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Highlights of the Synthetic Yarns & Fiber Association Conference

Charolotte, NC, April 18 - 19, 2013

The "Textiles Get Smart" Conference, sponsored by the Synthetic Yarn & Fiber Association (SYFA) was held in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 18 - 19. The conference included review of the current state of the business and the opportunity to network with industry leaders and innovators and learn about new trends and technologies involving recent fiber and yarns developments, including a look at 3D printed printed clothing, being called the future of apparel production.

The FabricLink Network (FLN) focuses on some of the most interesting "smart" trends and technologies highlighted at the conference, and discusses the details of these innovations and their potential impact on supply chain management going forward.


Economic Update & Overview 

By Tim Quinlan, Economist, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC


According to Quinlan, "The federal government faces some significant fiscal challenges—the current path is not sustainable.  We have been adding jobs for two years, but still have a long way to go.  There is a much lower base to support growth and spending, especially in entitlements, and the future forecasts only moderate job gains ahead.  Overall, our forecast calls for the sub-par pace of economic growth to continue for the foreseeable future." 

Quinlan predicts that over the short-term, the US will be looking at about a 2% growth, and the long-term average growth rate will be around 3%.  All of these issues will impact future growth for the U.S. textile industry.  His summary of observations included:

  • Residential housing starts are currently averaging over 1 million in 2013, up from a low of about 500,000 in 2009.
  • Housing starts remain well below historical levels, but are expected to increase in the coming years
  • The US is currently experiencing an annual growth of 3 million people per year.
  • Multi-family construction is making up the majority of housing starts, as people are renting, rather than buying single-family homes.
  • The inventories of "new" homes in the market are at very lean levels.
  • The high inventory of discounted existing homes has led to a large price premium for new homes.Battery technology is still not adequatsmartfabricse enough in this category.
  • In spite of the negative economic signs, consumer spending remains strong.
  • Improvement in the stock market has helped bolster consumer spending at a time when real incomes are barely growing, and consumer confidence remains historically low.
  • However, businesses are not spending.  Business confidence is not as strong as consumer spending, mainly because of taxes and regulations.
  • Growth in the global economy likely will remain slow in 2013 before picking up somewhat in 2014.
  • The dollar should appreciate modestly versus many major currencies but weaken somewhat vis-à-vis the currency of many developing economies.

Keynote Presentation:  Trends & Technologies in Supply Chains, Manufacturing, & Sustainability - Mike Fralix, TC2


"Supply chain technologies have changed and now more industries than ever are shipping products before they make them, because it is more efficient, more flexible, more sustainable, and more profitable.  The key is adopting a supply chain strategy, implementing the appropriate technologies and changing the thinking of management and workers.  This presentation covers how some industries have already adopted a supply chain strategy that is finding its way into the fashion industry." Mike Fralix, TC2

What is the importance of sustainability?  "Sustainability is about more than recycling and energy consumption.  Many retailers, brands, and manufacturers are taking proactive steps to reduce their carbon footprints in an effort to save money and resources and create new operational efficiencies.  But just as important, is delivering merchandise that consumers want as the product development cycle becomes a continuous process." Mike Fralix, TC2.

  • Three-D printing may appear to have little in common with sustainability, but the rapid-prototyping of three-D processing has a surprising number of green benefits. An emerging technology, three-D printing uses ultraviolet beams to fuse layers of powdered, recyclable thermoplastic into shape, leaves behind virtually no waste.  This localized production approach also saves on shipping costs, requires less labor, and compresses production time into hours, rather than weeks or months.
  • Films of color can be applied to cottons for high-speed digital printing.  This is sustainable printing without the waste.
  • "It's really about performance without waste!  We have to be prepared to think differently, because if you don't, someone will outthink you!" Mike Fralix, TC2.
  • Moving forward, Fralix predicts that digital technology will continue to evolve, becoming ,ore refined, cheaper and easier to use. Ultimately, he believes advancements in three-D imaging and body-scanning will revolutionize how consumers purchase their apparel, either through the availability of digital catalogs and 3-D printing equipment in their homes, or in retail stores where shoppers can try-on, select and order garments in a virtual setting by using interactive 3-D body scanning mirrors.

    Comparison of Supply Chain Management According to Mike Fralix
















    *Quick response and Mass Customization occurred in the 1980s.

    **Advancements in digital technology will revolutionize the supply chaini in the 21st Century.

New Words for the 2000's:

  • "Re-shoring"- New production countries, other than China.
  • "Additive Manufacturing" - According to Wikipedia, Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which rely mainly on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes).  A materials printer usually performs 3D printing processes using digital technology. Since the start of the twenty-first century there has been an increased growth in the sale of these machines.
    • The technology is used for both prototyping and the manufacturing of jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction, automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many other fields.
    • Going directly from raw materials to finished product is the next generation of automated manufacturing processes.  The product is being made as the raw materials are being delivered.  3D Knitting (through Shima Seiki & Stoll) is a form of Additive Manufacturing.
  • "Subtractive Manufacturing" - Cutting away the fabric. Wikipedia says, "With the recent proliferation of additive manufacturing technologies, conventional machining is classified in thought and language, as a subtractive manufacturing method. In narrow contexts, additive and subtractive methods may compete with each other. In the broad context of entire industries, their relationship is complementary. Each method has its own advantages over the other. While additive manufacturing methods can produce very intricate prototype designs impossible to replicate by machining, subtractive manufacturing has the advantages of strength and material selection."

The Future of Apparel Production: 

  • 3D Printed Clothing - The first 3D fully printed dress by Michael Schmidt was just completed in April 2013. Michael Schmidt and architect, Francis Bitonti, revealed their fully 3d printed gown for dancer, Dita Von Teese.
    • The fully-articulated gown, based on the Fibonacci's Golden Ratio, was designed by Michael Schmidt and 3D printed in nylon by Shapeways.
    • The gown, designed exactly to fit Ditta's body, was assembled from 17 pieces, dyed black, lacquered and embellished with over 12,000 Swarovski crystals to create a sensual flowing form.
    • The floor-length nylon gown utilizes selective laser sintering (SLS), where material is built up in layers from plastic nylon powder, and fused together with a laser.
    • The plastic components are fully articulated to create a netted structure that allows for movement.
    • This represents the possibility to 3D print complex, customized fabric-like garments, designed exactly to meet a specific person's size or need.
  • Bio-engineering is being conducted on leather.  Thanks to bio-engineering, there may be a new option soon: leather produced in vitro.
    • According to research conducted in 2012, Modern Meadow, a Missouri-based startup that approaches leather production from tissue-bioengineering, rather than farming. The company has been working on a fundamentally new approach to leather production that is based on the latest advances in tissue engineering, which causes no harm to animals.  Manufacturing may begin on the first engineered leather product as early as 2017.  
    • "It is predicted that lab-grown leather apparel could hit the runways in as little as five years--all without harming a hair on a single animal's head," according to Andras Forgacs, co-founder and CEO of Modern Meadow.  Modern Meadow seeks to combine regenerative medicine with three-dimensional printing to synthesize leather.

Mike Fralix, says, "Nano-particle fibrous substrates that have the character of traditional fabrics can be processed through ink-jet heads!  If you don't think it—it's never going to happen!"


"The Future of Solar Fabrics": Kenneth Pauluas, co-founder/VP of business development, Parasol Technologies LLC

ParaSol is a solar technology that allows its polymer-based yarns to collect and distribute light within fabrics, which then converts that light into electricity and creates an energy-producing fabric. The platform nature of the technology allows ParaSol to be incorporated into thousands of applications, including clothing, tents, construction materials, window and shading, signage, and automobiles.  ParaSol Technologies has created a concept prototype fabric, which generates electricity.

"Typical solar installations cover large areas with expensive ($1,000/m2) PV materials. What if we could concentrate large areas into small areas of expensive PV materials?  By covering the edges of a material instead of the surface, we can reduce the amount of photovoltaic materials needed by several orders of magnitude. ParaSol Fabric will generate 20-50W / m2. And, the durability and resilience of ParaSol fabrics will continue to operate, even after parts of the fabric are completely destroyed or removed entirely." explains Kenneth Pauluas.

Intellectual Property of ParaSol:

  • Concentrates light in two distinct arenas---spatially and spectrally
  • High intensities of light onto small areas of PV material (30-50X)
  • No cooling or alignment, setting it apart from other concentrators
  • Works indoors as well as outdoors, creating a multiplier effect for applications used in both environments.

The mission of ParaSol Technologies is to partner with existing manufacturers and integrators to create the next generation of energy autonomous products.


The Wool Bar
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