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Robert Erichsen
Robert Erichsen
Vice President

Interview with Robert Erichsen

Conductive yarns to replace any regular wire in future

Statex Produktions & Vertriebs Gmbh, founded in 1978 and headquartered in Bremen, Germany, metallises textiles and yarns to be able to use the characteristics of different metals in a flexible, textile form. Company vice president Robert Erichsen discusses the development and latest applications of conductive threads.

TT: What is Statex all about?

Since Statex was founded in 1978 by my grandfather Kurt Bertuleit, our company´s core business has been manufacturing of 'intelligent textiles'. In fact, Statex metallises yarns, fabrics, non-wovens and polyamide parts for different purposes:  high conductive threads for technological industry or anti-microbial yarns and fabric for medical and sport applications. Back in those days, it started with anti-static carpets for aerospace and computer industry. Nowadays, the term smart textiles is more likely to be used for functional clothes and technical textiles.

TT: Where is the application of smart textiles increasing?

In the last few years, smart textiles gained a lot more attention, especially in consumer markets. Clothes that heat up, light applications in furniture or electric muscle stimulation (EMS) suits, which contract your muscles during your workout, have been integrated into our everyday life. We see a high increase of intelligent textiles in the computer industry as well; everything needs to be smaller, lighter, and using textile instead of wires offers interesting benefits for a great number of applications. We expect a significant growth in this field until 2021.

TT: What is the latest innovation in smart textiles?

It is a fast-moving business. Smart textiles integrated into houses/walls to heat those from inside and avoid moisture and mould has impressed me as an idea. I also heard of some other textile solutions to replace steel in house construction. I am pretty sure there will be many mind-blowing inventions in the future.

TT: What is the annual production of fibres, yarns, and fabrics at Statex?

In general, our most important production line is the fabric metallisation. Plus we have several unique products to offer and are able to adjust to the customers´ needs. Yarns have been used for many years in different fields for both, technical or anti-microbial reasons. Staple fibres are still used for permanent anti-static of aircraft and office carpets.

TT: Which are your main markets for silver fibres, yarns and fabrics? Where do you see the potential growing?

We get in touch with many different markets. Our products find applications in aerospace, aircraft and automotive industry, computer, medical, sport clothes, furniture, anti-microbial products, water disinfection, anti-static carpets and technical embroidery, which are some of the main markets.

TT: Which industries are big consumers of your products?

Statex customers produce large quantities of wound dressings, sports clothes and technical products for the consumer market. Very often big companies will not even tell us where the material goes. We find out after a while that our textiles became part of well-known products produced worldwide.

TT: Please tell us about the latest innovations in sensor technology using Shieldex.

There is a big joint venture development going on in this field. But this is still confidential due to non-disclosure agreements.

TT: What is the USP of a Shieldex product? How are they different from others?

You always have to separate two issues here - quality and price. On one hand, there are competitors that offer cheap metallised materials, and yes, for some applications this might be the right solution. Since we always have been and always will be producing all our products in Germany, manufacturing costs will always lead to a higher price than offered by other suppliers.

Knowing this, Statex focused on highest quality standards instead of cheap mass production. Customers, especially big companies, are always looking for cheaper alternatives, but on the same token can´t stand decreasing quality. Some turned their back on us and tried to use alternative materials, but most of those who tried to replace us returned within the first few months. Our experience in this industry has always led us to the same statement: you get what you pay for! This is the reason why Statex is working together with some of the biggest computer manufacturers and international aerospace companies not only in Europe but in the United States, China and the United Kingdom. Within the past years, we invested a lot in new machinery, highly qualified staff and even founded a new research and development company in 2017. We work together with many textile institutes in Europe and abroad, which always shows us the newest market needs and developments. The way we metallise is quite unique. We don´t cover textiles with silver; we root our silver into the material and are able to create a much stronger bond with the textiles. This production method grants big advantages in terms of conductivity, washability and variety in our product range. 

To mention two simple examples, Statex offers a conductive fabric that has four different layers of metal: silver, copper, nickel and tin. There is nobody else in the world doing this. Or if we take a look at our anti-microbial yarn, our standard is still conductive. Competitors only try to put the least possible amount of silver on anti-microbial yarn, so you can barely talk about a metallisation, not even thinking about measuring any conductivity. The joint venture with the company group that I mentioned earlier is a good example of our work. A customer asked us to develop a product quite a while ago. We haven't heard from him for about a year. When he was calling in again, he said he travelled the world to find somebody who could even be close to where we are but couldn't find any appropriate partner. Therefore, the customer came back to us and started to develop this product with us.

There are many advantages that Shieldex offers. Our biggest advantage is the development of exactly what the customer needs. With our experience of metallising fabrics and yarns for 40 years and the knowhow we gained, Statex is always willing to accept challenges for new developments. One last thing to mention is our effort to help students and schools to acquire knowledge about technical textiles. We started the 'Statex for Studies' programme a few years ago, through which we offer samples and knowhow to universities and student projects. Sometimes they develop outstanding products with our materials.

Published on: 20/02/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.


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