The ITMA 2019 which took place in Barcelona/Spain was an extraordinarily successful exhibition in terms of the number of exhibitors, visitors, and presented innovations. In line with the general trend towards global electronic networking affecting all areas of life, numerous exhibitors introduced software solutions for the realization of Industry 4.0. Many machine manufacturers have adapted their product range or developed modular machine plants that can be easily modified according to specific customer requests. Even though the focus still lies on the traditional market for textiles, such as apparel, home, and household textiles, the technical textiles sector is part of a continuously growing market with great potential in Europe and particularly in Germany. Thus, European companies as well as Asian competitors are the major drivers for innovation in the technical textiles sector. The examples below will illustrate this trend.
The most significant developments and innovations presented at the ITMA 2019 in terms of yarn manufacturing for technical textiles involved machinery as well as production processes with a focus on innovative product development, automation and digitalization in addition to reducing production costs, lowering energy consumption, and increasing flexibility. Dilo Group, Ebersbach/Germany, showcased different technologies involved in fiber preparation, card feeding, high-precision nonwovens manufacturing, and a complete Hyperpunch Ha needlepunching range for nonwovens. Moreover, these machines are powered by the new diloline 4.0 operating system. Autefa Solutions Germany GmbH, Friedberg/Germany, presented the innovative hydroentanglement machine V-Jet Futura with Autefa Service 4.0. Furthermore, the Tatham Ltd., Bradford/UK, introduced a novel blow room and carding line for the gentle processing of carbon fibers for nonwovens aimed at fiber-reinforced plastic applications. The blow room line consists of a bale opener and a feeder, whereas the carding machine is a single cylinder machine with 4 pairs of working and stripping elements. A novel needleloom employing Augmented Reality was presented by the technology corporation Andritz AG, Graz/Austria, for the production of velour felts, which are of particular importance for the automotive industry. Based on their patented aerodynamic airlaid nonwovens technology, the company Advance Nonwoven A/S, Rønde/Denmark, was able to introduce a complete nonwovens production line including the web former CAFT (Carding Airlaid Fusion Technology) and the advanced spray system DALT (Direct Applied Liquid Technology).
Spinhole Consulting, Terrassa/Spain, showcased its new Spinhole system based on multiple balloons technology in a twisting machine TwistGlass from Twistechnology for high-performance filament yarn (CF, GF and AR) as shown in Fig. 1. Dynamic yarn tension can be drastically reduced by up to 50 % during the twisting process, thus significantly increasing efficiency.
Fig. 1 Spinhole system implemented in the TwistGlass twisting machine (Photo: Spinhole)
Gualchieri & Gualchieri & C. Srl, Prato/Italy, introduced several innovative machines of its Fanta line (Fanta One, Fanta Roc-Fil ST3 and Fanta Roc-Fil (Fig. 2)) for the production of special and fancy yarns for technical applications. These machines enable the manufacturing of different yarn structures, e.g. core/sheath, wrapped, fancy and coarse yarns as well as yarns with or without twist made from up to 4 filament yarns (CF, GF, AR and metal filament yarns etc.) and staple fiber tapes (metal, natural, and chemical fibers) for technical applications.
Fig. 2 Fanta Roc-Fil ST3 (Photo: Gualchieri & Gualchieri)
The Oerlikon Segment Manmade Fibers showcased the company’s new machine generation eAFK Evo including a novel texturing technology (Fig. 3). The key foundation for this is a very short twist zone with a new cooling component. This machine concept provides a compact design along with great productivity and newly developed active cooling technologies: the optimized innovative EvoHeater and the EvoCooler. Another special machine component is the Aim4DTY analysis software for the evaluation of error graphs generated by Unitens1 monitoring sensors.
Schärer Schweiter Mettler AG (SSM), Horgen/Switzerland, as part of Rieter Group, introduced the winding machines powerblade Winder SSM Xeno-YW and preciforce SSM Xeno-AC. The Xeno-YW is a precision winding machine suited to all types of staple and filament yarns. The Xeno-AC is an innovative SSM air covering machine that can be used for the mixing and precision winding of filament yarns and elastane. The modular SSM winding machine platform Xeno-YW &-AC combines dye package winding, rewinding and doubling using 3 winding technologies. The new algorithm Digicone 2 enables increased spool density while maintaining the standard dye recipe.
Saurer Technologies GmbH & Co. KG Twisting Solutions, Krefeld/Germany, showcased its twist and cabling machines type CompactTwister, CableCorder CC5 as well as CarpetCabler and CarpetTwister. The 2-for-1 twisting machine CompactTwister offers various possibilities for the manufacturing of different formats, ranging from 6” feed packages to 2 × 6” direct feed packages in addition to crosswound packages with varying densities and formats. The direct cabling machine CableCorder CC5 is characterized by its smart spindle concept and efficient manufacturing of high-quality tire cord and technical yarns. High-quality BCF filament yarns for special carpets can be produced with this new generation of CarpetCabler and CarpetTwister machines. The well-established standard conversion from double wire to cabling as well as optimized handling and new control system features are provided.
Fig. 4 CableCorder CC5 direct cabling machine (Photo: Saurer)
Traditionally, weaving technology is mainly used for technical textiles, e.g. woven fabrics for conveyor belts, membranes as well as glass and carbon fabrics for the composite sector. Weaving machine manufacturers offer specific solutions for novel technical fabrics in terms of technological and mechanical innovations.
Lindauer Dornier GmbH, Lindau/Germany, gave a convincing presentation of numerous novel and efficient detail solutions. For example, they showcased a fully encapsulated air-jet weaving machine for the first time at this fair (Fig. 2), offering a variety of advantages including noise insulation, low-effort air conditioning and dust disposal. The company also introduced their new modular, high-precision rapier weaving machine P2. Its modified shed geometry offers an enormous potential for the manufacturing of technical fabrics, particularly for the processing of low-elongation yarns and the production of multi-layer fabrics. These innovations are complemented by an electronically driven shaft machine, which allows for the shed closing time to be adjusted dynamically for complex patterns. The double weft rapier heads with separated weft guidance in the reaper represent another innovation by Dornier. Thus, the performance capacity of weaving looms can be doubled for all warp rib and basket weaves without compromising weaving speed or yarn stress.
Fig. 5 Encapsulated air-jet weaving machine A1 (Photo: Lindauer Dornier)
An advanced rapier weaving machine with actively controlled weft insertion was presented by Picanol NV, Ieper/Belgium. The compressed air storage in the rapier head is electronically controlled putting yarn clamps into motion. The gripper is flat, and the grip belt does not require guidance in the weaving shed. Moreover, the point of transfer can be varied throughout a machine run. Hence, this weaving machine is suitable for the processing of numerous weft yarns for low warp and weft stresses at a high filling insertion rate.
Itema SpA, Colzate/Italy, showcased an advanced projectile weaving machine. In the case of this machine, projectiles are accelerated by a linearly driven gripper as opposed to a torsion bar, thus reducing stresses acting on the yarn during weft insertion and extending the range of processable weft yarns.
Fig. 6 Spacer fabric with variable pile distance (Photo: Vúts)
Vandewiele NV, Marke/Belgium, presented its new highly flexible and robot-supported warp storage system Smart Creel. By means of this system, warp yarns can be changed efficiently and automatically, resulting in increased product variety. In terms of technical weaving, the company introduced the Iro Zero Twist Feeder, where tape yarns with a maximum width of 10 mm can be used as weft without any twist while maintaining high machine performance capacity. Vandewiele as well as Stäubli GmbH produce a wide range of special technical products that require double rapier weaving looms. Vúts a.s., Liberec/Czech Republic, introduced a new solution for the manufacturing of spacer fabrics. Pile yarns are shaped into yarn loops between the layers they connect by means of a pile rail integrated in the weaving shed. As a result, enormous pile distances are feasible, while simultaneously ensuring their continuous variation along the fabric length in addition to high pile density (Fig. 3).
Jakob Müller AG, Frick/Switzerland, produced a new technology termed MDW Multi Directional Weaving with 2 additional warp yarn systems, which are offset under servo control over standard warp yarns and woven over the weft directly in front of the reed in the lower shed position. This innovative approach was demonstrated on a label weaving as well as a narrow fabric weaving loom. This technology makes a valuable contribution to tape weaving, particularly as it enables the integration of added functionalities.
A narrow fabric shuttle weaving machine suitable for the medical sector with an actively controlled bobbin in the shuttle was introduced by Mageba International GmbH, Bernkastel-Kues/Germany. Due to this innovative electronic approach, weft yarn tension can be kept constant throughout the weaving process. Thus, the need for typically required weft yarn compensation is eliminated, and even delicate weft yarns can be processed. The resulting fabrics are characterized by their highly consistent width and very good selvedge quality.
Warp knitting machines
Fig. 7 HKS3-M-ON (Photo: Karl Mayer)
Moreover, Karl Mayer Textilmaschinenfabrik GmbH, Obertshausen/Germany, showcased the improved and even more efficient tricot machine HKS 3-M-ON with EL pattern drive (Fig. 4). Its special feature is a pattern drive controlled by a servo motor, i.e. a mechanical linkage comprising 6 single motors in synchronous operation, for the flexible and fast changing of patterns. Due to digitalization of the pattern system, the time to market was significantly reduced. This machine stands out with its combination of high precision and efficiency. It has a working width of 186” and a needle gauge of E28 (5,208 needles per guide bar). It also has 3 guide bars and a main drive speed of 2,900 rpm, resulting in the incredible number of 45,300,000 loops/minute.
Another innovation was presented in the form of the raschel machine RSJ 4/1 ON, providing a consistently high performance of 1,500 rpm at a working width of 195”. Once it is coupled with the digital platform KM.ON, great production capacities and short pattern times can be achieved. Further novelties include the double raschel machine RDPJ 6/2 EL for the production of 4D fabrics, i.e. fabrics with variably shaped 3D geometries on both sides, the lace raschel machine OJ 91/1 B with an energy efficiency level increased by 40 % compared to its predecessor and a high-performance spreading and impregnation machine for the continuous production of fiber-reinforced thermoplastic tapes – termed Sim.Ply UD.
The smaller, yet equally promising family business Rius-Comatex, Saint Joan de Vilatorrada/Spain, was founded in the 1940s in the warp knitting sector. Rius-Comatex focuses on crochet galloon, spacer and circular knitting machines. At the ITMA, the company presented its double bar raschel machine MiniTronic with a needle gauge of E28. Control is achieved fully electronically.
Pinkert-Machines UG & Co. KG, Hohenstein-Ernstthal/Germany, showcased its Maliwatt 14030 (Fig. 8). This high-performance stitch-bonding machine was extended by a parallel weft inserter for the processing of nonwovens, thus tapping into the great potential for technical textiles. Due to the warp knitting area being rotated by 90°, this machine runs quieter than its predecessors, even at speeds of up to 4,000 rpm.
Fig. 8 Maliwatt model 14030 (Photo: pinkert machines) Knitting machines
Developments in the knitting sector are still focused on fashion and apparel. Nevertheless, exhibitors showed that knitting technology can be used for technical applications as well. For example, companies such as Shima Seiki, Stoll, Mayer & Cie. and Harry Lucas presented innovations in knitting for the manufacturing of requirement-adapted, customized fabrics for the automotive sector, accessories or fiber-reinforced composites.
Both the advanced spinitsystem (Mayer & Cie. GmbH & Co. KG, Albstadt/Germany) and Corizon Prozess (Terrot GmbH, Chemnitz/Germany) represent innovative solutions for combining the processes of spinning and circular knitting. During knitting, yarns are generated immediately prior to stitch formation, which increasingly enables users to create customized products. Terrot introduced one of its most promising developments with the Corizon Compact Technology, being an adapted version of the Corizon technology suitable for small circular knitting machines. This procedure allows for the online modification of yarn fineness and various stitch cams employed for diameter adjustments as part of a combined spinning-knitting procedure. The resulting knitted fabric is characterized by its consistent appearance even in spite of varying diameters.
Moreover, Terrot presented its spacer circular knitting machine, which enables the production of structures with openings, and therefore, breathable mattress cover fabrics. In terms of patterns, several manufacturers (e.g. Harry Lucas, Terrot, Monarch, Pailung) revealed solutions for the extension of jacquard patterns to 5 or even 6 colors. Mayer & Cie. showcased their new circular knitting technology called Weftnit 3.2 based on a bearded needle provided by Groz-Beckert.
In the sector of seamless circular knitting, the Santoni-Lonati Group, Brescia/Italy, completed its machine program aimed at the direct manufacturing of finished products without the need for additional assembly procedures. A special highlight was the introduction of small circular knitting machines for the realization of intarsia fabrics and knit mesh.
Rius is new to the small circular knitting machines sector and presented spacer and jacquard circular knitting machines. Stäubli entered the market for accessory systems, now offering a toe closing device for automated sock production as retrofittable option for commercially available small circular knitting machines.
In terms of flat knitting, the presented innovations had a focus on product customization and automated production processes. For example, Shima Seiki MFG., Ltd., Sakata Wakayama/Japan, introduced a new programming option with its Apex4. Moreover, H. Stoll AG & Co. KG, Reutlingen/Germany, developed an APP-based solution in collaboration with one of its partners that is aimed at body measurements and their automated transfer to knitting programs. In addition, Steiger Participations SA, Vionnaz/Switzerland, generated a software solution termed Model+ offering a programming solution for finished products.
In terms of technological developments, Shima Seiki introduced an innovative device based on which plating can be changed even at high machine speeds by mechanical circuit boards. Furthermore, Stoll showcased an automated solution named StollL-knitrobotic for the integration of additional elements, e.g. electric components, into prefabricated knitted pockets. Steiger presented its new machine Vega3.130, which enables customers to freely choose the distance between needle beds and adjust the properties of multi-layered knitted fabrics. For the first time, Pailung Machinery Mill Co., Ltd., New Taipei City/Taiwan, introduced flat knitting machines with an E28 gauge as spacer and jacquard machines. Braiding machines
Braiding machine manufacturers also enforce current trends towards global electronic networking for the implementation of Industry 4.0, customization, resource efficiency, flexibility, productivity and user friendliness.
Herzog GmbH, Oldenburg/Germany, linked their production lines with apps specifically designed for in-house machinery. Hence, processes were successfully controlled, and the generated data was recorded and analyzed in order to improve process efficiency and product quality. Herzog provided another detail solution in the form of its modular infrared dryer with various heating zones to achieve strain-free and homogenous drying They also presented a carrier with a bobbin capacity exceeding 213,400 cm§ and a volume capacity of more than 1,130 liters.
Fig. 9 Herzog app (Photo: Herzog)
Moreover, the development of modular detail solutions was at the center of attention to fulfil specific customer demands and create customized products. Various braiding machine manufacturers, including Körting Nachfolger Wilhelm Steeger GmbH & Co. KG, Wuppertal/Germany, and Talleres Ratera SA, Manresa/Spain, developed tailored carriers and yarn guide bars for the gentle and efficient processing of carbon filament yarns for composite applications. Innovations in terms of individually controlled spindles were presented by OMR Srl, Torre de’Roveri, Torre Boldone/Italy.
In addition, the Spanish braiding machine manufacturer Talleres Ratera introduced rope braiding machines with state-of-the-art electronics. It presented the novel patented Synchron Back Twist System, based on which every thread can be twisted individually during braiding. This is achieved by the spindles constantly being aligned in the same direction, thus resulting in a braid with robust threads due to continuous and even spindle motion. Carriers with photoelectric detectors ensure that yarn ends are spotted to avoid insufficient braiding. The uniformity of the braided structure and the braiding angle are ensured by automatic height adjustments of the eye splice and an enhanced take-off process by means of helical rollers with pinion gear. Thus, braided structures of constant quality can be manufactured for fishing, seafaring and offshore applications made from polyester, HMPE or steel wire up to a maximum diameter of 90 mm.
Braiding simulations or digital braiding machine configurations allow for the physically precise representation of a process. One of the few suppliers in the sector of digital braiding machine configurations is TexMind UG, Mönchengladbach/Germany, which developed the software Computer Controlled Braiding Machine Configurator. Users can adjust machine settings by changing the size and position of impellers. Once carriers have been added, the program simulates carrier motion and automatically tests their arrangements in terms of potential collisions. Furthermore, the program enables computer-based switch control so that the carrier path can be specifically adjusted during braiding. This software solution also offers the opportunity to simulate complex braiding processes, where switches change position at defined times during the simulation. An idealized 3-dimensional representation of the desired braided structure including thread path is also illustrated. As a result, customized, requirement-adapted structures for technical applications can be developed without the need for time-consuming and manual calculations.
Fig. 10 Braiding machine configuration (Photo: Texmind) Conclusion
The examples presented in this paper impressively demonstrate the constructive and technological development efforts performed by mechanical engineering companies for technical textiles, including all involved processes and sub-processes. The market for technical textiles is diverse, and there is already a wide range of special solutions and machine developments. The medical textile sector, i.e. the processing of extremely fine special materials for highly complex structures, and the fiber-reinforced composites sector are currently the main drivers for innovation. Developments in these market segments are accelerated by the automotive, aerospace and mechanical engineering industries.
Spinhole, powerblade, preciforce, Digicone, MDW, Stoll-knitrobotic, Synchron Back Twist System = registered trademarks