Stricken Knitting Techtextil Texprocess photo Messe Frankfurt Exhibition

3D knitwear of tomorrow

How can we describe the future for the knitting industry? What does the latest research have to say about it? What kind of action should be encouraged? How should we move forward? The latest research findings on the subject from Dr. Thomas Fischer of the German Institutes for Textile and Fibre Research (Deutsche Institute für Textil + Faserforschung – DITF).

“The study ‘Knitting industry 4.0 – the future of textile production based on the knitting-industry cluster in Baden-Württemberg’ appeared some six months ago,” says Fischer. “At the recently held ‘Day of Innovation’ in Denkendorf, we presented some concrete suggestions for identifying areas of action.” The objective is a consistent approach to the engineering throughout the whole production cycle. All products and processes should, it is suggested, be re-created in virtual reality, so that they can then be represented in a simulation.

Taking the specific example of tribology, Dr. Fischer explains how big data can impact positively on machinery. “A major proportion of circular knitting machines are currently lubricated with excessive amounts of oil, because nobody wants to take risks,” says the Deputy Head of Management Research. “If we knew more about the parameters involved in the tribological conditions, then we could set up some kind of demand-led lubrication system and thus minimise oil consumption.” We might also be able to use older oils for longer, if we can monitor the state of lubrication via the force of the needles and/or the operating temperature. The result: data-driven efficiency in the use of resources, deriving from a more limited, process-specific requirement for oil, together with oil recycling within the organisation.

As a general rule, in terms of circular knitting processes, we can say that we do have some of the data available, but don’t use it. In order to be able to generate the information required for a joined-up approach, we need, however, significantly more sensors and data. The DITF’s hypothesis is that considerable and sustainable increases in the efficient use of resources can be achieved through systematic recording of process-related data, using sensors at various functional levels.

Dr. Fischer will demonstrate how joined-up digital engineering works, taking as examples some individually created 3D compression textiles, such as those that are used for the treatment of burns, for instance. This can involve making an initial 3D scan of the affected part of the body. Data from the scan are then interpreted, using a computer; they can then be transferred directly to the development of 3D sections. The circular machine then knits the 3D item and finally ‘spews out’ a totally individualised compression textile.

Summary: Information-based knitting processes combine practical human knowledge, gained from direct experience, with relationships derived from the data, to create an evidence-based system. Efficiency increases in the knitting process can be achieved by using sensors to record relevant data and, then, by evaluating it with intelligent algorithms. Joined-up digital engineering across the whole production process enables us to create more personalised 3D knitted products that fit the body better. If you now combine a virtual, real-time product-monitoring capability with traditional logistical concepts, the personalised compression stockings will also find their way directly to the patients, too.

Information about the study on the ‘Knitting Industry 4.0’

Kirsten Rein

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