The ITMA Blog


Technologies in transition and works of art

by Adrian Wilson | 19 Nov, 2015


The Turbotex system, developed by Ontec Automation

An extremely promising new technology appears to have been somewhat overlooked in media coverage of ITMA 2015 to date, and it’s perfectly in keeping with the show’s theme, ‘Master the Art of Sustainability.’

The Turbotex system, developed by Ontec Automation, based in Naila, Germany, makes scrims direct from either creels or beams and in a single pass can also laminate them to either nonwovens or films.

As such, the resulting materials are ideally suited for technical applications in construction, packaging, geotextiles, insulation and floorcoverings and the advantages of the process are considerable, explains Managing Director Volker Rossner.

“Our system uses just six per cent of the energy required to make such scrims by weaving, and additional finishing of these products is eliminated,” he says. “The personnel requirement is reduced and a 30 per cent thinner end product also saves material.”


Ontec Managing Director Volker Rossner

Stepless adjustment of both the grid size in the weft direction and the overall fabric width is also possible, to significantly save on converting. The system is highly suited to high performance fibres such as glass, aramids and carbon, in addition to more widely used polyester, with a maximum weft speed of 4,000 insertions a minute for production of up to12 metres a minute. The extremely quiet system operates on 6 bars of pressurised air and a current of 400 volts.

Vertically aligned
A technology that is meanwhile on the road to wide commercial acceptance is that of vertically aligned, high loft nonwovens.

The leader in this field is Australia’s V-LAP and the materials manufactured on its technology of the same name have rapidly gained a leading position in a number of markets, with the latest being in interlinings and insulation for high-end outdoor jackets and winter sportswear.

V-LAP fabrics have bulk and an almost spring-like feel and appearance, but with less overall weight, due to the vertical orientation of the fibres in their structures.

Their initial success has been in the automotive industry and some of the world’s largest Tier One automotive companies are now using the technology to produce parcel shelves, headliners, bonnet protectors, dashboards, components for driver and passenger doors and wheel arch liners.

Bedding manufacturers have also appreciated the benefits of being able to make a fibrous nonwoven material that performs like foam in resilience and recovery, but does not discolour, has excellent flammability results and is completely breathable, for enhanced sleep comfort.

“We’ve had a huge amount of interest at this ITMA from the sportswear industry, where for outdoor insulating jackets you need a certain bulk, but not the big puffed-out appearance you can see,” said Managing Director Jason Cooper. “We can achieve what the brands need with 50-60 gsm V-LAP materials.”

The company is demonstrating a 2.5 metre-wide production machine in Hall 3, along with a wide range of material samples.


V-LAP Managing Director Jason Cooper with Rory Wilson of the company’s UK agent Border Textiles

Inner workings
Still in the field of nonwovens, there was an unattributed image of one of the beautiful exhibits at the stand of Groz-Beckert (D124 in Hall 7) on my blog on Friday, but do check them out – they really should go on a tour of art galleries after ITMA 2015.

The emphasis is on the inner workings of production machines housed in see-through casings, in order to give a better idea of the high operational efficiency of Groz-Beckert needle ranges and ancillary systems for knitting, weaving and tufting, in addition to nonwovens production.

Among exhibits, an acrylic glass-housed needling machine demonstrates the advanced performance of the company’s needle solutions, specifically for the production of filtration felts.

Groz-Beckert’s Carding business is also making its debut at ITMA 2015, with metallic card clothing which minimises fibre usage through homogenous distribution to guarantee the highly economic production of nonwoven webs.


Artistic transparency at the Groz-Beckert stand

Magnetic weft insertion
Among many interesting research and development projects being showcased up in Hall 8, is the new weaving technique called ‘magnetic weft insertion’.

Jan Vincent Jordan, of RWTH Aachen University received the ITMA 2015 Research and Innovation Excellence Award for his work on this potentially influential new development.

“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. “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.”


The promising magnetic weft insertion system developed at RWTH Aachen University

I’ll write more about a number of other interesting R&D projects on show in Hall 8 on the final day of the exhibition.