COVER STORY / Travel Trends

New Ways to Map Success

Functional Fabrics Fuel Today’s Trav-Leisure Trend. By Emily Walzer

The very idea of travel is being redefined. With the development of “wilderness/wellness” travel, the launch of Airbnb Trips and the surge in award points programs such as the hugely successful Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card that offered a 100,000-point sign-up bonus in its 2016 debut, people are now on the move like never before. Leading the charge are “Active Explorers,” individuals who prioritize outdoor adventures in travel experiences.

Whether it’s kayaking in Mexico or hiking the Badlands in South Dakota, travel is considered a “must have” among Active Explorers, a lifestyle attribute right up there with food, security and shelter.  

Marketers have jumped on this active outdoor travel trend. “We’re past the point where active explorers are limited to pioneers or geographic areas,” explains Marc Williams, founder of Williams Helde, who has conducted years of research on the active traveler/explorer. “What used to be the domain of shoemakers and camping supply companies now includes insurance agencies, airlines, detergents, beverages – anything that we see feel, taste or touch.”

Add textiles to that list. Today’s travel dress code may take its cues from athleisure but paves a distinct path by embracing performance tech and emphasizing sustainable materials. Subtle functionality like discreet pockets that fit a passport or stealth linings to stash cash also feature. The look is casual but has thankfully evolved from the pajama-wear and sloppy sweats of recent years to silhouettes that seamlessly fuse utility with a sense of fashion.

According to Williams, it’s no longer the zip-off hiking pants camper look, but rather a style of attire that suggests “I’m not in the mainstream; I went to Cambodia last year.”  

Active Explorer consumers also do their research and are mindful of brand values. Materials are no exception; partnerships like adidas and Parley for the Oceans are appealing as are labels such as “certified organic.” Says Williams, “If there is a choice, yes or no to buying a product, and price is not a factor, then eco will win. Today’s active explorer has strong preference for a brand that is eco-friendly.”

Adventure Travel Stats, Trends & Fun Facts

• The adventure travel market is a $683 billion industry.

• More than two-thirds of Americans would rather travel to a new destination every week than have sex everyday.

• The most notable shift in motivation for adventure travel in the past 10 years (2006 -2016) was the prioritization of Mental Health over Fun and Thrill.

• Google searches for “solo travel” and “travel alone” were at the highest they’ve ever been in January of this year.

Elements of Tech Style

“Today travelers don’t dress up, they dress for comfort,” says Renee Henze, global marketing DuPont Biomaterials and Sorona. “You still see a lot of sweat pants, but now you’ll see more thoughtful presentation with some element of style.” Material softness is a prime attribute of trav-leisure, as is comfort stretch — as opposed to stretch found in compression fitness wear.

Sorona fabrications advance these attributes — and a sustainability factor — and are found nowadays in everything from jeans to men’s suiting to active outdoor apparel. ExOfficio and Royal Robbins are Sorona brand partners offering garments that feature wool and poly Sorona blends, for example, and Sorono is also featured in product from Canadian company MIIK, that is positioned as a sustainable brand.

“The athleisure and trav-leisure trends are melding, there is definitely an overlap,” says Henze, who spoke just prior to leaving for a London business trip. Asked what she packed, Henze mentioned bringing her Under Armour leggings with Sorona — she likes to get in a run at Hyde Park — as well as a few casual items like a lightweight Sorona wool blend shirt from Royal Robbins and some jeans with Sorona stretch.

While comfort is key, performance tech that offers protection is increasingly top of mind for active explorers. “Today’s travelers are knowledgeable and well-researched – so by the time they find their way to Insect Shield they know just what they need to pack for upcoming trips to potentially insect-borne disease risk areas across the globe,” states Janine Robertson, marketing/PR manager, Insect Shield. Insect Shield has solid partnerships with ExOfficio, Royal Robbins and Craghoppers but is also now seeing movement into the gear category.

U.S. domestic travel increased 1.9 percent from 2016 to a total of more than 2.2 billion person-trips in 2017. U.S. Travel Association.

Brand partner Sea to Summit’s Mary Butler, explains, “We noticed more press around the topic of ticks, Lyme disease and insect borne diseases and people are getting more educated.” The company offers a full selection of Insect Shield products including the Adapter Traveler liner for sleeping bags, bug nets for shelters, and accessory items that are lightweight and pack down to practically nothing. “Our customers are aware of global warming and the proliferation of bugs and the risks associated,” Butler adds.

Butler describes Sea to Summit customers as human-powered outdoorists who travel to far off places with a backpack. “We’ve started to see an uptick in the off-road adventuring overland market. Folks wanting to explore far and wide and need a vehicle and are kitted out with packs maybe a rooftop camping go get into the backwoods.  We are an Australian company so that outback travel is familiar.”

Robertson mentions that the “active explorer” profile was used in everything from messaging to product development when strategizing the relaunch of the GoLite brand. A good example of GoLite’s contemporary approach is the ReGreen jacket that is eco pure. “Travel is really changing. It’s not just getting there, it’s what you do once you’re there and how can you take what’s right to be prepared,” says GoLite designer Caroline.

Adventure Travel Stats, Trends & Fun Facts

According to a recent study by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the definition of adventure is changing. Risky adrenaline activities are favored 45% less than “experiencing a new culture” in the definition of adventure travel.

“Consumers are focused more and more on authentic, transformational and exciting travel experiences, which is helping to fuel the growth in adventure travel. And we are seeing many consumers spending big dollars on adventure travel to far-flung destinations on longer journeys as well as many who are combining active and adventure travel with some luxury elements,” said John Lovell, CTC, President of Travel Leaders Network and Leisure Group

Sources: Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA); “Surprising Preferences and Trends Revealed in New Millennials / Americans Travel Survey OUTDOORSY.COM; WGSN travel trends; Intrepid Travel.com; ATTA & Outside Magazine Study: North American Adventure Travelers: Seeking Personal Growth, New Destinations and Immersive Culture, 2017.

Every Step of the Way Performance

Like apparel, trav-leisure is finding traction in footwear. Shoes made with knit and woven uppers, for example, make great travel companions offering high-tech comfort in a streetwear look. From a materials perspective, however, a drawback has been the inability to make these styles waterproof. Gore’s new 3D Fit Footwear initiative provides a solution. The innovation is two-fold – advancing performance in the end product and offering ease of manufacturing on the front end.

“With Gore-Tex 3D fit footwear, consumers get a shoe that more effectively contours to the shape of their foot, and manufacturers get a technology that is easy to integrate into existing footwear designs,” says Silke Kemmerling, product specialist for the Gore Fabrics Division.

Manufacturers are provided the membrane in a shape ready to install in the footwear —versus having to construct, using seam tape, a waterproof bootie to install themselves, a format the reduces production steps for the manufacturer.

The inherent versatility of the technology is a good fit for active explorers, as it allows travelers to wear their favorite knitted, elastic, mesh footwear in a broad range of conditions, regardless of weather or activity, according to Gore execs.

Shoes featuring the new technology are slated for Spring ’19 introduction by Gore brand partners including adidas Terrex, Salomon’s custom ME:sh shoe, and Under Armour’s second generation HOVR Phantom shoe.  

Polygiene Stays Fresh Technology is used by apparel makers but is making inroads in footwear as well. Adidas, a partner of Polygiene since 2014, is extending its range of Polygiene-treated products to its Terrex footwear collection with application in the trail and outdoor adidas Terrex CC Voyager shoe.

”Smelly shoes is a problem almost everybody has experienced, and our odor control treatment is the solution. The footwear segment is prime for Polygiene, and the launch of Adidas footwear marks an important milestone,” states Haymo Strubel, director commercial operations for Polygiene in Europe.

Other footwear brands featuring Polygiene’s odor-control technology include Sole, Astral, and Converse.

The company’s messaging “Wear More, Wash Less” resonates with today’s travelers. Users appreciate the freshness factor Polygiene’s tech affords during off-grid adventures with little access to laundering as well as Polygiene’s sustainability attributes.

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Kingpins Show New York City is a beehive of denim activity.
Denim | Trends

Indigo Influence

Why the Jeans Business is Worth Watching Right Now. By Emily Walzer

Interest in performance tech and sustainability measures has been brewing in the denim business in recent years, but now with suppliers advancing customization and the fashion world keen on workwear, not to mention the universal scope of the jean business, denim brings a lot to the innovation party.

All of these elements were apparent at the Kingpins Show held in New York City earlier this summer. Messaging at exhibitor booths highlighted forward thinking approaches toward environmental and social responsibility along with material enhancements in color-fastness, stretch and durability and trend forecasting with global relevance.

Cordura showed SuperCharged Noir denim. A dense, dark black denim, the new offering is a blend of five key performance features, referred to as “5S technology” that includes:  Stay True Color, Strength, Softness, Sustainability and Stretch. Stay True Color, a color-fastness process that doesn’t sacrifice durability, is achieved via Solution Dyed Nylon (SDN), a process with considerable water-savings and an area where Cordura has made significant investment.

Stay True Color features Invista staple nylon 6,6 black SDN fiber technology and spun-dyed Tencel Modal Eco Color fiber blend. Cordura’s SuperCharged Noir is a collaboration with Artistic Milliners and Lenzing (Tencel) – spun-dyed Tencel Modal eco color fiber features in the Stay True Color technology.

Invista unveiled three new stretch technologies under its Lycra platform, signaling that it is no longer enough to just offer “stretch.” Indeed customization of stretch denim has arrived. “We can offer a variety of tech to meet different needs,” said Jean Hegedus, global segment director denim & wovens, Invista. “We think the next horizon is really around bi-stretch, and new technologies to take comfort even further.”

Hegedus discussed innovation in bi-stretch during a presentation at Kingpins. The technologies fall under the LycraXFIT platform –Invista’s brand for bi-stretch with Lycra _ and the fibers include: Easy Set Lycra fiber, a special type of Lycra fiber that helps to minimize shrinkage in the warp so garments don’t end up shrinking; Dual Warp Technology, a patented technology that requires two beams – one is feeding in cotton yarn and the other air covered Lycra fiber which gets buried in the fabric giving a very authentic denim aesthetic; and Lycra dualFX in the warp or warp and weft, ideal for high stretch bi-stretch applications.  

The Lycra brand is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2018. When discussing the latest bi-stretch advances, Hegedus gave a nod to Lycra’s history, stating, “This continues to show how we use science and tech to improve upon stretch and make stretch better.”

Outdoor Utility & Cleaner Jeans

Traditional outdoor fabrications are central to denim trends forecasted for next season. High-pile fleeces, durable canvas, and Sherpa trims mix with denim in hybrid garment constructions that have a snowsports DNA and a streetwear twist. Forecaster Amy Leverton of Denim Dudes identifies this trend as “Altitude,” a look she describes as “Retro utility gear and 90s hip-hop hitting the slopes together.”
Utility is the buzzy phrase for classic workwear silhouettes like trucker jackets, carpenter pants and jumpsuits outfitted with functional pocketing. This is not lost on the fashion crowd. The latest trend report from WhoWhatWear announces workwear as “The Trend that’s poised to be the Next Athleisure.” With a foundation built on functionality, workwear is something the outdoor industry surely understands, and should capitalize on with the latest sport tech and style influenced by today’s urban outdoorists.

Same goes for sustainability. Efforting a more eco-aware supply chain has become a higher priority in the denim world. What started with water-conservation, environmental responsibility initiatives now flowing full speed to include reduction of industrial waste and green chemistry. Next up is supply chain transparency. Andrew Olah, founder of Kingpins, views Everlane as a leader in this area, with its “radical transparency” business model. Olah furthers his case for greater denim supply chain transparency by recalling that when Everlane recently launched its first-ever denim offering the waiting list topped 40,000.

All of this circles back to why denim is a category to watch. It’s noteworthy that the vibe at Kingpins is a dead ringer for the Venture Out scene at Outdoor Retailer. Business is getting done but it is very relationship driven, socially relaxed and community-oriented. Both gatherings serve as micro-industries tuned into today’s urban audience yet hold dear the romance of heritage makers. As Venture Out continues to gain traction as the new outdoor, denim is a kindred spirit. Denim is important to outdoor because it brings greater reach, and extensive crossover potential beyond the backcountry roots of trails and slopes. Party on.

Strategic Moves in Shifting Landscape  

Just as supply chain models are re-adjusting to new market forces strategies are underway re-evaluating product viability for long-term growth. PrimaLoft, for example is shifting away from its yarn business. “We’ve been in the yarn business for many years, and always worked through a third party. At the same time our product line has evolved, and now we have developed a full-blown fabric business — making technical stretch products, textured fleeces, and next to skin base layers,” explains Joyce. “We’re actually creating a finished roll good that has a higher value to our partners than just selling them yarn.”

The strategic decision to focus on product, not on yarn, unfolded earlier this Spring and PrimaLoft will be working closely with brand partners and existing customers to make for smooth transition. “Then instead of us manufacturing the yarn, we’ll allow them to manufacture it. It will be PrimaLoft recipes, but we’re out of the manufacturing side,” Joyce confirms.

Focusing on core competencies is allowing suppliers to shift out of low margin areas to ingredient solutions that today’s consumers are willing to pay a premium for. Part of getting higher margins is presenting a better value proposition to consumers. “Consumers want value and that includes performance, durability and versatility,” states Kerns, who highlights Schoeller’s ongoing capital investments such as the recent purchase of four new state-of-the-art weaving machines and a top-of-the-line dyeing machine. “In terms of pricing pressure, you can’t go any lower, you have to look beyond the cost of the textile, and focus on operational efficiencies.”

Execs agree that strategic investments are necessary to do right by the customer and what’s right in the supply chain. “You just can’t cut, cut, cut price,” says John Shearman, VP sales, Applied DNA Sciences. “We are all concerned about the last mile of the supply chain how we’re going to get product to the consumer, but investment in the first mile of the value chain helps the whole process. You have to work both sides of the equation.”

STRATEGIES | STATE OF THE MARKET

Great Expectations

Investing in Tech and Operational Efficiencies to Meet Consumer Demands. By Suzanne Blecher

Adapting to a changing marketplace is nothing new for the textile community. Fabric producers have been dealing with market turbulence for years, from trade and workforce issues to increasing intensity surrounding environmental and social responsibility. Now comes another wave of disruption as consumers put new demands on the textile supply chain. As a result, suppliers are focusing on capital investment for long-term competitiveness, hunting for higher margins and exploring new business models that better align with speed to market product differentiation.

Lisa Hardy of Chemours offers a big picture outlook based on corporate research. “We see across the board the trend of connectivity. Whether that is you on social media, or your phone talking to your refrigerator, or the energy company connected to your town. From personal, to home, to community the trend is a connected network. It used to just be data collection, but more and more it’s about using data to make intelligent decisions. All around us connections are happening between yourself, your home, your town, your environment.”

While not textile sourced, this research analysis reflects today’s online revolution and the role of technology. Hardy shares as example a launch of Chemours’ Teflon EcoElite product on a LinkedIn Showcase page “that instantly got 1,000 followers.”

Nilit’s marketing group tuned into the rapidly changing retail marketplace several years ago and realized that evolving consumer attitudes require a radically different approach, especially for fiber and fabric manufacturers. Research indicated that Millennials, the dominant consumer group, evaluate products on more than just price and are willing to pay a little more for products that deliver more. Plus, these younger consumers want to know the brands that make the products they buy and want to engage with them in an upbeat, enjoyable, and productive way. Nilit’s recent successful launch of its branded Sensil product was born out of the company’s new consumer-oriented approach.

The industry is also seeing the rise of a “factory to consumer” trend. Schoeller Textil USA president Stephen Kerns likens it to how electronics are sold with customers ordering a new phone or a new computer online that is shipped as product comes off the factory assembly line. “Factory-to-consumer modeling is happening,” says Kerns. “The model is taking shape as a way to achieve higher margins.”

Product innovation is viewed as a straight pathway to margin enhancement. “Today’s world of direct to consumer and an online approach to business makes it even more difficult for brands to standout,” says PrimaLoft CEO Mike Joyce. PrimaLoft is building on its materials science expertise to fuel innovation. Hiring material scientists who can modify and advance fiber properties, investing in its lab to do more testing and validation — including spending on compliance, like GRS certification for recycled content — are elements pushing the innovation envelope at PrimaLoft.

Sustainability is also guiding strategic direction in today’s textile industry. “Brands are implementing sustainability goals, and companies have to invest to keep pace,” states Jay Hertwig, VP global branded sales, Unifi. “Capital investment is important as sustainability is a driver and challenging the supply chain.” In recent years Unifi has invested an estimated $150M in manufacturing and technology around its recycled polyester Repreve.

Chemours, now celebrating its third anniversary as an independent enterprise, is also increasingly concerned with supply chain processes and adjusting methods to meet sustainability needs. “There is sustainability in the making of the product, sustainability as it is used in the supply chain, and sustainability in the consumer’s use of the final product,” explains Hardy. “In the textile world, sustainability and non- fluorinated technology is the driver. The thinking is what’s next. Our focus in on expanding our non-fluorinated portfolio, and look to launch a new product at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.”

Market Forces Shaping Modern Supply Chains

Increasing consumer demand to know where products come from is ushering in new technologies. Applied DNA Sciences (ADNAS) uses scientific fact to go beyond labels to authenticate claims. The Stony Brook, New York firm provides molecular-based technology solutions and services that can tag, trace and track natural, synthetic and recycled fibers.

The company’s latest collaboration is with a recently launched brand called REKOOP that features recycled PET in a new line of sustainable and traceable bed sheets. Manu Kapur, president and CEO of GHCL, the parent company that owns the REKOOP brand, said using the ADNAS technology platform allowed the company to bring a new product to market that has potential customers excited.

“Sustainability and using materials that can be recycled from the get go is the trend right now,” states MeiLin Wan, VP Textiles, ADNAS. According to the Textile Exchange 2017 Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report, recycled PET is the fastest growing synthetic fiber worldwide.

ADNAS started its rPET and recycled program initially in the automotive segment but caught the attention of the home textile market in the last few years. (Brands PimaCott and Loftex both use the CertainT technology in their collection of towels; cotton and rPET respectively.

“Our whole effort in the last two years has been to set up a foundation of credibility and proof that we can scale to 200 million pounds in cotton, but also other materials. Now it makes sense to take what we’ve learned from our experience in home textiles with big volume and really set the right foundation for apparel,” explains Wan.

Knowing where a product comes from and the authenticity of materials used has escalated in consumers’ minds says Wan. “We’ve been around for 13 years, in the textile area, since 2013 and in the past two years the conversation about our platform as gone from “interesting technology” to “we need it!”

Consumers desire for “newer faster” product is also on the rise. To clamp down on lead times PrimaLoft has been strategic in the global positioning of its supply chain; 20 manufacturing partners support PrimaLoft’s product portfolio, a selection that has increased significantly and now runs the gamut from Aerogel footwear product and insulations to technical fabrics and base layers. If something happens in one area of the world, the company is able to supply from another location “We have dramatically reduced lead times, to a four to six week delivery at peak,” says Joyce. “That is extraordinarily quick. About five years ago at peak we were at nine to 12 weeks.”

The better PrimaLoft is at just in time, the less risk brand partners have in the supply chain. Explains Joyce “They don’t have to build out inventory in advance without knowing what consumption is going to be. Our brand partners are really watching inventory. They want to empty the shelves so they can start anew with the next season product. And if you’re dealing with inventory, that limiting. And cascades down through the supply chain.”

With the lead time manufacturing lifecycle tightening, a flexible supply chain with proximity to factories is an effective model. “If we can move where the market goes, we can move our manufacturing accordingly,” Joyce states.  “We are trying to create value, beyond the product.”

Unifi, too, is taking proactive steps to create supply chain efficiency. For example, the company has formed a joint venture with the owners of Complast S.A. (Complast) and Technologia Textil Avanzada (TTA), existing recycling, spinning and texturing companies in Guatemala. In a prepared statement Unifi president Tom Caudle states,  “Central America has been a region of focus for brands and retailers over the past few years, as apparel programs are sourced closer to the U.S. The growth in the region is key to our strategy of building our Repreve and other value-added brands.”

Earlier this year Unifi purchased the dyed yarn business of National Spinning Company moving assets to Unifi’s dye-house operations in Reidsville. The acquisition looks to enhance Unifi’s position as a leading producer of dyed staple and filament yarn in the region and will add acrylic and wool products to the company’s dyed-yarn portfolio.

Hyosung also reports new production opportunities. The global spandex producer plans to invest $100M in a new cost-competitive creora spandex facility in India. This plant will be near Aurangabad in the western state of Maharashtra and is expected to be commercial by 2019.

“We are investing in India to meet the needs for comfort by the growing consumer market in India as well as to better serve the textiles industry in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Our state of the art facility will enable creora spandex to deliver the best quality, consistency, and value to meet customer’s needs,” says chairman Cho Hyun-joon in a prepared statement. “We continue to invest in all dimensions of our creora spandex business with new global marketing team members, new products, a new development center, customized development workshops and new capacity.”

Since 2015, Hyosung has added 93,000 tons in new creora spandex capacity with a new plant in Quzhou, China plus additional investment in Turkey and Vietnam. By 2020, the total capacity is expected to be 390,000 tons.

Pierluigi Berardi, VP global marketing, Nilit talked about the importance of a having a global footprint that connects the value chain but also services on the micro-region level. Nilit has plants in Brazil, U.S., China, Europe and Turkey. “We are ready to serve wherever the market is moving,” says Berardi.

Adaptive textiles will create customized environments for travelers.
TECHNOLOGY | SMART TEXTILES

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

How Innovative Textiles are Changing the Way We Travel. By Debra Cobb

Despite terrorist attacks, political upheavals, and natural disasters, travel in the last decade has continued to grow, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), with annual global trips growing from some 22 million in the 1960s to 1.3 billion in 2017.

Today’s travelers are more adventurous—and more demanding. “Demographics have shifted to the point where the biggest group of Western travelers, aged 25–45, who have grown up traveling, often see it as a right, and are demanding authentic, unique experiences,” the ATTA reports.

With an emphasis on customization, textiles for the travel industry are rising to the challenge.

A Comfortable Seat

Whether sitting in a plane, train, automobile, RV, stadium chair, or an amusement park ride, comfort contributes to the traveler’s experience. Quantum Materials, a vertical manufacturer of solution-based textile innovations, recently collaborated with Acme Mills to introduce Comfort Zone powered by QUANTUM ZXT, an innovative textile technology for airline seating.

Comfort Zone powered by QUANTUM ZXT supports and conforms to the passenger’s body with variable pressure mapping zones throughout the seat, and provides healthier ventilation. By replacing traditional materials such as springs, foam, fill, and upholstery, the alternative seating reduces weight by up to eight pounds per chair.

Quantum’s expertise in the extrusion and texturing of elastomeric and bi-component yarns has informed their development of synthetic elastomeric suspension systems for transportation, office, and outdoor seating since 1985. Jeff Bruner, Quantum’s creator and chief technology officer, explains, “Comfort Zone powered by QUANTUM ZXT is just a next step, building on our extensive knowledge to provide solutions for companies needing a B-surface type of fabric.”

Importantly, the concept is also customizable. Bett Faircloth, business development and marketing, points out that every fabric Quantum produces is solution-based and unique to a specific customer, with yarns and fabrics engineered per requirement to provide functions such as antimicrobial and UV protection, static dissipation, or performance needs related to airline industry regulations.

New Rules of the Road

Perhaps nothing stands to disrupt the travel industry more than the autonomous vehicle; and the textile industry has taken note. Whether used for on-demand taxi service, group travel, or as a replacement for today’s family car, lightweight, electric vehicles will be engineered with innovative and smart textiles inside and out.

“Autonomous electric vehicles will feature different interior materials—more like a living room,” believes Connie Huffa, president of disruptive 3D knitter Fabdesigns. “Your environment will be embedded in the seats, with materials that can multi-task.”

Using 3D knitting, functional yarns for heating, cooling, fiber optics, and communication can be custom embedded in interior componentry, while reinforcement materials such as carbon can be knit into shape for lightweight exterior parts. “Vehicle skins will also be multi-functional and lightweight,” predicts Huffa.

“The customization factor in automotive is becoming very elevated again,” agrees Stephanie Rodgers, director of product research and development at Apex Mills. As an example, she calls out a new Volkswagen production feature, a 10-color LED interior lighting system.

“The instrument panel as we know it is completely disappearing,” Rodgers continues. “It will become a stylized panel with steering wheel and touch screen. The analog interior is going away.”

Rodgers notes that such developments are not confined to autonomous cars, but were featured in displays for boats, campers, and RVs at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

“Autonomous electric vehicles will feature different interior materials—more like a living room.

Tools of the Trade

Knitting machine and technology provider Shima Seiki is already expanding its focus from apparel manufacturing to the automotive industry, via Shima SVR and SRY flatbed shaping machines, and MACH2XS WHOLEGARMENT knitting.

Last year President Mitsuhiro Shima announced plans to use the 3D knitting technology to create lightweight, non-steel frames for car parts, which would be solidified by coating with resins.

“The automotive market is shifting to customization,” confirms Hayato Nishi, sales and senior business development for Shima Seiki USA.

“Our 3D knitting aspect minimizes construction, waste, and labor costs,” Nishi explains. “By using our machines, textile manufacturers are capable of creating just-in-time, customizable covers for seats and dashboards. In addition, by knitting different yarns and constructions in specific area, we’re able to integrate different qualities in one fabric without additional attachments. The yarn unwinding option and inlay capabilities on the SVR and SRY machines allows the use of previously unknittable yarns such as monofilament, carbon, or fiber optics.”

Other Shima innovations for automotive and industrial textile manufacturing include the P-CAM cutting machine, a sophisticated cutting system for more complex fabrics such as those using carbon fiber.

It All Starts with Yarn

The ongoing development of smart and customizable yarns is changing the game for transportation textiles. Rodgers calls out Supreme’s VOLT conductive technology, which encapsulates up to four copper lines within a polyester yarn and is coated for insulation. This creates a knittable conductive yarn that is safe in proximity to body chemistries.

Huffa cites Arkema’s Kynar polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) high-performance polymer, which can be engineered as a barrier film or fiber with resistance to moisture, UV rays, various chemicals, viruses, and flame—possibly reducing the “ick” factor in aviation and mass transit interiors.

There is also renewed interest in natural fibers for transportation textiles, according to Huffa. “Wool is making a comeback, due to its ability to pass flammability testing,” she points out.

Südwolle’s Stöhr brand wool-based yarns for transportation and technical end uses are naturally anti-static and thermo-regulating, with inherent moisture management and antimicrobial properties, and virtually no VOC emissions. According to Bettina Christensen, Stöhr Yarns director, “They are predominately custom yarns, built specifically for a customer or function. The largest markets we serve are upholstery for residential, commercial/contract and transportation.”

Christensen adds, “We have found that wool functions and performs better than other fibers in these applications due to the strength, durability and comfort of wool.”

Disrupting the Way We Travel

While travelers and commuters are currently enjoying textile innovations such as 3D knitted backpacks and “smart” luggage sporting chargers and GPS tracking systems, textiles for transportation are sure to play a key role in the future traveler’s experience, from autonomous cars to Elon Musk’s Chicago Hyperloop transit tunnel to Virgin Galactic flights into space.

“Transportation is really happening because the industry is very forward-thinking,” says Rodgers.

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