The ITMA Blog


Collaboration beyond boundaries

by Adrian Wilson | 03 Nov, 2015

Research and education institutes have certainly proved willing to publicise their work at ITMA 2015.

Over three days from 15 to 17 November, there are no less than 35, 20-minute papers being presented by them at the Speakers Platform, from as far afield as the USA, India and New Zealand.
As part of CEMATEX efforts to promote innovation, the institutes participating in the special Research and Innovation Pavilion have been assisted with grants of up to 50% for stand space, in addition to the opportunity to make presentations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the leading country in terms of presentations to be made, with 13 papers, is Germany – a country with more than 800 publicly-funded research institutions, as well as research and development centres run by industrial corporations – followed by Italy, as the host nation for ITMA 2015, with 11.

Industry-based and financed investments account for more than two thirds of all R&D funding in Germany. Companies are especially involved in applied research and work closely with the global network of Fraunhofer Institutes and the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF).


“Cooperations with textile research institutes offer the chance to jointly develop discoveries that have been made in basic research and we certainly take advantage of these chances,” says Eric Schöller, a member of the management board at German needle specialist Groz Beckert which will be a major exhibitor at ITMA 2015. “We have good, long-standing relationships with a number of textile research institutes, including for example, the ITV in Denkendorf, the ITM in Dresden and the ITA in Aachen. The nature of these scientific cooperations is also highly diversified. The ITA in Aachen, for example, was our research partner in developing a textile-reinforced concrete bridge. The bridge has stood in Albstadt since 2010 and is still the longest of its kind in the world.”

Textile Bridge

“We have worked with institutes like the TITV Greiz on formulating the basic foundations of smart textiles for a long time,” adds Peter Dornier, CEO of Lindauer Dornier, the German specialist in weaving machines and another key ITMA exhibitor. “The work has involved implanting electrical or circuit functions into fabrics with Jacquard technology. For me personally, creating 3D structures with this technology is immensely exciting. We also have strategic partnerships with the ITA in Aachen and the ITM at Dresden University of Technology.


“In order to support the training of future textile engineers and ongoing research projects in Aachen, for example, Dornier recently sponsored an ultramodern A1 type air-jet weaving machine, so these cooperations are certainly not a one-way street. The ITA can use this extremely powerful machine to advance the digitisation of manufacturing equipment as part of the larger Industry 4.0 initiative, while we have already acquired the services of two doctoral students graduating from the ITA.”

Modelling and simulation

The themes of the ITMA 2015 Research and Education Speakers Platform sessions are ‘Achievements in Innovations’, ‘Sustainable Innovations’ and ‘Technical Textiles Applications’.

A significant number of papers concern modelling and simulation techniques.

“These are extremely powerful tools that will continue to be critical for building a robust understanding of textile processes and products,” says Dr Stephen Russell, Director of the Nonwovens Research Group at the University of Leeds in the UK. “They provide important insights about underlying mechanisms that cannot be efficiently addressed by laboratory experiments alone. Of course, their practical value depends on the assumptions that are made about reality, and as such they are always evolving and improving. The role that modelling and simulation has already played in improving the design of fabric performance should not be underestimated.”

Carbon fibre composites

Another key theme running through the presentations will be the potential of carbon fibre-based composites.

“The age of metal in the aerospace industry is already on the decline, and in hindsight will be nothing more than an interval in history, as a result of the issues surrounding CO2,” says Peter Dornier. “My grandfather managed to fly his first aircraft made entirely of metal in 1916. The material he used – aluminium – was the material of choice in this application field for just 80 years. Today, textile composite materials account for half the weight of modern aircraft and for the Eurofighter, it is 82%.

“A woven textile mass production part is digital, and can be manufactured with total reproducibility in a well-established production process. Consider an application like weaving car airbags, where a single technician oversees 40 weaving machines. In a large plant operated by a car maker to produce structural components from carbon, this is practically reversed at the moment. This shows what the weaving process has to offer in terms of globally distributable, industrial efficiency. The world’s leading airbag or tyre manufacturers already benefit from it every day, while large sections of the metal industry are still barely aware of what is coming.”

Research and Innovation Excellence Award Finalists

Also, on Sunday, 15 November, there will be presentations from the three finalists for the Research and Innovation Excellence Award, as one of two categories that comprise the Sustainable Innovation Award launched by CEMATEX for this ITMA.

The overall winner will have been announced earlier, on the evening of the first day of the show, Thursday 12 November, at a special ceremony and dinner held at Milan’s famous La Pelota.

Magnetic weft insertion

Jan Vincent Jordan, of RWTH Aachen University, has been recognised for his Master’s Thesis on a new weaving technique called ‘magnetic weft insertion’.

“During weft insertion in the weaving process, a variety of demands need to be fulfilled in respect of energy efficiency, productivity and flexibility,” he explains in a synopsis of his paper. “These demands are met only partially by the common methods of weft insertion.”
The highest productivity is currently achieved with air jet weaving, but at the same time energy consumption is also high, and there are limitations in terms of what yarns can be accommodated.

The globally utilised weft insertion method that grants the highest productivity is the air jet system.

Rapier weaving, meanwhile, is the most flexible method, granting a gentle transport of any yarns, and with medium energy consumption, but also at lower speeds.

Projectile weaving has the lowest energy consumption of all, but due to the high acceleration at the initiation of movement, an impact load is put on the yarn that can only be borne by those with sufficient tensile strength.
Behind the development of the new magnetic weft insertion technique is the aim of combining the advantages of all three current commercial options – the highest speed, the lowest energy consumption and the ability to accommodate all yarn types.
“In functional tests, a proof of concept has been delivered, showing that the productivity of air jet weaving can be realised at the low energy consumption of projectile weaving,” says Jordan. “In addition, completely new types of fabric can be manufactured with the magnetic shuttle system – by alternating the movement of the weft yarn in the shed.”

Self-assessment tool

Jenifer Schneidereit of Hochschule Niederrhein is also a contender for the Research and Innovation Excellence Award, in recognition of her work on a self-assessment tool, with which improvement measures in wet processing can be initiated.
Her work has been in relation to the Carbon Performance Improvement Initiative (CPI2) launched by predominantly German retailers and brands.
CPI2 has developed a tool which assesses the operations of a factory and makes recommendations to improve its environmental performance. It started with a clear focus on CO2 emissions, but is now expanding to other environmental challenges, such as water use and pollution.
“The integration of recommendations for water conservation and pollution reduction and control has been the focus of my Master Thesis,” Schneidereit explains. “The main task was the development of a list of improvement measures for sustainable water use. An additional aim was to provide background information on water usage in textile wet processing, the current discharge situation in China, and the different wastewater treatment methods, in order to identify areas with high improvement potential.”

Hybrid wovens

The third Research and Innovation Excellence Award finalist is Moniruddoza Ashir of TU Dresden, for his work on the development of hybrid 3D woven structures for applications in lightweight composites for a range of end-uses.
A weaving machine has been modified and a special profile-making machine developed at TU Dresden, in order to allow wire and high performance yarns to be combined together in the new fabrics.
“Special consideration had to be given to the yarn let-off, as well as the fabric take-up device, in order to be able to include the wires,” says Ashir. “A profile structure with additional yarns in the z-direction was also necessary for the intended applications.”

Horizon 2020

Also currently giving a boost to many of the European research and education activities to be showcased at ITMA 2015, is the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

This began in 2014, setting key targets for achievements in the coming years and also committing to investing 3% of the EU’s GDP to research and development.

As such, it is the largest innovation programme ever in the EU, with nearly €80 billion of funding being committed over seven years, for a wide range of research activities.

“Companies are already successfully using it to drive forward ambitious, but commercially focused, innovation projects, involving existing and new supply chains,” says Dr Stephen Russell. “These projects involve close collaboration between research institutions and companies from wherever they are in Europe, all aimed at delivering a commercially-relevant outcome.”
University academics in many EU countries and elsewhere, he adds, are strongly being encouraged by their respective governments to maximise the real-world ‘impact’ of their research, which means actively engaging in the commercialisation process.

“The golden age of the corporate research lab ended many years ago and it’s noticeable that more companies in our industry have launched formal open innovation initiatives to help drive new technology to their door, regardless of where the ideas are generated in the world. The “not invented here syndrome” is on its way out, and collaborations now extend way beyond nation or state boundaries.”