will bring together over 1,800 exhibitors and more than 45,000 visitors from all over the world.
Technical textiles can be found in every field of our daily life, for example, in lightweight constructions for planes and cars, fibre-based implants in the medical sector and functional apparel textiles. Just one example: about 30 per cent of the Airbus A380 is made of fibre-based materials. Techtextil and Texprocess will feature a special event 'Urban Living-City of the Future' spotlighting some of the most relevant application areas for technical textiles. In collaboration with Creative Holland, the Dutch creative industries, Techtextil and Texprocess are focusing on life in the city of the future with the special event. On an area of more than 500 m² in the foyer of Hall 4.2, select examples will show how textile innovations can improve the way people live together in an urban setting today.
TT: It is not that people will stop buying apparel made from traditional textiles/fibres but that 'functional apparel' will see more of technical textiles entering the sphere of traditional apparel. In what ways do you see things changing? What are the elements that are surely to change?
It was only a short time ago that the influence of workwear and outdoor clothing was once again to be seen on the catwalk. Vice versa, both working and protective garments are being increasingly designed with fashion aspects in mind. This is certainly not a new trend. However, it is a vivid example of how the different fields of apparel and fashion influence each other. This applies not only to design, but also to the materials used. Heat regulation, cut resistance, water resistance and abrasion resistance are just a few examples of the properties that such materials must have. Smart properties, such as lighting, heating or communication functions, are also being used more and more.
Combining functionality with sustainability is also very important. This begins with the fibre and continues with material processing, including finishing and dressing, until making up and the subsequent recycling. At the coming editions of Techtextil and Texprocess, we will focus on the endeavours of our exhibitors with respect to sustainability for the first time.
Technology, sustainability and innovation are important driving forces of the fashion and textiles industry, which revolutionise the sector, as well as its processes and production flows. Thus, considerable resources can be saved using innovative processes in the preliminary stage. Consider, for example, environment-friendly dyeing methods and the opportunity to reduce water consumption. We illuminate these and similar topics in an excerpt from our Fashionsustain conference to be held within the framework of the Texprocess Forum. The Fashionsustain panel will put the spotlight on materials, processes, innovations, recycling concepts and industrial applications.
TT: This is in a way a continuation of the earlier question. Most technical textiles/nonwoven products are essentially industrial products. Do you think the slant is a bit lopsided, as of now?
I can only repeat myself in this respect. Many technical textiles can be used in a variety of ways. For example, yarns and textiles refined with silver are to be found not only in heated car seats, aircraft carpets and wall coverings but also in smart fashions. At Techtextil, an increasing number of designers and fashion manufacturers are approaching exhibitors with ideas for smart garments to discuss questions regarding textile conductivity, data transmission and visualisation. Subsequently, for instance, the corresponding materials stimulate muscles in fitness suits, make the heart activity of the wearer visible in garments and bring light into apparel with LEDs on hoodies and jackets.
TT: Do you see textile companies being caught in a bind? Or, do you think they will diversify? Or perhaps, you see new/different players in the technical textiles sector altogether? How much do you foresee the landscape changing in terms of the players involved?
As in many other branches of industry, textile companies must evolve continuously if they are to remain competitive. Close contact to the main buyers and interdisciplinary cooperation are also decisive factors for success. In Germany, the technical textiles market is heavily influenced by its main customers- the automobile, medicine and construction sectors. After the collapse of the textiles and apparel industries in Germany in the eighties, many German companies managed to hold their own in the market through systematic diversification and innovation. As a rule, they are companies that focus on specific parts of the market or offer products in the premium segment whereby the production of technical textiles has been particularly strong, and Germany is the world export champion in this market.
TT: Technical textiles/nonwovens are futuristic. This necessarily means that inventions and innovations will drive things ahead. How much do you see that happening? R&D in this sphere will also need substantial amounts of investment. What can be the next innovation/invention that can be a gamechanger for industry?
Research and development are truly an important foundation for innovation, especially in the case of the German industry. In this case, Germany is very well positioned against its international competitors, thanks to an unrivalled textile research landscape with 17 textile research institutes employing around 1,400 people. The institutes are very well networked with industry partners, which enables small to medium-sized companies to fill gaps in their own R&D capacities. Regarding the next major innovations, a particularly important role is likely to be played by lightweight constructions, sustainability and smart functions, as well as digitalisation and customisation on the production and processing side. At Techtextil and Texprocess, trade visitors will be able to obtain an overview of how integrated textile processing works and where micro-factories are already in operation at a special exhibition with five micro-factories.