No one at ITMA 2015 was exchanging secret hand signals, wearing pointy ears, or walking around armed with a light saber. But if you’d been dropped into the Fiera Milano Rho exhibition hall without warning during November 12–19, you might have felt like an alien at one of those gatherings of science fiction fans whose vocabulary is indecipherable to the uninitiated.
That’s because the trade show, which drew 123,000 visitors from 147 countries, spoke a language all its own. You’d have been surrounded by conference attendees engaged in enthusiastic discussions about topics with names that sounded futuristic, fantastic, or just plain funny. WINGS. Polycondensation. Rotating tangle units. Spunbond, Meltblown or Airlaid. Staple FORCE S 1000.
What’s the meaning of it all? Within those strange syllables, you can find stories of game-changing advances in manmade fiber development and manufacture: innovations that support business objectives like productivity, performance, and sustainability. Read on to pick up the thread(s) as we move into what’s being called the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. The term captures the caliber of change underway in both manufacturing facilities and the materials they’re delivering to the market.
On the production side, that means using Internet and cloud technologies to link plants; aggregate and analyze machine data in real time; and respond to that business intelligence to optimize the process, traceability, planning reliability, quality, and competitiveness of the end product. Achieving this level of performance is no longer a business goal. It’s been brought to fruition at the Oerlikon Manmade Fibers Segment’s Plant Operation Center. And just as this system has unleashed the power of information, it has freed authorized personnel to access that knowledge not only at their workstations, but also via mobile devices. This empowers them to enhance operating performance and task management from any location – to do the work that’s required in the location where they’re most needed at any given moment.
Plant Operation Center (POC) is the all-embracing workflow management system from Oerlikon Manmade Fibers.
Among the emerging technologies on exhibit at ITMA was Oerlikon Barmag’s new WinFors reversing winder, which was designed to handle especially delicate yarns used in applications such as seat belts and airbags. This customized solution allows operators to lay yarn in a particularly gentle manner without sacrificing speed, which can reach 2500-4000 meters per minute. Its size represents another innovation: at 1200 mm in length, it delivers increased production efficiency and increased stability in the manufacturing process.
Implementing this advance doesn’t require a complete overhaul of the existing production environment, because WinFors can be fitted to virtually every older spinning system. And retrofitting capabilities are making further news with Oerlikon’s WINGS XS (Winding INtegrated Godet Solution) technology, which is now available to operators of older POY systems with SW, CW, and ACW winders. This expanded capacity for implementation meets the market demand for upgrades and modernizations achieved through retrofitting. Also on display at ITMA was the company’s WINGS FDY PLUS, which provides the highest quality for fully drawn yarn as well as a larger operation window and higher packages weights.
In English slang, a “yarn” is a story so exciting that it sounds almost unbelievable. That word could be used to describe the first-year success of Oerlikon Neumag’s RoTac3 rotating tangle unit, which was exhibited at ITMA. Nearly 90 percent of all Oerlikon Neumag S+ systems sold for BCF yarn production have been equipped with this innovation in just the first year since its 2015 market launch – a testament to the importance being placed on both energy conservation and yarn quality.
The RoTac³ saves up to 50% in tangle air consumption.
These displays demonstrated Oerlikon Manmade Fibers Segment’s success in responding swiftly to emerging demands and market trends and adapting its solutions to individual customers’ requirements and performance targets. Those qualities serve as key differentiator in an industry that’s generating revenue as impressive as the advances that are driving its growth. Germany’s Commerzbank estimates that the current annual value of technical textiles is US$133 billion. The nonwovens industry adds US$26 billion to that annual figure and is projected to grow to US$ 50.8 billion by 2020, according to a report published by market researcher Smithers Apex.
These figures are poised to rise as advances and applications continue. Already, you’ll find performance materials and “technical textiles” being put to work in contexts as diverse as conservation, cars, and cinema. Consider geotextiles – yarn for high-performance fabrics and technical nonwovens spun on machines manufactured by Oerlikon – which are used to prevent soil erosion and flooding at 90 percent of all new dykes globally. At the racetrack, F1 drivers fire up their engines while wearing suits made of fireproof fabrics with yarn winded on machines manufactured by Oerlikon. The company’s manmade fiber technology was even used to create the spacesuits worn by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in their Oscar-winning film Gravity.
No wonder those ITMA attendees found so much to talk about. You may not yet be fluent in their language, but the products that grabbed their attention at the trade show are already woven into your life.
By Randy B. Hecht
The exhibited Manmade Fibers segment technologies were well received by customers and the trade press in equal measure.