2013: A year in review - The unusual and unpredictable
Waterless dyes, textiles that clean themselves and new 3D printing filaments: the only thing missing this year was spray on clothing.
Despite their advanced engineering, the biggest innovations had to do with more basic and quite unglamorous problems - sweat and dirt. The Pluma technology for example from Sanitized AG (which can boast Levi Strauss and Marks & Spencer among its clients) was released in November, and inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria on textiles by coating it with a special polymer that forms a microscopically thin film of water.
This was accompanied by news that a new patent-pending self-cleaning textile technology from Luna Innovations has been licensed to UltraTech International, which will take the product to market for the first time. The nanostructured textile coating creates an 'omniphobic' treatment that repels both water and oil-based liquids so they roll off without penetrating the underlying fabric, potentially protecting first response workers from pathogens and industrial workers from contaminants, and - no need to add - also protecting mothers from long hours in the laundry.
From clothes that clean themselves to dyes that require no water, Nike is set to launch sportswear early next year using a new process called ColorDry that eliminates water in the dyeing process. The fabric is being produced in a new water-free dyehouse that opened in early December, set up with Taiwanese contract manufacturer Far Eastern New Century Corp (FENC).
Meanwhile, 3D printing continues apace, and MakerBot launched a 3D printing filament which it claims is softer and more flexible than others currently on the market, made from polyester that flexes and moves after it is extruded into a 3D print. Commonly used for medical sutures, mouth guards, prosthetics and non-woven fabrics, we are just waiting to see when the first garments using the technology will appear.
Information technology was making real change this year, from whizbang PLM solutions that can locate a garment from Guangzhou to Guatemala with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to mobile phone applications aimed at improving factory safety. A project to involve workers in occupational health and safety through text messages and worker surveys was given a major boost with a grant from the Walt Disney Company and could see 130,000 factory workers participate in the service over the next two years.
And finally, angora rabbits had someone in their corner, after a shocking video produced by the animal rights group PETA showing angora bunnies having their fur ripped out in 'harvesting' that was far from humane, led to Sweden's H&M and Hong Kong's Esprit boycotting angora in all of its products.
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