As I wrap up my overview of technology highlights arising from ITMA, I’ll devote the current post to a description of systems showcased within the knitting and weaving halls. In this space, as in other areas of the show, technology vendors were promoting enhanced manufacturing capabilities as well as greater efficiency in terms of manufacturing time and consumption of energy and raw materials.
Optimized Performance and Reduction in Material Waste
The Picanol booth was my first stopping point in the weaving area. During my time in the booth, Picanol was demonstrating high speed weaving with the OptiMax Rapier looms. Some of the features highlighted in regard to the OptiMax technology included new positive grippers that increase the capabilities of the weft insertion system. Picanol was also promoting the Electronic Filling Tensioner which optimizes filling tension through the weft insertion cycle. This feature is stated to offer benefits in regard to insertion of irregular or contaminated yarns including bouclette or flax. From an efficiency standpoint, Picanol was also featuring the Ecofill waste-less-system which reduces material waste on the left side of the loom – a feature that is aimed at technical weavers of expensive yarns such as aramids. An advancement of this nature was also noted in the Dornier booth.
Reduced Air Consumption
Picanol was showcasing a number of air jet looms as well. The focus for the new Omniplus brand was on increased weft insertion rate and the ability to handle delicate yarns. Monitoring and control of air consumption for improved energy footprint was also highlighted. Conservation of energy in relation to air flow was also being emphasized by other technology providers in the weaving area including Toyota and ITEMA. In fact, reduction in energy consumption was a noted trend throughout the exhibit halls among systems that use air as part of the manufacturing or processing strategy.
New Electronic Platforms
A number of technology vendors in the weaving area were offering new or updated electronic platforms. The new platforms support improvements in regard to equipment monitoring capabilities and data transfer including ease of pattern development and/or change over. Although I did not have an opportunity to stop in at the ITEMA booth, according to the ITMA Daily News, this company was promoting a new electronic platform for a number of looms including the Sultex A9500 air jet loom and the Vamatex Silver 501 rapier loom. The author notes that the Sultex can be used for weaving medium and heavy denim. This model can also be used for colored weaving and sheeting. ITEMA’s Silver 501 can be applied for weaving of a wide range of fabrics from fine shirting to denim and heavier fabrics.
Integration of Embroidery
During the ITMA program I had an opportunity to attend the IFAI Advanced Textiles Europe conference. During this event, the audience heard from Professor Thomas Gries, Director, ITA-RWTH Aachen University during a session titled, “Latest Developments in Fabric Production”. During this session, Gries pointed to a number of technology trends including the development of equipment that integrates more than one manufacturing stage. He highlighted the introduction of a new air jet weaving system from Dornier as part of this presentation. This machine was being exhibited in the weaving hall and features “Open Reed Weave Technology” – a feature that supports the insertion of embroidered patterns for clothing and furnishing fabrics. A version of the system can also be used to enable insertion of partial reinforcements for the production of technical fabrics.
In the jacquard weaving area, Stäubli was promoting the SX Jacquard machine introduced approximately one year ago. This system is marketed as a compact, high productivity machine that incorporates Stäubli’s nearly vibration free drive mechanism. The company was also featuring the new SX V Jacquard machine for velvet. In addition, Stäubli was promoting a new generation of dobby machines that offer higher running speed and reliability, as well as reduction in noise, vibration and equipment maintenance.
Within the knitting area, I attempted to gain a sense of the latest technologies for flatbed, circular and seamless applications. One of the notable advancements in the circular knitting area was the introduction of the Vo-LC needle technology from Groz Beckert. This needle has been designed for the production of ultra fine knits on large diameter circular machines and seamless body size equipment. The needle features a refined profile that enables greater precision, speed and needle life. This advancement has enabled the development and introduction of an 80 gauge machine by Santoni. This company looks to introduce a 90 gauge machine that uses the new needle technology as well.
Seamless Warp Knitting
In addition to circular knitting systems, Santoni was also promoting seamless warp knitting technology launched approximately two years ago. More recently, Santoni has refined this system integrating a touch screen interface for ease of operation. The garments displayed were attractive and demonstrated the extensive patterning capabilities arising from the use of warp knitting systems for seamless applications.
I also spent time exploring technologies in the flatbed knitting area and stopped in to see the latest systems from Shima Seiki and Stoll as part of this review. An updated Digital Stitch Control System described as offering “intelligence and dynamic tension control” was among the features being promoted for Shima’s new MACH2X 18L gauge WholeGarment knitting machine. Shima describes this as a device that actively controls yarn feed in both the feed and retrieval directions and enables high speed knitting of challenging yarns including fancy, stretch, slub and delicates. Shima was also featuring a lightweight carriage system. The primary benefit is improved productivity given less space required for the carriage to return and come back up to full speed.
As an enhancement to the WholeGarment and fully fashioned knitting systems, Shima Seiki was also displaying a new prototype machine for digital printing of knit garments and panels. The printer is a flatbed design and similar in appearance to a machine the company first introduced to the market a number of years ago. It features updated printhead technology from Konica Minolta and a scanning system that enables the detection of the garment perimeter. This component is used to support imaging in relation to the garment shape and position on the printer bed. This machine has not yet been officially launched, but may revitalize Shima’s position as a sole provider of digital print technology for the high end print-on-knit market.
In addition to advancements in the WholeGarment area, Shima Seiki was also showcasing updated Intarsia capabilities. The Mach2SIG machine features 40 intarsia carriers that facilitate more color changes within a given knitting width. This advancement offers the ability to produce very striking garments from a color and design standpoint.
Garments being exhibited in the Stoll booth demonstrated the diverse fashioning and knit capabilities of this company’s flatbed systems. The display included finely knit and shaped structures as well as garments knit from bulky and metallic yarns. Among the knit samples, Stoll was featuring new 4L and 3L needles that have a bigger needle hook for greater yarn volume. These needles also offer improved yarn grasping and knitting reliability. Stoll was also promoting their new CMS 5022 HP standard and multi-gauge systems. These are more compact knitting machines that include shorter carriage reversal and a productivity enhancement package among the list of features. This model is stated to be approximately 14% more productive than the previous model and intended for basic knits according to the ITMA Daily News. Apart from the latest advancements, the company was also exhibiting an historic collection of machines that demonstrated the evolution of Stoll technology and reinforced the idea of the company as an innovator in the flatbed knitting sector.
I’m currently looking into the state of RFID technology and will be reporting on this in regard to the cotton supply chain for my next post. In the mean time, we welcome your questions, comments and insights!