Research point – Diversity of textiles available

One of the OCA research points asks for an investigation of “style and design in textiles available to the consumer”.

During the Olympics many of us will be seeing a lot of the latest technology in sportswear and I thought it would be interesting to see what’s happening at the elite level, and how much of that has filtered into the general marketplace.

Starting with the Australian team,  the use of Adidas technology gives the expectation of enhanced speed, strength and temperature control. Adidas TECHFIT™ PowerWEB technology is used in compression suits and uses Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) material in a design which supports muscle movement. Adidas ClimaCool® technology uses “heat and ventilation zones, moisture management fabrics and conductive fibres to draw heat away from the body”. With all this technology it’s interesting that the use of “traditional hand-crafted techniques” together with “acute attention to detail” is credited as part of creating lighter shoes.

Not necessarily related to sportswear, but something I find very interesting, is the DryDye technology that Adidas has introduced. Instead of the 25 litres apparently required to dye one T-shirt, this process uses no water, 50% less energy and 50% less chemicals (although I don’t know if that means in weight or toxicity or variety or…). Information in the video included in this article took me to DyeCoo Textile Systems who can dye natural and synthetic textiles in supercritical carbon dioxide.

An implementation partner of DyeCoo is the Yeh Group, and suddenly I’m back on topic. Yeh Group sell innovative fabrics for sports and outdoor wear. Moisture management keeps wearers drier and the technology includes special knit construction, topical treatments and/or “technology inside the yarn”. I suppose that could include possibly the spinning or yarn-construction process(es) or the chemical composition (polyester is mentioned in bold at the top of one page, but some technical info well beyond my understanding also mentions wool, spandex, cotton and “Cocona”). Other fabrics are made from a spun polyester to provide the hand of cotton with polyester performance. The pages on Laminated, Polypropylene and Melange are still under construction, which is disappointing.

Not having heard of Cocona, I followed that reference to Cocona Inc. Their technology incorporates natural active particles with a micro porous structure in fibres, polymers and films, greatly increasing their surface area. Benefits include moisture management and reduced drying time, UV protection and odor management (the particles absorb odor then release it during normal washing). The benefits continue as one layers garments, with high breathability and comfort.

Going wider in my search, I found textiles designed to provide real-time scoring data in combat sports. CSIRO has worked with the Australian Institute of Sports on the development of an electronic fabric that can be made on a commercial knitting machine. The Automated Impact Sensing System detects impacts in the boxer’s gear (glove, helmet, garments) then uses Bluetooth to communicate with the software. If impacts register at the same time for one contestants glove and the other’s helmet, objective points are awarded. This development seems to be a bit late coming into use given today’s controversy on boxing judging in the Olympics.

Looking through a series of websites, it appears all these technologies and many more are available to consumers. There is often a premium price to pay, but that’s generally the way with new developments. None of the innovations I read about appear to have a direct application to my own textile work, being generally industrial rather than crafts-based. A number of the organisations referred to positive environmental aspects of their processes – the waterless dyeing is particularly interesting, as long as there isn’t a matching downside somewhere. As a consumer – well, I tend to the cynical when manufacturers are extolling their own and their products’ virtues, but perhaps I will be a bit more openminded when my gym gear comes up for replacement. I’m not trying for anything more than personal bests, but being a little more comfortable in the process would be nice.

Resources

http://london2012.olympics.com.au/news/adidas-unveils-lightest-and-fastest-australian-olympic-uniforms accessed 3 August 2012

http://www.gizmag.com/adidas-drydye-textile-save-water/23553/– “adidas’ DryDye garment dyeing process delivers significant water and energy savings” by Enid Burns dated August 2, 2012 and accessed 3 August 2012

http://www.dyecoo.com/index.html accessed 3 August 2012

http://yeh-group.net/ accessed 3 August 2012

http://www.coconainc.com/

“Getting Smart with textiles to revolutionise combat sports” http://www.csiro.au/news/newsletters/manufacturing_future/201006_ManFuture/htm/Textile.htm#gettingSmart dated August 2010, accessed 3 August 2012

“Ring of ire: judging standards under attack as spotlight falls on boxing” by Chris Barrett http://www.smh.com.au/olympics/news-london-2012/ring-of-ire-judging-standards-under-attack-as-spotlight-falls-on-boxing-20120803-23j3h.html

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