Green manufacturing of „Green Fashion“

The magic word „sustainability“is engrossing the entire textile and clothing branch. Modern textile machinery allows the production of fabrics in an energy-saving and resource-conserving manner which then are cut to size, sewed and ironed. Within the manufacturing process, numerous possibilities for a green production exist.

The most beautiful jersey cloth produced in a biological and ethical manner is processed and converted to a fashionable outfit. According to a recent study of VDMA (Association of German Mechanical and Plant Engineering), thanks to an enormous technological progress, machines produced by German manufacturers allow to save 28 percent of energy and 33 percent of water in a comparison between the years 2014 and 2004 within the spinning, knitting and finishing processes. Roland Berger Strategy Consulting, a world-wide acting business consultancy company has awarded top marks to the German textile technology.

The label Alma & Lovis , exhibitor of Ethical Fashion Show Berlin , focuses on responsible production conditions and a trustworthy and fair treatment of people and nature. Photo: Alma & Lovis

The label Alma & Lovis , exhibitor of Ethical Fashion Show Berlin , focuses on responsible production conditions and a trustworthy and fair treatment of people and nature. Photo: Alma & Lovis

In the field of textile production big steps can be made. Within the subsequent process of tailoring, the approaches are multifarious and divided into small sections. A closer examination pays off: cloth cutting machines, fusing presses, ironing machines and sewing machines are used which consume a tremendous quantity of steam, heat, vacuum and compressed air. The costs produced in these processes are part of the production and labour costs.

However, unused potentials still exist in the field of energy cost-saving as a recent report reveals: since December 2014, SESEC’s (Sustainable Energy Saving for the European Clothing Industry) final report is available which is a programme fostered by the European Union. After a two and a half years’ research in European branch organizations and clothing manufacturing companies, the central statement of the report is the following: lack of information and focusing on possible energy-saving in the clothing production processes is evident. Matters can be rectified by the information campaign “Energy Made-to-Measure“of the umbrella organization Euratex in Brussels. Up to 2016 about 300 clothing manufacturing companies in particular small and medium sized ones shall profit from this campaign.

Paradigm change in the manufacturing systems engineering

Green production: What is the assistance of the manufacturers of clothing production machines and equipment? Fifteen years ago, the suppliers of sewing machines were surpassing each other regarding the maximum number of stitches per minute. The limits of human dexterity had long ago been exceeded and the costs of the necessary automation of the joining process increased tremendously up to an unrealistic level in view of the quick product changes and decreasing number of items. Apart from that textiles are slack and flexible products and can hardly be processed by robots as can be done when processing metal sheets. The keyword “flexible production” was borne soon: short set-up time, reproducible process parameters and the introduction of intuitively operable design programmes were now in the focus of development and marketing. Since all these requirements have now been met, the view is focused on the use of resources.

New electric motors for the sewing technology

Sewing is a central manufacturing step within the clothing manufacturing process. In the big production lines

Veit's retrofit kits ensure to optimize the energy consumption of Veit's ironing machines and of other manufacturers. Photograph: Veit

Veit’s retrofit kits ensure to optimize the energy consumption of Veit’s ironing machines and of other manufacturers. Photo: Veit

often hundreds of sewing machines are installed which are driven by high-performance servomotors. By using noble earths magnetic rotors and latest processor technology, the design engineering team of Efka Frankl & Kirchner GmbH & Co.KG, Schwetzingen (Germany) succeeded in achieving an energy saving totaling 60 percent by means of quick sewing machines. According to Michael Faulhaber, chief technical and marketing officer of Frankl & Kirchner, additional benefits can be gained from complete packages allowing easy replacement of driving components of existing machinery and from the insensitiveness of the new CompactServo 600 driving units to current fluctuations which is a frequent problem in many regions where clothing production companies exist.

Steam engines for fashion?

The abovementioned jersey outfit requires a lot of steam in order to look quite fashionable: fusing presses, ironing machines and appliances are used. For technical reasons these machines are provided with two steam circuits, a heating circuit and a steam spraying system. The experts of Veit GmbH at Landsberg am Lech (Germany) have investigated the so far open-loop heating circuit and came to the result that a remarkable energy-saving potential exists. Apart from a better isolation of the heat conducting components which leads to an improved working environment in the ironing section (3° C lower room temperature) up to 40 percent of heating steam can be saved. Veit has developed for its eMotion system a retrofit programme for existing machinery. Sascha Oehl, production manager of Veit, reports on the demand: “The number of original equipment ordered exceeds the number of retrofit sets ordered by far.” By following the trend of replacement instead of retrofit, Veit has consequently optimized the efficiency by introducing further mechanical modifications and integrated the control unit into a new hardware platform.

Who says air costs nothing?

Nothing goes on in case of lack of air: both the cutting-to-size tables and the sewing machines, presses and ironing machines work with compressed air or with vacuum. The pivotal point for the provision of air is the energy price. In view of the long-term cost trend for energy, intelligent solutions are required for the use of machines and plants. Among others the following questions must be asked to the mechanical engineering industry: must the compressed air permanently be available and under which pressure? Can the vacuum be regulated automatically when required?

However, even the users of such machinery and equipment must deal with this subject as Rolf Schäfer, member of the Association of the North Eastern German Textile and Clothing Industry, said already in 2011 on the occasion of the t+m energy symposium in Berlin: “Every employee working on a machine should understand what consequences for the energy consumption his personal behavior has.” Before achieving a change of behaviour it must be communicated and understood that for example compressed air should not be used for cleaning ground floors because the generation of compressed air is extremely expensive.

Of course, Texprocess will also ffer an excellent survey of the manifold international machinery suppliers and manufacturers.

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